Land Rover announces the winner of its short story competition in collaboration with British GQ and Soho House as Kirstin Zhang. Kirstin began writing five years ago, and was inspired to pen her winning entry, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, after seeing some photographs of the Emperor in a book called Embracing Defeat by John Dower. News of the winner was shared during a dinner hosted by Dylan Jones and Nick Jones and held at Cabalva House, the home of Revel Guest, chair of the Hay Festival.
In addition to authors appearing at the Festival during the opening weekend, the dinner was attended by the City Stories judges; Land Rover’s Design Director Gerry McGovern, Times critic and chief of the Soho House Literary Salon, Damian Barr, literary agents Ed Victor and Diane Banks, GQ Deputy Editor Bill Prince, GQ Literary Editor Olivia Cole and House magazine Editor Justin Quirk.
Kirstin, currently a press officer at an independent school and involved in creative community projects around writing and storytelling, was originally born in the north of England to Scottish parents, but her father’s work with the RAF saw them move to Cyprus, then Papua New Guinea before moving to Scotland. Since then, she has lived in America and Japan, studied at SOAS in London and Glasgow before moving to her current hometown. ‘I wrote it very quickly,’ Kirstin Zhang remarked of her winning entry, which deals with the immediate aftermath of World War II in Japan, and the decision to humanize the Emperor by giving him a beaten up old hat to wear. ‘The extraordinary thing is that I only became aware of the competition the day before the deadline and debated whether I had time to produce a story of high enough quality. It was, however, too good a chance to pass up.’
The aim of the City Stories competition was to discover the best unsigned, unpublished and unrepresented writers globally. The brief was simple; a fictional story, based around the theme of Cities, set anywhere and at any time as long as they talked about the urban experience, and were no more than 1000 words long. The competition is the latest in a line of literary events, which Land Rover, GQ and Soho House have collaborated on. Literary agent Diane Banks who will now go on and represent Kirstin says, 'Kirstin is a very talented writer and we're already planning her first novel, Suddenly, the Sea, which will be set in post-war Japan. Revolving around the discovery of a girl's body and set against a beautiful landscape, Suddenly, the Sea will evoke a world in flux where identities must be forged, reclaimed and sometimes lost. It's rare to find such sophisticated new talent and I'm excited about working with Kirstin to build her career as a novelist.'
‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ will appear in the August issue of GQ, available on newsstand from the 5th July. Other guests at the Land Rover, GQ and Soho House dinner at Hay Festival included Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Mariella Frostrup, Maryam d’Abo and Monty Don.