After months of hard graft and dedication, Fleximize’s own Content Manager, Jyoti Patel, was today announced the winner of the prestigious #Merky Books New Writers' Prize 2021 for her debut novel, Six Of One. As this year’s champion, Jyoti will receive a publishing contract with #Merky Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK, and the coveted opportunity to publish her debut novel with the support of their team.
#Merky Books was launched in 2018 to amplify the voices of young, unpublished writers from a range of diverse backgrounds across the UK. The platform provides the much-needed representation for ethnic minorities that's still often lacking in British publishing today, and ensures that their invaluable stories don’t go untold.
Now in its second year, the competition received over 2,000 submissions from hopeful applicants between September and October 2020. This year’s judges, including academic Emma Dabiri, comedian Guz Khan and founder Stormzy, were unanimous in their decision to award this year's prize to Jyoti.
Thanks to Zoom, you can watch the video below to see Jyoti's reaction when she found out that she was this year's winner!
We managed to steal Jyoti away from her duties at Fleximize HQ to ask a few questions about this latest achievement in her writing career.
How and when did you discover your talent for writing?
Some of my earliest memories were sitting at the kitchen table writing stories and reading books. There’s something about the immersive nature of storytelling and writing that’s always really appealed to me, and it’s been a dream of mine to publish a novel for as long as I can remember.
Tell us about your debut novel, ‘Six of One?’
As the title suggests, it’s a book about equivalence. It’s all about the feeling of having one foot in two very strong cultures and coming to terms with what that means for one’s sense of belonging and identity.
Did the events of 2020 impact your writing?
2020 was a particularly tough year for me. I was working 3 days a week at Fleximize whilst doing my Master’s in Creative Writing full-time when the pandemic struck. Our little marketing team turned into a mini press office, and launching our coronavirus business advice hub meant lots of busy days at work, while squeezing in my dissertation and working on the novel. I’m glad I’m out of the storm and something beautiful has come from it all.
What’s the significance of amplifying minority voices in the literary world for you?
I’ve been working on this novel for almost three years now, and at times, it’s really felt like I’m looking at the publishing industry from the other side of a very thick glass wall. Initiatives like the New Writers’ Prize, and all the work that’s quietly going on behind the scenes to support young debut authors like me, just means the absolute world. It makes me feel like there’s space for me and the stories I want to write. From the very start, especially when I spoke to Lemara, Merky’s commissioning editor, for the very first time, I felt seen and supported in a way I didn’t think was possible. I just couldn’t imagine a better home for my novel.
What does it mean to you to have won the award?
Everything. Being told my novel is going to be published is a total dream come true. The support from Flex has been unbelievable, from Caz and Peter allowing me to go down to part-time hours whilst studying, through to the support I’ve received since graduating from the MA.
Do you have any advice for future young writers?
Just keep going and don’t give up!
The Fleximize team is overjoyed for Jyoti, and we're all looking forward to supporting her as she begins this exciting journey to becoming a published writer!