‘A sign that our literary future is in good hands’ – announcing the 2023 SoA Awards shortlists

The SoA has announced shortlists for the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, the Betty Trask Prize, the Paul Torday Memorial Prize, the Queen’s Knickers Award, the McKitterick Prize, the Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize and the inaugural shortlist for the ADCI Literary Prize.

The shortlists feature 36 writers, poets and illustrators with a host of thematic and formal concerns – from ‘courageous attempts to give new shape to the novel’ (Betty Trask judge Alex Preston), to poetry of personal and cultural histories of suffering, to illustrated works for children of ‘high quality silliness’ to ‘force a chuckle out of the most hardened parent’ (Queen’s Knickers judge Ken Wilson-Max).

The winners, to be announced on 29 June at Southwark Cathedral, will share a prize fund of over £100,000. The awards ceremony will be presented by Joanne Harris and keynote speaker Val McDermid.  The event will be livestreamed and tickets for the in-person event can be purchased from the Society of Authors website.

We are thrilled to announce the first shortlist for our ADCI Literary Prize, celebrating positive representation of disability in literature. The prize is open to authors with a disability or chronic illness, for novels including a disabled or chronically ill character or characters. Fiona Scott-Barrett’s shortlisted The Exit-Facility – an ‘engaging’ novel featuring a world you ‘might expect to see in Black Mirror’ (Judge Vikki Patis)notably marks a self-published novel being celebrated among our shortlists. Braver by Deborah Jenkins (Fairlight Books) and Spear by Nicola Griffith (Tordotcom Publishing) are also shortlisted.

This year’s Paul Torday Memorial Prize shortlist features Murder Before Evensong (Weidenfeld & Nicholson), a whodunnit crime novel by BBC Radio 4 presenter and Strictly Come Dancing star, the Reverend Richard Coles. The Hay Festival Book of the Year, Lesson’s in Chemistry (Doubleday, Penguin Random House) by Bonnie Garmus, also features on this year’s Torday shortlist and Louise Kennedy’s Nibbies Debut Novel of the YearTrespasses (Bloomsday Publishing) makes an appearance on this year’s McKitterick Prize shortlist.

Aamina Ahmad’s assured debut novel The Return of Faraz Ali (Sceptre, Hodder & Stoughton) is shortlisted for both the McKitterick Prize and the Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize – a multi-layered crime novel in which ‘the decaying grandeur of the courtesans of Lahore’ is ‘lovingly depicted’ (McKitterick judge Selma Dabbagh).

Winners of the Travelling Scholarships, Cholmondeley Awards, Eric Gregory Awards and Somerset Maugham Awards will also be announced on the night.

Donate to the SoA’s Contingency Fund, supporting authors in financial need, by buying any of our shortlisted books from Bookshop.org.

The shortlistees for each award are:

The ADCI Literary Prize

Sponsored by Arts Council England, ALCS, the Drusilla Harvey Memorial Fund, and the Professional Writing Academy, the ADCI Literary Prize is awarded to a disabled or chronically ill writer, for an outstanding novel containing a disabled or chronically ill character or characters.

Judged by Penny Batchelor, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Nydia Hebden, Karl Knights, Julia Lund, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Vikki Patis and Chloe Timms.

  • Nicola Griffith for Spear (Tordotcom Publishing)
  • Deborah Jenkins for Braver (Fairlight Books)
  • Fiona Scott-Barrett for The Exit Facility(self-published)

Judge and ADCI Literary Prize founder, Penny Batchelor, said:

‘It was a delight to see so many different novel genres represented in the prize’s submissions and, with fantasy and myth, speculative and uplit, the shortlist reflects this.  There’s something for all fiction lovers.’

Total prize fund: £2,000

The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award

Sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) and Hawthornden Literary Retreat, the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award is awarded for a short story by a writer who has had at least one short story accepted for publication.

Judged by Claire Fuller, Billy Kahora, Sophie Haydock and Mary Watson.

  • Joe Bedford for ‘The Christening’
  • Ciarán Folan for ‘A Day’
  • Kerry Hood for ‘The Sunbathers’
  • Niamh Mac Cabe for ‘Sky an Iris’
  • Lishani Ramanayake for ‘Amba Yahulowo’
  • Karen Stevens for ‘Among the Crows’

Judge Billy Kahora said:

‘It was a real pleasure to be involved in another year of great short story prize submissions for the prize. The shortlist displayed a diverse and exciting sense of place, taking on religious prejudice in Ireland, teenage lust in Sri Lanka, a hijacking in a rough council estate somewhere in England and forbidden love in rural Spain.’

Total prize fund: £3,500


The Betty Trask Prize and Awards

The Betty Trask Prize and Awards are presented for a first novel by a writer under 35.

Judged by Sara Collins, Michael Donkor and Alex Preston.

  • Paddy Crewe for My Name is Yip(Doubleday, Penguin Random House)
  • Imogen Crimp for A Very Nice Girl(Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Maddie Mortimer for Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Pan Macmillan/Picador)
  • Daniel Wiles for Mercia’s Take (Swift Press)

Judge Alex Preston said:

‘No judge of a literary prize will tell you that the process has been easy; I can’t think that many have had such a wonderful collection of novels to debate as we did this year. I was struck by how ambitious so many of the books were – again and again there was formal and thematic complexity on show, courageous attempts to give new shape to the novel. Our shortlist is brilliant and wide-ranging, a sign that our literary future is in very good hands.’

Total prize fund: £26,200.


Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize

The Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize is awarded to a UK or Irish writer, or a writer currently resident in those countries, for a novel focusing on the experience of travel away from home. In memory of Malcolm Lowry and endowed by Gordon Bowker, his biographer, and Ramdei Bowker.

Judged by Aamer Hussein, Zeba Talkhani and Kerry Young.

  • Aamina Ahmad for The Return of Faraz Ali(Scepter, Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Julia Armfield for Our Wives Under the Sea(Pan Macmillan/Picador)
  • Vesna Goldsworthy for Iron Curtain: A Love Story (Penguin Random House UK, Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
  • Alex Hyde for Violets (Granta Books)
  • Anjali Joseph for Keeping in Touch (Scribe UK)
  • David Park for Spies in Canaan(Bloomsbury Publishing)

Judge Zeba Talkhani said:

‘I was blown away by the quality of the submitted work – an embarrassment of riches in terms of form, subject matter and creativity. It was difficult to whittle down to the six brilliant, inventive and enthralling books on the shortlist. There’s something here for everyone from the lyrical and haunting prose of novels such as Violets by Alex Hyde, Spies in Canaan by David Park and Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield to the traversing of both internal and external borders inIron Curtain by Vesna Goldsworthy, Keeping in Touch by Anjali Joseph and The Return of Faraz Ali.’

Total prize fund: £2,750


McKitterick Prize

Sponsored by the Hawthornden Literary Retreat, the McKitterick Prize is awarded for a first novel by a writer over 40.

Judged by Selma Dabbagh, Rebecca Foster, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, Anietie Isong, Nick Rennison.

  • Aamina Ahmad for The Return of Faraz Ali(Sceptre, Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Liz Hyder for The Gifts (Manilla Press, Bonnier Books UK)
  • Louise Kennedy for Trespasses(Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • Ayanna Lloyd Banwo for When We Were Birds (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House UK)
  • Joanna Quinn for The Whalebone Theatre(Penguin General, Fig Tree)
  • Taymour Soomro for Other Names for Love (Harvill Secker, Penguin Random House)

Judge Selma Dabbagh said:

‘Family estates in rural Pakistan (Other Names for Love) and England (The Whalebone Theatre) fall into decline reflecting the hubris and short-sightedness of their owners, in The Return of Faraz Ali, it is the decaying grandeur of the courtesans of Lahore that is lovingly depicted. Whereas in bothThe Gifts and When We Were Birds, the other worldly brings new possibilities to the tawdry and impoverished as mystical wings fly over the slums of Victorian London and the graveyards of Trinidad.’

Total prize fund: £7,000


Paul Torday Memorial Prize:

The Paul Torday Memorial Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60. The prize includes a set of the collected works of British writer Paul Torday, who published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at the age of 60. It is indebted to W & N Fiction for generously providing these books.

Judged by Rasheda Ashanti Malcolm, Kathy O’Shaughnessy and Andrew Taylor.

  • Tony Curtis for Darkness in the City of Light(Seren Books)
  • Jonathan Franklin for Red Road Green(Sparsile Books Ltd)
  • Bonnie Garmus for Lessons in Chemistry(Doubleday, Penguin Random House)
  • Julie Owen Moylan for That Green Eyed Girl (Michael Joseph, Penguin Random House)
  • Reverend Richard Coles for Murder Before Evensong (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)

Judge Kathy O’Shaughnessy said:

‘From historical novels to thrillers to romance, the novels on this shortlist were wonderfully varied. It was a pleasure to see such excellent writing, whether set in the Amazon or a local English village, or 1950s America, or Paris in the war.  Each book showed a true writer’s commitment to making the subject come alive, and compellingly pulled this reader forward.’

Total prize fund: £4,000


Queen’s Knickers Award

Sponsored by its founder Nicholas Allan, the Queen’s Knickers Award is an annual prize for an outstanding children’s original illustrated book for ages 0-7. It recognises books that strike a quirky, new note and grab the attention of a child, whether in the form of curiosity, amusement, horror or excitement.

Judged by Smriti Halls, Sarah McIntyre and Ken Wilson- Max.

  • John Agard and illustrator Satoshi Kitamura for When Creature Met Creature (Scallywag Press)
  • Beach for The Knight with the Blazing Bottom (Simon & Schuster Children’s UK)
  • Olaf Falafel for Blobfish (Walker Books Ltd)
  • Chris Naylor-Ballesteros for Frank and Bert(Nosy Crow Ltd)
  • Caspar Salmon and illustrator Matt Hunt for How to Count to One (Nosy Crow Ltd)

Judge Sarah McIntyre said:

‘The books on the Queen’s Knickers shortlist stood out clearly for their humour and originality. Visually they were all inspiring; I could imagine children sitting down to copy out their favourite bits, testing new ways to draw things and different ways to tell a story, or to joke with the reader. We debated long and hard to pick the winner and runner-up and, in doing so, found we were all swayed in our opinions and I genuinely felt I learned from the experience.’

Total prize fund: £6,000

This year’s Society of Authors Awards will take place on Thursday 29th June 2023 at Southwark Cathedral. To find out more about the ceremony, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop