London’s Young Writer Award of the Year Names Its Jurors

In News by Porter Anderson

The updated schedule for the United Kingdom’s Young Writer of the Year Award will put its shortlist and winners’ announcements into the new year.

Apparently eager to get on with the holidays, Covent Garden’s merchants have a tree in place for consumers to enjoy. This photograph was taken on November 8. Image – Getty iStockphoto: VV Shots

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

Holgate: ‘Homing in on Exceptional Talent’
Now that we’ve cleared that moment in the “autumn of the awards programs” when the Prix Goncourt in Paris and the Booker Prize for Fiction in London make their winners’ announcement on the same day, news of the many competitions’ new jury panels is starting to arrive.

This week, the award that wins the award for long names is promoting its new jury lineup. The good news about the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Trust Young Writer of the Year Award is that its new sponsorship by the Charlotte Aitken Trust has meant, as we’ve reported, a doubling of its prize money for both its winner and its shortlisted writers to £10,000 and £1,000, respectively (US$13,495 and $1,349).

With its submissions period having closed on August 31, there’s also a new schedule for its coming stages.

  • A shortlist is expected on January 23, an announcement that in the past has been made in November
  • The winner then is to be named in February rather than in December, as was the case formerly

This is wise, although it does mean that the Young Writer of the Year award now becomes one of the contests that names its winner for a given year after the next year has started. (Although named in 2022, this will be the 2021 prize.) But one advantage to this approach is that a program can shelter its biggest announcements–the winners–out of the crush of the press-release blizzards of the spring and fall.

The Costa Book Awards program is another good example of this, normally arriving in January with winning announcements for the previously dated year.

And while these may seem minor considerations, the plethora of awards programs in publishing and books, particularly in the UK market, has made many of these organizations sharply competitive with each other, fighting for air in the news media and trying to catch the attention of a consumer base often bewildered and exhausted by so many awards programs.

The Sunday Times‘ award distinguishes itself in its media messaging as “the UK and Ireland’s most influential prize for young writers,” but it does have competition from the £20,000 Dylan Thomas Prize based at Swansea University in Wales. No gang fights have been reported to have broken out between the two, but there are close criteria here: The Dylan Thomas is a prize that can go to a writer who is younger than 39, while the Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award is available to writers who are 35 or younger.

Jurors for the 2021 Sunday Times Program

Jurors joining Andrew Holgate on the panel this year are, from left, Tahmina Anam; Gonzalo C. Garcia; Claire Lowdon; Sarah Moss (image: Sophie Davidson); and Andrew O’Hagan (image: Christina Jansen)

In terms of that jury announcement, the panelists spending their holidays this year reading many books are led, once more, by Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate. He’s quoted saying, “I’ve been in the publishing business for 30 years, and it remains a thrill—the chief thrill as a writer and a reader—to uncover fresh talent.

Andrew Holgate

“Judging the Young Writer of the Year Award means homing in on exceptional talent when it is only first emerging, and measuring it against the talent of the past.”

He’s joined by:

  • Anthropologist, novelist, and short-story writer Tahmima Anam
  • The Chilean writer and Warwick Writing Program assistant professor Gonzalo C. Garcia
  • Sunday Times and Times Literary Supplement reviewer and novelist Claire Lowdon
  • Novelist Sarah Moss
  • Novelist and essayist Andrew O’Hagan

Administered by the Society of Authors, this prize is one of at least two in England that has had a hiatus during its operation. It was founded in 1991 to consider fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and was suspended in 2008. About seven years later, in 2015, it re-emerged with its first new sponsor, Peters Fraser & Dunlop. The next sponsor was the University of Warwick, followed by the current benefactor, the Charlotte Aitken Trust.

Here are past winners:

  • Jay Bernard, Surge (2020)
  • Raymond Antrobus, The Perseverance (2019)
  • Adam Weymouth, Kings of the Yukon (2018)
  • Sally Rooney, Conversations with Friends (2017)
  • Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers (2016)
  • Sarah Howe, Loop of Jade (2015)
  • Ross Raisin, God’s Own Country (2009)
  • Adam Foulds, The Truth About These Strange Times (2008)
  • Naomi Alderman, Disobedience (2007)
  • Robert Macfarlane, Mountains  of  the Mind: a History of a Fascination (2004)
  • William Fiennes, The Snow Geese (2003)
  • Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2001)
  • Sarah Waters, Affinity (2000);
  • Paul Farley, The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (1999)
  • Patrick French, Liberty or Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division (1998)
  • Francis Spufford, I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination (1997)
  • Katherine Pierpoint, Truffle Beds (1996)
  • Andrew Cowan, Pig (1995)
  • William Dalrymple, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi (1994)
  • Simon Armitage, Kid (1993)
  • Caryl Phillips, Cambridge (1992)
  • Helen Simpson, Four Bare Legs in a Bed and Other Stories (1991)

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing and book prizes is here, more on the Young Writer Award is here, more on the Dylan Thomas Prize is here, and more from us on the UK market is here

More 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 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 was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.