Judges for 2017 competition announced


We’re pleased to announce the judges for the 2017 Young Muslim Writers Awards:


Ahmed Masoud is a writer and director who grew up in Palestine and moved to the UK in 2002. His theatre credits include Camouflage (London 2017) The Shroud Maker (London 2015), Walaa, Loyalty (London 2014, funded by Arts Council England), Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea (London and Edinburgh 2009) and Escape from Gaza (BBC Radio 4, 2011). Ahmed is the founder of Al Zaytouna Dance Theatre where he wrote and directed several productions which have toured Europe. After finishing his PhD research, Ahmed published many journals and articles including a chapter in Britain and the Muslim World: A Historical Perspective (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011). His debut novel, Vanished – The Mysterious Disappearance of Mustafa Ouda was released in 2015. An earlier version won the 2011 Muslim Writers Awards’ Unpublished Novel category, sponsored by Penguin Books.


Ahmed Jafferali Versi is the publisher and editor of The Muslim News. Ahmed has interviewed world leaders including the late President of Bosnia Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic, the late President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya, Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May and the Prince of Wales. During the first Gulf War, Ahmed was part of a British Muslim delegation to Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia mediating for the release of British hostages. In March 2000, Ahmed launched The Muslim News Awards for Excellence celebrating Muslim achievements. He established the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation and was until recently Deputy President of the International Islamic Women’s Games. A regular speaker at international conferences covering Islamic issues at the local and global level, Ahmed focuses on media representation. Ahmed was awarded Honorary Doctorate of Arts in recognition of achievements as Editor of The Muslim News from University of Bedfordshire in 2007.


Allie Esiri read Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge and is now a writer, an anthologist and a curator and host of live poetry events. Allie has worked with special guest readers including Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory, and Sophie Turner. Credited with bringing poetry in to the digital age, her bestselling apps The Love Book and iF Poems feature readings by Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hiddleston, Damian Lewis and Emma Watson and have been selected by Apple as Best Education App and Best New App. Allie’s latest anthology, A Poem for Every Day of the Year, was released in September 2017 and the audiobook featuring readings by Helena Bonham Carter and Simon Russell Beale will be released at Christmas 2017. This follows A Poem for Every Night of the Year, which won the Independent Bookshop Week Book Award 2017.


Ayisha Malik holds a BA in English Literature and Sociology and a First Class MA in Creative Writing. She worked at Penguin Random House before moving to Cornerstones where she was managing editor for five years. Her debut novel Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (Twenty7), followed by the sequel, The Other Half of Happiness (Zaffre), were met with great critical acclaim, and earned her a WHSmith Fresh Talent Pick in 2016. Ayisha is now a full-time writer and is working on her third novel, as well as being the ghost writer for Great British Bake Off winner, Nadiya Hussain.


Danny Scott is the author of Scotland Stars FC, a book series for children published by Floris Books. Set in Scotland and based on a boy’s dream to play on the school football tea, Danny hopes the books will encourage reluctant readers to get back into reading. His love of sport has inspired Danny to volunteer for a social enterprise working to improve literacy levels in young football players and to work for the Scottish Book Trust – a charity changing lives through reading and writing.


David Hayward is a journalist, writer, and media consultant working with news organisations, governments, and NGOs. He designs online content, mobile journalism and crisis communications strategies. Much of his recent work has been carried out in Nigeria, Pakistan, Algeria, Turkey, Kosovo and Russia. David also runs the Channel Four MA for Investigative Journalism at De Montfort University. David was a journalist at the BBC for eighteen years, working as a reporter, producer, and senior editor in network radio, TV news, and for the BBC World Service Trust in Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Romania. His last role at the BBC was head of the strategic Journalism Programme, establishing masterclasses, debates, workshops, and training courses including the BBC Social Media Summits in partnership with the New York Times. David was editor of the first BBC multi-media newsroom and led the BBC’s Local TV pilot. David writes about ethics and the changing nature of journalism for several outlets, including the BBC, the Memo, TheMediaBriefing and Thoughts on the Media.


Dr. Lucy Pearson is Lecturer in Children’s Literature at Newcastle University, UK. Her research focuses on the development of British children’s literature in the twentieth century. Her monograph The Making of Modern Children’s Literature: British Children’s Publishing in the 1960s and 1970s (2013) examines the formation of the ‘second golden age’ of British children’s publishing through the lens of two publishing imprints: the dominant paperback imprint Puffin and the teenage imprint Topliner. She is currently working on a major new history of the Carnegie Medal.  She works closely with Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books.


Elizabeth Hammill OBE is the initiator and co-founder of Seven Stories, Britain’s National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle. A former primary school teacher and children’s bookseller, she has lectured, judged local and national writing competitions and book prizes, written critically and is currently a Founder Patron and Collection Trustee at Seven Stories. She recently edited Over the Hills and Far Away, a unique collection of nursery rhymes from across the English-speaking world illustrated by seventy-seven international artists. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Newcastle University in 2006, an OBE in 2007 and an Alumnae Achievement Award by her American alma mater Mount Holyoke College in 2009.


Faye Bird is a children’s author of My Second Life (UK: 2014, Usborne; US and Canada: 2015 Farrar Straus Giroux), her debut novel which was inspired by a conversation with her son. Her second title What I Couldn’t Tell You (Usborne) was published in May 2016. Before becoming a children’s author, Faye worked at The Agency representing film and TV screenwriters. Faye was always keen on writing and had notebooks brimming with ideas, but it was only when she left The Agency in 2012 and enrolled on a Writing for Children course at the Faber Academy that she started to take her writing seriously. Faye is currently working on a new idea.


G. Willow Wilson is an American novelist and comic book writer. Her works include the Hugo Award-winning comic book series Ms Marvel (Marvel) and the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Alif the Unseen (2012, Grove Press). Her memoir, The Butterfly Mosque (2012, Atlantic Monthly), details her conversion to Islam and life in Egypt during the last years of the Mubarak regime.


Gaby Morgan is an Editorial Director at Macmillan Children’s Books. She is a founding member of the Children’s Poetry Summit, a network of people and organizations that are interested in, or who work with, children’s poetry. She has compiled many bestselling anthologies, including Read Me and Laugh: A Funny Poem for Every Day of the Year (2005, Macmillan Children’s Books), Fairy Poems – which was shortlisted for the CLiPPA Award – Poems from the First World War and A First Poetry Book (2012, Pan Macmillan) with Pie Corbett.


Helen Boyle has over fifteen years of experience in the children’s publishing industry. She is a managing agent at Pickled ink, a boutique agency representing authors and illustrators. Before Pickled ink, Helen has worked as a literary scout, consultant, commissioning fiction editor and reviewer for UK book and magazine publishers. Helen also edits WRD magazine, a magazine about books for 8-14 year old readers, which in its fifteenth year of publication.


Ibtisam Barakat is a Palestinian-American poet, translator, artist, educator and an award-winning author in both English and Arabic. Her writings have been translated to many languages and her books include the critically acclaimed memoirs, Tasting the Sky, a Palestinian Childhood (2007, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2016, Square Fish/Macmillan) which won several best-book awards, and Balcony on the Moon, Coming of Age in Palestine (2016, Margaret Ferguson/Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Both memoirs accompany the reader into the world of a Palestinian family from the perspective of a young person. In 2001 Ibtisam was a delegate to the United Nations’ third conference on ending racism held in South Africa. She has performed as a judge in the national finals of Poetry Out Loud competitions organized by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation. In 2017, Ibtisam delivered a TEDx talk about her creative relationship with language.


Irfan Master is the author of A Beautiful Lie (2011, Bloomsbury) which was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2011 and Branford Boase Award 2012 for debut authors. His novel for young adults, Out of Heart was published by Hot Key Books in April 2017 and has been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018. Recently, Irfan has been published in an anthology of original and diverse stories, Lost and Found, on the theme of home by Leicestershire writers (2016, Dhalia Publishing), a story for a graphic novel anthology, This Side, That Side: Restorying Partition (2013, Yoda Press), a radio play, For the Love of Something (2015, Leicester University) and a short story, Once Upon a Time, for Booktrust that was adapted into a touring show, aimed at Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Somali families. The tour visited prisons, libraries and community centres to encourage and celebrate storytelling.


Jonathan Ruppin founded The Ruppin Agency in 2017, with a focus on authors from underrepresented backgrounds. He spent nearly two decades in book retail, working for chains and independent bookstores, as well as working for publishers and literary agents. Jonathan has been a judge of numerous literary awards, including the Costa Novel Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Romantic Novelists’ Association awards. His journalism encompasses television, radio and print, including The Bookseller magazine’s Paperback Preview, and he has interviewed authors at the Southbank Centre and Foyles. He sits on English PEN’s Writers in Translation committee.


Julia Johnson is a children’s author, storyteller and performer. She has appeared on stage, TV and radio in the UK and in Dubai, has toured Theatre-in-Education productions to schools and has recorded over one hundred audio books. Julia’s stories frequently focus on the history and culture of the Arabian Peninsula. She has written over a dozen stories for children including The Camel That Got Away (2009, Jerboa Books)Ubuntu: Summer of the Rhino (2016, Medina Publishing), which was produced in partnership with Rhino Revolution, and The Turtle Secret (2014, Motivate Publishing) which won the Best International Children’s Book Award at Sharjah International Book Fair 2014. Commissions have included a story for Qatar’s National Day 2009, an interactive student pack for the Kremlin exhibition for the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, and a series of five short stories for Kraft (Middle East). She is a regular speaker at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and her books have twice been chosen for the Chevron Readers’ Cup.


Kathryn White has over thirty books published for children of all ages. Her first picture book, When They Fight (2000, Winslow Press), was selected as a notable book for social studies by the US Libraries Association, and Here Comes the Crocodile (2004, Little Tiger Press) was shortlisted for both the Nottingham and Sheffield Children’s Book Awards. Most recently, her picture book Ruby’s School Walk (2010, Barefoot Books) was shortlisted for the Boston Globe’s Best Read Aloud Book Award in the USA. Kathryn is a regular performer at the Edinburgh, Bath and other major literature festivals and frequently holds school events on creative writing. In addition, Kathryn has been a creative writing tutor for adults at HMP Shepton Mallet and a consultant on raising literacy standards in early years’ education. She is also a qualified TESOL teacher and has run several courses for foreign language students.


Liz Brownlee is a poet and has been published in over seventy anthologies. Her first book, Animal Magic (2012, Iron Press) features poems about endangered animals. Liz’s next book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls (2017, Macmillan Children’s Books), was written with Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan and is shortlisted for a North Somerset Teachers’ Writing Award. Her upcoming book, The Same Inside, (2018, Macmillan Children’s Books), is written with Roger Stevens and Matt Goodfellow, and includes poems about empathy, friendship, and tolerance. Apes to Zebras, An A-Z of Shape Poems (2018, Bloomsbury), written with Sue Hardy-Dawson and Roger Stevens, is a collection of poems about animals.


Mariam Khan is a Muslim feminist activist, diversity in books promoter and freelance writer. She blogs at helloiammariam.com, has written for Femsplain and Sister-Hood online. She grew up in Birmingham and enjoys reading everything especially middle grade books and YA. She is currently writing her first novel.


Mitch Johnson studied English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. After graduating in 2014 he wrote his debut novel, Kick (2017, Usborne Children’s Books), which tells the story of an Indonesian boy named Budi who works in a sweatshop and dreams of becoming a footballer.


Mohamed Mohamed is a British-Somali poet and is founder of the (un)Heard Words, a project focused on using poetry as a tool for interfaith engagement. He often explores the topic of faith, identity, politics, and masculinity in his poems. Engaged in youth work and politics, Mohamed explores local community and global challenges in his work: his poem for climate change, I remember, was shortlisted for the Free Word’s 2015 The Time is Now Poetry Prize. A 2015 Apples and Snakes – The Writing Room poet, Mohamed has read and facilitated poetry workshops in many cities across the UK including at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Mohamed was also commissioned by the Free Word Centre, The Only Way Is Ethics, and Malaak Shabazz’s UK Tour amongst others.


Nabila Ramdani is an award-winning journalist, columnist, and broadcaster who specialises in French politics, Islamic affairs, and the Arab World. She is a prominent political commentator for both television and radio and she regularly appears on the BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Sky News and many other channels. Nabila has also produced documentaries for Channel 4 and ITV. She writes columns for The Guardian, The Observer, the Independent, and the London Evening Standard and has produced features and news stories for the Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times amongst others. Nabila’s work has appeared in The New York Times and in the French newspapers Le Monde, Le Figaro, Le Parisien, and L’Express, as well as in Middle Eastern outlets including The National, Al Arabiya and Arab News. Nabila has interviewed world leaders including the current President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and she has held lecturing positions at the University of Oxford, University of Michigan and Paris 7 University. Nabila won the International Media Awards 2013 “Cutting Edge” Prize in journalism and was honoured with the title Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2012.


Patrice Lawrence is an award-winning writer of stories for children and young adults. Orangeboy (2016, Hachette Children’s Group), her debut book for young adults was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award, won the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstones Prize for Older Children’s fiction and has been shortlisted for many regional awards. Indigo Donut (2017, Hachette Children’s Group), is her second book for young adults. Her books for younger children, Granny Ting Ting (2009, Bloomsbury) and Wild Papa Woodsi (2013, Pearson Education Ltd.), draw on the myths from her Trinidadian heritage.

Patricia Toht is a poet, picture book author, and school library associate. She once owned a children’s bookshop called Never Never Land, before turning a love of books into a love of writing. She is the author of All Aboard the London Bus (2017, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books), illustrated by Sam Usher, and Pick a Pine Tree (2017, Walker), illustrated by Jarvis. She has also contributed poetry to children’s magazines and anthologies.


Paul Cookson is a poem, performer and a National Reading Hero. He has worked as a poet since 1989 and since then has visited thousands of schools and performed to hundreds of thousands of pupils and staff. Paul is the official Poet in Residence for the National Football Museum, the Poetry Ambassador for United Learning and the Poet Laureate for Slade. He worked as the poet for the Everton Collection at Liverpool Library, and has had his work appear on BBC Match of The Day, Radio 5 Live, Radio 2, The World Service, CBBC, Sky Sports, Talksport Radio, and the Everton match day programme. An author of over sixty titles, Paul has sold over 750,000 books, and his poems appear in over two hundred other books. His best-known collections include The Poetry Store (2005, Hodder Children’s Books), Pants on Fire (2005, Macmillan Children’s Books), The Truth About Teachers (2013, Macmillan Children’s Books), as well as the best seller, The Works (2000, Pan Macmillan) which has sold over 200,000 copies.


Robert Macfarlane is a best-selling and multi-award-winning author whose work has been widely adapted for film, television and radio. His books include Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003), which won the Guardian First Book Award, The Somerset Maugham Award, and The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, and was filmed by the BBC; The Wild Places (2007) which won the Boardman-Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature, the Grand Prize at Banff, and the Scottish Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award; and The Old Ways (2012) which won the Premio ITAS Prize for Mountain Writing, was joint winner of the Dolman Prize for Travel Writing. Holloway (2013), with Dan Richards and Stanley Donwood, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Landmarks (2015) was a number one bestseller, won the Hay Medal for Prose and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize 2015. He is currently writing Underland, about the lost worlds beneath our feet. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2017 he was awarded the E.M. Forster Award for Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Sabrina Mahfouz is a playwright, poet, and Associate Curator at Science Gallery London. Her work includes the plays With a Little Bit of Luck (2017, Paines Plough) and Clean (2013, Traverse Theatre; 2014, 59e59 Theater); the poetry collection How You Might Know Me (2016, Out-Spoken Press); and the literary anthology The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write (2017, Saqi Books), which is longlisted for the Grand Prix Literary Associations Prize. She received a Fringe First Award for her play Chef (2014, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Soho Theatre) and a Sky Arts Academy Award in 2013 for her poetry work. Her children’s play, Zeraffa Giraffa (2017, Little Angel Theatre and Omnibus Theatre), was adapted from the book by Diane Hofmeyr and Jane Ray, and is nominated for Best Production for Young People at the Off West End Awards. Her work has appeared in anthologies The Good Immigrant (2017, Unbound), This Is Not a Border (2017, Bloomsbury) and Here I Stand (2016, Walker Books). She is currently working with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Philosophy to write poetry around consent and is the librettist for an opera adaptation of Woman at Point Zero (Royal Opera House/Shubbak/Aldeburgh).


Sarah Shaffi is online editor and producer at The Bookseller, where she has worked since 2013. Previously she worked in local newspapers across Kent and London. In 2016, she co-founded the networking group BAME in Publishing, a regular meet up for people from ethnic minorities working in UK publishing. Sarah reviews books monthly for Stylist Magazine online and regularly chairs author events. She reads widely and especially enjoys discovering new writing.


Shahida Nessa Rahman is an award-winning author, writer and publisher. Her highly acclaimed historical novel, Lascar was published in 2012. Lascar was shortlisted for the Muslim Writers Awards’ Unpublished Novel Award in 2008. Her other works include The Integration of the Hijab into Police Uniforms (2009, Behind the Hijab Anthology) and The Lascar (2009, radio play). Shahida has contributed articles on a range of social issues to numerous publications, including Best of British, The Great War, Sisters magazine, Huffington Post and Asian World. Shahida won a British Muslim Award for ‘Arts and Cultural Awareness’ in January 2015. She is currently writing her second novel.


Shemiza Rashid is a multi-award-winning art practitioner, producer, broadcaster, sixth form teacher, media consultant and academic mentor. She is the founder of the children’s performing arts poetry club Shining Ummah. Shemiza is a growing voice across the community and regional radio, where she presents the Flagship Urban Kube show on InspireFM and regularly features on BBC Three Counties Radio. Shemiza has also produced the celebrity cooking show For the Love of Food and presents the quirky lifestyle show Living the Life on Islam Channel. She was presented the Asian Women of Achievement Award for Public Service in 2014 and she was shortlisted for Best Female Muslim Radio Presenter and Most Innovative Radio show at the Momo Awards. She is currently an arts producer for Revolution Arts, writing and performing alongside leading spoken word poets, theatre practitioners and artists.


Sue Hardy-Dawson is a Yorkshire born poet, artist, and illustrator, and has been widely published in children’s poetry anthologies. She had worked with children for over twenty years. In 2014 she was highly commended for the Manchester Writing for Children Prize and has an Open First Class Honours Degree mostly in Creative Writing and Literature. She enjoys visiting schools and has provided workshops for the Prince of Wales Foundation for Children and the Arts. Being dyslexic, she takes a special interest in encouraging reluctant readers and writers. Her first solo collection, of illustrated poems, Where Zebras Go (2017, Otter-Barry Books) was long listed for the North Somerset Teachers’ 2017 Book Award. A new collection, Apes to Zebra’ (Bloomsbury) with Roger Stevens and Liz Brownlee is due out in 2018.


Sufiya Ahmed is the award-winning author of the young adult novel Secrets of the Henna Girl (2012, Puffin Books), and a public speaker on girls’ rights. Sufiya regularly visits secondary schools to deliver author sessions, addressing pupils in over 130 schools, and participates in book festivals. Sufiya also discusses her previous career in the Houses of Parliament to educate and inspire pupils about the democratic process and explores how her political activism influences her writing. Sufiya is the founder and Director of the BIBI Foundation, a non-profit organisation which arranges visits to the Houses of Parliament for children from underprivileged backgrounds. She will be contributing to Picador’s new essay collection by Muslim women, published in 2019. Sufiya regularly contributes to the Huffington Post and The Independent.


Sumayya Lee has worked as an Islamic Studies teacher, Montessori Directress and teacher of English as a Foreign Language. Her debut novel, The Story of Maha (2007, Kwela) was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book – Africa and Longlisted for The Sunday Times Fiction Award 2008. It is currently on the undergraduate curriculum at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. Her second novel, Maha, Ever After was published by Kwela in 2009. She is a mentor on the Writivism programme and has also judged the annual Writivism Short Story Prize. Currently Sumayya serves as the Writivism Mentoring and Residencies coordinator.

Tim Robertson became the Royal Society of Literature’s first full-time Director in October 2015. For the previous nine years, Tim was Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust, the national charity for arts from prisons (founded in 1962 by the writer Arthur Koestler). Tim led the Trust through significant growth, as well as chairing the National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice. He has a First in English from King’s College London, an MA in American Literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo and spent nine years on the editorial board of Magma poetry magazine. For fourteen years he ran and managed children’s services at Camden Council, having qualified as a social worker with an MSc in Applied Social Studies at Worcester College, Oxford. Tim is a governor of Regent High School in King’s Cross.