Stormzy on writing prize: It's my duty to pay fans back

Stormzy Image copyright Getty Images

"This is so surreal. I am training to be a primary school teacher. Yesterday I was teaching ABCs to kids in reception class and today I am here with Stormzy."

Maya, who is 19 and from Brighton, can barely believe that in less than three weeks time she could be working for the rapper.

She's one of 20 people still in with a chance of having her work published by Stormzy - the prize for winning a competition he launched earlier this year.

Through his #Merky Books company Stormzy says he wants to help young authors who are being "ignored or passed on" by major publishing outlets.

Image caption Maya is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other

More than 1,200 unpublished authors entered the writer's prize - 20 have been shortlisted with the winner announced on 6 June 2019.

Maya describes her work as "vulnerable" poetry about growing up visually impaired. The teenager is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other.

"I have been writing for ages, from the age of about 12, just getting overwhelming feelings out," Maya tells Radio 1's Newsbeat.

"I wouldn't say I am die-hard fan but my brother is a huge fan. He gave me a list of things to ask Stormzy. The funny thing is my friends are all like, 'Stormzy is going to read your poems,' and it's only then it feels daunting."

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Image caption Stormzy is set to headline Glastonbury Festival this summer

Stormzy's attendance at the writers' camp was a surprise one, although when news spread that he was in the building, the screams and shrieks were consistent with what he's used to at concerts and festivals.

"The reason why things like this are important to me is because I have always understood that my community raised me," says Stormzy.

He adds: "And then the public have put me on. They are literally the reason why I am where I am. So it's like my duty to repay that back."

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Image caption The list of authors shortlisted includes fiction and non-fiction writers and poets

"All the shortlisted applicants that are here today, even if they don't win the publishing contract, they're going to leave with so much information," Stormzy tells Newsbeat.

"What kind of boss am I? Well I'd like to think a good boss. I'm still learning to be a leader but I've got bare bosses around me, so it allows me to just oversee the whole operation."

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Image caption One of the 20 unpublished authors will have their work printed

For some of the authors still in the running to win the prize it's beginning to dawn on them that the chart topper could potentially one day be calling them into his office.

Or they could be out celebrating when the book is published and on sale.

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Image caption Stormzy speaks to one of the unpublished authors at the event in central London

Dwayne Miller from Croydon, south London is another author hopeful that Stormzy will like his idea enough to publish it.

"I started writing blogs about my community, so things like enterprise and gentrification, but I've always been someone who writes about the positives," Dwayne says.

The 29-year-old explains he wanted to shine a light on positive role models in the black community that weren't "athletes or musicians."

His book looks at black people who have carved out successful careers in a number of industries.

Image caption Dwayne has written a book showcasing black role models who are not musicians or sports stars

"I felt compelled because I feel like there is a lack of role models and not everyone can be a sports star or singer. So I wanted to show people there's a long list of other avenues and the list even surprised me.

"From shipping, to technology, finance, health, education, I mean names and people I didn't know existed. And some dating back years as well."

Dwayne says before he started his research he believed Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z or Beyonce were top of the rich list.

"Then I found out it was Robert F. Smith, a hedge fund manager. And he's worth double what Oprah is worth. It was so inspirational to hear he only started his business 20 years ago," Dwayne says.

Image caption Kalifa says Stormzy reading her poems would be "awesome"

Kalifa Etienne, 20, is a part time actress and says even though she's used to being in the spotlight working for someone she is a fan of would be a new kind of pressure.

"I am a poet and I guess I write about my experiences, and the experiences of other women of colour and what it's like growing up in London," Kalifa says.

"I've never tried to get published before but I always thought of it as something that may happen later in my career. But when I saw the competition on Stormzy's Instagram I was just like, 'Why not?'"

Kalifa says she's a huge fan of Stormzy's music and having him critique her work wouldn't be daunting but "awesome."

"I was at uni by myself when I found out I had made the shortlist and I just screamed. I think my neighbours must have been like, 'What's she doing over there.'"

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