We are delighted to announce the longlist for Discoveries 2023! The Discoveries programme, run by the Women’s Prize Trust in partnership with Curtis Brown literary agency, the Curtis Brown Creative writing school and Audible, aims to find emerging female writing talent from across the UK and Ireland.

Between September and January, women writers were invited to submit up to 10,000 words of a novel-in-progress – with an emphasis on promise over polish and no limits on genre – and we were thrilled to receive nearly 3000 entries from aspiring writers up and down the country.

Tasked with selecting this year’s longlist was a judging panel chaired by Kate Mosse, international bestselling novelist and Founder Director of the Women’s Prize. Her fellow judges are writers Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Chibundu OnuzoLucy Morris, Curtis Brown literary agent; and Anna Davis, Founder and Managing Director of Curtis Brown Creative writing school.

Kate Mosse, Chair of Judges, said: ‘This is our third year of Discoveries, and the quality and number of submissions has continued to grow and grow as the programme becomes known. We were thrilled by the imagination, the ambition of the writers, the diverse and exciting range of storytelling, the writing styles and inspirations. Each of these authors has an exciting journey ahead and we can’t wait to see how each of these novels progresses in the months and years to come.’ 

Keep reading to meet this year’s 16 longlisted authors and find out how it feels to be longlisted:

The 2023 longlisted authors are:

Melissa Alvaro Mutolo: ‘Amazing! Writing my first novel has been a solitary and uncertain process, so it’s encouraging to know that I’m heading in the right direction. I’m very grateful.’

Melissa is a British-Mozambican writer from the East Midlands. Her novel follows the rise and reign of Alessandro de Medici, the first Duke of Florence. She studied MA Text and Performance at RADA/Birkbeck and in 2021 her first short story was published in the anthology The Art of Being Dangerous: Exploring Women and Danger through Creative Expression.  She is a recent alumna of the HarperCollins Author Academy.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process? 

Gaining the tools and confidence to finish my manuscript and navigate the industry. As a reader, I’m excited to hear about the other authors and stories on the longlist.

Louisa Ashton: ‘I’m insanely overwhelmed and surprised to be longlisted for Discoveries. My novel, Build Her With Green, has quite simply made its home under my skin and continuously slithers around, asking me what happens next. Even though it’s daunting to send off a work-in-progress piece to be judged in this way, it’s a relief to know that this strange story has the potential to speak to other readers.’

Louisa is a Manchester based writer and puppeteer, but she secretly wants to live in Malta where her mother’s side of the family heralds from. Coming to higher education later in life, she read English Literature at The Open University whilst working as a writer for theatre. She particularly enjoys working with theatre companies to develop and devise innovative work that uses puppetry in interesting ways. She is now working on her first novel after gaining a Creative Writing MA at the University of Manchester.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process? 

This is the first piece of prose I’ve submitted to any award, scheme or submissions window, so to be completely honest, I’m excited by the whole Discoveries process! I’m particularly looking forward to learning about the other writers on the longlist and hearing about their work. There seems to be quite a few opportunities to meet each other, and I’m incredibly nosy, so I’m looking forward to getting together and learning about what drives us all to write what we write.

Fiona Campbell: ‘I’m thrilled! Given the volume of entries and quality of writing in The Discoveries Prize I never imagined that I would make the longlist. I feel extremely grateful to the judges and the Discoveries team for this opportunity. Writing a book without knowing if anyone will ever read it, never mind enjoy it, is a daunting task and it’s easy to get discouraged. Being selected is a huge boost and motivates me to keep mainlining the coffee and typing away. ‘

Born and bred in Northern Ireland, Fiona grew up in a big family where it was so hard to get a word in or a story finished that she started writing hers down. Her earliest memory is attending a peace rally in her pushchair. The long-lasting impact of The Troubles together with the Ulster tradition of using humour to cope with the darkest of times are the inspirations for her first book. Fiona studied at Trinity College, Dublin and has worked internationally. She is married with a young son and her other interests include baked goods, particularly the scone.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process? 

The opportunity for connection and support. From meeting experienced writers and agents in the industry and learning from their insight and expertise, to getting to know the fellow longlisted writers on the Discoveries Writing Development course taught by Charlotte Mendelson. I am also very excited to have the opportunity attend the Women’s Prize Trust summer party and hopefully meet and raise a glass to the writers and winners there.

Hannah Carrier: ‘It feels wonderful to be longlisted for Discoveries. There is something truly special about being recognised for your writing when it’s not what you ‘do’ for a living but a dream; for me it is the first time my work has been seen by so many people so to have made it this far is incredibly motivating. It makes you feel like you really might have something to offer and something people want to read.’

Hannah Carrier was born in the West Midlands in the nineties, and grew up on fresh air, a box of battered Enid Blyton’s and an assortment of magical tales, before discovering a love for literary fiction during her time in London. A Philosophy graduate, she now lives in the leafy Southeast and uses writing to combine her curiosity for the varied human experience with her love for prose, alongside her Social Media Marketing career. Her current work in progress, Upswell, explores the female experience, female communities, and small-town paranoia.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?

Development and people! Writing feels like such a solo experience, especially as someone unpublished, so I’m most excited to have the longlist forum to share work and feedback, but also to have people in the industry to seek advice and guidance from. I know I’ll learn a lot and improve with mentorship and I’m grateful that Discoveries gives you that opportunity.

India-Rose Channon: ‘I was waiting for my bus when I saw the email and, as cliché as it sounds, it was like a dream come true. I had such a good feeling about this novel and it was lovely to have that feeling confirmed. I’m truly so excited to be able to tell my old tutors and my writing friends.’

India is a writer and librarian from West Yorkshire. She studied English Literature and Creative Writing at The University of Manchester, took a year out to discover that the real world wasn’t as fun, and went back to study an MA in Creative Writing. Now, she voluntarily runs a writing group co-founded with her partner and teaches a children’s writing group at her local library.

Brought up on a healthy diet of folklore and strange local customs, India’s surreal short stories and poetry have appeared in several publications, including The ReachDear Damsels, and Wishbone Words. Despite an early hatred of horror films, provoked by a childhood sleepover gone wrong, India’s writing focuses on the everyday horror that surrounds us.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process? 

I’m excited to meet the other longlisted writers. Writing can be a lonely thing to do and I can’t wait to share this experience with people who care about telling stories as much as I do.

Georgina Charles: ‘After seeing how many people applied last year, to be one of sixteen is a little shocking. Other people feel the same way about this story as I do? Mad…’

Georgina Charles is a designer and grandchild of the Windrush generation. Her first novel is about the love and chaos that comes with a multi-racial, multi-generational, West Indian family. She lives in London with her dog, rabbit and 63 houseplants. She is hoping to open her home to more of each. Georgina has a BA in Creative Writing from Roehampton University and was shortlisted for the #Merky Books New Writer’s Prize in 2020. She is currently a Design Assistant at the inclusive children’s publisher Knights Of. It is her dream job.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process? 

The chance that at the end of this process, my book could be real to more people than just me. It will live outside of my head and my google docs, and in the heads of everyone else, living its life.

Paige Cowan-Hall: ‘Amazing. It feels like confirmation that I may be on to something, and the voice in my head telling me to give writing a chance wasn’t wrong. That I can do this.’

Paige Cowan-Hall is a London-based writer and the child of second generation Jamaican immigrants. She wrote her first book at sixteen by hand, spending the summer scribbling in her room. She went on to study English Literature at Exeter University, but her love for history, folklore and mythology started before then. When her older brother would tell her stories of the Ancient Greeks. However, as a black woman she began to notice a void. As if mythology and fantasy did not exist for people that looked like her. Since then she has immersed herself in West African and Caribbean history and lore, a major theme in the novel she is currently writing. She is the winner of 2021’s Desperate Literature award for her short story ‘Ohenemaa’ and an awardee of the Spread the Word programme.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?  

Having the opportunity to fine tune my writing style, craft a novel I am truly proud of and meet like-minded people. Writing can be isolating so creating a network of writers to give feedback to, learn from and to help keep each other going is so important. The prize money would also give me the finances to take the research for my novel further, maybe even helping me visit the communities I write about in Jamaica.

Riana Duce: ‘Honestly, it was possibly the biggest surprise to ever land in my email inbox. I regularly find myself on the rollercoaster of self-belief/doubt with my first novel, and so this has been the most incredible reassurance that I might be doing something right, and the perfect incentive to just keep going. I couldn’t be more grateful.’

Riana is a born-and-bred Yorkshire woman; she grew up in Leeds and Bradford, and still resides in West Yorkshire. Riana has worked as an actor since graduating from the University of York with a degree in Writing, Directing and Performance. Her love for performing grew from her immense love of books, when as a child she would spend hours acting out the stories she read in her bedroom. She always hoped to write her own stories one day, and that finally happened when the idea for her first novel struck in early 2022.  Riana hopes to explore the vast range of mixed race experiences with her work. She is of British and Caribbean heritage, and her paternal grandparents hail from St. Kitts and Nevis, where her grandfather still lives. At 100 years old, he still writes daily – a fact Riana frequently recalls to dig herself out of any drafting slumps.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?  

I’m excited to speak to the experts and soak up every bit of knowledge I can – I’m so grateful for all the opportunities being longlisted brings with it. And hopefully I can connect with some fantastic writers too.

Joy Fraser: ‘I am thrilled and honoured that The Susu Keeper has been longlisted for Discoveries. The news was so unexpected and it’s wonderful to know that my writing has been taken seriously by the judges. Being longlisted has given me a great sense of achievement and the knowledge of it has been like carrying around my own little sun inside me these last few days.’

Joy was born in Grenada and grew up in London. She taught French and comparative literature at Lambeth College in Brixton and English in Martinique where she spent several years as a student, teacher and performing artist. There, she developed her interest in the revival of African-Martinican culture, folklore and creole language. Joy’s long habit of reading nurtured her ability to write The Susu Keeper, stories inspired by the Caribbean community that she grew up among in North West London. She wants the book to continue to bear witness to the vitality, wit, humour and resilience of the individuals that peopled that community, long after all traces of it have disappeared. The first draft took four years to write, in and amongst the vagaries of life and bringing up her eight-year-old granddaughter.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?

I am excited about not knowing where continuing through the Discoveries process could lead me, the sheer unpredictability of it. I’m also really looking forward to meeting the other longlistees and participating in the Discoveries Writing Development course and everything that follows from there.

Rebecca Gibson: ‘Incredible! I write fantasy so I always assume I won’t be chosen in competitions like this – I almost didn’t even enter. It seems public attitudes towards fantasy are shifting though and I’m especially excited to see so many female fantasy authors gaining success at the moment. The timing of this longlist couldn’t have been better too. I found out the day after a job rejection, and at the tail end of a really rough year.’

Rebecca Gibson is a fantasy writer who grew up straddling the Devon and Cornwall border. Her fascination with the darker side of humanity led her to study for a BSc in Psychology at Aberystwyth University and later an MA in Creative Writing. She has been longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition as well as a finalist for the Wicked Young Writers’ Award for her children’s work. The Archive of Secrets, a dark academia inspired exploration of depression and identity, is her first foray into adult fiction. She currently lives in Edinburgh where she is surrounded by history and ghost stories.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?

Being able to form more connections with writers and other publishing industry professionals. As someone who can’t afford to live in or close to London those opportunities feel really few and far between so I’m incredibly grateful for this one.

Madeleine Norton: ‘Exhilarating. I’ve hardly stopped smiling since I received the email. It’s been hard to keep the news to myself as I’ve wanted to shout it from the rooftops. It feels like a wonderful validation of all the time I’ve spent writing and even the time I spend daydreaming about my characters and their stories.’

Madeleine lives in South Wales with her partner, their toddler and a staggering pile of laundry. She began writing aged five, when she would type up accounts of her days out with her parents and siblings on the family computer. Her work having met with little critical acclaim at that stage, she focused on languages at school. She later graduated from Cardiff University with a degree in French and Spanish and now works as a freelance translator. The desire to tell stories never left her, however, and Madeleine has recently taken several creative writing courses. All Our Little Deaths tells the stories of two women navigating sexuality, love and loss. It is about women who love women, in every form, and finding the heart and humour in grief and closeted love.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process? 

I’m really excited to receive feedback on my work in progress and to learn what others think of it. I’ve been writing for myself and immersing myself in my characters and their world, and it’s exciting to see how other people will respond and relate to them and their stories.

Rosy Ralph: ‘It feels like I am a character in someone else’s novel, and whilst I would really like this to be real, it can’t possibly be! There are so many wonderful writers out there competing for space; I feel so fortunate to have been given the chance to learn and grow with some of the best in the business.’

Rosy grew up in the West Midlands and has a degree in English Literature from Durham University. She has worked as a teacher, a civil servant and a heritage volunteer on the site of Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon. While working as part of the government pandemic response, Rosy contracted a severe case of Covid-19 which led to a diagnosis of ME/CFS. She was mostly bed-bound and unable to walk unassisted for over two years. During this time, she gradually wrote this novel. Rosy is now fortunate enough to be in recovery and is returning to work, writing murder mysteries such as Alice House in her spare time.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?

I am excited to meet the other longlisted writers, and to learn from the esteemed Charlotte Mendelson in the development course.

Farhana Shaikh: ‘I’m hugely excited and nervous about being longlisted for the Discoveries prize. I had to double check the email twice – just to be sure and have been walking around in a bit of a daze since. It’s terrifying to think that the story I’ve imagined and been working on for some time now has taken on a life of its own.’

Farhana Shaikh is a writer and publisher born in Leicester. She read Publishing with English at Loughborough University and later established Dahlia Books, a small independent press from the corner of her kitchen. Farhana won the Penguin/Travelex Next Great Travel Writer prize following a trip to a Turkish delight factory. She was longlisted for the 2018 Spread the Word Life Writing Prize for her memoir about growing up in 1980s Leicester. Her short 20-min play Risk exploring domestic abuse was produced as part of Kali Theatre’s discovery programme.  Farhana currently teaches marketing at De Montfort University and runs the Middle Way Mentoring project. She can be found on Twitter talking about books and writing @farhanashaikh.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?

All of it. I think I’m at the stage with my novel where I’m moving closer to the finish line and having moments of creeping self-doubt and despair. So, this news has come at a good time and I’m going to use it to propel forwards. I’m excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the craft and be in a dialogue with other writers and industry experts.

Catherine Spooner: ‘I am absolutely thrilled to be longlisted! Being chosen from so many entrants by a panel of writers that I admire is the most incredible validation that I’m on the right path!’

Catherine Spooner recently returned to creative writing after a gap of many years. In 2021-2, she took a career break to complete an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow and in 2022, was the recipient of the Northern Writers’ Arvon Award from New Writing North. In her other life, she is Professor of Literature and Culture at Lancaster University, where she specialises in Gothic in literature, fashion and other media. She is the author of three academic monographs: Fashioning Gothic Bodies (2004), Contemporary Gothic (2006) and Post-millennial Gothic (2017). She has also co-edited four books of academic essays. Unsurprisingly, her creative work has a strong Gothic flavour and is often inspired by the landscape, history and folklore of Yorkshire, where she grew up, and Lancashire, where she now lives.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?  

I am excited because it’s not just about being ‘discovered’ by the judging panel – it’s also about me discovering new things about my own writing. I am looking forward to working with experts to find out where my novel can go and what depths are still untapped.

Kate Taylor: ‘In a word: euphoric. Dead Man’s Bell is very close to my heart: writing it gave me a purpose while I was furloughed during the 2020 lockdowns; it’s been with me as I’ve made and deepened friendships with other writers through various writing groups; and as my first serious attempt at a full length novel it’s pushed me to develop in both skill and stamina! I’m so thrilled that the Discoveries team saw promise in it.’

Kate Taylor is a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing and an MRes in Creative Writing, both from Northumbria University. Her short fiction has been featured in anthologies and magazines but lockdown gave her the opportunity to embrace a longer project. Her first novel, Dead Man’s Bell is a gaslamp fantasy about a fugitive necromancer, set in Victorian London. Kate is drawn to speculative fiction and her favourite subgenres are gothic horror, historical fantasy and folk horror. You can find her writing at https://katetaylorwriting.blogspot.com/

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?

I’m excited to take part in the Discoveries Writing Development Course this summer to meet the other longlistees and develop Dead Man’s Bell under guidance from award-winning author Charlotte Mendelson. Although I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to study creative writing previously the focus was more on short-form fiction. I am looking forward to taking part in a course designed specifically to develop a novel.

Emily Utter: ‘I’m somewhat stunned – I keep going back to check that I read the email correctly! I’m sort of relieved to know I’m on the right track – that the judging panel felt as strongly about this story as I do. I have been given a real motivational boost: this feels like a new jumping off point for me, and I’m grateful to be doing it with the panel’s encouragement and in the company of the other longlisted writers.’

Emily is a Canadian writer who lives in Aberdeen. Her short stories and creative non-fiction have been widely published in magazines and journals, including GutterNorthwest Review, and Geist. Last year, her writing was collected by Guernica Editions in the best of Canadian flash fiction anthology, This Will Only Take a Minute.

Emily has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Aberdeen and is the Writer-in-Residence at Aberdeen’s specialist palliative care hospital, Roxburghe House. It is this work that has inspired her novel-in-progress, The Night Room.  Emily facilitates writing with service-users in recovery for the charity Alcohol and Drugs Action as a commissioned practitioner for the North East Culture Collective. She is also a sessional lecturer in Creative Writing at Aberdeen College. When she’s not writing she’s usually off exploring the hills, highlands, and islands with her husband and their English Setter, Winnie.

What is the thing you are most excited about as you continue through the Discoveries process?  

I’m looking forward to the development opportunities and mentoring and support from industry professionals. The two-week development course sounds fantastic. So much of the writing journey is lonely, so I’m looking forward to getting to know my fellow longlisters, sharing our writing with each other, and building a wee longlist community.

Congratulations to all 16 longlisted writers – we can’t wait to follow your exciting writing journeys!

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