First Drafts Competition

Many congratulations to Sylvia Carr Clebsch (seated, centre) whose extract from her novel, Safe, has won First Drafts 2017.

Set in Grozny in the 1990s, Safe is the story of two teenagers fleeing the Russian invasion; their journey to find their father, an intelligence agent, takes them through the battlefields of Chechnya and into the refugee camps of neighbouring Ingushetia. The judges described Safe as ‘a moving and compelling spy novel that demonstrates an accomplished grasp of the genre and heralds an exciting new voice’.

Now in its eighth year, the competition recognises promising work-in-progress and is open to writers who have not yet published a collection of stories or novel. The 2017 judges were writer and broadcaster Margaret Busby, OBE; novelists Umi Sinha and Martine McDonagh, Janklow & Nesbit UK literary agent Rebecca Carter and Waterstones’ Events Manager Richard Naiff.

The competition is a collaboration between Myriad and West Dean College, where Martine McDonagh (seated, left) leads the MA in Creative Writing and Publishing. The prize is a week-long writing retreat at West Dean College near Chichester, as well as feedback from industry experts and six months’ mentoring.

The other finalists were Ellen Hardy, Tony Leonard, Nikki Marmery, Laura Martz, Richard Phelps and Andrew Stewart.

The 2017 was presented at a packed event at Waterstones Piccadilly by crime writer Lisa Cutts (third from right) who won First Drafts in 2012. The competition is central to Myriad’s mission to uncover and nurture new literary talent, and has a track record in launching writers who have gone on to creative and commercial success. Cutts spoke of the competition as a life-changing event, with her first two novels published by Myriad, a TV option and two further novels published by Simon & Schuster.

Last year’s winner Vanessa Savage (seated, right) and 2015 finalist Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott also described how First Drafts launched their writing careers: Savage won a two-book deal with Little, Brown within weeks of winning the competition and Greenberg-Jephcott secured a six-figure deal from Hutchinson for her novel Swan Song (forthcoming 2018). Other past successes include Paul McVeigh, shortlisted in 2013 with an extract from The Good Son.

There are very few competitions for a work in progress and this is a brilliant opportunity for aspiring authors to get their work noticed by publishers and agents. Details of the 2018 competition will be announced in February.