Children’s Literature Graduate Student Shares Inaugural Manchester Writing for Children Prize

Ashleigh Gill

Ashleigh Gill, who is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in children’s literature at Hollins University, has been named co-winner of the first-ever Manchester Writing for Children Prize.

The competition was judged by poets Mandy Coe, Imtiaz Dharker, and Philip Gross. Entrants were asked to submit a portfolio of three to five poems for readers aged five to 12. The prize was presented at the Manchester Children’s Book Festival (MCBF), which was established by United Kingdom Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. The festival took place June 26 – July 6 and is the only event of its kind in northwest England.

Gill, who hails from Hinton, West Virginia, will share the £2,000 first prize award with author Louise Greig.

“The 2014 Manchester Writing for Children Prize was the perfect way to celebrate existing and new poets writing for children,” explained Coe. “The prize is the first of its kind so our fingers were crossed…but from Australia to the USA and throughout the UK, poets confirmed how vital and inspiring they found this genre….

“This competition was a joy to judge and it was fascinating to encounter so many perceptions of what poetry for children can be. It feels as though a door has been thrown open and the world of children’s poetry just breathed in.”

On the MCBF’s blog page, Coe said that there were specific attributes she and her fellow judges were seeking in the poems they short-listed and commended in the competition. “There were lots of things that we were looking for: Humour, seriousness, sound (we read them all aloud to each other). We were looking for something fresh, something that said, ‘Read me – and read me again.’”

Gill flew to England for the special ceremony announcing the prize winners, and was “jubilant at the news” she had won, according to the blog.

“It’s just wonderful to be here, especially on what is my first time in this country, and to  be among so many wonderful, breath-taking, amazing, beautiful poets.”

Learn more here about the Manchester Writing for Children Prize.