Watch Now – UK Prisons Writing Competition

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Crime writer Ryan Gattis has been working with his publisher, Picador, and national charity, The Reading Agency to run a short story competition in prisons across the UK. People in prison were invited to submit a 500-word short story, starting with an opening line provided by Ryan: “A man gets off a bus, stumbles, looks over and sees a woman, smiling.” The entries were judged by Ryan and his editor, Kris Doyle, who chose a winner and two runners up to receive a letter from Ryan with feedback on their stories. The overall winner also received copies of all Ryan’s books, including his latest, The System. 

 

From facemasks to first loves, sinister assassins to returning war heroes, the stories cover a broad range of subjects and writings styles, and all demonstrate the entrants’ endless creativity. Ambassadors for The Reading Agency, a national charity working to tackle life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading, have recorded readings of some of the stories, including the winning story and two runners up. 

 

A Promise is a Promise (winner) – HMP Dovegate, Read by Peter James

 

The Manor Murderer (first runner up) – Prison Arts Foundation at HMP Magilligan, Read by Ryan Gattis 

(Content Warning: includes some reference to murder/violence)

 

Not Good at All (second runner up) – HMP Haverigg, Read by Peter James 

(Content Warning: alludes to assault.)

 

Simile Memory – HMP High Down, Read by Mahsuda Snaith

 

It’s in Her Eyes – HMP Frankland, Read by Bali Rai

 

The Boy and the Girl from the Forest – HMP Wandsworth, Read by Bali Rai

 

Guardian Angel Watches Over Us – HMP Manchester and Manchester Libraries, Read by Peter James

 

Reversal – HMP High Down, Read by Bali Rai

 

The Perfect Loop – HMP Bristol, Read by Clare Mackintosh

 

A Time Stood Still – HMP Long Lartin, Read by Keith Stuart

 

The Reading Agency is a national charity that tackles life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading, and over 2019/20 reached 1.8 million people. It works closely with partners including libraries, publishers, schools, and prisons to develop and deliver programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds. Through its Reading Partners programme, The Reading Agency works with publishers to people in need of stories, including those who struggle to access books. The Reading Agency also has a longstanding history of supporting people in prison to gain confidence and life skills through reading, particularly through its Reading Ahead programme. Reading Ahead supports less confident and reluctant readers, including people in prison, through an annual reading challenge. In 2018/19, 9,180 people in prison took part in the challenge. The Reading Agency’s vision is for a world where everyone is reading their way to a better life and no one is left behind. The Reading Agency is funded by Arts Council England. Find out more at www.readingagency.org.uk  

 

Ryan Gattis is the author of SafeKung Fu High SchoolThe System, and All Involved, which won the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Lire Award for Noir of the Year (France). He lives and writes in South Los Angeles, where he is a member of art collective UGLARworks, a founding board member of arts non-profit Heritage Future, and a PEN America Prison Writing Mentor. You can find out more about him at www.ryangattis.com  

 

Comments from prison librarians on the competition 

“This opportunity means so much to our prisoners at this challenging time when they are missing their families and feeling detached from the outside world. Many will be writing for the first time and learning to explore their own creative process. It’s also fantastic for them to have their work read and acknowledged by a successful author.” 

 

“Because most of our readers are interested in what they call “real stories”, many are interested in writing about their own experiences, and I think this would be an ideal opportunity to offer some of them.” 

 

“I believe men would be very excited taking part in this campaign especially when they know that they will be judged by him Ryan Gattis.” 

 

“The women here would love to be involved as they are so enthusiastic when they are given the chance to be creative” 

 

“We are always looking for ways to creatively engage and encourage the men here to read. They really respond well to author engagement and under normal circumstance author visits go down very well. Our prison constantly tries to engage the men with reading related activities such as workshops, bibliography sessions, poet visits, rapper sessions, lyric workshops, working with our Writer In Residence and lots more. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, none of our activities have taken place so being able to do something like this with the men would provide some very welcome reading relief.” 

 

“Our residents are very focused on reading and writing. Of the 580 residents, only 5 are not registered as users of the Library. Creative writing is very popular with our residents and the chance to have their stories read by the author himself will greatly appeal.” 

 

“we all agree that this is the perfect opportunity to not only connect with prisoners, but provide an opportunity to have their own thoughts appreciated.” 

You can watch performances of all of the short stories from 6th May 2021 through the links below:

 

 

 

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Proudly supported by The Institute of Creative Enterprise at Edge Hill University’s MA in International Creative Enterprise.

*Some exclusions apply – see Festival Programme for more information.

Date: Thursday 6th May

Time: 2pm

Price: Free

Watch on our Website

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