The UK and Ireland’s most influential prize for young writers, The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, launches its first year with new sponsors, the Charlotte Aitken Trust, with an exceptional panel of judges.
Novelist, short story writer and academic Sarah Moss; novelist and essayist Andrew O’Hagan; award-winning author and columnist Tahmima Anam; critic Claire Lowdon; and writer and creative writing teacher Gonzalo C. Garcia will join Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate to decide who will follow last year’s winner of the prize, Jay Bernard (Surge).
The major new sponsorship from the Charlotte Aitken Trust is enabling the prize to significantly extend its core mission of supporting and developing young literary voices, while the prize money for both winner and shortlistees has been doubled, to £10,000 and £1,000 respectively.
Andrew O’Hagan said: “I’ve been in the publishing business for 30 years, and it remains a thrill — the chief thrill as a writer and a reader — to uncover fresh talent. Judging the Young Writer of the Year Award means homing in on exceptional talent when it is only first emerging, and measuring it against the talent of the past.”
Tahmima Anam said: “It’s a privilege to read the work of a new generation of novelists, biographers, nature writers, and poets. Their stories, preoccupations, obsessions, anxieties, and joys are a reflection of how we live, and want to live, in today’s world.”
Claire Lowdon said: “As a reviewer, not every book I read is a masterpiece; the job necessarily involves pointing out what doesn’t work, what disappoints. As a judge, I get to hang up my bommy-knocker and celebrate the year ’s greatest successes. The enormous reading pile is daunting but exciting, like walking into a roomful of strangers: that thrilling feeling that the next person I meet, the next book I pick up, could be a writer I’ll be reading for the rest of my life.”
Gonzalo C. Garcia said: “What excited me about judging the Young Writer of the Year Award is the sheer breadth and variety of styles in our submissions. The prize attracts the best new talent and it’s always exciting to have a part in launching or further establishing literary careers.”
With 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.
Details of a further enhanced digital and wider outreach programme will be announced in due course.