I mentioned last week that I had been shortlisted for the inaugural Bet Tuppi’s Ancient Near Eastern Historical Fiction Prize.
Well - I won.
The story was selected from ten amazing shortlisted stories, all of which you can read here.
We love the unique take on Enheduanna, the first named poet. The story really encapsulates the essence of Mesopotamia, which is known not only for its empires and violence, but also as the birthplace of writing and literature.
Notification feedback from judge Matthew Parkes, MPhil in Assyriology at the University of Cambridge:
We specifically loved how you drew upon the source material. For instance, considering the namelessness of many of Mesopotamia's authors whilst also exploring the power that writing brought to these early civilisations. It was truly a pleasure to read your story!
I just want to take a moment to explain why this means so much.
As regular readers will know, I have been writing a novel about the Akkadian Empire for the past year. It's very nearly coming to a close. The story began as the telling of Enheduanna, but, in order to get there, I needed to retell The Legend of Sargon, her father. What was supposed to be a background chapter soon ballooned to over 100,000 words and became a full-blown novel of its own.
I've been working closely with Leif Inselmann, a wonderful research scholar at the University of Göttingen. Leif also happens to be a German author and you can find his books here. He has been incredible in helping to clarify things and preventing me from wandering into the absurd. Although, he didn't proof the story I submitted to the competition, which is why there was a slight metallurgical historical slip-up in there. I wrote it late at night and in a hurry to hit the deadline.
But, just pause for a moment and consider what it was like, having been completely obsessed with the Akkadian Empire and ancient Sumer for over a year, to suddenly see a writing competition specifically asking for Sumerian, Akkadian and Assyrian historical fiction? I mean - what were the chances? I almost didn't enter because I thought, how gutting would that be if I didn't even get placed?
Well, I'm glad I did enter, and I'm absolutely blown away and very thankful to have impressed the judges. I do occasionally think that Enheduanna glances over the shoulder of every writer from time to time. We've swapped clay and stylus for paper and pen, but we're all just continuing her 4,000-year tradition of writing down our thoughts.
I'll sign off now, but it's always an incredible boost when a story you write connects with its readers. As writers, we're used to rejection and it's easy to feel overlooked and to doubt ourselves, but one win wipes away all of that. If you're a creator, keep creating. Keep putting yourself out there. Keep spinning stories and breathing life into them. Eventually you'll catch a little luck in your web.
Sinjye wahera hahera Enheduanna.