And the winners are?

Get the inside story on UCL’s Publishers’ Prize – and read the 2020 winning entries

A collage of a lady stood in a library reading, a dinasour and a man sitting down reading

This article first appeared in issue 7 of Portico magazine, published October 2020.

Launched in 2014, UCL’s Publishers’ Prize is a writing competition open to all current students. It’s also an extracurricular opportunity for those on the MA Publishing course to gain first-hand experience of creating a book.

“Students go through a proper job selection process of CVs, covering letters and interviews to be part of the Prize’s publishing team,” explains MA Publishing Programme Director Dr Daniel Boswell, “and on that basis, we assign roles from editing and sales to marketing and production.” With a cohort of 50 students on the MA, places are hotly contested to work on running the Prize and publishing the anthology of winners.

The Prize is an opportunity for all UCL students to flex their literary skills by entering a poem, short story or flash fiction on a specific theme. “There are so many strands of interest in writing across the university (recent winners have included lawyers and anthropologists), not to mention the successes of our alumni, such as Jane Fallon,” says Dr Boswell. Fallon read history at UCL, then worked in TV before becoming a bestselling novelist. As well as being a judge for this year’s prize, she spoke to the MA students about her experience as a writer.

Dr Boswell thinks a key part of the project’s diversity lies “in this intersection of having an unexpected mix of judges and an unexpected mix of submissions”.

This article first appeared in issue 7 of Portico magazine, published October 2020.

Launched in 2014, UCL’s Publishers’ Prize is a writing competition open to all current students. It’s also an extracurricular opportunity for those on the MA Publishing course to gain first-hand experience of creating a book.

“Students go through a proper job selection process of CVs, covering letters and interviews to be part of the Prize’s publishing team,” explains MA Publishing Programme Director Dr Daniel Boswell, “and on that basis, we assign roles from editing and sales to marketing and production.” With a cohort of 50 students on the MA, places are hotly contested to work on running the Prize and publishing the anthology of winners.

The Prize is an opportunity for all UCL students to flex their literary skills by entering a poem, short story or flash fiction on a specific theme. “There are so many strands of interest in writing across the university (recent winners have included lawyers and anthropologists), not to mention the successes of our alumni, such as Jane Fallon,” says Dr Boswell. Fallon read history at UCL, then worked in TV before becoming a bestselling novelist. As well as being a judge for this year’s prize, she spoke to the MA students about her experience as a writer.

Dr Boswell thinks a key part of the project’s diversity lies “in this intersection of having an unexpected mix of judges and an unexpected mix of submissions”.

This article first appeared in issue 7 of Portico magazine, published October 2020.

Launched in 2014, UCL’s Publishers’ Prize is a writing competition open to all current students. It’s also an extracurricular opportunity for those on the MA Publishing course to gain first-hand experience of creating a book.

“Students go through a proper job selection process of CVs, covering letters and interviews to be part of the Prize’s publishing team,” explains MA Publishing Programme Director Dr Daniel Boswell, “and on that basis, we assign roles from editing and sales to marketing and production.” With a cohort of 50 students on the MA, places are hotly contested to work on running the Prize and publishing the anthology of winners.

The Prize is an opportunity for all UCL students to flex their literary skills by entering a poem, short story or flash fiction on a specific theme. “There are so many strands of interest in writing across the university (recent winners have included lawyers and anthropologists), not to mention the successes of our alumni, such as Jane Fallon,” says Dr Boswell. Fallon read history at UCL, then worked in TV before becoming a bestselling novelist. As well as being a judge for this year’s prize, she spoke to the MA students about her experience as a writer.

Dr Boswell thinks a key part of the project’s diversity lies “in this intersection of having an unexpected mix of judges and an unexpected mix of submissions”.

“We were taking bets on sci-fi stories of futuristic dystopias, but in fact most entries were of the classic ‘sitting in a library reading a dusty old book’ variety”

Sebastiao Veloso

“We were taking bets on sci-fi stories of futuristic dystopias, but in fact most entries were of the classic ‘sitting in a library reading a dusty old book’ variety”

Sebastiao Veloso

“We were taking bets on sci-fi stories of futuristic dystopias, but in fact most entries were of the classic ‘sitting in a library reading a dusty old book’ variety”

Sebastiao Veloso

This year’s theme of ‘libraries’ was inspired by the centenary of UCL’s Department of Information Studies (founded as the School of Librarianship in 1919).

Although most of the 92 entries came from humanities students, medicine and engineering were well represented too. “We were taking bets on sci-fi stories of futuristic dystopias, but in fact most entries were of the classic ‘sitting in a library reading a dusty old book’ variety,” says MA Publishing student and Prize Publishing Assistant Sebastiao Veloso.

All entries were anonymised before being read by three student editors, who marked them on criteria score sheets, whittling down to a longlist of 33 pieces for the printed anthology. “One of the recurring themes in the longlist was around viewing knowledge as a higher source, as if it’s a god or something that’s dangerous and yet to be coveted at the same time,” says fellow student and Prize Project Manager, Harshita Lalwani, “but the editors had real clarity on the stories that they thought were most reflective of the theme.” Each fought hard to champion entries, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 10 finalists to be judged by the expert panel.

While the judges were busy scoring, the editors worked with all 33 authors to finesse their pieces, with notes on continuity and suggestions for improvements to plots, readying them for publication.

Although the pandemic didn’t affect the judging process, the production and distribution parts of the project have been challenging. “Our Sales Officer Lucy Owen had done an amazing job of building relationships with Bloomsbury bookshops, who’d agreed to stock the book,” says Lalwani, “but after several months of lockdown, some of these shops have closed for good.” A print copy will be published, but Owen is now working with an online sales platform, which will launch in September. “Lockdown made us realise that digitisation is becoming more important in the publishing industry,” says Veloso.

The winning entries were announced via a virtual book launch party (another pandemic innovation) in July, you can read them below by clicking on the winners' names.

As for the experience of being part of this publishing project, for Lalwani, “It has made me aware of what divisions I would like to work in and, as importantly, which are not for me.” For Veloso, “Being on the team during the pandemic gave me a real perspective of just how volatile publishing can be. Back in January, we’d never have imagined problems like not knowing where to send our books, or the London Book Fair being cancelled, or all bookshops being closed for two months! It’s broadened our publishing experience.”

Buy the 2020 anthology

Find out more about Jane Fallon

This year’s theme of ‘libraries’ was inspired by the centenary of UCL’s Department of Information Studies (founded as the School of Librarianship in 1919).

Although most of the 92 entries came from humanities students, medicine and engineering were well represented too. “We were taking bets on sci-fi stories of futuristic dystopias, but in fact most entries were of the classic ‘sitting in a library reading a dusty old book’ variety,” says MA Publishing student and Prize Publishing Assistant Sebastiao Veloso.

All entries were anonymised before being read by three student editors, who marked them on criteria score sheets, whittling down to a longlist of 33 pieces for the printed anthology. “One of the recurring themes in the longlist was around viewing knowledge as a higher source, as if it’s a god or something that’s dangerous and yet to be coveted at the same time,” says fellow student and Prize Project Manager, Harshita Lalwani, “but the editors had real clarity on the stories that they thought were most reflective of the theme.” Each fought hard to champion entries, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 10 finalists to be judged by the expert panel.

While the judges were busy scoring, the editors worked with all 33 authors to finesse their pieces, with notes on continuity and suggestions for improvements to plots, readying them for publication.

Although the pandemic didn’t affect the judging process, the production and distribution parts of the project have been challenging. “Our Sales Officer Lucy Owen had done an amazing job of building relationships with Bloomsbury bookshops, who’d agreed to stock the book,” says Lalwani, “but after several months of lockdown, some of these shops have closed for good.” A print copy will be published, but Owen is now working with an online sales platform, which will launch in September. “Lockdown made us realise that digitisation is becoming more important in the publishing industry,” says Veloso.

The winning entries were announced via a virtual book launch party (another pandemic innovation) in July, you can read them below by clicking on the winners' names.

As for the experience of being part of this publishing project, for Lalwani, “It has made me aware of what divisions I would like to work in and, as importantly, which are not for me.” For Veloso, “Being on the team during the pandemic gave me a real perspective of just how volatile publishing can be. Back in January, we’d never have imagined problems like not knowing where to send our books, or the London Book Fair being cancelled, or all bookshops being closed for two months! It’s broadened our publishing experience.”

Buy the 2020 anthology

Find out more about Jane Fallon

This year’s theme of ‘libraries’ was inspired by the centenary of UCL’s Department of Information Studies (founded as the School of Librarianship in 1919).

Although most of the 92 entries came from humanities students, medicine and engineering were well represented too. “We were taking bets on sci-fi stories of futuristic dystopias, but in fact most entries were of the classic ‘sitting in a library reading a dusty old book’ variety,” says MA Publishing student and Prize Publishing Assistant Sebastiao Veloso.

All entries were anonymised before being read by three student editors, who marked them on criteria score sheets, whittling down to a longlist of 33 pieces for the printed anthology. “One of the recurring themes in the longlist was around viewing knowledge as a higher source, as if it’s a god or something that’s dangerous and yet to be coveted at the same time,” says fellow student and Prize Project Manager, Harshita Lalwani, “but the editors had real clarity on the stories that they thought were most reflective of the theme.” Each fought hard to champion entries, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 10 finalists to be judged by the expert panel.

While the judges were busy scoring, the editors worked with all 33 authors to finesse their pieces, with notes on continuity and suggestions for improvements to plots, readying them for publication.

Although the pandemic didn’t affect the judging process, the production and distribution parts of the project have been challenging. “Our Sales Officer Lucy Owen had done an amazing job of building relationships with Bloomsbury bookshops, who’d agreed to stock the book,” says Lalwani, “but after several months of lockdown, some of these shops have closed for good.” A print copy will be published, but Owen is now working with an online sales platform, which will launch in September. “Lockdown made us realise that digitisation is becoming more important in the publishing industry,” says Veloso.

The winning entries were announced via a virtual book launch party (another pandemic innovation) in July, you can read them below by clicking on the winners' names.

As for the experience of being part of this publishing project, for Lalwani, “It has made me aware of what divisions I would like to work in and, as importantly, which are not for me.” For Veloso, “Being on the team during the pandemic gave me a real perspective of just how volatile publishing can be. Back in January, we’d never have imagined problems like not knowing where to send our books, or the London Book Fair being cancelled, or all bookshops being closed for two months! It’s broadened our publishing experience.”

Buy the 2020 anthology

Find out more about Jane Fallon

The judges

John Baker, Agency Assistant, Bell Lomax Moreton
Jane Fallon, author
Janet Noble, librarian
Simran Sandhu, Assistant Editor, Macmillan Childrens’ Books

 

Read the winning entries in full by clicking on the winners' names below.

The judges

John Baker, Agency Assistant, Bell Lomax Moreton
Jane Fallon, author
Janet Noble, librarian
Simran Sandhu, Assistant Editor, Macmillan Childrens’ Books

 

Read the winning entries in full by clicking on the winners' names below.

The judges

John Baker, Agency Assistant, Bell Lomax Moreton
Jane Fallon, author
Janet Noble, librarian
Simran Sandhu, Assistant Editor, Macmillan Childrens’ Books

 

Read the winning entries in full by clicking on the winners' names below.

A person reading a book

THE WINNERS

Poetry second place: OVER BEFORE IT BEGAN by Jennie Balaganeshan
Prose second place: THE OLD OAK DOOR by Hûw Steer
Poetry winner: THE BORROWER by Yaning Wu
Prose winner: A PECULIAR DISCOVERY by Libby Randall

THE WINNERS

Poetry second place: OVER BEFORE IT BEGAN by Jennie Balaganeshan
Prose second place: THE OLD OAK DOOR by Hûw Steer
Poetry winner: THE BORROWER by Yaning Wu
Prose winner: A PECULIAR DISCOVERY by Libby Randall

THE WINNERS

Poetry second place: OVER BEFORE IT BEGAN by Jennie Balaganeshan
Prose second place: THE OLD OAK DOOR by Hûw Steer
Poetry winner: THE BORROWER by Yaning Wu
Prose winner: A PECULIAR DISCOVERY by Libby Randall

Photography Stocksy

This article first appeared in issue 7 of Portico magazine, published October 2020.

Photography Stocksy

This article first appeared in issue 7 of Portico magazine, published October 2020.

Photography Stocksy

This article first appeared in issue 7 of Portico magazine, published October 2020.