Meet the Judges

Eric Akoto Publisher and Editor in Chief of Litro Magazine and competition Co-Chair

Eric is Publisher and Editor in Chief of Litro Magazine. His passions lie in progressive politics, freedom of expression, quality & independence in arts and journalism, social enterprise, secularism, good technology, and above all the power of fiction to connect and bring a level of empathy to different peoples. With a journalistic background his writing has featured in various magazines, He has also contributed to various books and he also curates and comperes at festivals such as The Latitude Festival and the Hay Festival.

Jocasta Hamilton Publishing Director, Hutchinson and Competition Co-Chair

Jocasta Hamilton’s first job in publishing was counting the number of swear words in Arsenal footballer Tony Adams’ autobiography. After working as an assistant to the non-fiction editor at Bloomsbury, she became a publicist both at Bloomsbury and Sceptre before moving back to editorial. As the Publishing Director of Hutchinson, an imprint of Penguin Random House, she publishes fiction and non-fiction and is responsible for bestsellers like Robert Harris and Sebastian Faulks as well as discovering new talent.

Rotimi Babatunde Author

Rotimi Babatunde has had his fiction and work in other genres published and translated across continents. His works for the stage have been performed at the Young Vic, London; at the Halcyon Theatre, Chicago; and at Riksteatern (The Swedish National Touring Theatre). He has been awarded fellowships by the Bellagio Centre in Italy, the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire and Ledig House/Omi in New York. His short story Bombay’s Republic was awarded the 2012 Caine Prize for African Writing. In 2015, he was longlisted for the Sunday Times/EFG Short Story Prize for The Collected Tricks of Houdini. He currently lives in Nigeria.

Sarah Ang Competition winner, 2016

Sarah is a seventeen-year-old student who started writing at the age of six and hasn’t stopped since. Her fiction and poetry have been featured or are forthcoming in Cultured Vultures, Page & Spine, the Dangerous Women Project by the University of Edinburgh, Medusa’s Laugh Press and Litro Magazine. Aside from winning the IGGY and Litro Young Writer’s Prize 2015/2016, her work has also been recognised by the Ledbury Poetry Competition, the International Torrance Legacy Creative Writing Awards and the National University of Singapore’s Creative Writing Competition. Sarah resides in the city-state of Singapore, where she studies Literature, History and Economics under the International Baccalaureate programme. Writing is for her, cathartic, and a way to relieve the pressures of student life.

Katherine Liu Competition winner, 2015

Katherine Liu lives near Chicago and attends Stevenson High School in Illinois. The winner of IGGY & Litro's 2014/15 Prize, Katherine has also been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the National YoungArts Foundation, and Princeton, Gannon, and Brigham Young Universities. Katherine leads her school's writing club and helps run a literary festival for middle school students. She edits poetry for TRACK//FOUR, a literary magazine that showcases work by artists and writers of colour, and enjoys learning about science, politics, and cultural identity.

Tim Leach Novelist and Creative writing teacher

Tim Leach is a novelist and creative writing teacher, specialising in historical fiction. Tim's first novel, The Last King of Lydia, was shortlisted for the 2013 Dylan Thomas Prize and was followed by a sequel, The King and the Slave in 2014. He is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick where he teaches fiction. He fills his time with chess, travel and good company when he’s not writing, along with rock climbing, in which he dabbles as an enthusiastic amateur.

Gill Othen English and Drama teacher

Gill graduated in English back in the Seventies and spent over three decades teaching English and Drama, mostly to gifted and talented young people. She has written one way or another for as long as she can remember, and has been a part of various online creative groups for some while. A proud Past President of the Durham University Science Fiction Society (1975-6), she is particularly fond of fantasy and science fiction, both for adults and for young people. After leaving teaching she decided to return to advanced study and did a part-time MA in English at the University of Warwick, one of the best decisions she has ever made. She attended courses in various aspects of literature and creative writing and is currently working on a novel for young adults, having been energised and excited by the company of so many talented and enthusiastic creative people on her course. She was thrilled to be invited to join the judges for this competition.

Akwaeke Emezi Author

Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo/Tamil writer, video artist, and speaker based in liminal spaces. Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Akwaeke holds two degrees, including an MPA from New York University. The Miles Morland Foundation recently awarded her a 2015 Morland Writing Scholarship for her second novel The Death of Vivek Oji, currently in progress. Her debut novel, Freshwater is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic in the winter of 2018.

Paul Cooper Author

Paul Cooper was born in South London and grew up in Cardiff, Wales. He was educated at the University of Warwick and the UEA, and after graduating he left for Sri Lanka to work as an English teacher, where he took time to explore the ruins both ancient and modern. He has written for magazines, websites and also worked as an archivist, editor and journalist. His first novel, River of Ink, is published by Bloomsbury, and he is currently working on a second.

Vineetha Mokkil Author

Vineetha Mokkil is the author of A Happy Place and Other Stories (HarperCollins, 2014), listed by The Telegraph as one of the ten best works of fiction of 2014. Her fiction has appeared in the Santa Fe Writers’ Journal, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Asian Cha, Bombay Review, The Missing Slate, and in Why We Don’t Talk, an anthology of short fiction. She is currently at work on a novel set in 1950s Tibet and contemporary India. She writes a monthly column for Litro magazine, USA. She has written for The Times of India, Open magazine, Asian Review of Books, and Tehelka.

Rob Keeley Author

Rob Keeley has been writing stories and plays since childhood and had his first magazine article published aged fifteen. He is the author of three collections of short stories and four novels for children, with a third novel following in 2016. His books for children have been longlisted for the International Rubery Book Award and the Bath Children's Novel Award, as well as nominated for the People's Book Prize. He has also written for Chain Gang and Newsjack for BBC Radio 7 (now BBC Radio 4 Extra), and has several magazine credits to his name, both fiction and non-fiction.

Vestal McIntyre Author

Vestal McIntyre is the author of the novel Lake Overturn and the story collection You Are Not the One – both Lambda Literary Award winners and New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choices. His work has appeared in Tin House, The Boston Review, Open City and several anthologies. Originally from Idaho, Vestal has lived in London for eight years where he writes and edits work on development economics.

Catherine McNamara Author

Catherine McNamara grew up in Sydney, ran away to Paris at twenty-one to write, and ended up in West Africa running a bar. Her collection Pelt and Other Stories was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor Award and semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize. Her work has been Pushcart-nominated and published in the U.K., Europe and the U.S.A. Catherine lives in Italy.

Robbie Millen Literary Editor of the Times

Robbie Millen has been literary editor of The Times since 2013. Before that he was deputy comment editor, overseeing the opinion pages for more than a decade. He has also worked at The Daily Express (don't blame him; he was young and impressionable) and The Spectator.

The primary reason for reading is pleasure. With their extraordinary stories these young writers have done us a great service: they have provided us with new sources of pleasure. As judges we have been thrilled by the standard of work submitted for the IGGY and Litro Writing Prize, and would like to congratulate all of the writers who took the time and trouble to submit work. The product of the writer’s imagination is a strange and precious substance: personal and yet public; impalpable and yet there. Prof Ian Sansom, Chair of Judges 2013
A beautifully written story about the dreams of endurance and the struggle to retain one’s heritage and home. Use of simple language gives a strong sense of place and empathy with well drawn characters. John McCarthy, on Khobaib Abuelmeaza’s ‘The God of the Defeated’
This is a powerful, evocative sci-fi fantasy story about a girl who finds herself in a nightmarish room, Somnium, which contains frozen fire and mysterious, intimidating beings. Francis Gilbert, on Ellie Serpell-Stevens’ ‘The House in the Castle’
This was very impressive collection of pieces from young writers. The theme of Dreams provoked a broad range of stories and essays with a wide variety of styles. The quality of writing was high overall – some of it exceptional with writers demonstrating an ability to tell stories with power and emotion that contained strong narrative and characters. John Patrick McCarthy, Competition Judge