Creative Writing Prize Recognises Unique Student Collaboration with Trinity Porter

15 February 2023

Recent Trinity graduate Rowan Curtis has been awarded the 2023 Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Prize for his short story “On the Road to Nagorno-Karabakh.” The story came about in part from a collaboration with Trinity porter and photographer Kirk Ellingham’s photographs of Nagorno-Karabakh, which became the site of armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2020.

The winners of the Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Award were announced at a formal ceremony held at Regent’s Park College on February 3rd. The award is offered by the Mo Yan International Writing Centre, based at Regent’s Park College and inaugurated to facilitate international and cross-cultural diversity within the global literary community. The Award is organised by the Oxford Prospects and Global Development Institute (OPGDI) and Regent’s Park College, and was launched in June 2021. Run in parallel with its co-organiser, Beijing Normal University, the award promotes an inclusive and accessible opportunity for writers of varied academic background.

Rowan Curtis was named runner-up in last year’s competition, and says of winning the prize this year: ‘I'm thrilled to have won the Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Award 2023 after coming runner-up in the inaugural competition last year. My story, “On the Road to Nagorno-Karabakh”, arose from a collaboration with photographer Kirk Ellingham, one of Trinity's lodge porters, and I've been humbled by the words of the judges. Their reflections have given me a significant morale boost after recently completing an intense novel, and I hope this award may help in my search for an agent.’

The Chair of Judges for the prize, former Booker Prize Judge Boyd Tonkin, described Rowan’s story: ‘[It is] a story that took us to surprising places, and encouraged us to see them from fresh and revealing angles. It's a story about the search for roots, but not in any simplistic or sentimental way. This is a quest for a personal and for a family past, but for a past divided, as they often are, by memory, history and myth. This is a story that introduced us to a narrator and an author of considerable maturity, subtlety and vision. It's a travelogue, but one that draws its strength from emotional complexity, rather than exotic scene-painting. It suggests that if you go looking for roots, you will find them tangled, confused and ambiguous. It also tells us that any attempt at home-coming is in itself a kind of new departure.

Rowan’s winning story will be published by The Oxford Prospects and Global Development Institute.