A FRESH, different and unfamiliar voice is being sought.

Entries are now open for the Bridport Prize 2019. This international creative writing competition attracts entries from across the globe and has helped launch the careers of writers such as Kate Atkinson, Helen Dunmore, Kit de Waal and Tobias Hill.

Judge Naomi Wood said: “I’m looking for a first novel that will keep me guessing, that will deliver tension in the story and pleasure in the sentences. Debuts in particular depend on voice: I’d love that voice to be fresh and different and unfamiliar.”

The flagship project of Bridport Arts Centre, the Bridport Prize, is much coveted by writers.

Founded in 1973, the Prize was established with the dual aim of raising funds for the fledgling arts centre and providing a platform for emerging writers.

Forty-seven years later it has an international reputation and attracts entries from across the globe each year with its prestigious judges and generous prize money. In 2018 more than 12,500 entries were received from 79 countries from as far away as New Zealand, Bangladesh, Peru, Nigeria, and Canada.

The competition has four categories: poetry, short stories, flash fiction (very, very short stories of 250 words or fewer) and the Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel, named in honour of the Prize’s founder.

The novel award is run in partnership with the London based literary agency A. M. Heath and the manuscript appraisal company The Literary Consultancy. It’s currently open to writers in the UK and Republic of Ireland while the other three strands are open to UK and international entrants.

There is a top prize of £5,000 for the winner of the poetry and short story categories. The flash fiction winner receives £1,000 and the winner of the novel award receives £1,000 plus up to a year’s mentoring from The Literary Consultancy through its Chapter & Verse mentoring scheme (worth £2,340).

The top poems, short stories and flash fiction stories are published in an anthology which is unveiled at the prize-giving ceremony held at the arts centre each October. An exciting development for 2019 will see the publication of a second anthology alongside this containing extracts from the twenty long-listed novels.

For local writers there is an additional prize, The Dorset Award, sponsored by The Bookshop, Bridport. This offers a cash prize and publication in the anthology to the highest placed writer from Dorset in the competition each year. In 2018 this was won by Simon Middleton from Bridport for his poem ‘Space was a material’.

The judges for 2019 are Hollie McNish for poetry, Kirsty Logan for short stories and flash fiction and Naomi Wood for the novel award.

Hollie McNish has published three poetry collections Papers, Cherry Pie and Plum, and one poetic memoir on politics and parenthood, Nobody Told Me, of which the Scotsman suggested “The world needs this book” and for which she won the Ted Hughes Award. In 2017 Nobody Told Me was translated into German, French and Spanish and released in the USA. In 2016 she co-wrote a play Offside with Sabrina Mahfouz, relating the two hundred year history of UK women’s football. Her poetry videos have attracted millions of views worldwide. She is currently working on a new collection of poems and stories.

Kirsty Logan is the author of the novels The Gloaming and The Gracekeepers, short story collections A Portable Shelter and The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales, flash fiction chapbook The Psychology of Animals Swallowed Alive, and short memoir The Old Asylum in the Woods at the Edge of the Town Where I Grew Up. Her books won the Lambda Literary Award, Polari Prize, Saboteur Award, Scott Prize and Gavin Wallace Fellowship. Her work has been translated into Japanese and Spanish, recorded for radio and podcasts, exhibited in galleries and distributed from a vintage Wurlitzer cigarette machine. She lives in Glasgow with her wife.

Naomi Wood is the author of The Godless Boys (Picador, 2011) and the award-winning Mrs. Hemingway (Picador, 2014) which won the British Library Writers Award, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award, was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Award, and was a Richard and Judy book-club choice. Her third novel, The Hiding Game, is set in the Bauhaus art school in1920s Germany, and will be published in the Bauhaus centenary year by Picador in 2019. Her work is available in sixteen languages. She teaches at UEA and lives in Norwich with her family.

The 2019 competition is open until May 31. Submissions can be made by online at bridportprize.org.uk or by post by downloading a postal entry form from the website. The winners and shortlisted writers will be contacted during September.