Report: TLC-Literateur Awards Party
Report by Natalie Cox and Eley Williams
Photography by Max Colson www.maxcolson.com
Providing a welcome refuge from the November weather, it was to a full house in Farringdon’s Free Word Centre that the six short-listed writers and poets in our recent competition came to read their work and accept their prizes. It was a highly enjoyable evening that showcased and celebrated new voices in creative writing, with the winners engaging a lively audience in the Centre’s intimate performance space alongside a wine reception and a stimulating discussion led by the judges.
The event was introduced by Rebecca Swift, the founder of The Literacy Consultancy, a leading editorial assessment service with whom we co-organised the competition. From the outset, Rebecca commended all the winners on the high-standard of their submissions and remarked that the variety and calibre of all the entries had made the judges’ decisions very difficult.
As a precursor to the winners’ readings, literateur editor Kit Toda then invited the judging panel to read portions of their own work – novelist Joanna Briscoe was sadly unable to attend, but Rebecca Abrams read to us from her powerful new novel Touching Distance, poet Sarah Hesketh presented a selection of work from her new collection Napoleon’s Travelling Bookshelf and Rebecca Swift took once more to the stage to read two of her poems: so it was that the audience was primed for an evening of high lyricism and dynamic prose.
The panel then began a discussion centred upon the concept of ‘literary futures’ with the subject opened up to comments from the floor. As the evening’s basis was the result of an online competition with entries sought from unpublished writers, the debate quickly turned to the character of the publishing industry, with observations made regarding the possibility that writing talent was increasingly at risk of becoming sidelined due to the emphasis on selling work rather than fostering creative ambition. The related point was raised that only a handful of writers can ever concentrate fully on their craft as it is often not economically viable to just write; once voiced, this was quickly followed by the suggestion that people will still continue to write and publish due to their passion for it. Sarah Hesketh underlined that ‘being in it for the money’ is often not part of the issue and that especially in the world of published poetry publication was the reward in and of itself: she happily admitted that she only received seventy pounds in royalties for her poetry book, a price ‘for which many fiction writers wouldn’t consider getting out of bed’, earning a round of applause from the audience.
The panel also examined the dilemma involved in the process of getting books onto the shelves of sellers and into the hands of the reader – self-publishing was highlighted as a fast-growing sector as well as the free and freely-accessible platform afforded by the internet.
The flourishing number and quality of online communities and online literary magazines was commented upon; it was considered that the important element of selection and arbitration offered by more traditional means of publishing might be lost here, and the.focus of debate thus shifted to whether it was right for emphasis to be placed on these alternative methods of publication because they gave an opportunity to reach a wide audience, or whether this could lead to an over-saturation for the reader. Whilst no general consensus was reached, the feel from the panel and from the floor was that there was a waiting readership that was hungry for new writing and excited by developments in how that writing is presented to them: as the hall dispersed for a brief break for wine, the discussion proved to fuel exchanges upon the topics throughout the evening..
As seats were taken for the evening’s second half, excitement rose as the winners of the competition were announced. As well as a selection of books, the prizewinning writers were also given the opportunity for TLC sessions with experienced industry professionals who would help them look at ways of developing their work. Coming first in the short fiction category was Alison Key, with her heartbreaking, yet wittily served tale of dealing with a partner’s infidelity in ‘This Changes Everything’. Second was Uschi Gatward’s highly original take on the ‘Birth Plan’, which followed a woman’s thought train from the level of pain relief during birth, to where the Christmas card list was kept in the event of her death. Taking third was ‘Living Through Saccharin’ by Adam Steiner, a sensory and linguistic masterpiece which challenged the reader’s interpretative skills with by times playful, by times emotionally searing prose.
Next came the poetry prize, with first place going to Selena Wisnom for her poem ‘Mushrooming’, a wonderfully sinister piece showcasing her mastery of minimal descriptive verse. Second prize was awarded to Tom Bailey, for his poem ‘Notes to the Construction of Beverly Minster’, an innovative work which drew on archaic language to enhance its word play. Third prize then went to ‘Inventory’, by Clémence Sebag, a glimpse of sensuality worded beautifully, an ideal end to a brilliant evening!
More photos will be uploaded soon.
Read the shortlisted entries!