The Discoveries programme, run by the Women’s Prize Trust in partnership with Curtis Brown literary agency, the Curtis Brown Creative writing school (both part of The Curtis Brown Group) and Audible, aims to find aspiring female writing talent from across the UK and Ireland.
We were thrilled to announce the Discoveries 2022 longlist.
16 writers were longlisted by a judging panel chaired by Kate Mosse, bestselling novelist, playwright and Founder-Director of the Women’s Prize; Lucy Morris, Curtis Brown literary agent; Anna Davis, Founder and Managing Director of Curtis Brown Creative writing school; and esteemed writers, Ayisha Malik and Irenosen Okojie.
The programme seeks to provide encouragement and practical support to unpublished women writers of all ages and backgrounds from across the UK and Ireland.
This is our second year of Discoveries, and we were thrilled by the quality of submissions, the ambition of the writers, the diverse and exciting range of stories, writing styles and inspirations. Most of all, we had the sense that women up and down the country were taking up their pens and allowing their imaginations to take flight. All of these authors have an exciting journey ahead of them and we can’t wait to see how each of these novels progresses in the months, years, to come.
Kate Mosse, Chair of Judges for Discoveries
Keep reading to find out more about each longlisted author and how they felt about being longlisted for Discoveries 2022!
The 2022 longlisted authors were as follows:
Sui Annukka: ‘I feel hugely privileged and ridiculously excited, and energised. I am also a little nervous. It feels like suddenly ‘sh*t got real’. (Am I allowed to say that? Perhaps don’t print that!)’
Of Sri Lankan heritage, Sui Annukka grew up in London and Colombo. Sui read Drama at the University of Bristol, and later studied Production Design at the National Film and Television School. She left her career in film art direction to spend more time on her writing.
Sui has had poetry and short fiction published in the following anthologies: Filigree – contemporary Black British Poetry (Peepal Tree, 2018), Shots in the Dark (Crocus Books, 2018), Sounds Exceeding 80 Decibels (Crocus Books, 2017) and Elevator Fiction (Crocus Books, 2016). She was a participant of Manchester Commonword’s Women in the Spotlight Programme, and an Eclipse Theatre SLATE supported artist. Sui is a proud Aunty to the best niece in the world. She currently lives in Hounslow and works as a Teaching Assistant in a High School.
Rachel Brown: ‘It feels like someone has said ‘you’re a writer’. It’s extremely validating. It’s really shifted my identity from feeling like I’m writing as a hobby, to feeling like I’m a writer who has a story other people might want to read. I’ve written bits and pieces over the last couple of decades, but this is the first time I’ve mapped out a complete novel and attempted it. Writing can be a lonely place, so being included in the longlist feels like I’ve just been accepted into a club that I’m very lucky to be a part of.’
Rachel Brown grew up in a small seaside town in Lancashire. She studied English Language & Literature at the University of Leeds before spending the rest of her twenties working in publishing in Bradford, London and the Caribbean. Following a career change she currently helps students create ideas for start-ups at the University of Greenwich. She wrote her first short stories at university, but it was the long lockdown days of making friends with squirrels in the garden that prompted her to start writing her first novel. Set in two of her favourite locations, London and Ibiza, Shadow Dance tells a love story in reverse, exploring the triggers that can throw lives, relationships and careers off course.
Nancy Crane: ‘When I read the email about the longlist, I was nearing the end of my last draft before sending it out to agents, feeling like I was flying blind and that what I needed was feedback on my opening from someone who’s a really fine novelist, but also a good teacher and who understands the publishing industry. Someone like, say…. Charlotte Mendelson. A few hours later I opened the email. My initial response was disbelief. Followed by elation. So, I’m going to risk both hyperbole and cliché and say that being longlisted for Discoveries 2022 feels like a dream come true. And I mean that literally.’
Nancy Crane is an actor, originally from California, who came to London when she was eighteen to train at the Central School of Speech and Drama. The plan was to return to California three years later, but three decades on she’s still here. She works across theatre, TV, film, radio and narrates the odd audiobook. The novel she’s writing, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, has allowed her to watch lots of old movies and read books about old Hollywood and call it ‘research’. She lives with her wife in London.
Sadbh Kellett: ‘Honestly, it doesn’t feel real. I’m so honoured for my work to be acknowledged this way in a competition as wonderful as this. I’m so incredibly grateful and flattered, and I feel a real drive and inspiration now to finish editing my novel! Thank you, thank you, thank you!’
Sadbh is an Irish writer and poet from Meath whose work has been featured as part of Ireland’s Culture Night 2021, at the Out of Orbit visual arts festival, and in anthologies and journals. Sadbh is also a PhD student researching Gaelic Mythology in modern Irish and Scottish Literature at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Previously, she also studied at Trinity College, Dublin. Sadbh’s novel is inspired by her Meath surroundings and medieval Irish literature.
Nikki Logan: ‘Surreal! I keep going back to the email to check it exists and I haven’t dreamt it! It’s a huge competition, so to think how many talented female writers would have entered and that my submission has stood out is just beyond belief.’
Nikki Logan is currently writing her first novel having taken part in several online creative writing workshops during and since lockdown. She has a degree in photography and has been a commercial writer for 13 years with articles published in regional magazines, newspapers and trade publications.
The idea for her novel was inspired by her grandfather’s experience of life as a British West Indian in 1940s Jamaica and Deep South USA before moving to England in 1950. She began recording his life story nearly ten years ago and has immersed herself in research ever since. Nikki enjoys reading character-driven novels. She believes fiction is a powerful tool to entertain as well as inform and influence social empathy, changing the way people see the world. She lives in Suffolk with her husband, two sons and labradoodle.
Nell McGrath: ‘Being longlisted feels both surprising (it was a snap decision to enter the competition, the result of a resolution to ‘get things out there’) and inspiring: it helps me to feel that I can legitimately see my writing as something worth spending time on and taking seriously, and I’m so grateful for that.’
Nell McGrath lives on the Northumberland coast and has an MA in Creative Writing from Northumbria University. She works full time as a GP in an NHS Urgent Treatment Centre, and has three young, football-obsessed boys to keep up with! Writing time can be limited, but she likes to work in cafes and during spare moments. She once won a trip to New York in a short story competition, a feat that has sadly not been repeated!
Rebecca Taylor McKay: ‘Incredible! I still can’t quite believe it!’
Rebecca was born in West Yorkshire and has a diploma in nursing from Manchester Metropolitan University. She worked as a nurse in the NHS for several years and later as a librarian in public libraries and is now a freelance copywriter. Rebecca has no formal writing qualifications but is a bona fide bookworm who has been escaping into fictional worlds for as long as she can remember and writing her own stories ever since she could hold a pen. She was runner-up in Theatre Cloud’s Gothic Fiction Contest in 2017 and was longlisted in the Penguin Michael Joseph Love Story Competition in 2021. Rebecca lives in Lancashire with her husband and two children and her dog.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin: ‘Working on a novel can feel like running a very long race through a completely empty landscape. Hearing I was longlisted felt like rounding a bend to find an unexpected cheering section.’
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is an Irish writer. She lived in London for eight years, working in journalism and social justice communications. Her stories, essays and articles have appeared in Gutter, the New Statesman, The Millions, Sexualities and other publications. She now lives in Edinburgh.
Zoe Norridge: ‘I danced around the house yelling! You never know whether anyone else will enjoy reading what you’re writing. I’m nearing the end of the first draft of my novel and I needed this boost to get me started on the next stage of rewriting and editing.’
Zoe Norridge is a Reader (Associate Professor)in African and Comparative Literature and Visual Cultures at King’s College London. She specialises in writing, photography and film about the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Collaborating with Rwandan artists and survivors has consistently led her into new fields. She’s convened photography and writing workshops, co-curated the 2014 exhibition Rwanda in Photographs, programmed events for Kigali Photo Fest and presented two BBC Radio documentaries on rebuilding and the arts in Rwanda.
In 2019 Zoe’s translation of Yolande Mukagasana’s genocide survivor testimony Not My Time to Die was published by Huza Press. Working with Mukagasana introduced her to crafting dialogue and sparked a need to write herself. Zoe started her novel Unsure at an Arvon course in July 2021, and is currently taking the Faber Writing a Novel course with Nikesh Shukla. She’s nearly finished the first draft and is looking for a better title.
Zoe lives in Lewisham with her husband and children.
Claire O’Connor: ‘I’m still reeling from the news—giddy is an understatement. In the morning before I got the news, I was working on my novel. There is so much work to do, but thanks to some recent feedback, I was confident I would eventually figure it out. I was thinking that I didn’t crave external validation as much as I used to…and then a few hours later, I got external validation from the Discoveries Prize! And I’m thrilled to have it. I’m normally a short story writer, and this is my first attempt at a novel, so I’m relieved to know that my ideas resonate with a larger audience. For the first time in my life, I’m starting to feel like a writer, not just someone who is trying to be a writer.’
Claire O’Connor is an educator who has worked with students of many ages in the US, Morocco, Malaysia, Greece, South Africa, and Scotland. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in New Writing Scotland, The Baltimore Review, the Southern Indiana Review, Shenandoah, Wigleaf, and others. Her story “Home from the Wars” was a 2022 Best of the Net Finalist in Fiction, and an excerpt from her novel-in-progress previously won The Missouri Review’s Miller Audio Prize for Prose. She lives with her wife in Scotland and various other parts of the world.
Katy Oglethorpe: ‘It’s a really amazing shock! For me (and I think a lot of people), writing is constantly wrestling with the questions of whether what you’re doing is any good; has any point; will ever be read, or is just a delusional vanity exercise. There have been several times recently when I have thought it might be wiser to stop. So I’m so grateful for this nudge to keep going, and suggestion that maybe there is something worthwhile in this after all!’
Katy is writing her first novel, at the same time as expecting her first baby. She grew up in London and continues to live there with her partner and two chickens, Dorell and Kelly-An. Her day job is doing communications for a think tank, where she enjoys trying to make clever people’s thoughts more intelligable.
Tara O’Sullivan: ‘It feels pretty surreal. I feel very excited and honoured to have been longlisted, and there’s something very thrilling about knowing people have read my work and enjoyed it. I’m just really looking forward to the whole experience.’
Tara O’Sullivan is based in London, although she grew up in Cornwall, where her first novel is set. She is a fan of punk rock and horror films, and enjoys exploring darker themes in her writing. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Exeter, and when she isn’t working on her own writing, she edits other people’s books as a freelance editor and proofreader.
Jude Reid: ‘I’m absolutely delighted! I forgot I’d entered, so finding out I’d made the longlist was a lovely and unexpected surprise.’
Jude lives in Glasgow and writes dark stories in the narrow gaps between full time work as a surgeon, chasing her kids and trying to tire out a border collie.
Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Haunted Voices: An Anthology of Gothic Storytelling from Scotland” (Haunt Publishing), “Places We Fear To Tread” (Cemetery Gates Media) and “The Accursed” (Black Library).
In 2021 she was commissioned by the National Library of Scotland to write a short story to form part of its Fresh Ink Collection. She was the winner of the Kelpies Prize for Fiction 2020.In the free time she doesn’t have, she likes running, studying ITF Tae Kwon Do and climbing inadvisably big hills. She drinks her tea with oat milk, and you can find her on twitter @squintywitch.
Ruth Rosengarten: ‘I submitted just before the deadline and, quite frankly, I thought I didn’t stand a chance. I am pretty surprised and rather over the moon.’
Ruth Rosengarten is an artist, bibliophile and recovering art historian who finds herself currently living with her dog in a village in Cambridgeshire. She has also lived in Israel, South Africa, Portugal, Oxford and London. In lockdown, after years of writing about paintings and photographs and installations and objects, her life changed and she wrote a story, and out of that grew Over, which is still being pieced together in fragments that suit her digressive attention and failure to grasp the concepts of plot and genre. She considers collage to be the principle that best describes both her studio practice and her new writing.
Claire Whatley: ‘How does it feel? I burst into a spontaneous kitchen dance while making excited whimpering noises. Then I read the email again, followed by further dancing and whimpering.’
Claire Whatley lives near Stonehenge in a village on the chalk downland landscape in which her novel, The Refuge is set. Having retired from a career as a librarian, she is currently studying for an MA in English Literature. She is an enthusiastic amateur botanist, environmentalist, gardener and photographer.
Sarah Williams: ‘I’m not sure I have the words to describe it. I wondered first of all if perhaps there had only been 16 entries (this may still be true). Then I kept thinking it must be a mistake. Then I re-read the email and saw that it wasn’t and I had a little cry. It’s a truly wonderful feeling – fuzzy, like a daydream – to know that my scribblings on those pages have actually been enjoyed by someone.’
Sarah Williams is a creative writing student at Bath Spa University. This is her first novel. She is a mum of two young children, so when not writing can be found trying to understand the rules of Pokemon, or pretending the floor is lava. She lives in the countryside with her family and the best dog in the world.