Musih Tedji Xaviere from Cameroon and Bhavika Govil from India have been announced joint winners of the 2021 Pontas & JJ Bola Emerging Writers Prize. They will each receive a 1,000 GBP grant to support their early writing career, a mentoring initiative from JJ Bola, and a contract of representation from Pontas Literary & Film Agency.
In its inaugural year, the prize aims to mentor “unagented, unpublished, under-represented writers from Black, ethnic minority, LGBTQ+, and working-class backgrounds writing in English.” The judges received 172 submissions from the US, UK, Asia and Africa.
The judging panel includes JJ Bola, literary agent Maria Cardona and founder and director of the Pontas Agency Anna Soler-Pont. Here are their remarks on the contest:
“This process has been a fantastic adventure to discover new voices. This past week we have talked for hours about these writers, the decision hasn’t been easy. However, there were two that really stood out and we felt could benefit greatly from the mentoring JJ Bola is offering as part of the prize. So, we have decided to give the prize ex aequo to Musih Tedji Xaviere from Cameroon and Bhavika Govil from India, awarding 1,000 GBP, international representation and mentoring to each one.”
The judges also named Selali Fiamanya as runner-up. Fiamanya was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, with a couple of years spent in Accra, Ghana. His debut novel Between the Train and the Platform, is a patchwork of interconnected short stories set in a queer, diasporic Britain.
Congratulations to the winners!
Musih Tedji Xaviere(Njinikom, Cameroon, 1989) is a writer, activist, and Moth Storyteller. She holds a B.A in Banking and Finance and works as an accountant. She is an alumna of the Goethe Institut, Moth, Bakwa Young Writers, and the African Women Development Fund writing programs. Her novel For Fatima is a love letter to a long-lost friend. It follows the journey of a desperate young woman attempting to solve the mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance of her lover. It is a story about forbidden love and what it means to be lesbian and Muslim in Cameroon.
Bhavika Govil (New Delhi, India, 1993) is a writer, journalist and editor whose stories are published in Vogue and Outlook Traveller, among other magazines. She won the Bound Short Story Prize in 2019, was longlisted for the Toto Awards for Creative Writing (English) 2021 and mentioned as a Notable Contender for the 2020 Bristol Short Story Prize. Her novel The Silent Treatment follows the lives of a morbid eight-year-old narrator, Mira and her twelve-year-old brother, Ashu as they’re growing up in a conservative Indian society with an unconventional mother. Aiming to explore gender roles and the different forms love can take, is as much a novel about looking for the truth as it is about the poetry of childhood.