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Winners announced for London-wide short story competition

PICTURED: Elizabeth Shoda and Courttia Newland

AN ACTOR, a cancer charity worker and a 77-year-old widow are among the nineteen winners of the City of Stories writing competition, launched by Spread to Word and the Association of London Chief Librarians, to discover hidden talent in London libraries.

Part of a London-wide celebration of writing, reading and stories, the winners entered the short story writing competition after attending one of 40 free creative workshops held in twenty libraries in June 2017.

The creative writing workshops were snapped up by 430 adults and inspired 227 of them to write stories for the competition, which was judged by three of the project’s four writers-in-residence: Irenosen Okojie (Butterfly Fish, Betty Trask Award 2016), Courttia Newland (The Gospel According to Cane) and Bidisha (Asylum and Exile: The Hidden Voices of London).

All the winning entries are featured in The City of Stories anthology alongside highly commended writers and four stories written by the project’s writers-in-residence. The anthology will be available, on loan, from twenty participating library services, and can be purchased from the Spread the Word website. The winners are also invited to attend a writers’ development day.

Elizabeth Shoda

Elizabeth Shoda is the West London winner for the London Borough of Westminster with her story ‘The Day Mum Won The Lottery’. Shoda, who works for a cancer charity and dreams of being a full-time author, said: “I am absolutely thrilled to have won the City of Stories competition for Westminster."

"I love to write, but before the competition I had never penned a short story before. This opportunity has given me more confidence in my writing and to pursue my long-term dream of becoming a full-time author. Mental health is an area I am very passionate about, which is why is a key theme in my story, as I want to raise more awareness about it.”

Writer and broadcaster Bidisha said: "City of Stories celebrates the vibrancy and inspiration of the here and now. It's about recognising and reflecting the talents of the great city we know and love: one that is diverse, multi-layered, teeming with ideas and points of interest and origin."


"The project has revealed a capital that is bursting with compelling new voices, thrilling characters and enthralling stories. It has enabled me to discover new talent and for that I'm enormously grateful and inspired.”

Novelist and playwright Courttia Newland said: “"City of Stories and the winning writers grasp London's beating heart in both hands and dont' let go. It's been inspiring to write, teach and judge the writing competition in equal measure.”

Anthony Hopkins, President of Association of London Chief Librarians, said: “City of Stories has been a tremendous way to connect people with libraries to develop new writing talent. The stories included cover a range of different subjects and interests and show a city full of creativity.”

Courttia Newland

Ruth Harrison, Director of Spread the Word, added: “City of Stories has revealed a real appetite from people across London to engage with writing and short stories in their local library. We’ve been astounded by the breadth and range of stories created and are looking forward to them being read by Londoners in their local libraries.”

Budding writers will have another chance to develop their ideas and writing with 20 free workshops throughout November in libraries across London as well as hear local authors read from their work, including the City of Stories competition winners.

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