What a whirlwind of a year it has been. For us, like you all too, we’re sure, parts of it have raced by and parts have felt like time slowed to a snail's pace. Nevertheless, we’ve learned, adapted and tailored our work to the new digital environment, continuing to support writers and promote literacy, all through the power of adventure writing. 

The year started with an adventure in South Africa. Author Tom Harper travelled to South Africa to research an upcoming novel Wilbur Smith invited him to co-author. While there, Tom delivered a workshop at the Zulufadder Gratton School and met with local creatives.

You can read more about Tom's adventure here

In February, we were joined by over 100 students at the College of North East London, to listen to Levison Wood discuss all things adventure. Our thanks to Lev, CONEL and The Reading Agency for collaborating.

We were well into the submissions season for the 2020 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize when the pandemic reared its head in the UK. Unfortunately, this meant the Best Published Novel award was put on hiatus for the year but the other categories went from strength to strength. We received a total of 843 entries from 48 countries. 

In April, the Power of Adventure podcast launched. You can listen on your usual podcast platform like Spotify, or iTunes, or you can find it here. In it, adventurer and survival consultant Megan Hine delves into what the true spirit of adventure is, interviewing five different adventurous individuals and encouraging listeners to put adventure at the heart of their lives.

We continued to work with volunteer librarians and library staff, who recommended books to us for the #AdventureSociety, 2020’s online book club. You can listen to the six author interviews on our website here, or via our Facebook or YouTube playlists. Let us know what you think via social media, using #AdventureSociety. 

Alongside the interviews, we created resources for starting your own online book club and talk sheets for the titles featured in our #AdventureSociety list. Why not take a look and consider starting your own group in the new year? You can buy the titles, plus those from the Prize and by Wilbur Smith on our very own Bookshop.org page.

We were also joined again by a team of volunteer readers who, through a guided review process, shortlisted our young writers’ stories in this year’s Author of Tomorrow award. We are in awe of all the wonderful people who volunteer their time to encourage reading, advocate for great books and support our young writers to improve their reading and writing. 

The lockdown saw us switch to more digital provision. Working with our friends at Pen to Print, we hosted online events with industry professionals aiming to demystify the publishing industry and support writers. 

If you'd like to hear from authors, editors and agents in the industry, you can watch recordings of the events, here

We also invited young readers to pitch their writing questions to co-author of Cloudburst, Wilbur Smith’s first children’s book, Chris Wakling. 

You can watch the full videos with Chris, here

The Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize awards ceremony was hosted online and we were so happy to see so many of your faces from across the world – especially those getting up at 3am to join us! 

Through the Prize, we continued our work supporting debut authors with one-to-one development on their manuscripts. This included Jacob P. Avila, whose novel Cave Diver will be published by Bonnier Zaffre in the UK and Echo Publishing in Australia, next year. Congratulations, Jake!

We look forward now to the new year. We are delighted to welcome a new trustee as Sebastian Davey joins our board. We have also been listening to what you’ve been asking for; in 2021 we will offer a new feedback supplement for unpublished writers to coincide with the Prize, plus have a year-long author event series planned with Pen to Print. Keep an eye out in early 2021 for dates to book your place. 

We have missed seeing you this year but, as always, thank you for your ongoing participation and support. Adventures are always better with a friend by your side and we’re excited to see what 2021 brings. For now, season’s greetings and happy holidays!