Perse teacher has the write stuff to win top literary prize
29 Oct 2020
Perse Mandarin teacher Wenyan Lu has won the illustrious SI Leeds Literary Prize with her novel The Funeral Cryer.
Mrs Lu had previously made it on to the longlist in the biennial competition for unpublished fiction by UK-based BAME female writers. However, this year she was included in the shortlist of six authors before claiming the top prize via a virtual award ceremony.
She was delighted to have won the competition with her work, described by the chair of judges, Nicola Chang, as: “a brilliant psychodrama set in a far-flung backwater of China, a portrait of female desire not often seen and of a village no longer inured to the pernicious forces of progress”.
Mrs Lu said: “Being shortlisted in itself was real recognition. I did readings together with the other shortlisted writers at virtual events and I thought they were all brilliant. In my acceptance speech, I said they were all winners.
“I’m so happy to have won, but I’m more grateful than anything else. I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people.”
Mrs Lu, who has a Masters degree in creative writing from Cambridge University, was inspired to write The Funeral Cryer following a discussion with a Mexican student about her country’s Day of the Dead celebrations.
She said: “It’s set in a remote village in north-east China, so it has that sense of place, but it’s based around universal values and the human condition. It’s about how we respect our fear for life and death and also difficulties in relationships because people everywhere share the same emotions.”
Following on from winning the competition, Mrs Lu is now in talks with several literary agents with the hope of having her novel published. However, she felt her success highlighted why it was important to never give up on trying to fulfil ambitions.
“I’ve experienced rejection by agents or in competitions, but I never got disheartened, I just kept going,” she said. “I had enough confidence and I’m glad I did keep going or I wouldn’t have even entered this competition. I feel very lucky.
“In my acceptance speech, I said if you want to be a writer, don’t wait for the best moment, just do it. My experience is that anything is possible.”
Read an excerpt from The Funeral Cryer here.