SINGAPORE - Eight writers, many of them newcomers to fiction, have been longlisted for the 2018 Epigram Books Fiction Prize.
The award is Singapore's only prize for unpublished English-language novels, as well as its richest literary award. The top prize is worth $25,000, while three runner-ups will get $5,000 each.
Those on the list are first-time novelists, with the exception of civil servant Pranav S. Joshi, 53, who published a previous novel, Behind A Cultural Cage (2007), and also garnered an honorary mention in the 2015 Golden Point Award in English Poetry.
Some have been published in other forms, such as former Singapore Press Holdings Magazines features editor Yeoh Jo-Ann, 36, who has contributed short stories to anthologies including The Epigram Books Collection Of Best New Singapore Short Stories: Vol 3.
The longlist includes writers from unusual walks of life, such as Hajar Ali, 39, the founder of luxury travel company Urbane Nomads, who is believed to be the first woman to traverse the world's largest sand desert, the Middle East's "Empty Quarter".
Also on the list are Channel NewsAsia journalist May Seah, 33; Singapore Management University graduate student and amateur playwright Lu Huiyi, 28; full-time writer Wuji, 28; and freelance writer and English literature tutor Anittha Thanabalan, 29. Private tutor Marcus Ong, 26, is the youngest on the list.
Epigram Books founder Edmund Wee, 66, said: "The longlist includes first-timers and repeat entries, reflecting respectively the competition's appeal and our writers' pluck."
Mr Wee is on the judging panel alongside Singapore Literature Prize-winning author Suchen Christine Lim, Professor Rajeev Patke, director of the Division of Humanities at Yale-NUS College and children's book author Linda Locke, the great-grand-niece of horticulturist Agnes Joaquim, who created Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid hybrid.
The award is open to all Singapore citizens, permanent residents and Singapore-born authors.
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony and gala dinner on Nov 22.