In London, the Society of Authors Names Its 2021 Winners

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Thirty-five winners are named in this year’s round of specialized book awards administered by the Society of Authors.

At the 2019 Society of Authors Awards ceremony at Southwark Cathedral. Image: Society of Authors, Adrian Pope

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A Total £105,775 in Prize Money
As mentioned in our report on tonight’s (June 9) announcement that Sudhir Hazareesingh has won the Wolfson History Prize, another of those frequent pile-ons—book rucks—in publishing award program scheduling is underway, as that £40,000 honor coincides with the evening’s Society of Authors‘ presentation of its 2021 awards.

Hosted by Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat and—just released by Gollancz on June 3—Honeycomb with illustrations by Charles Vess, the annual presentation of awards by the British trade union and lead advocacy organization for writers comprises a big list of prizes that together carry £105,775 in cash awards (US$149,265).

Surely the 35 winners being announced by the society deserve—just as Hazareesingh does—the focus of the publishing community for an evening without those who are interested in books having to split their focus between concurrent events. All it takes is for organizers of the market’s many prize programs to share an online calendar so they can stay out of each other’s way, allowing each award and its laureate(s) to have the proper visibility.

The Society of Authors is unique among organizers of Britain’s myriad prize programs. It’s an aggregator, an administrator of many fine programs. Thus it may be perfectly positioned to create such a calendar. And now–while things are still not back to physical award events–is a great time to get it started. The society’s indefatigable chief Nicola Solomon and her excellent staff are easily up to this task of helping to prevent award-event mashups. And because the society represents the authors–not the sponsors of awards, not the acclaimed publishers, not the many fine foundations that run awards programs–they are a kind of awards Switzerland. They’re on the side of all rightful winners: the authors.

As to the awards of this evening, we’ll embed the digital program for you at the end of this article. In it, Harris says early on that her venue “isn’t exactly the nave of Southwark Cathedral.” Her reference is to the usual setting for the awards program, as seen above in the 2019 ceremony. Nonetheless, her paneled library at her home in Yorkshire looks invitingly comfortable, and the 42-minute presentation will be appreciated by fans of good reads everywhere, of course. We’ll look forward to Southwark Cathedral in 2022, but some of us will remain quite taken with what we’re seeing of Yorkshire.

Author Joanne Harris hosts the 2021 awards program. Image: Society of Authors

Winners of the 2021 Society of Authors Awards

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.

  • Winner: DM O’Connor for “I Told You Not to Fly so High,” awarded £1,000
  • Runner-up: Sean Lusk for “The Hopelessness of Hope,” awarded £575

Betty Trask honors

The Betty Trask Prize and Awards are presented for a first novel by a writer younger than 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

  • Thomas McMullan for The Last Good Man (Bloomsbury), awarded £10,000

Betty Trask Award: Five winners, each awarded £3,240.

  • Maame Blue for Bad Love (Jacaranda Books)
  • Eley Williams for The Liar’s Dictionary (Penguin Random House, William Heinemann/Cornerstone)
  • Kiran Millwood Hargrave for The Mercies (Pan Macmillan/Picador)
  • Nneoma Ike-Njoku for The Water House (unpublished)
  • Graeme Armstrong for The Young Team (Pan Macmillan/Picador)

Cholmondeley Award winners: Five winners, each awarded £1,680

The Cholmondeley Awards are awarded for a body or bodies of work. Judged by Moniza Alvi, 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
  • Paula Claire
  • Maurice Riordan
  • Susan Wicks
  • Katrina Porteous

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 Antonia Fraser, Richard Davenport-Hines and Rana Mitter. Past winners include D.W. Hayton, Anne Somerset and Philip Ziegler. Total prize fund: £5,000.

  • Winner: Fredrik Logevall for JFK, Volume 1 (Viking)

Eric Gregory Award

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, seven  winners each awarded £4,050.

  • Phoebe Walker for Animal Noises
  • Michael Askew for The Association Game
  • Gboyega Odubanjo for Aunty Uncle Poems
  • Kandace Siobhan Walker for Cowboy
  • Cynthia Miller for Honorifics
  • Milena Williamson for The Red Trapeze
  • Dominic Hand for Symbiont

McKitterick Prize

The McKitterick Prize is awarded for a first novel by a writer older than 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.

  • Winner: Elaine Feeney for As You Were (Harvill Secker/Vintage), awarded £4,000
  • Runner-up: Deepa Anappara for Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (Chatto & Windus/Vintage), awarded £1,250

​Paul Torday Memorial Prize

Now in its third year, the Paul Torday Memorial Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer older than 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.

  • Winner: Kathy O’Shaughnessy for In Love With George Eliot (Scribe UK), awarded £1,000

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 to 7. It recognizes 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.

  • Winners: Writer Rashmi Sirdeshpande and illustrator Diane Ewen for Never Show a T-Rex a Book (Puffin), awarded £5,000
  • Runner-up: Alex T. Smith for Mr. Penguin and the Catastrophic Cruise (Hachette), awarded £1,000

Somerset Maugham Award

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, four winners, each awarded £4,000.

  • Lamorna Ash for Dark, Salt, Clear (Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Isabelle Baafi for Ripe (Ignition Press)
  • Akeem Balogun for The Storm (Okapi Books)
  • Graeme Armstrong for The Young Team (Pan Macmillan/Picador)

Traveling Scholarships

The traveling 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. Five winners each awarded £1,600

  • Clare Pollard
  • Guy Gunaratne
  • Yara Rodrigues Fowler
  • Tom Stevenson
  • Lola Okolosie


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book awards is here, and more on the Society of Authors is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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