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A Writing Contest for Women Like Us

A focus on 40-plus female protagonists – finally! Now let’s get one of these in the U.S. 

Look what’s happening in the U.K.: There’s a fantastic writing contest for works of any fiction genre featuring a leading female character over the age of 40 by a female author over 40 who lives in the U.K. or Ireland. It’s the creation of Gransnet (as in a network of grans, the U.K. term for grandmothers), a website that champions older women, in partnership with renowned publisher HarperCollins.

The idea sprang from a Gransnet survey. Here’s what the site had to say: “Our recent survey revealed that almost half of you think there are not enough books featuring middle-aged or older female characters. In response to that, we’re delighted to announce that, together with HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins, we are launching a fiction-writing competition.” (If you live in the UK or Ireland and can enter, the deadline is September 30th, so get busy!)

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Five finalists will receive a written critique of their submission from an HQ editor, and the winner will get the holy grail of prizes: a publishing contract with HQ. The judges of the competition are Kate Mills, HQ publishing director; Cari Rosen, editor of Gransnet, author Sarah Morgan, and journalist Nina Pottell.

Let’s hope this concept catches on. Obviously, there are many brilliant writers over age 40 and many books about women of that age. We’ve been happy to feature them here on NextTribe and will continue to do so. And while we’re at it, let’s point out the historical precedent of great female writers who didn’t publish their first books till they were age 40 or older:

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans was her given name, but she adopted a male-sounding name to, ahem, ensure her novels were taken seriously), whose works include Middlemarch and Silas Marner

Isak Dinesen, author of Out of Africa (real name Baroness Karen Blixen. 

Toni Morrison, whose novels include The Bluest Eye. 

Annie Proulx, who wrote The Shipping News (as well as Brokeback Mountain, the story that became the movie)

Julia Glass, whose debut novel, Three Junes, was published when she was 46 and won a National Book Award.

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By Janet Siroto


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