The Miles Morland Writing Scholarships, the most prestigious literary grant initiative in the continent, are open for submissions for 2019. Created by the Miles Morland Foundation (MMF), one is a fiction award of £18,000 to two, three or four writers over the course of twelve months, and the other a nonfiction award of £22,000-27,000 to one or two writers over the course of eighteen months. The funds are “paid…to allow them to take time off to write the book they have proposed.” Entries must be book proposals for only fiction and creative nonfiction which must not be less than 80,000 words when completed. The MMF does not accept proposals for collaborative writing, short story collections, work that is not completely new, or work that is not in English. This year’s scholarships open for applications on 30 June 2019 and close on 30 September 2019.
The only mandatory requirement during the period of the scholarship is the submission of 10,000 new words. The other undertaking is considered a debt of honour:
Scholars are also asked to donate to the MMF 20% of whatever they subsequently receive from what they write during the period of their Scholarship. This includes revenues as a result of film rights, serialisations or other ancillary revenues arising from the book written during the Scholarship period. These funds will be used to support other promising writers. The 20% return obligation should be considered a debt of honour rather than a legally binding obligation.
The Miles Morland Foundation was started in 2013 by the British businessman and nonfiction writer Miles Morland. The Foundation is managed by Mathilda Edwards. In these six years, the Scholarships have been awarded to 25 African writers. (Scroll down for more information.)
JUDGES & SELECTION PROCESS
The 2013 and 2014 Scholarships were judged by: the Somali writer Nadifa Mohamed, author of the novels Black Mamba Boy (2010) and The Orchard of Lost Souls (2013); the Sierra Leonean writer Olufemi Terry, winner of the 2010 Caine Prize; and the Zimbabwean editor and critic Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, now chair of the Caine Prize and fiction editor-at-large at Canongate, as chair. In 2015, the Kenyan writer Muthoni Garland, founding member of Storymoja and author of the novellas Tracking the Scent of My Mother (2007) and Halfway Between Nairobi and Dundori (2008), joined the panel, replacing Mohamed. In 2019, the Nigerian publisher Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, co-founder of Cassava Republic Press, and the Nigerian writer and journalist Otosirieze Obi-Young, deputy editor of Brittle Paper, joined the panel, replacing Allfrey and Terry, with Garland as the new chair.
The shortlist is selected not by the judges but by a team of readers:
Once we have reached the closing date and have received all entries for the scholarships, we allocate them to a team of readers . . . . The readers then assess and grade the submissions, ultimately producing a longlist. This list is then refined by the MMF team, aided by the readers’ grading, to put together a shortlist of around twenty submissions, from which the judges will decide the winners.
APPLICATION GUIDELINES AND DOCUMENTS
All enquiries and submissions relating to the Morland Scholarships should be directed to [email protected]
1. A submission of between 2,000 to 5,000 words as a Word document of work that has been published and offered for sale.
2. A description of between 400 – 1,000 words about the new book you intend to write.
3. A scan of an official document showing that you, or both of your parents, were born in Africa.
4. A brief bio of between 200 – 300 words.
5. Please tell us how you heard about the Morland Writing Scholarships.
For more information on how to apply, check here.
THE MILES MORLAND CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP
Since 2017, the MMF has organised a creative writing workshop facilitated by Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland and professor of creative writing at the University of East Anglia, and Michela Wrong, author of In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz and It’s Our Turn to Eat. Participants are chosen from among applicants for the Scholarships.
PREVIOUS WINNERS’ PROPOSALS
The proposals here by most of the 25 previous winners of the Scholarships appear as stated on the MMF website.
The proposals for the inaugural winners are not available on the site.
Doreen Baingana (Uganda) – Fiction
Tony Mochama (Kenya) – Fiction
Percy Zvomuya (Zimbabwe) – Nonfiction
Yewande Omotoso (Nigeria/ South Africa) – Fiction:
In my story, a mother narrates and accounts for her estranged relationship with a daughter who has been missing for several years and is presumed dead.
Simone Hayson (South Africa) – Fiction:
The book I’m writing is centred on the kidnapping and brutal murder of a young man, a known thief, and the subsequent arrest and trial of a well-known activist and her husband. The State has argued that the crime was an act of revenge for the theft of their TV; the couple’s defence has been that they are the victim of a police conspiracy, retaliation for their attempts to expose corruption and poor policing. These events unfolded in the midst of spiralling vigilante violence and an unprecedented commission of inquiry into the performance of the police; all of it in a city where everything is bitterly contested. I’ve been researching the story for the last 16 months and, while the trial isn’t quite over yet, I’ve just started hunkering down to write.
Ndinda Kioko (Kenya) – Fiction:
My book is about a haunted young woman who quits everything and returns to an old childhood town in an attempt to conjure the fading memories of her youth. It is a story that charts the journey of remembering, exploring the relationship between a dead mother and a daughter; the relationship between a young woman and an old town and the loss and grief they all share.
Ahmed Khalifa (Egypt) – Nonfiction:
For at least an hour a day, I am waist-deep in Egyptian history textbooks, legal pads and highlighters. Though only in the research phase of my project, I have come to realize that skeleton outlines are skeletons in name only as they begin to outweigh the legal textbooks that also occupy my desk. I have also religiously been following current affairs in my native Egypt, relevant as they are to the book I hope to write, tentatively titled Zuhal. I am having great fun delving into Freud and Spinoza’s theories on superstition and hope to somehow reconcile that with the enlightened 21st century man and the depravity of which he is occasionally capable.
Fatin Abbas (Sudan) – Nonfiction:
This nonfiction book project deals with the history of slavery in Sudan, specifically as it relates to the legacy of slavery in my own family. The book takes as its starting point a poem that my grandfather wrote in the 1940s about his own mother. Slavery was officially banned by colonial authorities in Sudan in 1924, though the practice continued for some time after. My book will attempt to reconstruct the story of my great-grandmother’s slavery, and in doing so, to reconstruct the history of the practice in Sudan.
Karen Jennings (South Africa) – Fiction:
The novel that I propose to work on is set on a (fictitious) tiny rock-dominated island off the coast of an unnamed southern African country. The island is inhabited by a population of one – the keeper who mans the lighthouse that has been constructed on the island. The simple routine of the keeper’s life is altered when a storm results in an injured man washing up on the island. The two men do not speak the same language, yet the man is able to convey that he is a refugee. In short, the novel will concern itself with what it is to be a refugee – specifically an African one (this in a time when African refugees are being side-lined in favour of those from other continents) and the relationship between “invader” and “xenophobic landowner.”
Akwaeke Emezi (Nigeria) – Fiction:
The Death of Vivek Oji is set within a multicultural community in the south of Nigeria during the late 90s, as the country transitions into democracy. It follows the story of Vivek Oji, a young man who is his grandmother returned. In his early twenties, Vivek suffers a breakdown that culminates in his death, leaving his distraught mother to piece together the last months of her son’s life and root out the secrets he was keeping. The book draws from traditional Igbo culture and examines liminal identities around religion, reincarnation, and gender identity/expression.
Bolaji Ofin (Nigeria) – Fiction:
Having completed the novel Tiger in the Sand, she will be writing Ye Gods during her MMF scholarship year. The novel will take the existence and validity of African gods for granted, and narrate events from their perspective. Its central protagonist is a cynical, much put-upon African village god.
Noo Saro Wiwa (Nigeria) – Nonfiction:
Chocolate Citizens will be an exploration of the African community in the city of Guangzhou in southern China. Since the late 1990s, traders from mainly Congo, Nigeria and Ghana have travelled to Guangzhou to buy small commodities for sale in back in Africa. At its height the African enclave numbered 100,000, consequently earning it the nickname, ‘Chocolate City’. Although most African traders visit China on a short-term basis, a few of them have settled permanently and married Chinese locals. In Chocolate Citizens, Noo Saro-Wiwa will examine, among other things, the Chinese and Africans’ perceptions of one another; the cultural fusions and clashes; relations between the various African nationalities, as well as a closer look at their business dealings.
Abdul Adan (Somalia) – Fiction:
My novel is about an eccentric, lucid dreaming, mentally drifting narrator and the unusual people he encounters on his journey through Somalia, the US, Kenya, Kazakhstan, and back to Somalia. His peculiar insights are revealed through fictitious scholarly articles and case studies. Among those through whose analysis he explores certain hidden desires and fears is a young religious extremist who must strip and apply lubricants to his kidnapped victims before execution, a Seattle woman deemed so airy as to be totally immemorable, and a kazakh poet who felt overburdened by the suffixes attached to his names as per Kazakh language rules.
Lidudumalingani Mqobothi (South Africa) – Fiction:
The novel is titled Let Your Children Name Themselves. The novel is told in three narrative voices, the dominant being a homosexual boy growing up in a village and the other two being the mother and the father. The reader finds the boy, named Babini, at adolescence, just as he is about to come to consciousness, both about the community he is growing up in but also about himself. The reader stays with him through boarding school until he is at a varsity studying Architecture, with many devastating and beautiful moments in between. I think of the novel as a long poem, one that hooks the reader from the beginning, and then goes on to seduce, haunt, surprise, delight with both the poetry and the narrative.
Let Your Children Name Themselves, a line from Coded Language, a poem by Saul Williams, is a poignant title for the book. Immediately when I heard in the poem I knew that it captured what Babini goes through that if he had named himself, with a different name, a name carrying a different destiny to the one he had, would he be a different person. Babini means two and duality is a theme that I intend to explore in the book, in subtle and overt ways.
Ayesha Haruna Attah (Ghana) – Nonfiction:
KOLA! From Caravans to Coca Cola will chart the story of kola and how it went from being the coveted fruit of the West African caravans to inspiring one of the world’s most popular beverages: Coca Cola. It will weave historical research, oral accounts, and family narratives to find out what made it so important. It will also highlight how kola kept a link alive between West Africa and her descendants and how it formed part of the social architecture of some of the most important cities in present-day West Africa.
Nneoma Ike-Njoku (Nigeria) – Fiction:
My novel, tentatively titled Drift, is about an afro-psych rock band who get together as college students in 1970s post-civil war Lagos. Under the guidance of an overly ambitious and often erratic record producer, a group of five boys, near-strangers to each other and each trying to escape his own memories of the war, create an amateur rock band. They find almost immediate success in the psychedelic rock-obsessed musical climate of 70s Lagos until one of the boys disappears, leaving the others to try to piece together what might have happened to him. Drift will follow the band’s trajectory through the 70s and at the start of the 80s, and, in doing so, explore Nigeria’s rich psych-rock/funk music history, as well as questions of loneliness and alienation, and the bonds that can hold strangers tightly to each other.
Fatima Kola (South Africa) – Fiction:
My novel is best described as a coming-of-age post-colonial fantasy novel, drawing on histories of witchcraft and folklore—a project I have been imagining since I was 21 years old. The novel deals with the themes of outsiderness, empire, friendship and love.
Bryony Rheam (Zimbabwe) – Fiction: Proposal unavailable.
Alemseged Tesfai (Eritrea) – Nonfiction:
The proposed book. . . will deal with the pre-revolutionary period of Eritrean history. The years 1941-1962 stand out as the years when the Eritrean identity solidified after 50 years of Italian colonial rule. Many scholars have identified these years as crucial in the evolution of Eritrean statehood and several useful books have been written on the subject.
Eloghosa Osunde (Nigeria) – Fiction:
The Weight of an Eye is a novel set in Lagos that follows two friends, Awele and Jide—both of whom realize that they are queer from a young age—through their friendship in a secondary school in Lagos to their separate lives as young adults and their eventual reunion as adults. As they try to rekindle their old friendship, their parents (secretly aware of their children’s deviance, but obsessed with keeping up appearances and avoiding public disgrace) begin to push marriage on both of them. In a final subversive decision, Awele and Jide see an opportunity to build a safehouse for themselves; something new and different from what they were raised in.
Elnathan John (Nigeria) – Fiction:
A Concubine and a Slave is a historical novel following the mountaineer, slave raiding rebellion which was feared by cities such as Zaria, Bauchi and Kano, beginning in 1846 with the “hijra” of a group of Malams protesting a harsh tax regime of the Kano Emirate. It looks at the fragility of the Sokoto Caliphate and the lives of people who do not ordinarily make it into historical accounts of the glory of empires. It is story of love, friendship and faith.
Edwige Dro (Cote d’Ivoire) – Fiction:
She is currently writing a biographic novel of Marie Séry Koré, one of the amazons who marched against the colonizers in Côte d’Ivoire in 1949. The book is as yet title-less.
Kola Tubosun (Nigeria) – Nonfiction:
The proposed nonfiction book takes the enchanting life of Wọlé Sóyínká (traveller, forest dweller, and hunter) as a starting point in the creative interrogation of the Nigerian megafauna, literary and cultural history, landscape, travel, conservation, and many other dimensions of the human experience—from the viewpoint of a travel writer—through histories, travelogues, language and cultural inquiry, and the Nigerian drama of existence.
Sibabalwe Masinyana (South Africa) – Fiction:
Abdul-Malik Sibabalwe Oscar Masinyana will write a speculative novel based on his 2013 short story, “The House of the Apostate.” The novel will narrate the same Muslim couple’s struggles with religious beliefs, and it will be set in a future Cape Town floundering from the effects of climate change. Minhaj, a banker, and Jaanaan, a fine artist, as well as their two children, will be the four
narrators of a novel populated by an ensemble cast of characters exploring themes as varied as art, finance, spirituality, religious reform, apostasy, disability, childhood, exile, climate change, and law in Islamic, African and Western modernities.
Siphiwe Ndlovu (Zimbabwe) – Fiction:
The Murder of Emil Coetzee: On the eve of his country’s independence a plan is put in motion to make Emil Coetzee’s suicide look like a murder. However, instead of a suicide being made to look like a murder, a murder is committed and made to look like a suicide. Who would want to kill Emil Coetzee and who would want him to be remembered as a weak man who took his own life? When Spokes Moloi comes to investigate his first “white case” he finds a very confusing crime scene. Having recently been promoted to Chief Inspector, it is up to Spokes, as he successfully uncovers whodunit, to unravel not only the messy crime scene left in the wake of Emil’s death, but also the messy life that Emil left in his wake.
All enquiries and submissions relating to the Morland Scholarships should be directed to [email protected]
For more information on how to apply, please see the Miles Morland Foundation Website.
Deadline: 30 September 2019.