Image of a woman looking at the camera against a pink background. Text reads SI Leeds Literary Prize.

SI Leeds Literary Prize Winners 2020

This is a trail-blazing award for new writing by black and Asian women aged 18 or above.

“Our aim is to act as a loudspeaker for fresh and original literary voices from an under-represented group, and to help them reach new audiences in mainstream culture. With the help of our partners, shortlisted writers take part in a programme of craft and career development. Many of our entrants have gone on to land publishing deals, agents, and critical acclaim for their writing.”

SI Leeds Literary Prize

2020 Prize Winners

We are delighted to announce that the Aspire-igen 1st Prize winner of the 2020 SI Leeds Literary Prize is Wenyan Lu for The Funeral Cryer.  Congratulations!

Collecting the runners-up award was LM Dillsworth for The Sun Sets in the East, and Sumana Khan scooped both 3rd Prize and the SI Readers’ Choice award for her Bangalore-based crime novel The Good Twin.

Chair of Judges, Nicola Chang, commented on how difficult it was to agree both the shortlist and the top three books:

“Unsurprisingly, the quality and calibre of the submissions we received presented us with an embarrassment of riches, so much so that choosing a shortlist of three was not an easy task.  I’ve been so inspired and impressed with the ambition and craft of all these works of fiction and I first wanted to congratulate all the writers who made it onto the longlist.  

The best fiction is timely and timeless, it lingers with you after you close the proverbial cover. The shortlisted writers accomplished all this and more and they should be incredibly proud of their work.”

Image of a woman, Wenyan Lu, in front of a bookcase.
2020 Prize Winner Wenyan Lu

You can watch the full award ceremony in the video above, including readings by the wonderful shortlist – LM Dillsworth, Sumana Khan, Wenyan Lu, Aisha Phoenix, Nana Afua Pierre and Huma Qureshi. Congratulations to the whole shortlist, and we are very much looking forward to hearing more about their work during the years to come!

Find out more at the SI Leeds Literary Prize website.

About the 2020 Prize

The 2020 Prize was the largest to date, thanks to increased support from its partners, including Soroptimist International of Leeds, and from the Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants. The prizes are:

  • First prize: £3,000 and a free place on an Avron course, serious consideration for publication by Peepal Tree Press, attendance at The Literary Consultancy’s Chapter and Verse industry day, and TLC website profiling
  • Second prize: £1,250
  • Third prize: £750
  • The top three prizes receive a manuscript assessment from The Literary Consultancy.
  • For all shortlisted writers, there will be an extensive programme of support, including consultancy through Peepal Tree Press’s Inscribe programme; networking events through New Writing North, and opportunities to read their works at literary events.

The 2020 prize was awarded at the Ilkley Literature Festival in October 2020 as part of its digital events weekend. View the full prize giving ceremony here.

The Judges

The 2020 judges were:

  • Malika Booker: Writer and founder of the writers collective Malika’s Poetry Kitchen. She lectures at Manchester Metropolitan University and is currently chair of judges for the international Manchester Poetry Prize
  • Niki Chang: A literary agent at The Good Literary Agency. She works with a wide range of writers of both literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • Kadija George: A literary activist and founder of SABLE LitMag.
  • Yvonne Singh: A journalist, writer and editor. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Observer, The Mirror, The London Evening Standard and the BBC.

Previous Winners

2012: The first award was given to Minoli Salgado’s A Little Dust on the Eyes, which was long listed for the 2016 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

2014: Mahsuda Snaith won the next prize in 2014 and signed a deal with Transworld; The Things We Thought We Knew was published in 2017 and her follow-up novel, How to Find Home, was recently featured as BBC R4’s Book at Bedtime.

2016: Amita Murray won the 2016 Prize and signed a two-novel deal with Harper Collins; Finding Rose was released in 2019.

2018: Shereen Tadros was signed to literary agency Conville & Walsh.


The biennial award is now in its fifth edition and has helped support a new generation of writers. Previous alumni include Amita Murray, Mahsuda Snaith, Minoli Salgado, Season Butler and Kit de Waal.

Since winning the 2016 Prize, Amita Murray has signed a two-novel deal with Harper Collins: “One of the most priceless things to come out of the award is the spontaneous, surprising friendships with fellow writers. A year later the short list still meets up for lunch and writerly gossip. The publishing industry doesn’t always know what to do with our confusing ‘diverse’ voices and it is awards like this one that blaze the way forward. All in all, it was nothing short of a magical experience.”

Jane Steele was a shortlisted writer in 2012: “I re-did my CV the other day and noted with interest that in both writing and acting I have been fully professional since […] 2012. I’m certain that the Prize fed into that somehow. The Prize boosted my confidence no end. It was such vindication of all those years spend scribbling away wondering who would be interested. More so than other writing breaks before then. It was on a totally different level. My feeling is that the Prize will grow in influence as the years progress. I have great pride in knowing that, whatever happens, I was a winner of the very first one. No one can take that away from me.”


The Prize was founded by partners Soroptimist International of Leeds, an organisation dedicated to supporting and empowering women through inspiring projects; independent publishers Peepal Tree Press, and the North’s oldest literary festival, Ilkley Literature Festival.

Current patrons include Bernadine Evaristo, Bonnie Greer OBE, Bidisha and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, amongst others.