University of Oxford: Prizes announced for inaugural creative writing award founded by Nobel Prize laureate

Authors shortlisted for the inaugural Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Award, a literary initiative founded by the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 winner, have been praised for being bold and inventive with their fiction, while taking risks and bending the rules.

Winners were announced at a ceremony held at Regent’s Park College, where attendees were welcomed by Interim Principal Elizabeth Crawford who highlighted this innovative partnership with Beijing Normal University.

The Award is organised by the Oxford Prospects and Global Development Institute (OPGDI) and Regent’s Park College, and was launched in June 2021.

It was a joy to write about nature, landscape, belief in God, and sport. I find that these things are intimately connected and bring me life

Megan Chester

OPGDI’s Director, Dr Shidong Wang, recalled the Award’s origins in a conversation with 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Literature Mo Yan during his June 2019 visit to Oxford, when he opened Mo Yan International Writing Centre and became a Regent’s Park College Honorary Fellow. Those conversations led to this parallel competition taking place in two languages and two countries.

Mo Yan, a Professor based at Beijing Normal University who also now chairs the Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Award, extended his congratulations to the 22 shortlisted Oxford authors and said he was: ‘Confident this Award will nourish the field of literary creation’ with ‘excellent works produced to enrich our world’s literary treasure house.’

Dr Shidong Wang said: ‘This literary initiative, founded by Dr Mo Yan, reinforces Oxford’s strong contribution to international and cross-cultural diversity within the global literary community.

‘I recollect Mo Yan suggesting, at his Oxford 2019 lecture, that emerging writers would benefit greatly through learning and exchanging ideas with authors from different cultural backgrounds and with distinct life experiences.

‘Indeed, he recalled his own experience of becoming obsessed with Shakespeare’s works during his own formative early years.

Image of 2012 Nobel Prize winner in Literature Mo Yan during his June 2019 visit to Oxford, when he opened the Mo Yan International Writing Centre and became a Regent’s Park College Honorary Fellow
2012 Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Mo Yan during his June 2019 visit to Oxford
‘This was the stimulus for this Creative Writing Award; in showcasing Oxford’s emerging writing talent, the award has unveiled a dual-way exchange onto the University’s literary landscape.
‘In these turbulent times, the recognition of our shared humanity through literary creation – even whilst being written with different languages – is more valuable than ever.’

The competition for a short story attracted 70 entries from undergraduates and postgraduates from right across the University’s colleges and disciplines.

In these turbulent times, the recognition of our shared humanity through literary creation – even whilst being written with different languages – is more valuable than ever

Dr Shidong Wang

The judges:

UK judging panel chair Boyd Tonkin (FRSL and chair of the judging panel of the Man Booker International Prize 2016)
Liz Trubridge – Executive Producer of Downton Abbey;
Lynn Robson and Davis Bunn (both of Regent’s Park College);
Speaking collectively for the judges, chair Boyd Tonkin praised the competition shortlist for fiction which ‘roamed so freely around different genres, voices and registers.’ The authors, he said ‘were bold. They were inventive. They took risks. They bent rules. They showed that fiction, even short fiction, really is a garden where a hundred flowers can bloom.’

First prize was awarded to Megan Chester of Somerville College (MSt Creative Writing, 2020) for her work Girl, Woman, River.

Megan said: ‘Winning the inaugural Oxford-BNU Award for Creative Writing came as a wonderful surprise and a timely encouragement! I believe that there is a place for women in sports literature, and it is affirming to now know that others agree with me.

Image of Megan Chester of Somerville College receiving 1st Prize for Girl, Woman, River
Megan Chester receives 1st Prize from Boyd Tonkin for Girl, Woman, River
‘It was a joy to write about nature, landscape, belief in God, and sport. I find that these things are intimately connected and bring me life. I hope that these stories provide similar life for readers and that they inspire women and girls to have the confidence to enjoy sport. This award is a blessing, and I am very thankful.’
2021 Award Winners
1st Prize was awarded to Megan Chester of Somerville College for Girl, Woman, River;
Runner Up Prizes awarded to Rowan James Curtis of Trinity College for The Most Beautiful Ship in the World and Ellen Taylor of St John’s College for Stella Polaris;
High Commendations were also awarded to Emma Latham of Keble College for The Anatomical Venus; Joanne Szilagyi of Kellogg College for An Invented Account of the Near-Death, Life and Death of Leslie Kong, and Sofia Vaz Pinto of Corpus Christi College for The Lake.
The winning short stories will be published by The Oxford Prospects and Global Development Institute.

The Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Award is the latest initiative in OPGDI’s ongoing project ‘Performing Literatures and Cultures: The Humanities in a Global Context’, and looks forward to it continuing as an annual fixture on Oxford’s rich literary calendar. OPGDI is an interdisciplinary body which aims to promote discussion and inspire new ideas among students, scholars, and distinguished figures focusing on the development of East-West relations in the light of present day globalization.

This year, BNU International Writing Centre organised their award competition in parallel to Oxford. They attracted entries from around ten leading universities in China.

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