THE SOCIETY of Authors today (June 18) revealed the names of the winning authors, poets and illustrators from across the globe who will share in this year’s Society of Authors’ Awards £100,000 prize fund.
Showcasing storytelling as activism and literature as a catalyst for change, the winners tackled a range of hard-hitting subjects in their work including war, queer identity, race and climate change.
It is more important than ever to celebrate the work of today’s 32 winners
Society of Authors’ Chair, Joanne Harris
Announced via video ceremony by Society of Authors’ Chair Joanne Harris, nine awards were presented to 32 authors, with emerging and established talent recognised across novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction and a new accolade for illustrated children’s books, The Queen’s Knickers Award.
In a celebration of inclusivity with age, race and geography no barrier to success, independent presses were also acknowledged, with Honno Press, Saraband and Scallywag Press featuring amongst the winners’ publishers.
Uniquely judged by authors for authors, the list of winners includes: Trinidadian debut author and Desmond Elliot Prize winner Claire Adam (McKitterick Prize); drag troupe founder and writer of queer Muslim memoir Unicorn, Amrou Al-Kadhi (Somerset Maugham Award); Inua Ellams (Travelling Scholarships), poet, performer and playwright of National Theatre hit ‘Barbershop Chronicles’; Penguin Literary Prize winning Australian author Kathryn Hind (Betty Trask Prize); Guatemalan illustrator Elena Arevalo Melville (Queen’s Knickers Award); and acclaimed Hebridean poet and debut novelist Donald S Murray (Paul Torday Memorial Prize), alongside fellow Scottish writer, the Shetland poet and musician Roseanne Watt who received two accolades today (the Eric Gregory and Somerset Maugham Awards).
Society of Authors’ Chair, Joanne Harris, says: “We’ve always said that receiving an SoA Award can be transformational for an author.
“They aren’t about promoting big corporate sponsors. They don’t seek out one big winner and say ‘this one’s best of all’. Each year, they reward the breadth and depth of books and words, and reward authors at the start of their careers as well as those well established.
“This year, as the health crisis makes authors’ precarious careers even more of a challenge to sustain, it is more important than ever to celebrate the work of today’s 32 winners.
“The nine Awards were judged as lockdown began. We announced the shortlists at the height of restrictions. And we’re celebrating today in videos and on social media, instead of with a crowd of five hundred at Southwark Cathedral.
“So perhaps it is a lucky coincidence that in the week we announce the winners, many of our bookshops have started to reopen. What better way to celebrate today’s winners by buying and reading them?”
The nine prizes awarded today are: the inaugural Queen’s Knickers Award recognising an outstanding children’s illustrated book for ages 0-7; the Betty Trask Prize for writers under 35; the McKitterick Prize for debut writers over 40; the Somerset Maugham Awards for published works of fiction, nonfiction 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 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, 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.
The judges for the Society of Authors’ Awards 2020 include Susan Hill, Vaseem Khan, Sarah Waters, Gary Younge and Korky Paul. They praised the winners for work of ‘relevance and urgency,’ imbued with ‘large ideas, an exploration of trauma and injustice and what it means.’
The Society of Authors’ Awards will be celebrated with a day of online activity in lieu of a physical ceremony.
Hourly winners’ videos from 10am – 8pm will showcase the nine prizes, with a free virtual afternoon tea at 4pm with author and Waterstones Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell.
Videos and news will be shared from the Twitter (@soc_of_authors) and Instagram accounts (@Society_of_Authors) with the hashtag #SoAwards. For more information please visit www.societyofauthors.org/awards2020.