Announcing the Judges for the 2024 SoA Awards | Guest Bloggers | From the Front Row Team Blog

The Society of Authors (SoA) has announced the judges for the 11 prizes and scholarships making up the 2024 SoA Awards.

The shortlists for the 2024 SoA Awards are due to be announced on 22 May, with the award ceremony taking place on Thursday 20 June at Southwark Cathedral.

ADCI Literary Prize

Judging panel: Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Penny Batchelor, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Julia Lund, Karl Knights, Selina Mills, Vikki Patis and Chloe Timms

‘Whatever the outcome, it’s important we support more disabled writers to have a platform and a voice – so more people can recognise themselves,’ said ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize judge, writer and broadcaster Selina Mills.

Selina is joined on the judging panel by psychological suspense author Vikki Patis, writer, campaigner and podcast host Chloe Timms, producer, social commentator and writer Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Harmless Like You author Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, middle grade and women’s fiction author Julia Lund, New Poets Prize winner Karl Knights and Prize co-founder Penny Batchelor.

The ADCI Literary Prize was founded in 2022 by thriller writer and judge Penny Batchelor and publisher Clare Christian to encourage greater positive representation of disability in literature.

On this year’s cohort of entries, Penny said, ‘The purpose of the prize is to shine a spotlight on this often-overlooked group of authors and the representation of disabled/chronically ill people in literature, and this year’s submissions show there’s a great deal for the UK publishing profession to be proud of.’

ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award

Judging panel: Sophie Haydock, Yan Ge, Brian Chikwava and Peter Hobbs

The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award is given for a short story of up to 5,000 words. This year’s judges are The Flames novelist Sophie Haydock, author and short story writer Yan Ge, Caine Prize for African Short Fiction winner Brian Chikwava and previous Betty Trask winner Peter Hobbs.

‘It was a hugely rewarding reading experience and a privilege to survey new and emerging voices.’ said Brian.

‘The longlist is a vibrant selection, capturing the depth, power, and inventive energy of contemporary storytelling and covering an impressive range: from primal instincts to what it means to be human in an ever-changing world. That sets me up for heartbreak, knowing that as judges we’ll have to cross out some brilliant stories to arrive at the shortlist.’

Betty Trask Prize

Judging panel: Anjali Joseph, Michael Donkor and Alex Preston

Running since 1983, the Betty Trask Prize celebrates first novels by authors under 35.

‘Writing a debut novel is a flight of ambition and risk that demands bravery and the ability to work in the dark. Maybe writing any novel is like that, but the first time the writer is particularly asking herself: Can I do this? Will anyone read it? Is this real? First novel prizes offer a recognition and financial support that’s incomparably helpful for a fledgling writer – they certainly did for me.’ said judge, author and previous Prize winner Anjali Joseph.

Anjali is joined on the judging panel by author and Guardian writer Michael Donkor and Winchelsea author Alex Preston.

Alex said, ‘There’s something so thrilling about the start of a career, the announcement of a new voice, and to have a period of deep reading immersed in these debut novels is such a fantastic and life-enhancing experience.’

Cholmondeley Awards

Judging panel: Malika Booker, Hannah Lowe, Lachlan McKinnon and Moniza Alvi

The Cholmondeley Awards, which recognise the achievement and distinction of individual poets, were founded in 1966.

This year’s recipients will be chosen by Malika’s Poetry Kitchen founder Malika Booker, poet, memoirist and critic Hannah Lowe, Eric Gregory and Cholmondeley Award winning poet Lachlan McKinnon and poet and Royal Society of Literature Fellow Moniza Alvi.

Moniza said, ‘It has been a unique pleasure, as well as a privilege, to be a judge of the Cholmondeley Awards and to once again celebrate diverse, outstanding contributions to poetry in an ever-expanding poetry world.’

Fellow judge Lachlan said, ‘As so often, the process of discussing and deciding with other poets has been very much easier than people might expect. We found shared values and purposes as we came to decisions all were happy with. The process is both humbling and affirming – neither a bad thing.’

Eric Gregory Awards

Judging panel: Wayne Holloway-Smith, Raymond Antrobus, Eric Ngalle Charles, Joelle Taylor, Caroline Bird and Gwyneth Lewis

The Eric Gregory Awards recognise the works of poets under the age of 30, and many previous winners have gone on to become Cholmondeley Award winners later in their career.

Poetry Review editor Wayne Holloway-Smith said, ‘This Eric Gregory Award has been a historically important part of the UK’s poetry landscape, a platform upon which younger writers have in part announced themselves. It has been a privilege therefore to have been a small part of this process, having been given an opportunity to bring some new names further into the light.’

Wayne is joined on the judging panel by poet and educator Raymond Antrobus, writer, poet, playwright and human rights activist Eric Ngalle Charles, SLAMbassadors founder Joelle Taylor, previous Cholmondeley Award winning poet Caroline Bird and Inaugural National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis.

‘Being an Eric Gregory Award judge is a weighty but joyful task. I know from experience that being given one is a life-changing experience […] I feel the responsibility to identify work of promise that isn’t just like my own. In fact, the younger writers are teaching me about how to write now so, as well as being a huge pleasure, the reading is an education.’ said Gwyneth.

McKitterick Prize

Judging panel: Anietie Isong, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, Rebecca Foster, Nick Rennison, Gonzalo C. Garcia and Rónán Hession

Two past McKitterick Prize winners, Anietie Isong and Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, literary critic Rebecca Foster, writer, editor and bookseller Nick Rennison, writer and assistant professor in creative writing Gonzalo C. Garcia, and writer and musician Rónán Hession make up the judges for this year’s McKitterick Prize, awarded for a first novel by an author over 40.

Rónán said, ‘I feel honoured to have been asked to judge the McKitterick Prize this year, but the true privilege lies in the opportunity to read the work of so many talented writers. I have been impressed by the depth, diversity and imagination of the submitted novels. It is exciting to read debut writers who have the confidence to take risks while retaining full command of their writing.’

Paul Torday Memorial Prize

Judging panel: Trevor Wood, Gaby Koppel and Anni Domingo

The Paul Torday Memorial Prize, for a first novel by an author over 60, will be judged by crime novelist Trevor Wood, journalist, producer, author and past runner-up Gaby Koppel, and actress, director and writer Anni Domingo.

On reading the longlist, Anni said, ‘These authors, through laughter, grief, and joy, took me to curious and wonderful places. I have been moved by the powerful writing. These stories have truly been a gift as I got to know and appreciate many new authors.’

‘All of them defy the cliches about ageing by showing that mature minds can master the new skill of writing fiction, but more than that, they can enter into fresh territory to produce original work, crackling with imagination and ideas.’ said Gaby.

Trevor added, ‘Age is no barrier to writing a good book, and arguably, as many of the entries have proved, a rich experience of life is actually an advantage […] perhaps the old-ish dogs still have a new trick in them after all!’

The Queen’s Knickers Award

Judging panel: Salomey Doku, Chris Haughton and Cerrie Burnell

Given for an outstanding children’s illustrated book, The Queen’s Knickers Award was founded by Nicholas Allan.

This year, self-taught author and illustrator Salomey Doku, designer and children’s book author Chris Haughton and author, actor and former CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell are in charge of choosing the shortlist and winning book.

‘This has been a gorgeously immersive treat, to slip back into the wild imagination, possibility, humour and joy of picture books, is a magic all of its own. I’ve no idea how we’ll choose a winner!’ said Cerrie.

Similarly, Salomey said ‘Judging the award has given me a wonderful window into the current market for children’s picture books, which I’ve found to be both vibrant and varied.’

Somerset Maugham Awards

Judging panel: Ardashir Vakil, Akeem Balogun and Bhanu Kapil

Founded in 1947, the Somerset Maugham Awards enable young writers to enrich their work through experience of foreign countries.

Choosing the winners this year are novelist and short story writer Ardashir Vakil, previous winner Akeem Balogun and TS Eliot Prize winning writer Bhanu Kapil.

Ardashir said, ‘Reading and judging for the Somerset Maugham Awards is exciting and revelatory, a wonderful display of young talent in all the genres. Fantastic depth and breadth in terms of language and subject matter. Heartening to read important stories, both past and present, from across the globe, representing the experiences of our many different individuals and communities.’

On the longlist, Akeem said, ‘I found myself reading books I otherwise would have never come across and championing some of them passionately.’

Travelling Scholarships

Judging panel: Louise Jury, Philip Terry, Gabriel Gbadamosi, Alvin Pang and Emily Barr

‘Travel can be transformative to the work of writers. It is wonderful to award these scholarships to support people working across a range of genres to explore, research and seek inspiration.’ said Travelling Scholarships judge, communications and public affairs consultant and writer Louise Jury.

The Travelling Scholarships were established in 1944 to enable British creative writers to keep in touch with their colleagues abroad.

Fellow judge, translator, poet and fiction writer Philip Terry said, ‘What I love about the Travelling Scholarships is that they are open to any kind of book, from young adult fiction, to journalism, to experimental poetry to literary fiction and autobiography. As a judge, you never know quite what to expect, and the nominations are always full of surprises.’

Louise and Philip are awarding the scholarships alongside poet, playwright and critic Gabriel Gbadamosi, poet and editor Alvin Pang and multi-genre writer Emily Barr.

Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize

Judging panel: Aamer Hussein, Yara Rodrigues-Fowler and Kerry Young

The Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize is awarded for a novel focusing on the experience of travel away from home.

‘I spent a London winter reading novels that took me to Ghana and India, Australia and the Middle East, from landscapes of war, famines and peace to sea journeys in search of new horizons of hope. I moved from the region of myth and legend to historical realities and our uneasy contemporary world of nostalgia, unease and displacement, in stories told by established writers of fiction and promising new names. The experience of reading for the Volcano Prize is always exhilarating and at times inspiring.’ said judge, critic and short story writer Aamer Hussein.

Granta’s ‘Best Young British Novelists’ listee Yara Rodrigues-Fowler and Pao novelist Kerry Young make up the rest of the judging panel.

Society of Authors

Kerry said, ‘The submissions have been wide ranging across the globe, exhibiting both personal and political insights; domestic, religious, cultural and economic. It has made for a fascinating read, which is one of the great pleasures of being a judge. The opportunity to read so much wonderful work that I might otherwise not have come across. It is an honour and privilege to do so, especially as part of a process that is both embracing and exacting.’

See here for further information.

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