The Mays Anthology Is the next Zadie Smith waiting to be discovered in The Mays 31? Co-editor Lotte Brundle tells us about this publication’s remarkable lineage and knack for spotting incredible talent Kate Bush, Stephen Fry, Philip Pullman and Sir Quentin Blake. Apart from fame and success in the creative industries, what do these cultural heavyweights have in common? They have all previously guest edited The Mays Literary Anthology . Joining their ranks this year are author and former acting editor-in-chief of Elle magazine Lotte Jeffs, and singer and performer Jordan Stephens. Since its inception by three Cambridge students in 1992, The Mays has platformed the best new writing, artwork and photography from those at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Culminating in an annual publication that’s sold online and in bookshops countrywide, its aim is to promote student talent and help them break into the notoriously challenging publishing industry. The word anthology derives from ‘anthologia’: in 17th-century Greek, ‘anthos’ meant flower, and ‘logia’ collection. That’s certainly what we have in The Mays 31 ; a gathering of pieces by budding student authors and artists on the brink of bursting into the full bloom of their creative potential. Notably, author Zadie Smith ( White Teeth ) was discovered by literary agents through her short story Mrs Begum’s Son and the Private Tutor in the 1997 edition. She returned to guest edit The Mays in 2001, commenting: “Maybe in a few years this lot will have me out of a job.” In reality, the likelihood of the next Smith being discovered in The Mays 31 is relatively high. Jeffs and Stephens are the latest to add their names to the impressive cohort of guest editors, and have both been enthusiastic in narrowing down the student submissions – of which there were just under 1,000. As a pair, they may seem incongruous, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Jeffs, a former magazine editor, has a keen eye for spotting talent. Her passion for platforming emerging voices can also be seen through her role as chair of the judges on the Evening Standard ’s Stories Competition. In her day job, she discusses the ins and outs of being a queer parent on her podcast From Gay to Ze. Her children’s book, My Magic Family , re- writes the traditional heteronormative script of what a family ‘should’ look like. A less likely author of a children’s book, you’d think, is Stephens, who shot to fame with catchy raps, featuring lines such as: ‘Catch me watching Mean Girls / Wearing a T-shirt saying f*** Sea World’. Debuting at age 19 as one half of hip-hop duo Rizzle Kicks in 2011, Stephens is the epitome of youthful ambition and creativity. His debut picture book, The Missing Piece , focuses on putting under-represented families into the spotlight; something that he and Jeffs both care about deeply. Re-writing the narrative is what this year’s edition of The Mays is all about. Jeffs and Stephens lack the fusty, grandiose persona of many successful media elite. They also stand in delightful contrast to the traditional nature of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. What unites them is a fresh, honest, no-nonsense approach to art, grounded in the real world and shaped by years in the industry. Jeffs and Stephens have breathed fresh life into the 31st edition of The Mays , which promises to be the brightest and zaniest yet!
PROSE FROM THE PROS Each edition of The Mays promises a carefully curated compendium of the finest writing and artwork Oxbridge has to offer. Previous guest editors include Jarvis Cocker, Nick Cave and Ted Hughes
12 MAY 2023 CAMBSEDITION.CO.UK
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