SOA feat

Shortlists announced

The Society of Authors have announced the shortlists for the Betty Trask, McKitterick, ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Awards, the Paul Torday Memorial Prize, and inaugural Queen’s Knickers Award, a new accolade recognising an outstanding children’s illustrated book for ages 0-7. The wide-ranging list of 29 shortlisted writers, poets and illustrators who seek to share an awards fund of £100,000 includes TV news presenter and Royal Television Society Award winner George Alagiah OBE, Twitter’s unofficial Poet Laureate, Brian Bilston, and Taffy Brodesser-Akner, New York Times Magazine staff writer and international bestseller.

The diverse backgrounds and varied journeys to publication of the 2020 shortlistees showcases the inclusive power of the written word, by demonstrating there is no single route to becoming a successful author. The talent celebrated is also global with recognition for writers and illustrators from Guatemala, to Nigeria, Tobago and Australia, as well as acclaimed British names.

The judges for each award, including William Fiennes, Susan Hill, Vaseem Khan, Sarah Waters, Gary Younge and Korky Paul, praised the shortlisted work, including debuts that ‘leave you profoundly excited for the career that is to follow.’ Their chosen shortlists explore universal themes such as persecution – from 17th Century European witch trials to homophobia in present day Africa; humankind’s precarious relationship with the natural world; the joys and challenges of married life; and the meaning of community.


Sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award is awarded for a short story by a writer who has had at least one short story accepted for publication. Judged by Stuart Evers and Michèle Roberts.

  • Ghillie’s Mum by Lynda Clark
  • High Water by Carol Farrelly
  • The Bird That Fluttered Free by Ani Kayode Somtochukwu
  • Whale Watching by Diana Powell
  • Eva at the End of the World by Wendy Riley
  • The Pier at Ardentinny by Catriona Ward

​Previous winners include Benjamin Myers, Lucy Wood, Grace Ingoldby and Claire Harman. Total prize fund: £1,575.

The Betty Trask Prize and Awards are presented for a first novel by a writer under 35. Judged by Ben Brooks, Elanor Dymott and Vaseem Khan.

  • The Familiars by Stacey Halls (Zaffre, Bonnier Books)
  • The Parisian by Isabella Hammad (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)
  • Hitch by Kathryn Hind (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney by Okechukwu Nzelu (Dialogue Books)

​Past winners include Zadie Smith, David Szalay, Hari Kunzru and Sarah Waters. Total prize and award fund: £26,200.

The McKitterick Prize is awarded for a first novel by a writer over 40. Judged by Susan Hill, Abir Mukherjee and Christopher Tayler

  • Golden Child by Claire Adam (Faber and Faber)
  • Diary of a Somebody by Brian Bilston (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
  • Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Wildfire, Headline)
  • The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (Viking, PRH)
  • Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession (Bluemoose Books)
  • The Travelers by Regina Porter (Jonathan Cape, Vintage)

Past winners include Helen Dunmore, Mark Haddon and Petina Gappah. Total prize fund: £5,250.

This new annual prize, founded by Nicholas Allan, author of The Queen’s Knickers, is awarded for an outstanding children’s original illustrated book for ages 0-7. It will recognise books that strike a quirky, new note and grab the attention of a child, whether this be in the form of curiosity, amusement, horror or excitement. Judged by Alexis Deacon, Emily Gravett and Korky Paul.

  • Umbrella written and illustrated by Elena Arevalo Melville (Scallywag Press)
  • Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Sea Dragon written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Nick Maland (Zephyr, Head of Zeus)
  • How to Light Your Dragon written by Didier Lévy, illustrated by Fred Benaglia (Thames & Hudson)
  • One Fox written and illustrated by Kate Read (Two Hoots)
  • Child of St Kilda written and illustrated by Beth Waters (Child’s Play)

​Total prize fund: £6,000.

​The Paul Torday Memorial Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60. The prize includes a set of the collected works of British writer Paul Torday, who published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at the age of 60. Judged by William Fiennes, Catherine Johnson and Sarah Waters.

  • The Burning Land by George Alagiah (Canongate Books)
  • Madeleine by Euan Cameron (MacLehose Press, Quercus Books)
  • Reparation by Gaby Koppel (Honno Press)
  • Find Me Falling by Fiona Vigo Marshall (Fairlight Books)
  • As the Women Lay Dreaming by Donald S Murray (Saraband)
  • The Stranger She Knew by Rosalind Stopps (HQ, HarperCollins)

The inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize was awarded to Anne Youngson for Meet Me at the Museum in 2019. Total prize fund: £1,000.

The winners will be announced online on Thursday 18th June, with a series of short films to celebrate this year’s winning and shortlisted authors. As part of the SoA @ Home festival, a series of free online events focused on the SoA Awards will run throughout June featuring shortlistees, judges (including Sarah Waters and Barney Norris), past winners, and a special in-conversation event on the afternoon of 18th June with Cressida Cowell.

Further awards presented on Thursday 18th June are the Eric Gregory Awards for a collection of poems by a poet under 30, the Cholmondeley Awards for a body of work by a poet, the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, Travelling Scholarships awarded to British creative writers to enable them to keep in contact with writing colleagues abroad, and The Somerset Maugham Awards for published works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by writers under 30 to enable them to enrich their work by gaining experience of foreign countries.