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Where are you writing from today?

I am writing from my office in Primrose Hill in London.

What excites you about judging the 2021 Sunday Times / Charlotte Aitken Trust Young Writer of the Year Award?

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 Prize means homing in on exceptional talent when it is only first emerging, and measuring it against the talent of the past.

What interests you about new writing in 2021?

An experienced writer is never done, has never arrived, is never inattentive, so my main interest in 2021 is in getting a sense, a strong sense from these submissions, of what are the concerns, the moral and political and emotional and economic and artistic concerns, of this generation. That’s an insight one can’t afford to miss. 

What are you hoping for in the submissions this year, and what are you looking for in an emerging writer?

I am looking for authentic energy, vitality, careful consideration and imaginative gumption. The winner will be distinctive and irreplaceable, already. 

Why is it important that we support new voices, at this point in time in particular?

It has always been important. Our living culture is not a fossil, it is a living organism, and we must find the new breaths, the new truths, the new subjects, and now, more than ever, we have a responsibility for seeing further and seeing better.

What are you reading at the moment and what do you like about it?

I am reading each of the submissions for the prize at the moment and can’t talk about them.


Andrew O’Hagan is a novelist and essayist. He has three times been nominated for the Booker Prize, and is Editor-at-Large of the London Review of Books. He lives between London and Largs and his most recent book is Mayflies.

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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