"Inspired By The Pandemic" — Sarawakian Author Wins UK Children's Book Prize 2023

The 26-year-old won the accolade with her young adult debut, 'The Cats We Meet Along The Way'.

Cover image via Waterstones (Twitter) & Rise Malaysia

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Sarawakian author Nadia Mikail has won a children's book prize in Britain with her debut young adult novel, The Cats We Meet Along The Way, on Friday, 24 March

According to Sarawak newspaper The Borneo Post, The Cats We Meet Along The Way won an award for the older readers category, and came in first place at the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2023.

Nadia took home a trophy alongside GBP5,000 (RM27,236). The SMK Teresa alumni is from Kuching and is currently studying law in London, UK.

The Waterstones Children's Book Prize is an annual award given to a work of children's literature published during the previous year.

The story was heavily inspired by the time she spent separated from her family during the COVID-19 pandemic

According to The Guardian, the story follows a family’s trip across Malaysia during the apocalyptic end of the world.

Nadia said that when she was writing the book, she imagined "sort of a worst-case scenario situation, like what would happen if the apocalypse was about to happen, and I was away from my loved ones."

"In the midst of trying to kind of work out those anxieties through writing, I realised the only thing we can do is care for the people we love every day, and hope for a better future for them even when things seem hopeless," she added.

Image via Nadia Mikail

The book has received countless positive feedback and commendations from the public, and Nadia couldn't be more proud

According to Britain's national bookshop chain, Waterstones believes that Nadia's prose sparkles in the growing market for older readers, and that the booksellers were overwhelmed by the tenderness woven through each chapter.

"The moments of silence between the characters are as truthful and evocative as their conversations," wrote Waterstones head of children's Florentyna Martin.

"Nadia has ultimately crafted a novel of hope, set against an eventful road trip, that encourages us to share stories and dreams," she added.

Nadia also took to her Instagram to share her joy in light of the celebrations.

"This story is so dear to my heart. I put so much of me in it — so many memories, so much hope, a huge complicated mix of emotions", wrote Nadia in the caption of  the post, the day she received her award.

"Receiving this award is life-changing, but knowing that you (the readers) had such faith in it is also a warm, bright feeling that will stay with me forever", she continued.

In a conversation with SAYS, Nadia gave advice to aspiring local writers and believes that success is possible anywhere

Nadia said that the best thing she did as an aspiring writer to write as much as possible, urging others to write about their favourite characters in their favourite show, a story in a different author's style, poetry, songs, and anything they'd like. 

"It's a skill that can be honed like any other skill, and the only way I was comfortable with writing my first book was with a lot of writing beforehand. I would say read even more than you write!" said Nadia to SAYS.

When asked if success as a writer is possible in Malaysia, she answered, "Success is obviously a subjective metric, but amazing writing definitely exists everywhere in Malaysia."

"There's such a flourishing and ever-growing community of writers in Malaysia, not only those who are traditionally published but those whose works are in magazines, or online in less traditional publishing spaces," she added.

Congratulations, Nadia!

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