Criteria: The Cholmondeley Awards totalling £8,000 are awarded annually to honour distinguished poets. The Tom-Gallon Trust Award is an annual prize of £1,000 for a short story. The Eric Gregory Awards totalling £24,000 each year are awarded to British poets under the age of 30 on the basis of a submitted collection. The Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography is a prize of £5,000 for the best published historical biography of the year. The Somerset Maugham Awards totalling £12,000 are awarded to British authors under the age of 35 for a published work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry. The McKitterick Prize of £4,000 is awarded for a first novel by an author over the age of 40. The Betty Trask Prize and Awards totalling £20,000 are awarded to authors under the age of 35 for a first novel, published or unpublished. The Travelling Scholarships are honorary awards made annually to British writers. The ELT Writing Award: This prize for ELT writing is sponsored by the British Council.
In 1884, then poet laureate, Lord Tennyson set up a Society of Authors. The society aimed to protect and serve the business interests of professional writers from all writing disciplines. With more than 9000 members the Society acts as a sort of writers’ union. It is run by a select ‘Management Committee‘, a group of 12 distinguished writers with journalist and biographer Anna Sebba as chair, however the committee itself is overseen and represented by a ‘Council‘ of writers. Currently the council, whose members meet twice a year, include eminent figures such as V.S. Naipaul, JK Rowling, Doris Lessing and Hilary Mantel. Acting as such an important body within the writing industry it is no surprise that the Society handles an impressive list of annual awards too, bracketed under the heading of the Author’s Awards.
This year was no exception with an overall £70,000 doled out between the 24 writers from a variety of backgrounds. Carol Ann Duffy, one of the UK’s most popular poets, presented the 2013 awards at a reception in the middle of June, citing the importance of the awards ‘judged by a group of writers … It means so much to a winner to get the seal of approval from other authors’. Some of the prizes and their winners follow:
- The Elizabeth Longford Prize, for historical biography was won by Anne Somerset for Queen Anne – The Politics of Passion, for being ‘psychologically subtle and [offering a] surprisingly vivid portrait of a ruler’.
- The ELT Writing Award, which recognises outstanding contribution by an English Language Teaching author, was awarded to Jeremy Harmer for Essential Teacher Knowledge.
- The Travelling Scholarships enable authors to keep in touch with colleagues abroad. It is one of the Society’s older prizes, established in 1944 by an anonymous sponsor. This 2013 winners include Elizabeth Cook, James Fergusson, Kathleen Jamie and Olivia Laing.
- Samuel Wright is the winner of the Tom-Gallon Trust Award for his short story, ‘Best Friend’. Oddly one of the criteria is that the story should be ‘traditional, rather than experimental’ and ‘in character’, whatever that last criteria means.
- The McKitterick Prize is interesting because it is offered to an author over the age of 40, which I think is a fantastic idea since much too often the literary community is obsessed with only valuing its young. Alison Moore‘s Man Booker nominated novel The Lighthouse scooped up the accolade this year.
You will notice that I have missed out a few awards. Indeed, the awards below are awards that I am, personally, more interested in and think would be useful to explore further. I would also hazard a guess that these awards are much awards that readers would be more acquainted with seeing on the back of blurbs and in biographies.
Set up in 1947, The Somerset Maugham Award, named after the illustrious traveller and writer of Of Human Bondage, enables young writers to travel and gain experience of foreign countries. Originally the award was given to only one writer, (Kingsley Amis, Ted Hughes, Doris Lessing for example), but since 1964 the award has been given to many more writers each year. A list of all the past winners can be found here. After the one year break when no awards were given out, the four winners for 2013 are Ned Beauman (also a Granta BOYBN), Abi Curtis, Joe Stretch and Lucy Wood for their respective novels:
A reclusive author of romance novels, Betty Trask, established in 1984 a series of awards for first novels written by authors under the age of 35, within a Commonwealth nation. Her bequest was broken down into The Betty Trask Prize, an overall larger prize, with the remainder of the prize money given out to other writers under The Betty Trask Awards. In total the award money is worth £20,000. The winner of the prize was Grace McCleen for The Land of Decoration, whilst the awards were received by Chibundu Onuzo, Francesca Sagal (longlisted for the WPFF) and Will Wiles.
And now we end with something quite extraordinary for this blog. We end with poetry. Controversial, right? You thought this blog was prose-focused (and it pretty much is), but I myself have room in my heart for poetry love, enough for both KL, a poetry sceptic, and I. (Mark my words, she will edit this bit out.) There are two awards that distinctly honour poetry (technically three if you count the Somerset Maugham award) and they take the form of The Cholmondeley Award for Poets and the Eric Gregory Award. People may find the latter prize more recognisable, as it celebrates and encourages British poets under the age of 30. Though running through the past winners, disappointingly only a small hit of still recognisable poets since 1960 remain. Some of the biggest names who have won the award include: Seamus Heaney, Alice Oswald, Kate Clanchy and Carol Ann Duffy. This year the four winners include: John Clegg, Kate Gething-Smith, Matt Haw and Oli Hazzard.
Whereas on the other end of the spectrum, the honorary Cholmondely awards are given for a poet’s entire body of work and their contribution to poetry. Quite fittingly the winners are Simon Armitage, who I must say is a personal favourite of mine, Paul Farley, Lee Harwood and Medbh McGuckian.
Selected Bibliographies of Honorary Poets
And that is a wrap. I think we can all agree, a lot of prizes for a lot of well deserving writers. Until the next haul, next year.