JUDGES SHORTLIST FOUR EXCEPTIONAL DEBUTS IN A RECORD YEAR OF SUBMISSIONS FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES / UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK YOUNG WRITER OF THE YEAR AWARD 2019
Raymond Antrobus – The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins)
Julia Armfield – Salt Slow (Picador)
Yara Rodrigues Fowler – Stubborn Archivist (Fleet)
Kim Sherwood – Testament (riverrun)
The exceptional debuts of multi-award-winning British-Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus, The White Review Short Story Prize winner Julia Armfield, British-Brazilian novelist Yara Rodrigues Fowler, and writer and Creative Writing teacher Kim Sherwood have been shortlisted for the 2019 Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. It is the first year the University of Warwick, home to the acclaimed Warwick Writing Programme, acts as the title sponsor of the prize, following two years as its associate partner.
The judges have chosen the shortlisted titles – two novels, a poetry and a short story collection; written by three women and one man – from a record number of submissions to the prize. Publishers submitted over 100 books this year – prompting The Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate, Chair, to sign up two further judges: the writer, editor and bookseller Nick Rennison and the University of Warwick’s Gonzalo C. Garcia have joined the award-winning poet and writer Kate Clanchy and the best-selling author Victoria Hislop.
For the first time this year, the winner of the award will be given a year’s membership of The London Library, further adding to an attractive winner package that already includes a bespoke 10-week residency at the University of Warwick, in addition to the prize money of £5,000. Administered by the Society of Authors, the award works with a growing network of partners, including the British Council, to provide a critical support system to the very best talent at work right now.
Kate Clanchy said: “Reading through all the books for the judging process affirmed for me that there is still such a thing as a literary generation – a zeitgeist of concerns, ideas and images which belong especially to those born in a particular time. We read many books about identity, the body and inheritance, and we chose four especially searching and beautiful treatments of those themes, all of them books which brought something new to their forms. It’s a thrilling shortlist, and I can’t imagine how we will chose a winner.”
Victoria Hislop said: “There were many really strong contenders for the Young Writer of the Year Award, and the four on our shortlist are the best of the best. I think all the judges are excited about the next and final stage of what has so far been a really rewarding and interesting process.”
The 2019 shortlist shows the enormous breadth of this generation’s writing: In the critically acclaimed debut of the Hackney-born Raymond Antrobus, elegies for the poet’s father sit alongside meditation on the d/Deaf experience. The Perseverance, published by the small press Penned in the Margins, was the first book of poetry to win the Rathbones Folio Prize, earlier this year. Julia Armfield’s collection of stories, Salt Slow, swings between isolation and obsession, love and revenge as the London-based writer and playwright blurs the mythic and the gothic with the everyday.
Yara Rodrigues Fowler mixes the personal and the political in Stubborn Archivist, a formally inventive novel of growing up between cultures, and finding your space within them. Authors including Olivia Laing and Nikesh Shukla have lined up to praise the book. Influenced by her grandmother’s experiences as a holocaust survivor, Kim Sherwood finds new language to express love and loss in her novel, Testament, which see a young woman uncover the truth about her family’s past as Hungarian Jews coming to Britain in 1945.
The 2019 winner will be announced at The London Library on 5 December 2019.