It’s been a great year for the Foundation and the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. As a charity, our personal aims over the past 12 months were growth and improvement as we support writers and promote literacy. We’ve achieved this in a number of exciting and innovative ways.

Firstly, our submissions are now digital, which reduces environmental impact and makes our reviewing of submissions more efficient. We’ve also honed and refined our shortlisting process and expanded to focus on readers as well as writers.

Volunteers have become a mainstay of our process: we secured and worked with six volunteer librarians to read, review and list entries for the Best Published Novel award. This worked very successfully, with one reviewer stating that “Discussing the books with the selection group was an enjoyable experience [...]. I have high hopes for the future of adventure writing”. This is something we will continue in 2020. We also invited volunteers to support the shortlisting of the Author of Tomorrow award through a guided review process and this, too, worked extremely well.

Four of our wonderful reviewers for the 2019 Best Published Novel panel

We were delighted to welcome Keith Chapman, the creator of global children’s IP including Paw Patrol and Bob the Builder, to become our second Patron. Keith and Kate Silverton hosted our Adventure Writing Prize awards ceremony in September. Thank you both!

L-R: Keith Chapman, Kate Silverton, with winners Henry Porter, Cecily Blench and Meg Lintern

2019 was the year we partnered with charity The Reading Agency to support the publication of the Prize’s choice of Best Published Novel. This partnership aims to expand the Prize to include reading and literacy as well as supporting and celebrating writers. We published resources for use with the shortlist that are available on the Reading Groups for Everyone website and shortlisted authors gave talks in further education colleges across the country, plus a panel at London’s Stanfords bookshop. We are excited to have more talks planned for 2020. 

Panel at Stanfords. L-R: Georgina Brown, Craig Russell, Holly Watt, JD Fennell, Henry Porter

As part of our objective to promote literacy, we delivered workshops in a number of London secondary schools, and were excited to launch our new children’s event, the HMS Adventure, which piloted a weekend of sea-faring themed creative writing and adventure workshops in early July. We successfully raised £9,080 of funding in order to achieve this. Have a look at our video of the weekend here:

Our resources for young people were shared at children’s and teacher’s conferences we attended and also added to the Times Education Supplement and the Foundation’s website as free downloads.

We continued our work supporting adult authors and assisted them in their aim to secure literary representation. This included Bill Swiggs, winner of the Best Unpublished Manuscript 2018. His novel was published by Bonnier Books UK, with whom we now have an ongoing partnership. In Bill's words: “Where I was once dabbling with stories between my shifts as a firefighter, I now have a literary agent, international recognition and my novel is being published by the same publishers as my favourite author, Wilbur Smith. Now, when I sit down to write, I wonder just how far the words I type will go. Thank you all so much.”

We look forward now to the next year; to continuing our ongoing partnerships and relationships; to working with new partners and communities; and to carry on encouraging a love of adventure, reading, writing, and literacy through the Foundation’s work and its Prizes.