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The most influential prize for young writers in the UK and Ireland, The Sunday Times Charlotte Aitken Young Writer of the Year Award, today announces its shortlist of authors, described by Chief Literary Critic for The Times and Sunday Times, Johanna Thomas-Corr, as ‘injecting real energy and vitality into the literary scene’, and by judge James McConnachie as four ‘books that believe in the possibility of change.’ The judges have chosen:

  • Tom Crewe, an editor and debut novelist from Middlesborough, for his daring novel of nineteenth-century forbidden desire The New Life (Vintage), which won the 2023 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction and the South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature, and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize;
  • West Belfast-born writer and editor Michael Magee for his debut novel Close to Home (Hamish Hamilton), a striking and vivid portrayal of young, working class life in Northern Ireland, which won the 2023 Rooney Prize for Literature and the Nero Book Awards for Debut Fiction;
  • Noreen Masud, a Scottish-Pakistani writer and lecturer, for her raw and radical autobiography A Flat Place (Hamish Hamilton), which weaves her impressions of the natural world with poetry, folklore and history, and with recollections of her own early life, and is longlisted for Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction 2024;
  • Somali-British poet and essayist Momtaza Mehri, whose debut poetry collection Bad Diaspora Poems (Jonathan Cape), told in lyric, prose and text messages, confronts ideas around diaspora, migration and home, and is the winner of an Eric Gregory Award and the 2023 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

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 in 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.

Chair of judges Johanna Thomas-Corr is joined by exceptional judges, Booker-winning writer and novelist Anne Enright, novelist and critic Mendez, author and critic James McConnachie, poet Daljit Nagra and novelist Catriona Ward.

Johanna Thomas-Corr said: ‘We have found four very different writers who are injecting real energy and vitality into the literary scene. What impressed me most was their attentiveness to the world around them and their commitment to telling complex and often tough truths, as well as the unique ways in which each has made space for humour in their work. They have all shown daring and gumption.’

Anne Enright said: ‘The skill, heart and maturity at play in these books gives hope for the future of the written word. In each of these four wonderful and varied works, language, form and story come together in a compelling, new way. Each does something previously impossible, says something previously unsayable. A terrific shortlist.’

James McConnachie said: ‘Our four shortlisted books are so gloriously different but what unites them is that they are all books that believe in the possibility of change – both in how we write and think about the world, and in what the world can be. They’re books by writers who are going to lead and enrich the conversations we’re all going to be having in years to come. They’re also books by writers who can really, really write – which I think is something that this fabulous prize has always particularly recognised and sought to reward.’

Mendez said: ‘These four outstanding books highlight the varied excellence of new British writing. We were struck by the fearlessness, verve and confidence with which the authors entered their worlds and explored their ideas. It has been a revelatory journey, and some difficult choices lie ahead, but I’m certain that all these brilliant writers will continue to flourish.’

Catriona Ward said: ‘Selecting the shortlist from this range of exciting, dynamic voices was a challenge. The four finalist books tell vital, passionate stories about the heart, the mind and desire – about how we change the world and how place changes us in turn. These young writers display extraordinary talent and imagination and I look forward to following their long, successful careers for years to come.

The award 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 this year.

Retail partners Waterstones came on board for the 30th anniversary year in 2022, and will continue to support in its second year with bespoke content across all of their channels, including an exclusive competition, specially commissioned content for their blog, and a range of in-store POS to showcase this year’s best young writers. The four shortlisted authors will also be in conversation at a public event in a central London Waterstones on Monday, 18th March, hosted by Sebastian Faulks, Chair of the Charlotte Aitken Trust.

This year, the shadow panel of judges has been reinstated for the first time since 2020. Together, four influential book bloggers will read discuss each of the titles, deciding on their own winner ahead of the announcement, and also interview the shortlisted authors for the interview series ‘Readers on Writers’ which will be published on the Young Writer Award website.

Granta Magazine, who were introduced as media partners in 2020, will publish exclusive extracts from all four titles on www.granta.com over the coming weeks.

The British Council will be advocating the shortlisted authors to international audiences and helping them to forge new literary connections oversees.

The winner will be announced in a ceremony at Canova Hall, Brixton on Tuesday, 19th March 2024.

Sponsored by the Charlotte Aitken Trust since 2021, the award is given annually to the best work of fiction, nonfiction 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.

Keep up to date with the award and join the conversation via:

www.youngwriteraward.com | twitter.com/YoungWriterYear | instagram.com/youngwriteryear

 

Young Writer Award @YoungWriterYear

Follow us on twitter. The Young Writer of the Year Award is a prize of £10,000 for a writer under 35.

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