Monique Roffey

Novel Award Judge
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Monique Roffey is an award winning Trinidadian born British writer of novels, essays, literary journalism and a memoir. Her most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Book of the Year Award 2020 and was nominated for seven major awards. The film rights were sold to Dorothy Street Pictures and will be developed by Film Four. Her other Caribbean novels, The White Woman on the Green Bicycle and House of Ashes have also been nominated for major awards (Costa, Orange, Encore etc). Archipelago won the OCM Bocas Award for Caribbean Literature in 2013. Her work has been translated into several languages. She is a co-founder of Writers Rebel within Extinction Rebellion. She is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor for the National Writers Centre.

What would you say to your younger self?

Write exactly what you like and never mind what the market seems to want. Be independent-minded at all times. You are the dog . You be creative and wag your tail. Do not ever worry what seems to be popular.

What do you do when you are stuck?

Research.

Have you ever felt like giving up on writing?

Many, many times, as all my close friends know.

Twitter @moniqueroffey

Inua Ellams

Poetry Judge
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Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a touring poet, playwright and performer. He is an ambassador for the Ministry of Stories and his books of poetry include Candy Coated Unicorns and The Half-God of Rainfall – an epic story in verse.

He recently completed his first full poetry collection The Actual. He lives and works from London, where he founded the Midnight Run, a nocturnal urban excursion.

Inua is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

What are you looking for?

The distillation of human experience in language, and economical use of words, and transformation, where the sentiment of the poem is greater than the sum of its parts… when it leaps into the beyond.

What you would say to your younger self?

Read even more widely and wildly. Expand your horizons, set fire to them. Blow them out of the water and land where they land, and keep landing.

What do you do when you’re stuck?

I write so much, I never really get stuck. I switch genres, and steal from other genres, I turn poems in film, films in plays, plays into silent movies, and silent movies into poems.

Have you ever felt like giving up on writing?

I don’t have the luxury of doing that. I am not qualified in doing anything else. I am fortunate that my job is my hobby.

[email protected]

Kathy Fish

Flash Fiction Judge
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Kathy Fish has published five collections of short fiction including Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, and numerous other journals, textbooks and anthologies. Kathy’s Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild was selected for Best American Nonrequired Reading 2018 and the current edition of The Norton Reader. She is the recipient of a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship and a Copper Nickel Editors’ Prize.

What are you looking for?

Give me a story I’ve never read before. Or tell an oft-told tale in a wholly original way. I love stories that play with form or language. If you can do all that and also break my heart or make me laugh, so much the better!

What would you say to your younger self?

Seek out other writers, either through writing programs, social media or start your own writing group. It will help immensely to find your tribe and get to know writers, editors, and publishers.Also, volunteer to read for a literary magazine. You’ll learn so much from that experience.

What do you do when you’re stuck?

For me, it always works to get unstuck by taking in some other form of art. Music or visual art or performance. I read my favourite authors. Or see a good film. All of these inspire me and get me back to the page.

Have you ever felt like giving up on writing?

I’ve never felt like giving up. I’ve been discouraged many times. I think that just goes with the territory. But writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do. It never feels like a job and the ‘career’ parts are secondary to the actual pursuit of art as a passion.

[email protected]

Tim Pears

Short Story Judge
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Tim Pears left school at sixteen and had many jobs including trainee welder, assistant librarian, fruit picker, nursing assistant and builder. All the time he was writing. He eventually became a short story writer, film maker and novelist.

His collection of short stories Chemistry and Other Stories was published in 2021 by Bloomsbury and chosen by the Sunday Times for their best new short story collections. They declared it ‘as good as any modern fiction you will read this year.’

Tim’s novel In a Land of Plenty was made into a BBC drama series. He was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

In his spare time Tim remains ‘an avid spectator of the amazing human invention that is the game of football.’

What are you looking for?

I have developed an idea of the kind of short story I like to write, and to read, but what I look forward to judging the Bridport Prize is discovering new ways of writing, and fresh methods of telling, untold stories of this world we live in. What an exciting prospect!

What would you say to your younger self?

Never give up.

When you’re stuck, what do you do?

I read, even more keenly and widely than when I’m not stuck, and in time other writers generously help my brain into motion.

Have you ever felt like giving up on writing?

Writing is not a career, it’s a vocation, and an artist can’t give up on that. Sometimes you have to do other work to pay the rent, but such is and always has been the case.

Cathy Rentzenbrink

Memoir Judge
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Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of The Last Act of Love, A Manual for Heartache, Dear Reader and Everyone is Still Alive. Her latest book Write It All Down: How to put your life on the page is published in January 2022. Cathy regularly chairs literary events, interviews authors, reviews books, runs creative writing courses and speaks and writes on life, death, love and literature. Despite being shortlisted for various prizes, the only thing Cathy has ever won is the Snaith and District Ladies’ Darts Championship when she was seventeen. She is now sadly out of practice.

What you would say to your younger self?

Stop giving up. Learn to stick with it through the ups and downs. Falling out of love with the manuscript is not the end of the relationship, just part of the ebb and flow. Any creative endeavour is hard work. It’s not coal mining, but it is hard. Don’t think about whether it is any good, just know that if you get some words down you will work out what you are trying to do and be able to make them better at a later stage. Keep on keeping on.

What do you do when you’re stuck?

Sometimes it is fear and I need to push through. Sometimes I am tired and I need to rest. But fear is sneaky and will try to hide as exhaustion so I struggle to know what I need. I don’t sit and stare at the screen when I’m stuck. I get up, go out for a walk or a swim. I try to work out what is bothering me and talk to myself kindly but firmly, lowering my expectations of the work and offering some privacy: ‘This doesn’t have to be any good, and you don’t have to show it to anyone, but you will feel better if you make progress towards finishing it.’

Have you ever felt like giving up on writing?

Often. I struggle with the enormity of carving a book out of air. And I get lonely and am prone to fantasise about an office full of stimulating colleagues with whom I could share water cooler moments and feel part of a team. I take on lots of teaching and events work to give me company and stimulation but then can end up over-stretched. It’s a balancing act I have yet to perfect. I’m not sure I will write forever. There might come a time when I feel empty and then can switch to a full-time job facilitating other people’s books. I don’t dread that but rather look forward to it.