The UK and Ireland’s most influential prize for young writers, The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award brings an exceptional panel of judges to its second year with sponsor the Charlotte Aitken Trust, spearheaded by incoming Sunday Times Literary Editor Johanna Thomas-Corr. Thomas-Corr is joined by critic and journalist Stig Abell, poet Mona Arshi, author Oyinkan Braithwaite, and novelist and earlier winner of the prize Francis Spufford. Former Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate remains as Chair of the Judges and along with the panel will decide who will follow last year’s winner of the prize, Cal Flyn (Islands of Abandonment).
Andrew Holgate said: “ This is as strong a group of judges for this important prize as we have ever assembled, and I’m particularly thrilled as the former Sunday Times literary editor to have the new literary editor, Johanna Thomas-Corr, on board. That, and the continued generosity and support of the Charlotte Aitken Trust, really confirms the long-term health of this prize.“
Sponsored by the Charlotte Aitken Trust, who joined the prize for the first time last year, the award is given annually to the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author of 35 or under. Administered by the Society of Authors, the award works with a growing network of partners to provide a critical support system to the very best talent at work right now.
Johanna Thomas-Corr said: “The Young Writer award is so wide-ranging that it really allows the judges to get to the roots of new writing. I’m excited to discover the fresh voices who will inject new energy into our literature and perhaps fill our bookshelves in the decades do come.”
Stig Abell said: “You can never have too many books to read, is a great rule to live by. It is a great pleasure to tuck into so many interesting books from across such a wide range of genres, and a privilege to see the future of the industry close-up and already doing great things. I’m looking forward to arguing over the greatest”.
Mona Arshi said: “I am excited and curious about reading the books before us, in particular listening to these new voices, ideas and the concerns within them. It ’s thrilling to help find a new generation of writers who will shape the future landscape of our literature.”
Oyinkan Braithwaite said: “The Young Writer Award selection of books have been an absolute pleasure to read. I am immersed in a fabulous mix of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The books are vivid, relevant, insightful, beautifully written and a credit to their authors. So, congratulations to every one of them.”
Francis Spufford said: “I won the Sunday Times Young Writer award for my own first book, back in 1997. I remember what a foundation for my career that was, and what an encouragement. I’m looking forward now to being able to make that kind of difference in someone’s writing life, as a judge.”
With Cal Flyn, Jay Bernard, Raymond Antrobus, Adam Weymouth, Sally Rooney, Max Porter and Sarah Howe as recent winners, the prize has spotted and supported an exceptional line-up of defining new voices since returning from a 7-year break in 2015, and its alumni list is a who’s who of the best British and Irish writing – from Robert Macfarlane to Zadie Smith, from Sarah Waters to Simon Armitage, from Naomi Alderman to Caryl Phillips and many others.
As it launches its upcoming season, the prize is working to extend its partnership network across the literary world. In its first year as the new sponsor, the Charlotte Aitken Trust increased the prize sum to £10,000 with each shortlistee receiving £1,000. This prize money will remain as part of the winner package for 2022.
Details of a further enhanced digital and wider outreach programme will be announced in due course.