‘Writing as a force to be reckoned with’ – 2021 Society of Authors’ Awards winners

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.
Joanne Harris hails ‘writing as a force to be reckoned with’ as she introduces the winners of the 2021 Society of Authors’ Awards.

‘Phenomenal depth and breadth of books and words’ celebrated in online ceremony as authors’ union shares £105,775 between 35 writers, poets and illustrators.

The Society of Authors (SoA) has revealed the names of the winning writers, poets and illustrators from around the world who will share in the UK’s biggest literary prize fund, worth over £100,000, in an online ceremony sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society.

The author of Chocolat and Chair of the SoA Joanne Harris invited an international audience to celebrate the 2021 Society of Authors’ Awards virtually for the second year running due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking from her home in Yorkshire, Harris joined ten previous award recipients to announce the 2021 winners of prizes for debut novels, poetry, historical biography, illustrated children’s books, and lifetime bodies of work.

The winners included Thomas McMullan, who won the £10,000 Betty Trask Prize for his dark dystopian debut The Last Good Man; poet Paula Claire, who this week celebrates 60 years of creating poetry as well as her Cholmondeley Award; Graeme Armstrong, who won both a Betty Trask Award and a Somerset Maugham Award for The Young Team; lawyer turned children’s writer Rashmi Sirdeshpande, and illustrator Diane Ewen, who won the Queen’s Knickers Award, now in its second year, for Never Show a T-Rex a Book; Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and British Book Awards winner Kiran Millwood Hargrave, who won a Betty Trask Award for her debut adult novel The Mercies; and Pulitzer Prize winner Fredrik Logevall, who won the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography for JFK Volume 1.

Gboyega Odubanjo, Milena Williamson and Cynthia Miller were among the young poets celebrated in the Eric Gregory Awards, while other award recipients included Forward Prize winner Kei Miller, award-winning columnist Lola Okolosie, playwright and education worker Lamorna Ash, and short fiction author and literary reviewer DM O’Connor.

Introducing the Awards, Harris reflected on the current challenges facing the author community, saying:

With spring comes a new sense of optimism in the health crisis and, for sure, we’re all looking forward to seeing more of each other in person over the summer months. But for authors, whose careers are precarious at the best of times, the challenge to sustain themselves is perhaps more acute than ever.

That is why we, at the Society of Authors, are here to support and to champion. And that is why all of us are here to celebrate on this night of our Awards, the phenomenal depth and breadth of books and words.

Authors at the very beginning of their careers. Authors that are well established. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and everything that lies in between. Literature as a treasure at the centre of society. Writing as a force to be reckoned with.

The 10 prizes awarded today were: the Queen’s Knickers Award recognising an outstanding children’s illustrated book for ages 0-7; the Betty Trask Prize and Awards for writers under 35; the McKitterick Prize for debut writers over 40; 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; the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award for a single short story; the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography; the Paul Torday Memorial Prize awarded for a first novel by a writer over 60; the Cholmondeley Awards for outstanding contribution to poetry; five Travelling Scholarships awarded to British creative writers to enable them to keep in contact with writing colleagues abroad; 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.

Introducing the Volcano Prize

A new Society of Authors prize was also announced during the ceremony. From 2022, the Volcano Prize will present £2,000 for a novel which focuses on the experience of travel away from home. Inspired by Malcolm Lowry’s novel Under the Volcano, the Volcano Prize is endowed by Lowry’s biographer Gordon Bowker and his widow Ramdei Bowker. The prize will open for entries in August 2021.

In their own words

In his acceptance speech, Kei Miller described his Cholmondeley Award as ‘a wonderful reminder that we belong to so many societies and so many countries’. McKitterick Prize winner Elaine Feeney spoke of the ‘lovely boost’ the prize has given her, confirming ‘signs of life off the West coast of Ireland!’

Queen’s Knickers Award winner Rashmi Sirdeshpande thanked ‘everyone who has helped [Never Show a T-Rex a Book] find its way into the hands of a child’. And Graeme Armstrong said he hopes his two awards will ‘speak volumes to the young men and women in my community about the distinct possibility of their impossible.’

In her closing words for the ceremony, Joanne Harris said, ‘There’s no better way to support authors than to read them, so I urge you all to pick up tonight’s winners from your local bookshop and discover their worlds.’

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The winners for each award are:

The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award

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 Claire Fuller, Sophie Haydock, Billy Kahora, Ardashir Vakil and Mary Watson.

Past winners include Benjamin Myers, Lucy Wood, Grace Ingoldby and Claire Harman.

Total prize fund: £1,575.

THE ALCS TOM-GALLON TRUST AWARD WINNER: DM O’CONNOR FOR ‘I TOLD YOU NOT TO FLY’ SO HIGH AWARDED £1,000

DM O’Connor is an Irish-Canadian. He has an MFA from University College Dublin & University of New Mexico. He is a contributing reviewer for Rhino Poetry and fiction editor at Bending Genres. His work has appeared in Splonk, A New Ulster, Dodging the Rain, The Cormorant, Crannóg Magazine, Opossum, The New Quarterly, the Guardian, the Irish Independent, among others. DM O’CONNOR LIVES IN IRELAND.

ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award judge Claire Fuller says:

I loved how the voice in this story created the man, making him a flesh and blood person with foibles and issues and irritations. He was absolutely real for me, nothing too unusual, and no big surprises. Even the perfect ending was written in a very beautiful, understated and matter-of-fact way. Completely deserving of first prize.

THE ALCS TOM-GALLON TRUST AWARD RUNNER-UP: SEAN LUSK FOR ‘THE HOPELESSNESS OF HOPE’ AWARDED £575

Sean Lusk’s stories have been published in the Bridport Prize, Fish Short Story Anthology, Reflex Fiction, Litro Magazine and The Moth Magazine. He won the Manchester Fiction Prize in 2015. He works as a freelance consultant on strategy and strategic thinking and is author of Rethinking Public Strategy (Palgrave Macmillan).


Betty Trask Prize & Awards

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

Past winners include Zadie Smith, David Szalay, Hari Kunzru and Sarah Waters.

Total prize and award fund: £26,200.

Betty Trask Prize winner

THOMAS MCMULLAN FOR THE LAST GOOD MAN (BLOOMSBURY) AWARDED £10,000.

Thomas McMullan is a writer, critic and journalist whose work has appeared in the Guardian, Observer, Times Literary Supplement, Frieze and BBC News, and published in 3:AM Magazine, Lighthouse and Best British Short Stories. He has worked with visual artists, game studios and theatre companies in London, Amsterdam, Beijing and Los Angeles. THOMAS LIVES IN LONDON.

Vaseem Khan, Betty Trask Judge, says:

This measured novel evokes feelings of unease that slowly wind their way around the throat. It is a dark meditation on the current state of human society and has much to offer as both allegory and a vivid reading experience. I found myself caught between savouring the precise prose and my desire to turn the pages. That balance of literary deftness and readability made this a worthy overall winner.

Betty Trask Awards winners

Five winners, each awarded £3,240.

MAAME BLUE FOR BAD LOVE (JACARANDA BOOKS)

Maame Blue is a Ghanaian Londoner, writer. As well as co-hosting Headscarves and Carry-ons – a podcast about Black girls living abroad – she regularly runs social media campaigns for www.bmeprpros.co.uk and blogs at www.maamebluewrites.com. In 2018 she won the Africa Writes x AFREADA flash fiction competition for her story ‘Black Sky’, and has since been published in AFREADA, Afribuku and Memoir Magazine; with stories forthcoming in Storm Cellar Quarterly and Litro Magazine. MAAME LIVES IN LONDON.

ELEY WILLIAMS FOR THE LIAR’S DICTIONARY (WILLIAM HEINEMANN/CORNERSTONE PRH)

Eley Williams lectures at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her short story collection Attrib. and Other Stories won the James Tait Black Prize and the Republic of Consciousness Prize and was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. ELEY LIVES IN LONDON.

KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE FOR THE MERCIES (PAN MACMILLAN/PICADOR)

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is an award-winning poet, playwright, and novelist. Her bestselling works for children include The Girl of Ink & Stars, and have won numerous awards including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, and the Blackwell’s Children’s Book of the Year. KIRAN WAS BORN IN SURREY AND LIVES IN OXFORD.

NNEOMA IKE-NJOKU FOR THE WATER HOUSE (UNPUBLISHED)

Nneoma Ike-Njoku is a Ph.D. student in English & Creative Writing at UGA. She received her MFA in fiction from Cornell University. Her work has been published in the African Futures anthology, Winter Tangerine, and elsewhere. NNEOMA IS BASED IN NIGERIA. SHE IS FROM LAGOS AND LIVES IN MARARABA.

GRAEME ARMSTRONG FOR THE YOUNG TEAM (PAN MACMILLAN PICADOR)

Graeme Armstrong is a Scottish writer from Airdrie. His teenage years were spent within North Lanarkshire’s gang culture. Inspired by reading Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting at just sixteen, and overcoming struggles with drink and drugs, he defied expectation to read English as an undergraduate at Stirling University, where, after graduating with honours, he returned to study for an MA in Creative Writing. GRAEME IS FROM GLASGOW AND LIVES IN BELLSHILL, NORTH LANARKSHIRE.


Cholmondeley Award winners

5 winners each awarded £1,680

The Cholmondeley Awards are awarded for a body of work by a poet. Judged by Moniza Alvi, Drew Milne, Grace Nichols and Deryn Rees-Jones.

Past winners include Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard and Andrew Motion.

Total prize fund: £8,400

KEI MILLER

Kei Miller, born in Jamaica in 1978, has written several books across a range of genres. His 2014 collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, won the Forward Prize for Best Collection while his 2017 novel, Augustown, won the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Prix Les Afriques, and the Prix Carbet de la Caraïbe et du Tout-Monde.

PAULA CLAIRE

This year Paula Claire celebrates her Diamond Anniversary of Creativity: her mission: extending poetic forms in her practice of concrete, visual, sound and performance poetries, swapping her work with fellow practitioners worldwide to gather her Archive fromWORDtoArt, unique in GB. She has performed, exhibited, recorded, published and lectured here and abroad since 1969 in schools, arts centres, historic buildings, gardens and festivals.

MAURICE RIORDAN

Maurice Riordan was born in Lisgoold, County Cork, Ireland. His poetry collections – published in the UK by Faber – include A Word from the Loki (1995), Floods (2000), The Holy Land (2007) and The Water Stealer (2013). His next collection, The Shoulder Tap, publishes in October.

SUSAN WICKS

Susan Wicks’ first collection, Singing Underwater (Faber, 1992) won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize; her second, Open Diagnosis (Faber, 1994) was a ‘New Generation Poets’ title; and her third, The Clever Daughter (Faber, 1996), a PBS Choice, was shortlisted for both T.S.Eliot and Forward Prizes. Bloodaxe have published five further collections and she is the author of three novels, a book of stories, a short memoir and the translator of two books by the French poet Valérie Rouzeau.

KATRINA PORTEOUS

Katrina Porteous’ poetry, published by Bloodaxe in The Lost Music and Two Countries, is informed by a deep commitment to local ecology and culture. Containing a strong performance element, it often involves collaboration with other artists, including painter James Dodds, traditional musicians Chris Ormston and Alexis Bennett, and radio producer Julian May.


Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography

The Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography is an annual award for historical biography which combines scholarship and narrative drive. Judged by Roy Foster,

Flora Fraser, Antonia Fraser, Richard Davenport-Hines and Rana Mitter.

Past winners include D.W. Hayton, Anne Somerset and Philip Ziegler.

Total prize fund: £5,000

ELIZABETH LONGFORD PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY WINNER: FREDRIK LOGEVALL FOR JFK VOLUME 1 (VIKING)

Fredrik Logevall is the Laurence D. Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School and Professor of History at Harvard University. A specialist on US foreign relations history and modern international history, he previously taught at Cornell University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he co-founded the Center for Cold War Studies. Logevall is the author or editor of ten books, most recently Embers of War, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for History, the Francis Parkman Prize, the American Library in Paris Book Award and the Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations.

Elizabeth Longford Prize Chair of judges, Roy Foster, says:

Logevall’s JFK Volume 1 illuminates Boston-Irish culture, the moneyed American elite, and the youthful Kennedy’s fascination with politics in Europe as well as the USA. Clear-eyed about his subject’s faults as well as his charisma, the author paints a compelling portrait of a political phenomenon in the making. Kennedy is shown to be both more aspirational and more independent of his father than previously supposed. In the tradition of the Elizabeth Longford Prize, this is high-octane historical biography, placing a major subject in a new and arresting light.


Eric Gregory Award winners

7 winners each awarded £4,050

The Eric Gregory Award is presented for a collection of poems by a poet under 30. Judged by Vahni Capildeo, Andrew McMillan, Sarah Howe, Jamie McKendrick and Roger Robinson.

Past winners include Carol Ann Duffy, Helen Mort and Alan Hollinghurst.

Total prize fund: £28,350

Eric Gregory Award judge, Roger Robinson, says:

I would like to say congratulations to all the Eric Gregory winners. I feel assured that each of you will go on to fulfil the huge potential that you’ve shown. This year’s competition has been marked by a questioning of what poetry could even consist of and it is clear that this current generation are resisting the old and sometimes tired tropes of poetry that no longer serve them. Sometimes the work can lack form and focus, however, these winners successfully evaded that trap and as a result beat out other competitors. I want to wish you all the best of luck and look forward to seeing your careers unfold.

PHOEBE WALKER FOR ANIMAL NOISES

Phoebe Walker was born in Northumberland and now lives in Manchester, where she works in development for the arts and social justice sectors. She received the Mairtín Crawford Poetry Award in 2019, and a Northern Writers’ Award for poetry in 2012. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Under the Radar, The Tangerine, The Moth, Ambit, Magma, and in the Northern Poetry Library’s ‘Poem of the North’ exhibition. PHOEBE WAS BORN IN NORTHUMBERLAND AND LIVES IN MANCHESTER.

MICHAEL ASKEW FOR THE ASSOCIATION GAME

Michael Askew has had poems published in the magazines Under the Radar (Issue 11) and Cake (Issue 6). He completed his BA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick in 2013, and MA in Writing the Modern World at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2016, where he is currently in his final year of writing a PhD on the lyric essay. MICHAEL WAS BORN IN EXETER AND LIVES IN NORWICH.

GBOYEGA ODUBANJO FOR AUNTY UNCLE POEMS

Gboyega Odubanjo’s pamphlet, While I Yet Live, was published by Bad Betty Press in 2019. He was a recipient of The Poetry Business’ New Poets’ Prize in 2020. Aunty Uncle Poems will be published by them in 2021. GBOYEGA WAS BORN AND LIVES IN EAST LONDON.

KANDACE SIOBHAN WALKER FOR COWBOY

Kandace Siobhan Walker is a Black British-Canadian-American writer and filmmaker based in Wales and London. Her writing has recently appeared in LUMIN, Prototype and The Good Journal. Her short film Last Days of the Girl’s Kingdom (Channel 4) was produced in collaboration with DAZED and the ICA. Her short story ‘Deep Heart’ won the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize. KANDACE WAS BORN IN CANADA AND IS BASED IN WALES AND LONDON.

CYNTHIA MILLER FOR HONORIFICS

Cynthia Miller is a Malaysian-American poet and Co-Founder of Verve Poetry Festival. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ambit, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Rialto, harana poetry, Butcher’s Dog and Under the Radar. A pamphlet of work appeared in Primers Volume Two, with Nine Arches Press. CYNTHIA IS FROM KUCHING, MALAYSIA, AND LIVES IN EDINBURGH.

MILENA WILLIAMSON FOR THE RED TRAPEZE

Milena Williamson was the winner of the 2020 Streetcake experimental writing prize for poetry and the winner of the 2018 Mairtín Crawford poetry award. Her poetry has been published in Oxford Poetry (forthcoming), Blackbox Manifold, The Honest Ulsterman, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal, Abridged, RTÉ, Magma, The North, Poetry Ireland Review and The Tangerine. MILENA IS FROM PHILADELPHIA (US) AND IS NOW BASED IN BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND.

DOMINIC HAND FOR SYMBIONT

Dominic Hand is a writer based in the UK. His poetry has appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Oxford Poetry, Blackbox Manifold, Reliquiae, The Best New British and Irish Poets, among others. Symbiont was published by Veer Books in 2020. DOMINIC IS BASED IN OXFORD.


McKitterick Prize

The McKitterick Prize is awarded for a first novel by a writer over 40. Judged by Sabrina Mahfouz, Nick Rennison and Christopher Tayler.

Past winners include Helen Dunmore, Mark Haddon and Petina Gappah.

Total prize fund: £5,250

THE MCKITTERICK PRIZE WINNER: ELAINE FEENEY FOR AS YOU WERE (HARVILL SECKER, VINTAGE) AWARDED £4,000

Elaine Feeney has published three collections of poetry, Where’s Katie?, The Radio was Gospel, Rise, and a drama piece, WRoNGHEADED. She teaches at The National University of Ireland, Galway and St Jarlath’s College. Her work has been widely published and anthologised. ELAINE FEENEY IS FROM GALWAY AND NOW LIVES IN ATHENRY, IRELAND.

McKitterick Prize judge Sabrina Mahfouz says:

This book bowled me over with its poetry, inventiveness, bleak comedy and the tragic exploration of how shame invades every aspect of our lives, even our deaths.

THE MCKITTERICK PRIZE RUNNER-UP: DEEPA ANAPPARA FOR DJINN PATROL ON THE PURPLE LINE (CHATTO & WINDUS, VINTAGE) AWARDED £1,250

Deepa Anappara grew up in Kerala, southern India, and worked as a journalist in cities including Mumbai and Delhi. Her reports on the impact of poverty and religious violence on the education of children won the Developing Asia Journalism Awards, the Every Human has Rights Media Awards, and the Sanskriti-Prabha Dutt Fellowship in Journalism. DEEPA ANAPPARA IS BASED IN KALLEKULANGARA, KERALA.


​Paul Torday Memorial Prize

Now in its third year, 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 Paul Bailey, Roopa Farooki and Anne Youngson.

Past winners are Anne Youngson and Donald S Murray.

Total prize fund: £1,000

PAUL TORDAY MEMORIAL PRIZE WINNER: KATHY O’SHAUGHNESSY FOR IN LOVE WITH GEORGE ELIOT (SCRIBE UK) AWARDED £1,000

Kathy O’Shaughnessy is a prolific reviewer and has worked as Deputy Editor on the Literary Review, Arts & Books Editor of Vogue, Literary Editor of the European, and Deputy Editor of the Telegraph Arts & Books. Her stories have been published in Faber’s First Fictions, and she edited and introduced Drago Stambuk’s poems, Incompatible Animals.

Paul Memorial Torday Prize judge Roopa Farooki says:

Beautifully conceived and cleverly executed, with depth and detail. A compelling re-invention of fictional biography. Clever, intense, intellectual and feminist.

PAUL TORDAY MEMORIAL PRIZE RUNNER-UP: KAREN RANEY FOR ALL THE WATER IN THE WORLD (JOHN MURRAY/TWO ROADS)

Karen Raney grew up in Schenectady, New York. All the Water in the World was developed whilst she was on the Creative Writing MA at Goldsmiths. She graduated with Distinction in 2016, and the novel-in-progress went on to win the 2017 United Agents’ Pat Kavanaugh Prize.


The Queen’s Knickers Award

Now in its second year, this 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 recognises books that strike a quirky, new note and grab the attention of a child, whether in the form of curiosity, amusement, horror or excitement. Judged by Alexis Deacon, Patrice Lawrence and Tony Ross.

​The inaugural winner of this award in 2020 was Elena Arevalo Melville for Umbrella.

Total prize fund: £6,000

QUEEN’S KNICKERS AWARD WINNERS: WRITER RASHMI SIRDESHPANDE AND ILLUSTRATOR DIANE EWEN FOR NEVER SHOW A T-REX A BOOK (PUFFIN) AWARDED £5,000

Rashmi Sirdeshpande is a lawyer turned children’s author, with two young children. Rashmi writes non-fiction picture books that ignite children’s curiosity, as well as fictional stories that crackle with imagination. When she’s not playing with words, you’ll find her on her yoga mat twisting herself into all sort of shapes.

Diane Ewen is a British illustrator, born in Walsall, in the West Midlands. She has always been in love with art and graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a B.A. Honours Degree in illustration. Diane likes to create illustrations that are hand-drawn in pencil before painting in watercolour and acrylics, prior to embellishing them using Photoshop and also enjoys creating designs digitally.  She is inspired by the use of vibrant colour.

Queen’s Knickers Award judge Alexis Deacon says:

Never Show a T Rex a Book stood out to me because it championed its cause with such panache.  I know that I love reading and think books are special, but I don’t think I could ever put it quite as well as this did. Never Show a T Rex a Book made me feel the power of reading right through to my bones. It is a worthy winner!

QUEEN’S KNICKERS AWARD RUNNER-UP: ALEX T. SMITH FOR MR PENGUIN AND THE CATASTROPHIC CRUISE (HACHETTE) AWARDED £1,000

Alex T. Smith is the award-winning creator of the bestselling Claude series, which is now on TV. Mr Penguin is his newest series. Alex has won the UKLA Picture Book Award, the Children’s Book of the World Illustration Award and the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award and has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Award. He has also been the official World Book Day illustrator.


Somerset Maugham Award winners

4 winners each awarded £4,000

The Somerset Maugham Awards are 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. Judged by Fred D’Aguiar, Nadifa Mohamed and Roseanne Watt.

Past winners include Helen Oyeyemi, Julian Barnes, Zadie Smith and Jonathan Freedland.

Total prize fund: £16,000

LAMORNA ASH FOR DARK, SALT, CLEAR (BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING)

Lamorna Ash is an education worker at the charity IntoUniversity and writes for the TLS and TANK magazine. She has a degree in English from Oxford and an MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology from UCL. She has written numerous plays that have toured the UK. She can gut most kinds of fish, quite slowly. Dark, Salt, Clear is her first book.

Fred D’Aguiar, Somerset Maugham Award judge, says:

Dark, Salt, Clear connects the life of the reader to that of the writer who reads and lives with risk and determination. The prose shimmers with the precision of naturally grafted poetry.

ISABELLE BAAFI FOR RIPE (IGNITION PRESS)

Isabelle Baafi is a writer and poet from London. She was the winner of the 2019 Vincent Cooper Literary Prize. Her work has been published in Poetry Review, Magma, Anthropocene, Finished Creatures, Lammergeier, petrichor, Tentacular, harana poetry and elsewhere. She is a Board Member at Magma.

Fred D’Aguiar, Somerset Maugham Award judge, says:

Baafi is wise in her siphoning of the world through the sensuous body. And she declares being a woman on the move and in a groove in ways reminiscent of the sassiness and good sauce of Maya Angelou.

AKEEM BALOGUN FOR THE STORM (OKAPI BOOKS)

Akeem Balogun’s fiction has appeared in Pomme Journal (2019), Writing as Resistance (2018), Now Then Magazine (2020) and elsewhere. He has also collaborated with the likes of Found Fiction (2020) and Festival of the Mind (2020) to create project-themed stories.

Fred D’Aguiar, Somerset Maugham Award judge, says:

The Storm reminds us that fiction can timestamp the contemporary better than any other art. For intersectionality of a variety of forms, this is it. For a raw take on lives lived on the margins, this surely is it.

GRAEME ARMSTRONG FOR THE YOUNG TEAM (PAN MACMILLAN PICADOR)

Graeme Armstrong is a Scottish writer from Airdrie. His teenage years were spent within North Lanarkshire’s gang culture. He was inspired to study following his reading of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting at just sixteen. Alongside overcoming his own struggles with drug addiction, alcohol abuse and violence, he defied expectation to read English as an undergraduate at the University of Stirling; where, after graduating with honours, he returned to study for an MA in Creative Writing.

Fred D’Aguiar, Somerset Maugham Award judge, says:

The Scottish language thrums and chimes in this novel; the hard lives bang against the anvil of received notions about brutality and vulnerability. The author’s ear and empathy align in a universe perfectly pitched to broadcast the best route out of perdition.


Travelling Scholarships

5 winners each awarded £1,600

The Travelling Scholarships are awarded to British writers to enable engagement with writers abroad. Judged by Tahmima Anam, Aida Edemariam, Anne McElvoy, Adam O’Riordan and Gary Younge.

Previous recipients have included Dylan Thomas, Laurie Lee and Margaret Drabble.

Total prize fund: £8,000

CLARE POLLARD

Clare Pollard has published five collections of poetry with Bloodaxe, most recently Incarnation. She edits Modern Poetry in Translation. Her latest book is a non-fiction title, Fierce Bad Rabbits: The Tales Behind Children’s Picture Books (Penguin)

GUY GUNARATNE

Guy Gunaratne (they/them) is a novelist based between London, UK and Malmö, Sweden. Their first novel In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press,) won the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Jhalak Prize and was longlisted for both the Booker and Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Guy is the current Fellow Commoner of Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge.

YARA RODRIGUES FOWLER    

Yara Rodrigues Fowler (she/they) is a writer from South London. Her first novel, Stubborn Archivist (Little, Brown Book Group, 2020), was longlisted for the Desmond Eliot and Dylan Thomas Prizes and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award (2019). Her second novel, there are more things, will be published in 2022.

TOM STEVENSON

Tom Stevenson is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books. He lived in Egypt in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, and has reported on conflicts in Libya, Iraq, Western Sahara, and south-eastern Turkey.

LOLA OKOLOSIE

Lola Okolosie is an English teacher and award-winning columnist. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Observer, Feminist Review and the New Humanist amongst others. In 2018 she penned the foreword to the new edition of the ground-breaking feminist classic, Heart of the Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain (Verso Books).


The SoA Awards are supported by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS)

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a not-for-profit organisation started by writers for the benefit of all types of writers. Owned by its members, ALCS collects money due for secondary uses of writers’ work. It is designed to support authors and their creativity, to ensure they receive fair payment and see their rights are respected. It promotes and teaches the principles of copyright and campaigns for a fair deal. It represents over 110,000 members, and since 1977 has paid around £500 million to writers (www.alcs.co.uk).

Now in its third year, 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.

Now in its second year, the annual Queen’s Knickers Award, 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 recognises books that strike a quirky, new note and grab the attention of a child, whether in the form of curiosity, amusement, horror or excitement.

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