Society of Authors Awards 2019
Writers and poets from across generations were celebrating tonight (Monday 17th June) as the winners of the 2019 Society of Authors’ Awards were announced at a ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. Hosted by poet Jackie Kay MBE, with an introduction by the President of the SoA, Philip Pullman, 9 awards were presented to 32 writers with a host of debut names joining established award-winning writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry each sharing a prize fund of £100,000.
This ‘night of riches’, uniquely judged by writers for writers saw 500 guests from across the publishing industry come together as the winners of Betty Trask, McKitterick, Somerset Maugham, ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust awards and the inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize (awarded for a first novel by a writer over 60) were announced in addition to the Cholmondeley Awards for outstanding contribution to poetry, the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, five Travelling Scholarships and the Eric Gregory Awards for a collection of poems by poets under 30. The winners join an illustrious line of previous award winners including Zadie Smith, Seamus Heaney, Helen Dunmore, Hari Kunzru, Carol Ann Duffy and Mark Haddon.
Speaking about the Society of Authors’ Awards, Jackie Kay said: “I’m enormously proud and gratified to have been granted this most lovely opportunity of presenting writers with the Society of Authors’ Awards. These awards, I know from personal experience, are potentially life-changing. They bring writers in from the cold. They give writers a huge boost and validation. They tell them that their trials and tribulations have been worth it after all, after the long haul. Writing is a confidence game, and often writers’ confidence is shot to pieces. An award like this can put self-doubt in the cupboard for a while.”
In an evening that celebrated diverse voices and the inclusivity and empathy that comes from gifted storytelling, winners included double Eric Gregory Award winner, poet Sophie Collins (a winner in 2014 and 2019) for Who is Mary Sue? (Faber & Faber), 2019 Women’s Prize longlisted Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, winner of the 2019 McKitterick Prize for Swan Song (Hutchinson), 70-year old debut author, Anne Youngson who won the inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize for Meet Me at the Museum (Doubleday); Manchester-born James Clarke who won the £10,000 Betty Trask Prize for The Litten Path (Salt), a story about the 1980s miners’ strike; Romany writer, Damian Le Bas who won both a Somerset Maugham Award for The Stopping Places (Chatto & Windus) and a Travelling Scholarship; 2019 Rathbones Folio prize-winning poet Raymond Antrobus who also received a Somerset Maugham Award for The Perseverence (Penned in the Margins); Syrian born Dima Alzayat winner of the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award for Once We Were Syrians and Julian Jackson, winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography for A Certain Idea of France: The Life of Charles de Gaulle (Allen Lane).
The judges for each award, including Kate Mosse, Gary Younge, Mark Lawson, Anita Sethi, Vaseem Khan, Susan Hill, Stuart Evers, Irenosen Okojie and Jen Campbell were united in their praise for the “mesmeric, restless, genre-bending, emotionally devastating writing from 32 writers who have taken us from the miners’ strike and travelling communities, to Truman Capote’s mind, each exploring the gamut of human experience from friendship, family and belonging, to what it means to be other.”
THE WINNERS ARE:
BETTY TRASK PRIZE
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. Past winners include Zadie Smith, David Szalay, Hari Kunzru and Sarah Waters. Total prize and award fund £26,250.
BETTY TRASK PRIZE WINNER: JAMES CLARKE FOR THE LITTEN PATH (SALT) AWARDED £10,000
JAMES CLARKE grew up in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, and after living in London and spending time overseas, returned to Manchester, where he now lives. His work has appeared in Ambit, Litro and Northwords Now magazines, and his debut novel, The Litten Path, published by Salt. JAMES LIVES IN MANCHESTER.
Ben Brooks, Betty Trask Judge says: “James Clarke has written a cinematic novel of such heart, desperation, and as artfully arranged as a Renaissance painting. It is a fearless portrait of fearful time, replete with moments of wonder, love, pain, anger and hope. The Litten Path is about the miners’ strike, it is also about the human cost of a system that is still spiralling wildly out of control. Both an important historical record and a warning of what’s to come”.
BETTY TRASK AWARD WINNERS: SIX WRITERS EACH AWARDED £2,700
SAMUEL FISHER FOR THE CHAMELEON (SALT)
IMOGEN HERMES GOWAR FOR THE MERMAID AND MRS HANCOCK (HARVILL SECKER)
RUQAYA IZZIDIEN FOR THE WATERMELON BOYS (HOOPOE/AUC PRESS)
DAISY LAFARGE FOR PAUL (UNPUBLISHED)
REBECCA LEY FOR SWEET FRUIT, SOUR LAND (SANDSTONE PRESS)
SOPHIE MACKINTOSH FOR THE WATER CURE (HAMISH HAMILTON)
THE McKITTERICK PRIZE
The McKitterick Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 40. Judged by Susan Hill, Chris Taylor and Abir Mukherjee
THE McKITTERICK PRIZE WINNER: KELLEIGH GREENBERG-JEPHCOTT FOR SWAN SONG (HUTCHINSON) AWARDED £4,000
Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott was born and raised in Houston, Texas, before coming to call Los Angeles and London her adopted homes. She is a graduate of UEA’s Creative Writing MA course and was the winner of the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award. Swan Song is her first novel. KELLEIGH WAS BORN IN HOUSTON, USA AND NOW LIVES IN LONDON.
Susan Hill, McKitterick Prize Judge says: “Capote is any novelist’s perfect character but the way Greenberg-Jephcott captures him, his mind, motives, strange contradictions, is brilliant. Almost better is her recreation of his six swans”.
THE MCKITTERICK PRIZE RUNNER-UP: CARYS DAVIES FOR WEST (GRANTA BOOKS) AWARDED £1,250
Carys Davies’ short stories have been widely published in magazines and anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. They have won the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, the Society of Authors’ Olive Cook Award, the Royal Society of Literature’s V S Pritchett Prize, and a Northern Writers’ Award, and her second collection, The Redemption of Galen Pike, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award 2015. She lives with her family in Lancaster, England. CARYS WAS BORN IN LLANGOLLEN, WALES AND NOW LIVES IN LANCASTER.
THE ALCS TOM-GALLON TRUST AWARD
Sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, 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 Irenosen Okojie.
THE ALCS TOM-GALLON TRUST AWARD WINNER: DIMA ALZAYAT FOR ONCE WE WERE SYRIANS AWARDED £1,000
Dima Alzayat’s short stories have appeared in the 2017 Bristol Short Story Award Anthology and the 2013 Bridport Prize Anthology. She was the winner of a 2018 Northern Writers’ Award, the 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize, runner-up in the 2018 Deborah Rogers Award, and was Highly Commended in the 2013 Bridport Prize. Currently, she is a PhD student and associate lecturer at Lancaster University and is working on a collection of short stories. DIMA WAS BORN IN DAMASCUS, SYRIA AND NOW LIVES IN GARSTANG, LANCASHIRE.
Irenosen Okojie, ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award Judge says: “Blistering. Bold. Utterly mesmeric. Explores what it means to be other with such verve, nuance and specificity. I was bowled over”.
THE ALCS TOM-GALLON TRUST AWARD RUNNER-UP: BUNMI OGUNSIJI FOR BLESSING AWARDED £575
Bunmi Ogunsiji is a 52-year-old Nigerian-British south London-based writer, single mother and blogger. She began writing (initially poetry) as a shy teenager and in her twenties found her way to the stage as a Performance Poet with a few poems published in various anthologies along the way. In 1999 writing took a back seat to parenting but a passion for learning, cinema and ‘story’ led her in 2008 to an MA in Screenwriting at UAL. In 2011 she was shortlisted in the BBC ‘Get a Swiggle On’ Children’s TV competition and had a comedy drama longlisted in the BBC Script Room scheme in 2015. In 2016 she took a leap of faith and left her job as a Helpline Adviser for the Alzheimer’s Society to focus full time on writing. Since then she has been longlisted in the Mslexia Short Story Competition (2016), commended in the 2016 Bath Short Story Award and in 2017 was awarded 3rd prize in the Bristol Short Story Prize for ‘Things Carried Over’. She is also one of the thirty writers on the new London Writers Awards programme run by Spread the Word. BUNMI LIVES IN LONDON.
Stuart Evers, ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award Judge says: “A beautifully controlled, frequently very funny, and emotionally devastating story. ‘Blessing’ has at its heart a character that I was bereft to have to leave at the last heart-breaking lines”.
PAUL TORDAY MEMORIAL PRIZE – INAUGURAL YEAR
The inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60. Prize fund £1,000 plus a set of the collected works of British writer Paul Torday, who himself only published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at the age of 60.
PAUL TORDAY MEMORIAL PRIZE WINNER: ANNE YOUNGSON FOR MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM (DOUBLEDAY) AWARDED £1,000. Age at publication: 70
Anne Youngson worked for many years in senior management in the car industry before embarking on a creative career as a writer. She has supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network, which provided residencies in prisons for writers. She lives in Oxfordshire and is married with two children and three grandchildren to date. Meet Me at the Museum is her debut novel. ANNE LIVES IN OXFORDSHIRE.
Anita Sethi, Paul Torday Memorial Prize Judge says: “I loved this engrossing story of friendship and family – it fascinates both in the form of its excellent use of the epistolary, and in its content as it explores actual human archaeology and the archaeology of the human heart”.
PAUL TORDAY MEMORIAL PRIZE RUNNER-UP: NORMA MACMASTER FOR SILENCE UNDER A STONE (DOUBLEDAY IRELAND) Age at publication: 81
Norma MacMaster was born and reared in County Cavan before continuing her studies in Derry, Dublin, Belfast and Montreal. She was a secondary school teacher and counsellor in Ireland and Canada and was ordained a minister of the Church of Ireland in 2004. A contributor to Sunday Miscellany on RTE Radio 1, she is the author of a memoir, Over My Shoulder. She and her late husband have one daughter. Norma lives by the sea in North County Dublin and wrote Silence Under A Stone ‘a bit now and a bit then’, typing with two fingers in her attic. It is her first novel. NORMA WAS BORN IN CAVAN AND LIVES IN DUBLIN.
Kate Mosse, Paul Torday Memorial Prize Judge says: “A beautiful, subtle, elegant novel! A story of closed communities, of the schisms of religion, of fear, and faith, of anger and being unable to forgive, this is a beautifully written and very moving story”.
SOMERSET MAUGHAM AWARD WINNERS: FOUR WRITERS EACH AWARDED £4,000
The Somerset Maugham Awards are for published works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by writers under 35, to enable them to enrich their work by gaining experience of foreign countries. Past winners include Hari Kunzru, Helen Oyeyemi, Julian Barnes, Zadie Smith and Jonathan Freedland.
RAYMOND ANTROBUS FOR THE PERSEVERANCE (Penned in the Margins) – POETRY
Ian Thomson, Somerset Maugham Judge says: “Raymond Antrobus, a Hackney-born British Jamaican poet, has given us a matchless verse collection in The Perseverance. The book combines the street-savvy language of London open mic sessions with grave reflections on belonging and cultural displacement. How are we to understand others? And how to make oneself understood? Antrobus poses these questions with a restless intelligence.”
DAMIAN LE BAS FOR THE STOPPING PLACES (CHATTO & WINDUS) – NON-FICTION
Barney Norris, Somerset Maugham Award Judge says: “The Stopping Places is a deeply valuable exploration of a community, of the nature of tradition, of the way history can shape us and ebb out of view.”
PHOEBE POWER FOR SHRINES OF UPPER AUSTRIA (CARCANET) – POETRY
Ian Thomas, Somerset Maugham Award Judge says: “Shrines of Upper Austria interweaves poetry with prose in a beautiful exploration of notions of faith and world war in Europe.“
NELL STEVENS FOR MRS GASKELL AND ME (PICADOR) – NOVEL
Jen Campbell, Somerset Maugham Award Judge says: “Genre-bending, funny and absolutely endearing.”
THE ERIC GREGORY AWARD WINNERS: SIX POETS EACH AWARDED £4,725
Awarded for a collection of poems by a poet under 30.
MARY JEAN CHAN FOR A HURRY OF ENGLISH
SOPHIE COLLINS FOR WHO IS MARY SUE?
SEÁN HEWITT FOR LANTERN
DOMINIC LEONARD FOR THIS MYSTERIOUS
JAMES CONOR PATTERSON FOR BANDIT COUNTRY
PHOEBE STUCKES FOR PLATINUM BLONDE
THE CHOLMONDELEY AWARD WINNERS: FOUR POETS EACH AWARDED £2,100. PRESENTED FOR A BODY OF WORK BY A POET
THE ELIZABETH LONGFORD PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY: WINNER AWARDED £5,000
JULIAN JACKSON FOR A CERTAIN IDEA OF FRANCE: THE LIFE OF CHARLES DE GAULLE (ALLEN LANE)
Julian Jackson is Professor of Modern French History at the Queen Mary University of London. His books include The Fall of France, winner of the Wolfson History Prize and France: The Dark Years, shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times History Prize. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2003 and has been a Commandeur dans les Palmes Academiques since 2005. JULIAN JACKSON LIVES IN LONDON.
THE TRAVELLING SCHOLARSHIPS
AWARDED TO FIVE BRITISH WRITERS TO ENABLE TRAVEL AND ENGAGEMENT WITH WRITERS ABROAD. £1600 EACH TO:
- KATHRYN HUGHES, writer and critic whose most recent book is Victorian Undone.
- DAMIAN LE BAS, Romany writer and author of The Stopping Places.
- NADIFA MOHAMED, novelist whose novels have previously won a Betty Trask Award and Somerset Maugham Award.
- JOHNY PITTS, writer, photographer and broadcast journalist.
- GWENDOLINE RILEY, author who has previously won a Somerset Maugham Award and Betty Trask Award.
Previous winners include Lemn Sissay, Eimear McBride and Ben Markovits.
The Society of Authors’ Awards is a unique evening of celebration with each award chosen by authors for authors and judged by celebrated authors, writers and poets; many former winners themselves. Supporting and empowering writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry and giving them time and resources to enable creativity is a key part of the Society of Authors’ ethos and each award is uniquely gifted by patrons – often writers giving back to an industry they love.