Inaugural Creative Writing Award Founded by Nobel Prize Laureate

6 December 2021

Trinity postgraduate Rowan Curtis has won a creative writing prize founded by a Nobel Prize for Literature laureate.

The winners of the Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Award were announced at a formal ceremony held at Regent’s Park College on 26th November. The competition for a short story attracted 70 entries and judges included Boyd Tonkin, former chair of the judging panel of the Man Booker International Prize, and Liz Trubridge, Executive Producer of Downton Abbey. The authors shortlisted for the award, a literary initiative founded by the Nobel Prize in Literature 2012 winner, were praised for being bold and inventive with their fiction, while taking risks and bending the rules.

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. This year, BNU International Writing Centre organised their award competition in parallel to Oxford. They attracted entries from around ten leading universities in China.

Physics student Rowan Curtis was named runner-up for his story, which will be published by The Oxford Prospects and Global Development Institute. He says: ‘It's an honour to receive this award for my magical realism short story, 'The Most Beautiful Ship in the World', which marks the start of a new chapter for me as a writer, as I venture away from realism and start writing my next novel - a magical realist story exploring how class and wealth divides become ever-present in a climate catastrophe. 

The process of writing this short story provided me a fantastical - and allegorical - escape during a lonely month at the height of the pandemic, so to be able to use that difficult time to create something people might enjoy is a great pleasure. I hear the judges couldn't decide whether the story is an allegory for Brexit, climate change or something completely different, so when it's published in the anthology alongside all the other brilliant shortlisted entries, I invite you to read it and come up with an answer! I'm not saying a thing.

‘Finally, I hope this award may help in the search for an agent for my first novel - about two working-class families living in Southampton, where I grew up - which I finished earlier this year.

The Oxford-BNU Creative Writing Award is the latest initiative in OPGDI’s ongoing project ‘Performing Literatures and Cultures: The Humanities in a Global Context’. OPGDI is an interdisciplinary body which aims to promote discussion and inspire new ideas among students, scholars, and distinguished figures focusing on the development of East-West relations in the light of present day globalization.