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Comedy Women In Print Prize

The Comedy Women in Print Prize 2019 (CWIP) today announced both the Published and Unpublished award shortlists for the award’s first year. The five authors in the Published category are: Sunday Times bestsellers GAIL HONEYMAN (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine) and GILL SIMS (Why Mummy Swears); joined by hilarious up-and-coming author ASIA MACKAY (Killing It), Young Adult debut writer LAURA STEVEN (The Exact Opposite of Okay); and Singaporean novelist BALLI KAUR JASWAL (Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows). The published novels were praised by judges for, ‘celebrating the range of comedic styles, excellence, quality and above all individuality in witty women authors.’

Shortlisted in the Unpublished category are: screen writer KIRSTY EYRE (Cow Girl), editorial assistant ABIGAIL MANN (The Lonely Fajita), International Development Agency worker HELEN DOYLE (The Ladies’ Guide to Finding Love), country musician LOTTE MULLAN (Love Is Strange), and full-time mum JO LOVETT-TURNER (New Year at The Duck and Grapes). Judges were united in their praise of a shortlist that ‘showcases original, witty, and innovative comedy novel content.’

Themes of unconventional romance, the use of humour to illuminate serious issues and the power of female friendship dominate the shortlists across both categories; while settings range from the covert world of a secret service assassin with a newborn baby, to a queer rom-com set on a dairy farm.

The CWIP Prize was launched by actress, author and stand-up Helen Lederer in response to the lack of exposure for female comedy writing, and as a way of celebrating fresh and established talent.

Helen Lederer, founder of the Comedy Women in Print Prize, says:  

‘The Published category shortlist demonstrates the range of debut and established comedy women writers. While the impact and perception of wit on the page will always be gloriously varied – I was happy to observe a commonality of passion and praise from the judges (without judging myself!). They felt that Gail Honeyman’s original flare and humour triumphed as an excellent and already celebrated narrative in Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, while the observational hit rate of humour in Why Mummy Swears by Gill Simms simply had to be included. Laura Stevens sparky novel The Exact Opposite of Okay – was an empowering and feminist pleasure. Killing It by Asia Mackay is a delightfully transgressive and original novel that tackled themes of guilt and not being good enough with irony; Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is a wittily told and cleverly bold cross-cultural narrative. We got there. CWIP’s first year has at the very least, shone a light on funny female fiction.’

Journalist and author Fanny Blake, a judge for the Unpublished CWIP Prize, says:

‘It was a pleasure to be one of the judges selecting this brilliantly funny shortlist of unpublished writers. In no particular order, Kirsty Eyre’s Cow Girl is an original romcom with strong wittily observed characters. The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann is an entertaining cross-generational comedy. In The Ladies Guide to Finding Love, Helen Doyle shows off a gift for sharp funny observations of human behaviour. Who could resist the Dolly Parton impersonator who stars in Lotte Mullan’s quick-witted Love is Strange? And Jo Lovett-Turner celebrates female friendships with all their joys, anxieties and failures in New Year at the Duck and Grapes. These are five new female writers to be celebrating.’

The inaugural Comedy Women in Print Prize 2019 shortlist for published writers is:

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Harper Collins)
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (Harper Collins)
  • Killing It by Asia Mackay (Bonnier Zaffre)
  • The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven (Electric Monkey)
  • Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims (Harper Collins)


The inaugural Comedy Women in Print Prize 2019 shortlist for unpublished writers is:

  • Cow Girl by Kirsty Eyre
  • The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann
  • The Ladies’ Guide to Finding Love by Helen Doyle
  • Love Is Strange by Lotte Mullan
  • New Year at The Duck and Grapes by Jo Lovett-Turner


The CWIP Published shortlist features Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, a story about how a simple act of kindness shatters the walls a reclusive woman has built around herself in unexpected ways. In Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, East meets West and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel, while Killing It by Asia Mackay offers an amusing take on the concept of the working mother – by juggling a baby alongside a secret agent day job. Gill Sims’ Why Mummy Swears blends observational humour from a domestic setting with laugh out loud moments, and The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven is a fresh and empowering novel about the issues facing young girls today.

For CWIP’s Unpublished shortlist, Kirsty Eyre’s Cow Girl is a witty and original queer rom-com set in the world of dairy farming; The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann subverts traditional romances by warmly embracing an intergenerational relationship; while Helen Doyle’s The Ladies Guide to Finding Love follows the romantic fortunes of the eccentric residents living in a small English market town. Love is Strange by Lotte Mullan is a tragi-comedy about the imperfections of relationships – featuring a Dolly Parton impersonator, and Jo Lovett-Turner’s New Year at the Duck and Grapes is a wry and celebratory look at female friendship with all its flaws.

The judges for the CWIP Prize for published authors are: comedians Katy Brand and Shazia Mirza; international bestselling authors Kathy Lette and Marian Keyes, and journalist Allison Pearson, whose novel I Don’t Know How She Does It was made into a film starring Sarah Jessica Parker. The winning author in the published category will be offered a £2000 cash award, with £250 for each shortlisted author.

The unpublished CWIP Prize judging panel is: Perrier Comedy Award winner and Sunday Times bestselling author Jenny Éclair; fellow writer, broadcaster and stand-up comic, Susan Calman; Dr Jennifer Young, Head of Writing and Journalism at Falmouth University; Fanny Blake, formerly a senior fiction editor at Penguin Books and Editor at Woman & Home, now the author of eight novels; Lara Marshall, book blogger and librarian with Hillingdon Libraries; and Karen McPherson who worked for The Reading Agency on BBC Radio 2’s Book Club and on a range of literary prizes including the Booker and the Women’s Prize. They join Martha Ashby, Editorial Director at HarperFiction.

Alongside this the CWIP Prize will offer the winner of the unpublished category a publishing contract and £5000 advance with HarperFiction. The unpublished runner-up will receive a free place on the MA course in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire.

The Comedy Women in Print Prize winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the Conduit Club on Wednesday 10th July.



  • 10th July 2019: CWIP winners’ event and announcement


Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, the British Book Awards Book of the Year and the Specsavers National Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year. Since publication, translation rights have sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Reese Witherspoon has optioned it for film and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Balli Kaur Jaswal was born in Singapore and has lived all around the world, including Australia, Japan, Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, the US and the UK, where she was a writer in residence at UEA. Her novel, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows, was inspired by the time she spent in Southall. Her previous novels include Inheritance and Sugarbread and her new novel, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is out summer 2019.

A half-Chinese, half-Scottish Londoner, Asia Mackay studied Anthropology at Durham University, after which she started a career in television. She presented and produced lifestyle programmes in Shanghai before moving back to London, where she worked for Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman as Project Manager on their round the world motorbike documentaries. She started writing Killing It on maternity leave and undertook a Faber Academy course to help her finish it. Asia lives with her husband, four young children and two dogs. Killing It was her debut novel. The sequel, The Nursery, will be out in autumn 2019.

Gill Sims is the author of the hugely successful parenting blog and Facebook site Peter and Jane. Her first book Why Mummy Drinks was the bestselling hardback fiction debut of 2017, spending over six months in the top ten of the Sunday Times Bestseller Charts, and was shortlisted for Debut Novel of the Year in the British Book Awards. Her second novel Why Mummy Swears spent seven weeks at number one in the Sunday Times Bestseller Charts and 19 weeks in the top ten.

Laura Steven is an author, journalist and screenwriter from the northernmost town in England. She has an MA in Creative Writing and works at a non-profit organisation supporting women in the creative arts. Her TV pilot, Clickbait, was a finalist in British Comedy’s 2016 Sitcom Mission. Izzy O’Neill is now back in the hilarious sequel to The Exact Opposite of Okay in A Girl Called Shameless.


Kirsty Eyre grew up on the South Yorkshire/Derbyshire border idolising Victoria Wood, Jo Brand and pretty much the entire judging panel for CWIP. Having studied languages at Nottingham Trent University, her love for theatre led her to write several comedy stage-plays which received favourable reviews at the Edinburgh fringe and performances across London and Brighton. Shortlisted for BBC Sharps, her writing credits also include television screen-plays and satirical ‘school mums’ poems. Her recent influences are Maria Semple, Caitlin Moran and Dolly Alderton. Cow Girl is her first novel. Kirsty lives in South East London with her partner and two children.

Abigail Mann is a 27-year-old editor’s assistant. She is a former social media manager and secondary school teacher having recently taught in London and Sheffield, where she developed an unhealthy relationship with Yorkshire Tea. Although she misses the teenagers and their encyclopedic knowledge of memes, she has loved working on her first novel, which was inspired by her time in London after university. Abigail is particularly interested in issues of cross-generational loneliness, which have provided a rich, if unconventional, premise for her comedy novel. Since leaving the classroom, she has written for nature magazines and documents her writing journey online.

Helen Doyle grew up in a country town and still lives nearby. Like one of the main characters in her book, Mark, she went to the local comprehensive and met many lifelong friends there. Unlike the other main character, Natalie, she didn’t then get informally adopted by an alt-folk band. She studied English Literature at Oxford University and International Development Studies at the London School of Economics. She spent three years in Tanzania with Voluntary Service Overseas and was based in London for fifteen years whilst working for International Development agencies in South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Helen is married with two children. In her spare time, she enjoys pub quizzes, particularly when she knows the answers.

Lotte Mullan is a writer and musician. ‘Diary of a Plain Jane’, a blog Mullan wrote about sexism in the music business, was optioned for a film deal by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures. Dame Jenni Murray broadcasted one of the diary entries ‘The Side-boob hug’ on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and the screen play is in development. Mullan has released four records. Her last studio album ‘Love’s Bonfire’ was recorded in Nashville with American rockers Band of Horses. She recently completed her first novel and has a new record out in April 2019 featuring songs from the films ‘Wild Rose’ and ‘Fisherman’s Friends’.

Jo Lovett-Turner worked in corporate tax, before taking a longer-than-expected career break to have more-than-expected children (five). She started writing romantic comedy when she realised that she was regularly begging her oldest son to let her do his English homework but she wasn’t actually that interested in haunted houses or Macbeth. When she can escape from her laundry mountain and childcare, she loves reading, tennis, spangly stationery and wine. Jo lives in London with her family.


Helen Lederer is probably best known as part of London’s Comedy Store comedians, including Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, the late Rik Mayall and Ben Elton, and for her roles in Absolutely Fabulous and the BBC comedy sketch show Naked Video. Helen’s recent appearance in Celebrity Big Brother led to her trending on Twitter, being saved by the public vote three times and affording her a temporary title of “national treasure”. She is not only a comedian and actor but also a comedy novelist. Her first novel Losing It, published by Pan Macmillan, was nominated for the Bollinger Wodehouse prize for comic fiction. She is currently working on her comedy memoir. She is a much sought after panellist having appeared on shows such as The News Quiz, Just a Minute, Quote… Unquote, A Good Read, Open Book and Woman’s Hour. She has also written for Woman and Home, The Independent, The Mail on Sunday, The Express and the Daily Telegraph and is currently the ‘agony aunt’ for Woman’s Weekly. Her show at the Edinburgh Festival ‘I might as well say it’ was sold out to rave reviews. Helen lives in London.


HarperCollins UK is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, with operations in 18 countries. With two hundred years of history and more than 120 unique imprints around the world, HarperCollins publishes approximately 10,000 new books every year, in 17 languages, and has a print and digital catalogue of more than 200,000 titles. Writing across dozens of genres, HarperCollins authors include winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and the Man Booker Prize. HarperCollins UK has offices in London, Glasgow and Honley, and can be found online at To explore HarperCollins’ 200 year history, including a list of 200 iconic titles, fascinating stories and artefacts from the archive, visit

The University of Hertfordshire is a vibrant, inclusive, campus-based institution. It is innovative and enterprising and challenges individuals and organisations to excel.  All courses are underpinned by industry insight and powerful research ensuring our student community of over 24,600 graduates are equipped with the skills and attributes for successful professional lives.  The University has excellent progression rates to employment – 96.5% of students are in employment or further study six months after graduating* – and its teaching expertise has recently been awarded the top gold ranking in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2018.  It is one of the top 150 universities in the world under 50 years old, according to the new Times Higher Education 150 under 50 rankings 2018.  For further information about its MA in Creative Writing visit

The Telegraph is an award-winning, multimedia news brand that has been synonymous with quality, authority and credibility for more than 160 years. Renowned for analysis, perspective, opinion and insight its content sets the news agenda, sparks debate and provokes comment. The Telegraph is CWIP’s media partner.

Ryman: Chairman Theo Paphitis says, ’As the home of stationary, Ryman is the perfect partner to help bring the comedy writers of the future to the fore’. Ryman is the UK’s leading stationary and office supplier with 220 outlets nationwide.

King of Soho is an independent Gin Brand spearheaded by a woman – Alex Robson. She has pledged prize money for the published author as well as shortlisted published authors. Visit

Writers Guild is a Trade Union representing professional writers in TV, Film, theatre, radio, books comedy poetry animation and videogames. Chair, Gail Renard says, ‘We are proud to be sponsors and involved’.

PegasusLife was established in 2012 on the premise of redefining the retirement housing market in order to overcome the chronic lack of relevant housing options available to the older generation in the UK. Their work has changed the way retirement property is understood and delivered in the UK.

The company was founded by Oaktree Capital Management.

The Conduit are kindly hosting and supporting the winner’s event in July.

Project Brand are providing wondrous ‘goody bags’ for the winners event – Kelly Colman is CEO of CID Cosmetics – helping global brands to launch their products in the UK and Europe, guiding them on entry to these markets and ensuring that labelling and testing are fully compliant.