Sebastian Faulks, Kit de Waal, Tessa Hadley and Houman Barekat are to judge The Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award in 2020
We have signed up a blockbuster judging panel for our 2020 edition: the best-selling novelist Sebastian Faulks; the writer, editor and co-founder of The Big Book Weekend, Kit de Waal; Tessa Hadley, award-winning author of novels, short stories and non-fiction; and the writer, critic and Review 31 founding editor Houman Barekat are joining Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate to decide who will follow last year’s winner, Raymond Antrobus.
Submissions have streamed in steadily since the award — for the best British or Irish writer under 35 — opened for digital-only entries last month, and are still being accepted until 22 June. The shortlist will be announced on 1 November; the winner on 10 December.
With Raymond Antrobus, Adam Weymouth, Sally Rooney, Max Porter and Sarah Howe, the award 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 includes everyone from Robert Macfarlane to Zadie Smith, from Sarah Waters to Simon Armitage.
“I’m interested to see if young writers can stand outside their personal experience and the concerns of the present day. What I’m hoping for in the submissions for the Young Writer of the Year Award are style, attention to words, the sense that even if it reads smoothly it has been ferociously worked at.” Sebastian Faulks
“Whenever I’ve judged a competition, it’s forced me out of my comfort zone, got me reading the fiction and poetry and non-fiction I might not have picked up otherwise, seeing slices of worlds unlike mine. This should be especially true of reading new young writers. I’m hoping for something that feels true and inevitable, expressed in language that’s as clean and strong as possible.” Tessa Hadley
“I’m interested in what people will do about the low level hum of panic and how that will effect their writing. I’m hoping that we won’t see a rash of virus or pandemic stories. It’s too soon for that by about ten years. I am hoping to see something from the gut, something visceral and yearning. I’m always looking for a voice that brings me up short in any writer, young or old.” Kit de Waal
“As a critic I enjoy the judging process a lot. There’s something incredibly useful about having to justify your assessment to the rest of the judging panel — it keeps you honest, keeps you on your toes intellectually. One thing that stands out for me about the Young Writer of the Year Award is the breadth of the eligibility criteria: it usually makes for an eclectic shortlist, which is very welcome.” Houman Barekat