The Warwick Prize For Writing

I take it back. A couple of posts ago I said that the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction was the most lucrative award for fact-based writing in the world. Then I go and find out about Warwick Prize for Writing. I hadn’t heard about it before because it’s brand new — the debut biennial award will be given in 2009, when some lucky writer will be £50,000 (or $100,000) richer. But here’s what makes this award particularly interesting:

1) It’s open to all genres, from poetry to scientific writing, other forms of nonfiction (creative or otherwise) to fiction.

2) It’s open to all forms of publishing, from internet based works to self-published books to works in translation and co-authored books.

Presumably illustrated books and kids books could be included too — why not? Everything else is.

3) It’s international — work must have been published in English, anywhere in the world, within a two-year time frame.

And here’s the clincher:

4) The theme for the inaugural award is, wait for it, complexity. The banner from the top of this post is borrowed from their website. The message it contains might not be cheery, but it’s certainly interesting, and, well, not easy.

So, to summarize, this is an intellectually rigorous award, available to all writers published in English, regardless of form or genre, and open to experimental work. The judges are interested, as it says in their FAQs, in exploring “what literature is, and what new shapes and forms it might be taking.”

Wowzers. In this era of “high concept” pitches for fiction and nonfiction alike, that’s like getting a lungful of sweet Alpine air.

The final thing I love about this award is that it’s democratic too. According to booktrade.info, “…all members of the University of Warwick Staff – from nursery staff and gardeners to professors and porters – are invited to make a nomination for a prize entry by August.”

This is complexity for the masses, people — as all great literature should be.

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