10 February 2023

The Martha Mills Young Writers’ Prize

The London Review Bookshop is proud to announce the launch of the Martha Mills Young Writers’ Prize. Inspired by the great curiosity and imagination of Martha Mills, the prize seeks to give young people a chance to explore new themes in their writing and to get their work published.

The prize is open to anyone between the ages of 11 and 14 living in the UK. 

What we are looking for

The judges for this year are Merope Mills and Paul Laity (Martha’s parents and editors at the Guardian and LRB respectively), Gayle Lazda from the London Review Bookshop and the writer Katherine Rundell.

They say: We are looking for writing that is lively, unusual or otherwise original. It doesn’t have to be perfect or finished – we want to see the work that you’re most proud of or most excited about. Don’t worry if you haven’t written much before or don’t know if you’re a ‘writer’.

Unfortunately we can’t accept poems (there are other prizes for young poets) but we welcome any piece of prose under 500 words, whether it’s a piece of schoolwork, something from real life – perhaps from your diary or journal – or a story entirely from your imagination.

This year’s theme

The theme for 2023 is ‘The Stranger’. You can take this idea in any direction you like – perhaps you have a memory of meeting a stranger that you would like to write down, or the stranger could be an alien from another planet! For more ideas, or to share information about the prize with friends or students, download the information pack below.

Submitting your writing

Submissions should be sent by email to youngwriters@lrb.co.uk or by post to the London Review Bookshop (address below) by 22 May. The winning entries will be announced on 17 June.

The three winning writers will each receive £200 as well as a selection of books and a special souvenir. They will be invited to the London Review Bookshop (travel and accommodation paid) where the prizes will be awarded by Katherine Rundell.

A selection of entries, including the three winners, will be included in a pamphlet, available at the Bookshop.

London Review Bookshop
14-16 Bury Place
London WC1A 2JL

About Martha

Every birthday and Christmas our daughter Martha would ask for the same presents: a notebook and a snow globe. By the time she died, aged thirteen, she was an enthusiastic writer with dozens of snow globes and piles of notebooks bursting with book ideas. She produced countless half-finished stories, opening lines, chapter plans and character breakdowns. These included ‘The Story of Nothing’, which begins:

Every book starts with nothing,
but in this case . . . Nothing
is a boy. And this story is how
Nothing turns into Something

And ‘Realm of Sky’, which starts:

A long, long time ago, in a land that was wild, magic and free, there lived a carefree girl named for birds… She had a temper like a wildfire and a tongue as sharp as the knife she wielded.
Her name was Kestrel . . .

Martha loved reading and writing and took inspiration from her favourite authors – Katherine Rundell, Malorie Blackman, Philip Pullman and others. We weren’t to witness her grow as a reader and writer, but we hope the Martha Mills prize will inspire other young writers.

Merope Mills and Paul Laity
(Martha’s parents)

I Am Not A Writer
by Martha Mills, at age twelve

I am not a writer.

I am an artist, whose paintbrush creates worlds of its own; I am a facilitator, I introduce ideas to the world from a small, white page, I am not a writer.

These shapes are not words, they are passages, from which stories appear; they are ideas, singing to you from your bedside or shelf, they are not words.

Watch this pencil, sharp as a weapon, able to create joy or inflict sorrow. See it dance, see it whirl, see it twirl, see it dart across the page- and oh! A world has appeared.

Follow me. Enter this new, enchanted world. Watch the magic unfurl like a flower, bringing wonder and beauty.

This is not a story.
This is a snow peaked mountain,
A scorching desert,
A bustling city,
A gurgling stream,
Another life, another planet,
A wonderland.

This is not a story.
I am not a writer.