UofG Creative Writing Student Wins North Literary Agency Prize

Clare Gough who has been awarded The North Literary Agency Prize 2021

By Clare Gough

I came to Glasgow with three ambitions: Finish my novel, A Good Submissive Silent Christian Wife, complete my MLitt degree, and look for an agent.

When I heard about The North Literary Agency Prize, awarding £1000 and agency representation for a creative writing student at the University of Glasgow, I thought it was the perfect motivator to focus on two of these goals. Having the chance to submit to esteemed literary agents and a deadline, created the right opportunity and pressure to get a package together for submission.

After getting my synopsis and first few thousand words completed, I was ready to submit. A month later the shortlist was announced, and I was beyond thrilled to see my name. The UofG MLitt programme is absolutely full of incredibly talented, inventive writers, so being amongst five of my peers whose work I greatly admire, was a real honour.

A real shock

The day of The North Lit Agency Prize announcement, we were asked to read for five minutes from our submissions. Hearing excerpts from everyone’s upcoming novels was a pleasure and preparing my own reading allowed me to frame my work under a commercial lens.

Seeing my writing not just as art, but as my business helped me to think of my submission, from title page to content, as something that would be consumed, which I think created a stronger sense of voice.

Actually winning the prize came as a real shock and such an exciting reward for my work. We also received feedback at the ceremony from Mark Stanton, director of the agency. His comments on my writing were published with an unexpected press release by The BookSeller, which is obviously very validating, and has created a little buzz for my upcoming novel. Ultimately, building confidence that I’m on track with my manuscript, and chosen career has given me a real boost and a renewed energy to complete my novel.

Take part

I absolutely encourage MLitt and DFA students to send their work to this annual prize. Having the opportunity to sculpt your writing into a commercial package, as well as create a synopsis that you know will be viewed by professionals, demands the type of effort that I think helps prepare you for your career.

The planning process allowed me see my project in a more complete sense and that alone has been incredibly beneficial. I am very thankful to the University of Glasgow’s MLitt program, especially the organiser (and fabulous author) Carolyn Jess-Cooke, for this opportunity.

If you have the chance next year, submit! The process is worth it!

Six UofG students in total were shortlisted this year: Maud Woolf (The Thirteen Suicides of Lulabelle Rock), Gavin Baird (Thin Places), Niamh Gordon (Ordinary Miracles), Eva Weworski (Joyless Eye), and Kris Haddow (When the Curlew Cries No More).

Spearheaded by Dr Carolyn Jess-Cooke, the North Literary Agency Prize at UofG was established in 2019. The prize is judged by agents at the Agency and is awarded annually to a student who is currently enrolled on the MLitt Creative Writing, the MLitt Creative Writing by Distance Learning, or the MFA/DFA programmes in Creative Writing at UofG. 

First published: 24 June 2021

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