Some thoughts on literary prizes

The shortlist for this year’s Man Booker Prize was announced last week, and I find myself engaged in the same internal debate I have over any literary prize from the TS Eliot Prize [for poetry] to the Orange Prize [for women’s writing].

Quite simply how do you decide between wildly different writers and books and come up with THE BEST? And why does a brilliant writer like Rose Tremain win the Orange prize but doesn’t appear anywhere in the shortlist for the Booker?

I’m also fascinated by the ‘branding’ of different literary prizes whether linked to phone companies, breweries or coffee shops. I would love Russell Hobbs or Jacobs Cream Crackers to ‘host’ a prize.

But then I’ve always thought that the long-lists are often more interesting than the short-lists and bring all sorts of ‘new’ authors to my attention. And it’s good to hear people talking about books around the time of each competition. So more power to them I say.

Now come on Jacobs, how about a prize for the ‘best slice of literary cheese’? I can see it already, a gilded cream cracker mounted on a piece of sustainable forest wood. I can almost predict its first recipient. Who, you may ask?

Now that would be telling…

This 2008 Man Booker Prize shortlist.

Three ideas to improve your writing

Clay Head
I just got back from a weekend in Durham where I was part of the NAWG Festival of Writing. I ran three workshops in the beautiful leafy setting of one of the colleges of Durham University. To give you some idea of what I was doing in the workshops there are descriptions below of each one, just as they appeared in the festival brochure.

All I need to say about the experience was that the weekend was full of fun, creativity and good fellowship. And what a wealth of talent there was, with delegates ranging in age from 18 to 90.

The clay head was used in the Headspace workshop to start the process off.

Transforming your performance

Selecting and getting the best out a 'set' of your poems.  Reading your poetry to an audience might be their first experience of your work, it’s therefore vital to choose the right poems and know how to deliver them in a way that gets the best out of them.  Group members should bring along a portfolio of their own work, from which they are will select and perform.

The Poetry Gym

We think nothing of taking regular exercise to keep our bodies in trim. Try this poetry work-out which will wake you up, make your brain tingle and get the creativity flowing . This workshop will look at ways of keeping creative when you feel you’re feeling uninspired.  You will come away with lots of ideas and, the beginnings of many new pieces.  There’s also a chance to share ideas, as group members are invited bring along a favourite writing exercise to share with each other.


Getting into the head of your character- writing character poems in the first person.   Think about the dramatic monologues of Robert Browning, TS Eliot or Carol Ann Duffy ; how would you go about writing one yourself ? This workshop will generate ideas for the prose or poetry writer.  Bring along a photograph of a person, from a magazine ,newspaper, or photographic album [perhaps even a reproduction of a favourite portrait], and begin to explore the inner world of your character.