The NorthBound Book Award

The NorthBound Book Award was created in 2019 to celebrate the richness of writing from the North of England and the innovative spirit of independent publishing. It is managed as part of the Northern Writers’ Awards. The award is offered in partnership by New Writing North, independent publisher Saraband and the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York. The award is open to writers based in the North of England with a complete, unpublished full-length manuscript for a fiction or narrative non-fiction book written for adult readers. Submissions are actively welcomed from emerging as well as established authors and from people of all backgrounds, so long as they fulfil the residence requirements.

The winning writer will receive £5,000, provided by the University of York, and an invitation to present their work as part of the university’s Writers at York series. The winner will also receive a publication contract with Saraband and a package of support from New Writing North. New Writing North are an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation. The award is judged by representatives of New Writing North, the University of York and Saraband, with guest judges appointed each year. Submissions should be made through New Writing North. For key dates and eligibility criteria click here.



Julia Rampen wins NorthBound Book Award 2022Julia Rampen is a journalist and writer with a long track record of working with refugees and undocumented migrants. Julia has worked for The New Statesman, the Mirror and the Liverpool Echo, has contributed to the Guardian, BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 5 Live, and is co-founder of the Syrian storytelling platform Qisetna: Talking Syria. The Bay was written in consultation with those who investigated the tragedy at the time and told the survivors’ stories.

The Bay is her first novel.

Judge Catherine Simpson, an Edinburgh-based writer originally from Lancashire, says: The Bay is a study of empathy and compassion … It examines human connections and asks how we should care for others, and be cared for ourselves … There is a luminous, shimmering sense of place. The beauty, the drama and the dangers of The Bay linger with me still.”


Adam Farrer is a creative nonfiction writer and spoken word performer based in Manchester. He is the editor of The Real Story, an Arts Council England-funded online nonfiction publisher and spoken word event series, working to nurture creative non-fiction talent in the UK. In 2019 he became the inaugural writer-in-residence for Peel Park, Salford. He has performed his work at a number of arts and literature festivals and has run workshops on creative non-fiction writing and spoken word skills for a number of festivals and conferences, and the University of Salford, where he also works as a support technician.

Cold Fish Soup is his first book.

Judge Polly Atkin said: Cold Fish Soup is so wide-ranging and thought-provoking, covering masculinity, mental health, sense of belonging, carving out a creative life in a geographically marginalised place, and burlesque, amongst other things. It drew me in, and kept me hooked, and made me both cry and laugh heartily and fully. It is a love letter to Withernsea and all the people in it, its crumbling cliffs, its strange beauties and its losses, that made me love Withernsea too.”


Lancashire writer John D Rutter won the award in 2020 for his first full-length book, Approval. He is a writer and academic who teaches, edits and writes about short stories – the subject of his PhD from Edge Hill University. His short stories have been published in many anthologies and journals. Approval follows would-be parents David and Cici through a punishing series of forays into their past as they go through the motions of applying to adopt a child. It’s a unique and brave exploration into involuntary childlessness and the path to becoming adoptive parents, viewed largely from the seldom-explored man’s perspective.

Approval is out 26 August 2021.


Sara Hunt said: Approval is a powerful and accomplished work that asks uncomfortable questions about a painful, intrusive process. With an unflinching eye, the author draws the reader into the process of judgement, chapter by chapter. Against a strong field, this is an outstanding winner, and we can’t wait to publish the book.’




J.A. Mensah was the first winner of the NorthBound Book Award in 2019 for her debut novel, Castles from Cobwebs. She’s a writer of prose and theatre and teaches at the University of York. Her plays have focused on human rights narratives and the testimonies of survivors. Castles from Cobwebs is a magical novel of identity, family and belonging. It tells the story of Imani, a foundling who is rescued as a baby and raised by nuns on a remote Northumbrian island. After the death of her biological mother, Imani travels to Ghana – beginning a journey of self-discovery that illuminates the stories we all tell to make ourselves whole. It has been longlisted for the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize.

Judge Chitra Ramaswamy said: ‘We were gripped by Castles from Cobwebs from the first page – with its arresting opening, lyricism, and unconventional narration. There are moments of real beauty and clarity in the prose, especially around race, a subject handled skilfully and thoughtfully by the author. There is something real, powerful, and unique in this debut.’

NorthBound Book Award IN THE NEWS

J.A. Mensah in the Bookseller | ‘I connect with the North East’s sense of being on the margins’

Edge Hill writer wins the 2020 NorthBound Book Award