Stormzy announces #Merky Books writers’ prize winners

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Hafsa Zayyan and Monika Radojevic have both been announced as the co-winners of Stormzy’s first #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize.

They will get a publishing contract with #Merky Books and be represented by The Good Literary Agency.

The competition, which launched earlier this year, was open to aspiring writers between the ages of 16 and 30.

Stormzy says it aims to help young authors who are “being ignored or passed on” by major publishing outlets.

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Riaz Pirmohamed

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Hafsa’s book tells the tale of two very different men who cross paths in Uganda

Hafsa, 28, told Newsbeat: “It feels surreal, I feel like I’m dreaming.

“I feel amazed that anybody would want to read my writing and actually enjoy it and want to publish me.

“I’m a lawyer – so this was a crazy slice of opportunity to try to get my foot in the door.”

Out of 1200 submissions, her novel We Are All Birds of Uganda was judged to be the winner alongside Monika’s collection of poems, 23 And Me.

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Monika’s poems often focus on belonging and identity

The 23-year-old poet says winning the competition “has shown me that people can connect with the story I have to tell”.

“I hope this allows me to pursue those dreams I buried a really long time ago.”

When announcing his partnership with Penguin last year, the rapper said: “I from the bottom of my heart cannot wait to hear your stories, your poems, your novels, your sci-fis and then getting them out into the big wide world.”

He added: “Reading and writing as a kid was integral to where I am today.”

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Stormzy was on the panel of judges who decided the winner.

In March Stormzy announced the competition, aiming to “promote the stories that aren’t being heard”.

Monika says #Merky Books focusing on “lesser known stories is really, really important”.

“That’s one of the reasons why I felt so comfortable submitting a poem that is quite niche.

“My winning poem is about my desire to do DNA testing but being afraid of what will come from it. That’s not necessarily something a lot of people can relate to.”

Last month Stormzy held a writers’ workshop for the 20 shortlisted applicants, which included Monika and Hafsa.

Speaking at the event, Stormzy told Newsbeat: “The reason why things like this are important to me is because I have always understood that my community raised me.

“And then the public have put me on. They are literally the reason why I am where I am. So it’s like my duty to repay that back.”

The winners were chosen by a panel of judges including Stormzy and various writers, poets and agents.

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