News: FAB Prize 2023 – Our Winners, Our Guests and Everything In Between!

We celebrated this year’s FAB Prize at an award ceremony yesterday evening, the first to be held in-person since 2019. Afua Bediako and Megan Du were announced as this year’s first place winners for text and illustration.

The awards took place in the Faber event space with a keynote speech from Christine Pillainayagam, this year’s winner of the Branford Boase Award. The first of its kind in the UK, the FAB Prize aims to discover and showcase new talent from creatives of colour, closing the gap between what is currently published and the reality for many families.

Afua Bediako won the text prize for her young adult submission, Super Mortals. The judges said:

Afua’s storytelling is bold and rich. It thrums with energy. It is thought-provoking, slick and modern. We wanted to read more, we could see it as a movie and we felt it was perfect on a YA shelf. Afua very definitely has a career as an author ahead of her.

Afua Bediako

First place illustration winner, Megan Du, submitted a selection of illustrations, which the judges described as ‘confident, vibrant, exciting and playful’. They went on to comment:

We could see Megan’s work commissioned across the age groups, from picture book to adult – there is a sophistication to her work that instantly placed her centre stage. We love her exuberance and range and can see her being very successful. Who wouldn’t love a set of her stationery too?

Megan Du

Second place for the text prize was awarded to Lerah Mae Barcenilla for her submission, The Babaylan Sisterhood. The judges commented:

There was real beauty here, we wanted to read more and see where it took us. So finely crafted. What a talent.’

Lerah Mae Barcenilla

Yuxuan Zhou’s submission, awarded second place for the illustration prize, stood out as ‘stylish and versatile’. The judges noted that they ‘wanted to commission Yuxuan straight away’

Ama Badu, FAB Prize judge said:

Once again, this year’s prize reminds us that there is so much exceptional talent to be found. We know our winners go on to become instrumental parts of our industry and I can’t wait to see the amazing things this year’s alumni will create.

Leah Thaxton, FAB Prize judge said:

It’s always a thrill to dive into the FAB Prize entries and every year we marvel at the range of talent – agents take note! Once again we were so inspired and heartened by what we saw.

Text and illustration winners will be awarded £1,500 each and various opportunities including a free place on a Faber Academy writing course, a one-year portfolio membership from the AOI, a place on a publishing insights programme and the opportunity to shadow established authors and illustrators via BookTrust. The runners-up for both prizes are also awarded £500 each.

The FAB Prize is run by Faber and is also supported by BookTrust and the AOI who both offer incredible opportunities to FAB Prize entrants and winners.

Now in its seventh year, the judges for this year’s prize were Leah Thaxton (Faber Publisher); Emma Eldridge (Faber Art Director); Ama Badu (Faber Assistant Editor); Davinia Andrew-Lynch (Literary Agent at Curtis Brown) and guest judges author, educator and broadcaster, Jeffrey Boakye; World Book Day illustrator and FAB Prize alumni, Allen Fatimaharan and Ashley Thorpe, Senior Editor at Storymix, the inclusive fiction studio.

FAB Prize alumni include award-winning authors Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Jasbinder Bilan and Tọlá Okogwu; Janelle McCurdy whose debut novel Mia and the Lightcasters was shortlisted for The Week Junior Book Awards and Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize; World Book Day illustrator Allen Fatimaharan;Kereen Getten, whose debut novel When Life Gives You Mangoes was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Jhalak Children’s & YA Prize; Aisha Bushby, whose A Pocketful of Stars was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Branford Boase Award; Poonam Mistry, who has been shortlisted three times for the Kate Greenaway Medal; Ravena Guron, author of This Book Kills, the bestselling new YA thriller of 2023 and several new and exciting authors and illustrators, such as Burhana Islam, Abeeha Tariq, Tomi Oyemakinde, Sarah Christou, Shirley Hottier and Rachel Faturoti. In addition, at least sixty FAB alumni now have agents and more than 150 books have now been published (or acquired by publishers) from FAB alumni.

Since its launch, the FAB Prize website, a hub for aspiring writers, illustrators and publishing professionals, now features interviews with an incredible roster of talented creatives such as New York Times bestselling author Namina Forna, Costa Award winner Ingrid Persaud, Jeffrey Boakye, Annabelle Sami, Shirley Marr and many more.


First Place Text Prize Winner

Afua Bediako is a Black British writer and digital illustrator of Ghanaian descent from North London. It has always been her passion to pursue a career as an author. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman was the book which sparked her interest in writing as a teenager. Just as it was important for her to read books about Black characters written by Black female authors, she hopes to do the same for children and teenagers of colour.

First Place Illustration Prize Winner

Megan Du is a freelance illustrator based in London. Her work revolves around women and is inspired by feminist thinking, retro culture and the occult, resulting in bold clashes of colour, vintage graininess and interesting character features. She specialises in print and production publications and is constantly experimenting and expanding into new creative areas. Her work has been featured in Its Nice That and Creative Boom and has won many illustration awards such as AOI, iJungle and 3x3magazine. As an illustrator, her clients include The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Bandcamp and SOHO House.

Second Place Text Prize Winner

Lerah Mae Barcenilla is a writer and poet who grew up in Cuartero, Capiz in the Philippines, full of magic, superstition and tradition before moving to the UK. Her work explores Filipino mythologies and folklore, the violence and delight in transformation, and the shapeshifting capability of words. Her writing has appeared in Harana Poetry, with Verve Poetry Press, was Highly Commended in The Literary Consultancy’s PEN Factor Award–Novel (2021) and won the Creative Future Writers Award–Platinum Poetry (2022). She has a short story forthcoming in Fly On The Wall Press’ Modern Gothic anthology (2024). Lerah is now represented by Lucy Irvine at Peters Fraser + Dunlop.

Second Place Illustration Prize Winner

Yuxuan Zhou is an illustrator and picture book maker with a fashion design background. She constantly explores different materials and adapts the colours, textures and compositions from the experiments to the digital paintings. She regards illustration as a powerful communication tool and actively communicates her otherworldly fantasy to her audience. With her background as a London-based Chinese illustrator, she is interested in reinterpreting traditional stories and fantasy from Western and Eastern culture.

Publisher’s Promise Prize Winner

Habon Jama is a writer from South London. She has a master’s in children’s literature from Goldsmiths University. As a black Muslim woman, she is a passionate about representation in literature. She writes middle grade, young adult and short stories for adults. Her work has been awarded the Mo Siewcharran prize by Faber Fab Prize, and longlisted for The New Writers prize by #Merkybooks Penguin and the V.S Pritchett Short Story Prize by The Royal Society of Literature.

Highly Commended Text Prize Winners

Alka Handa
Antoinette Brooks
Huong Nguyen
Jade Bradford
Magda Ibrahim
Munira Jannath
Paul Deslandes
Priyesh Shah
Reema Kausar Majid
Sayan Akaddas
Shamica Latchman
Shana Byfield
Sheila Chatrath
Shola Joy Todd

Highly Commended Illustration Prize Winners

Aneesa Casimjee
Elyon Liu
Janet Tam
Kelly Zou
Laura Oh 

Commended Text Prize Winners

Angela Leading-Tee
Faye Akpalu
Ibrahim Babatunde Ibrahim
Lola Afolabi
Marjorie Papalambrou
Martin Byrne
MaryAnn Ifeanacho
Mayo Agard-Olubo
Nash Colundalur
Navia Hussain
Elaine Ewen
Sadie Fisher
Seohwa Roh
Shahema Tafader
Tammie Meera Ash
Zita Abila

Comended Illustration Prize Winners

Huong Nguyen
Menaga Ranish
Rupia Akta

All images curtesy of Adrian Pope.