(Photo credit: Hanna Thomas Uose)
A creative writing student from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has won a national prize for her unpublished novel.
Hanna Thomas Uose, who is studying for an MA in Prose Fiction at the University, won the Morley Prize for Unpublished Writers of Colour 2022.
The Morley Prize is an annual prize, jointly presented by Morley College London and the Rachel Mills Literary Agency (RML), which is awarded to previously unpublished aspiring authors of colour. It is intended to nurture and provide opportunities for aspiring novelists, in addition to promoting diverse fiction across the broader literary landscape of Britain.
The award, won for Hanna's draft novel ‘Who Wants to Live Forever’, will grant her access to mentoring and support from RML. It is part of their commitment to breaking boundaries in the publishing industry and helping to carve a path for under-represented writers.
Hanna, who is of British and Japanese heritage, said: “You have to send the first 30 pages and I did that. I’m very grateful that there are people working to diversify the publishing industry.”
She describes her book as combining “the high concept of ‘Station Eleven’ with the doomed romance of ‘Normal People,’ and the existential questions of ‘Life After Life’.”
She added: “I had the idea for this novel in 2017, and I started writing it pretty conscientiously from 2018. I had done a few short courses in London and had a plan to finish the novel, but I didn't really have it in my mind to do a master’s degree. During lockdown, I heard of the UEA creative writing course because of its reputation - I just applied on a whim and got in.
“I already had the kind of structure and the plan for the novel, but I just wanted to be able to make it as good as I could. I feel like I'm learning aspects of the craft here that I wouldn't have otherwise, and it's great to be in a community with other people here who are doing the same thing.
“I'd written quite a lot of poetry over the years; the thought of writing fiction hadn't really occurred to me until I had this idea.
“I'd written maybe one or two short stories, but ultimately, I had this idea that just kind of needled my brain. I'd written a chunk, maybe 15,000 words, when two things happened. I had gone freelance so that I had a bit more time to kind of explore what I wanted to do, and then lockdown happened. Suddenly I had a lot more time to crack on. I don't know how to describe it. It was kind of a compulsion. I could very clearly see what the story would be and so it just felt really silly not to have a go.”
The MA Creative Writing Prose Fiction at UEA, which involves studying the craft of prose fiction and exploring creative potential, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020, making it the oldest and most prestigious creative writing programme in the UK. The course’s alumni include Novel Laureate Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, ‘Atonement’ author Ian McEwan and other outstanding debut novelists.
“He stared at the banner again, an empty cup and crumpled napkin in his hand. This exhibition was a smack from the universe. If he didn’t change course now, he’d be just another failed artist. Yuki needed him to find a different direction; he could tell her girlish admiration was turning into something else – a sort of maternal encouragement. Thinking of the night before, when her voice took on the tone of a palliative nurse – how’s it going – made his skin feel too tight. He thought of the first time she took his hand, on the corner of Regent Street and Oxford Circus where the air smelt strongly of ham, coffee, and fumes. He remembered the warmth of her fingers entwining with his, the shock of understanding how much he had missed by not knowing her till now.”