St Mary’s Mandarin teacher wins prestigious literary prize

St Mary’s Mandarin teacher wins prestigious literary prize

19 November 2020

Wenyan Lu, Head of Mandarin at St Mary’s School, Cambridge, became the 1st Prize Aspire-igen winner of the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2020 for her novel The Funeral Cryer.

The SI Leeds Literary Prize is an award for new writing by black and Asian women aged 18 or above, whose aim is to “act as a loudspeaker for fresh and original literary voices from an under-represented group, and to help them reach new audiences in mainstream culture. With the help of our partners, shortlisted writers take part in a programme of craft and career development. Many of our entrants have gone on to land publishing deals, agents, and critical acclaim for their writing.”

Chair of Judges, Nicola Chang, said about the judging process and Wenyan’s book:

“The quality and calibre of the submissions we received presented us with an embarrassment of riches, so much so that choosing a shortlist of three was not an easy task. I’ve been so inspired and impressed with the ambition and craft of all these works of fiction and I first wanted to congratulate all the writers who made it onto the longlist.

“The best fiction is timely and timeless, it lingers with you after you close the proverbial cover. The shortlisted writers accomplished all this and more and they should be incredibly proud of their work.

“Our 1st Prize goes to Wenyan Lu for The Funeral Cryer: a brilliant psycho-drama set in a far flung backwater of China, a portrait of female desire not often seen and of a village no longer inured to the pernicious forces of progress. Congratulations to you all!”

Wenyan said in her acceptance speech:

“Years back I would never ever thought or dreamed that I would win this Prize. And I was so excited and speechless when I heard the news – and I still kind of don’t believe it. But at the same time, I’m actually more grateful than anything else. I want to say thank you to all the judges and to the organisers of the SI Leeds Literary Prize, especially many thanks to Fiona – she’s done so much for us. And many special thanks to all the other shortlisted writers. I felt like we were connected and we have met each other virtually but feel this is such a lovely writing community: I know there are people like me. The reason why I didn’t think I would win was they were so brilliant, and I want to tell them we are all winners. Also I want to say thank you to all the people who have encouraged me through my journey. I want to tell people who doubt their writing – keep writing, don’t worry, don’t think about what you are writing about, and just do it.”

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