2021 has forced us to be stronger and more resilient than ever. It’s been a year of extremes and one we can’t look back on without seeing Wilbur Smith reflected in all we’ve done.

Wilbur’s sad passing on 13th November this year was unexpected and has left us with a hole in our hearts. We are all the richer for knowing him and forever indebted to Wilbur and Niso for the generosity and energy they have given and continue to give the Foundation. 

Wilbur was laid to rest at Durbanville Memorial Park, South Africa, by Niso Smith, and their closest family and friends. 

The Foundation will continue to support writers, promote literacy and advance adventure writing as a genre. We will celebrate Wilbur’s remarkable legacy and never let the flame of adventure go out. 

As we do every December, we’ve looked back on the waymarkers of our last twelve months, starting in January when submissions opened once again for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. We received 898 entries from over 40 countries. For the first time we were able to offer feedback to 15 unpublished writers upon submission, an offer that was snapped up as soon as it was made available. 

We ran a series of ten virtual events with our friends at Pen to Print over the course of the year, covering topics from poetry to gothic literature, crime fiction to narrative drive, international storytelling, road stories and worldbuilding in science fiction. 

We donated 250 books to prison reading groups, schools, teachers, librarians and other charities. We are always delighted when these books go on to make a difference in a reader’s life.

But who read those 898 Prize submissions?

That’s entirely down to the 25 amazing volunteers who donated their time to read and review for us. From the librarians and library staff who joined the panel for the Best Published Novel, to the students, teachers, writers and publishers who read for the Author of Tomorrow, we salute you all. What we do would not be possible without the time and care you give. 

Three of these volunteers went above and beyond, co-hosting virtual events with us and getting the chance to interview the six fantastic authors shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize. 

We loved having guests join us from across the world, to discuss the books and share our reading group discussion sheets with. 

In the summer we were once again enthralled by The Long Journey Home by Cecily Blench, winner of the 2019 Best Unpublished Manuscript, and by Jake Avila's Cave Diver, winner of the 2020 Best Unpublished Manuscript. Both were published this year so we must say a huge congratulations to Cecily and Jake! 

Cecily wrote a feature about her 'Journey to Creative Freedom', which you can read here.

As we were gearing up for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize awards ceremony, we were thrilled to be invited to speak at a Literary Evening with the Stationers’ Company. Hosted by former BBC broadcaster, Peter Day, we talked about the Prize and were joined by two of 2021's shortlisted authors, D.V. Bishop and Rachel Joyce.

Simultaneously, we were working with the three fabulous judges who took on the baton from our wonderful librarians. Jon Coates, Deputy News Editor of the Sunday Express; Dwayne Fields, explorer and adventurer; and Pip Stewart, author and adventurer, read and considered the six-strong shortlist of books before spending a day together advocating for their favourite titles and deciding on a winner. What did they say about the books? 

On 15th September Niso Smith announced Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce the winner of the 2021 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize at a private online ceremony. We loved hearing what you thought of the Miss Benson's Beetle and we send Rachel our congratulations again, along with our greatest compliments to the other five authors who were shortlisted for the award.

Five unpublished writers also received a bursary of support in the form of a full editorial review of their manuscripts. We're sure it won't be long until they start to secure representation.

Speaking of which, we must congratulate two of 2019's shortlisted writers who have since secured publishing deals. Keep an eye on the bookshelves for Sleepers and Ties by Gail Kirkpatrick, who will be published by Vancouver-based company Now or Never Publishing, and Deep Water by Emma Bamford (formerly titled These Yellow Sands) which will be published by Simon & Schuster in the USA and UK next year. 

In addition, ten young writers aged 9-21 years old, worked with an editor and had their short stories published by our partners at Worldreader in 2021's anthology, Strength, Sacrifice and Sea Monsters, as well as four who received a cash prize. 

You can read the anthology by visiting read.worldreader.org on a mobile or tablet, and searching for the title, 'Author of Tomorrow,' or 'Wilbur Smith'.

We sponsored the 12th edition on writer’s magazine, Write On!, and invited writers in our network to contribute to their online content. 

Why not read through the showcases, features and interviews here? We recommend Emma Riva's La Vie Est Compliquée to start with.

We were delighted when another young writer, Rory Hinshelwood, who we first met back in 2016, gave permission for his short story, And With The Wind It Went, to be translated into Spanish, one of what we hope will be many translations going forward. 

We’ve spent the last month of this year asking for your feedback and listening to what you’ve had to say. In 2022, we are delighted to be bringing you more author-led events, a chance to get feedback directly from a literary agent, plus more that we’ll be sure to tell you about as soon as we can. And of course, the Prize will be back.

Keep an eye on our newsletter, social media and website for opportunities get involved. 

We’ve loved getting to know more of you than ever this year, and hope we’ll be able to see many of you in person as well as virtually in 2022. Season’s greetings and happy holidays!