Storytelling is one of the oldest known aspects of human culture. From Aboriginal songs to cave paintings, stories have united and sustained us as a species throughout the millennia. Stories build bridges across different geographies and centuries, helping to foster understanding and empathy between the peoples and times we might otherwise never be able to access.
In the turbulence of our current social and political climate, stories are as important as ever. They offer gateways, mirrors and alternative possibilities, insights to ourselves and others, pathways and tools to reimagine our lives and realities. Indeed, there's a theory which posits that what separates humans from other animals is the moment in our evolution when people began to tell stories. In the so-called "cognitive revolution" humans began to imagine and describe things that weren't happening in the present moment, so as to better organise and cooperate with one another. The ability of a person to say "a lion often comes to this river" as opposed to simply, "there is a lion" meant people could avoid being eaten by the lion!
Stories only exist when they have listeners and readers. Like many others, my house is littered with books I've already read, have half read or intend to read; I feel I never read enough, even though reading a good book is one of my favourite pursuits. I love their transportive and democratic power. I have built entire imaginary worlds and characters from the books which have most inspired me, and I carry them around with me. Unlike films, they are my own worlds, inspired by the book's words but unique in interpretation to me. The world of Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabakov is one such world. As was Harry Potter, The Northern Lights trilogy or the Famous Five when I grew up. These stories have shaped how I see the world.
It's my belief in the power and necessity of storytelling that's drawn me to be a judge for the Kindle Storyteller Prize. I wholeheartedly support its democratic nature, as a literary award that's open to any previously unpublished work, submitted by the author directly through Kindle Direct Publishing. I hope it encourages and inspires people who may not have considered themselves writers previously but have a passion for writing to give it a try.
There's no way of knowing how many great stories have remained untold due to the nature of traditional publishing. There have been notable examples in literary history where people previously rejected by traditional publishers have gone on to great success through independent publishing. Beatrix Potter, whose tales of Peter Rabbit were rejected 6 times, comes to mind as one of these.
With a growing number of authors choosing to independently publish, it is difficult not to take notice. By publishing directly onto the Kindle Store, there is also the opportunity to get your work in front of a potential audience of millions of readers across the world. The writer gets up to 70% royalties and writers have the freedom to publish the story they believe in.
For anyone considering entering their work into the Storyteller Award, I urge you on. Write with your audience in mind, not the prize. Inevitably, the best book will win because the author will have engaged their audience. Even if you don't win the official £20,000 prize, there is every opportunity to have your story resonate with readers around the world and lead to a different version of success - to create the stories and collective fictions and non-fictions that may inform our future. Perhaps that's the biggest prize of all?
Lily Cole is on the judging panel of the Kindle Storyteller Award 2017, a £20,000 literary prize recognising new work submitted using Kindle Direct Publishing. Entries close 19th May. For more information, visit: www.amazon.co.uk/storyteller.