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The judges for the Northern Writers’ Awards change each year to ensure a mix of taste and opinions is reflected across the awards.

Judging poetry

Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and documentary film-maker. Awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014, she has received the Cholmondley Award and an Honorary Doctorate from SOAS. Her collections include Postcards from god, I speak for the devil, The terrorist at my table, Leaving Fingerprints and Over the Moon, all published by Bloodaxe Books UK, with the latest, Luck Is the Hook, due out in March 2018. She reads with other poets at Poetry Live! events all over the country to more than 25,000 students a year. She has been Poet in Residence at Cambridge University Library, recently completed a series of poems based on the Archives of St Paul’s Cathedral, and is currently working on several projects across art forms, in Leeds and Hull. She has had eleven solo exhibitions of drawings in India, London, New York and Hong Kong, and also scripts and directs video films, many of them for non-government organisations working in the area of shelter, education and health for women and children in India.

‘It is an honour and a pleasure to be the poetry judge for the Northern Writers’ Awards this year. I look forward to hearing from new poets as well as more experienced ones, to reading work in progress and to coming across some of the freshest writing in the country today.’ 

Credit: Ayesha Dharker

Judging fiction and narrative non-fiction

Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Her first novel, Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma was published in 2012 by Chatto & Windus and was the winner of the Scottish First Book Award while also being shortlisted for the Southbank Sky Arts Literature Award, Guardian First Book Award, Green Carnation Prize, Author’s Club First Novel Prize and the Polari First Book Award. Kerry’s second novel, Thirst, was published in 2014 by Chatto & Windus and won France’s most prestigious award for foreign fiction, the Prix Femina Étranger. It was also shortlisted for the European Premio Strega in Italy. Kerry’s first nonfiction book, Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Streets, a portrait of growing up in poverty in the 80s and 90s and an exploration of some of Britain’s poorest towns today, will be published by Chatto & Windus in January 2019. Her books are available in the US, France, Italy and Turkey. Kerry also founded The WoMentoring Project and has written for Grazia, Guardian Review, Observer New Review and Metro newspaper. She has represented the British Council in South Korea, mentored with IdeasTap Inspires and TLC, teaches for the Arvon Foundation and was commissioned by the Writers’ Centre Norwich to give a provocation on diversity as part of their ‘National Conversation’ series.

‘Winning a short story prize when I was just starting out was key to believing my stories about “non-traditional” literary characters and worlds might have an audience. I believe that our literary culture is best served by writers who represent the full and unique spectrum of potential stories that might be told. Therefore, I couldn’t be prouder to contribute to a prize which has inclusivity and accessibility at its heart offering the opportunity of professional validation and industry access to writers from all backgrounds.’

Jonathan Ruppin founded The Ruppin Agency in 2017. He offers representation to authors of adult fiction and non-fiction, with a mission to find writers from beyond the south-east, as well as other unrepresented voices and communities. He spent nearly two decades in book retail, working for chains and indies, predominantly as an expert in contemporary fiction including 13 years as Europe’s largest independent bookshop, Foyles. He’s also worked for publishers and literary agents. He’s been a judge of numerous literary awards, including the Costa Novel Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Romantic Novelists’ Association awards, and was the retail consultant to the Man Booker Prize. His journalism encompasses television, radio and print, and he complied the Paperback Preview for The Bookseller for three years. He has interviewed authors including Eleanor Catton, David Mitchell and Sebastian Barry at the Southbank Centre and Foyles, as well as hundreds more in print. He sits on English PEN’s Writers in Translation committee; he also founded and still runs their Translated Literature Book Club.

‘I’m delighted to playing a part in highlighting great writing from the north of England – the publishing world doesn’t pay enough attentipn to writing from outside its south-east base. I’m also thrilled to be on the panel with Kerry Hudson – it would wondeful to discover a writer as original as she is.’

Judging Children’s and Young Adult/Cuckoo Young Writers Award

Lisa Williamson is the bestselling author of The Art of Being Normal, published by David Fickling Books. It was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and the Branford Boase Award, and won the older-fiction category at the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2016, in addition to scooping up a number of regional awards. Lisa’s second novel, All About Mia, followed in early 2017. Her third novel for young adults, Paper Avalanche will be published in May 2018, followed by a collaborative novel, Floored in July (MacMillan). Among other things, Lisa likes old Hollywood films, the seaside, dessert and talking for hours. She lives in East London where she writes full-time.

‘I feel so proud and privileged to judge the children’s and young adult category. I’m hugely passionate about homegrown literature for young people so the thought of potentially discovering a brand new talent is very exciting indeed!’ 

Judging the Andrea Badenoch Fiction Award

Debbie Taylor is Editorial Director of Mslexia, which she founded in 1999. She has written for Oxfam, UNICEF, Anti-Slavery, WHO and others about women and social issues and worked as an editor for New Internationalist and Writing Women magazines. Her books include My Children, My Gold (Virago), a nonfiction travelogue about single mothers, and The Fourth Queen (Penguin), a novel set in a harem in 18th Century Morocco. Her latest novel, Herring Girl (Oneworld), a paranormal historical thriller set on the banks of the Tyne, came out in 2014.

Margaret Wilkinson has written extensively for the stage and radio. Her five-part radio dramas, Out of the Ashes and Passover, were broadcast on BBC Radio 4; as were her afternoon dramas, Can You Hear Me? and I Decided to Kill My Brother-in-Law After Dinner; and her Saturday drama, I Married a Marxist. In 2012, she returned to North East theatres with modern gothic thriller Blue Boy, directed by Tess Denman-Cleaver and produced by New Writing North in co-production with Northern Stage. She is a senior lecturer on the MA in creative writing at Newcastle University.

Word Factory Apprentice Award Mentor

Jenn Ashworth was born in Preston. She studied English at Cambridge and has since then gained an MA from Manchester University, trained as a librarian and run a prison library in Lancashire. Her first novel, A Kind of Intimacy, was published in 2009 and won a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was chosen by BBC’s The Culture Show as one of the twelve Best New British Novelists. Her third novel, The Friday Gospels, was published to resounding critical acclaim. She currently lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster.

Credit: Martin Figura

Judging the Northern Book Award

Ian McMillan was born in 1956 and has been a freelance writer, performer and broadcaster since 1981. He writes poems and his New and Selected Poems will be published by Carcanet Press in summer 2016; his memoir Neither Nowt Nor Summat: In Search Of The Meaning of Yorkshire, came out in 2015 from Ebury Press. He has worked widely on radio and television and currently presents The Verb, Radio 3’s Cabaret of the Word. He also makes programmes for BBC Radio 4 and is an occasional presenter on BBC TV’s Coast and newspaper reviewer on BBC Breakfast. He has been involved in community writing for many years and is very keen on collaboration between art forms with writing at the heart of the interaction. He has been a member of the New Writing North board since 2015.

Tara Tobler is the principal editor at And Other Stories, as well as a writer, freelance reviewer, and mum. She lives in Sheffield.

‘As a publisher it’s a tremendous leap to commit to bringing out one work, one work every single year, which you’ve not only never seen but couldn’t begin to imagine or guess at – and yet that’s what we’re doing. Clambering Helvellyn in the fog. It’s a mark of how proud we are to call the North our home and testament to the strength of talent we feel resides here. We can’t wait!’


Conor O’Callaghan is an Irish writer teaching in Sheffield Hallam University, where he leads the MA Creative Writing. His first novel, Nothing on Earth, was published by Doubleday in 2016 and was listed as a book of the year in The Guardian, The Observer and the Irish Times. Conor has also published five collections of poems, the most recent of which is Live Streaming.

‘I’ve no doubt that there is strange and exciting work happening out there, work that takes risks with form and narrative and language, but which might otherwise struggle to find an audience in the increasingly risk-averse world that publishing has become. It’s our job to find that work and shout it from the rooftops.’


Claire Malcolm is the founding Chief Executive of New Writing North and created many of its flagship projects such as the Northern Writers’ Awards, Read Regional and the Gordon Burn Prize. As well as leading the company she also works directly on projects with HE partners, commissions new work and is editorial director of the publishing venture Mayfly LLP. She also hosts literary events and chairs discussions at book festivals.

She has an MA in Leadership from City University and is a graduate of Newcastle Common Purpose. Claire is a board member of the publisher And Other Stories and of the national reading charity BookTrust. She is a regular judge for the Saltire Society’s Scottish Publisher of the Year Award.

‘We are delighted to be working with And Other Stories on the Northern Book Prize. We know from our experiences running the Northern Writers’ Awards that there’s a huge range of exciting and diverse talent in the North of England. We’re looking forward to welcoming submissions to this wonderful new prize, which will provide the winning writer with a unique, valuable and career-changing opportunity.’

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