Page 42

From L-R: Laura Bates, Cathy Newman, Shami Chakrabati, Helen Dunmore, Grace Dent

Shelf improvement With the winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction due to be announced this month, one of the judges – founder of the Everyday Sexism Project Laura Bates – tells Lauren Romano why female authors traditionally garner fewer literary gongs than their male counterparts

E

leanor Catton, Hilary Mantel, Emma Donoghue: over the last few years a number of best-selling female authors have cropped up on The Man Booker Prize shortlist, but just a couple of decades ago, books penned by women were demonstrably absent. When not one female writer was shortlisted for the 1991 award, a group of journalists, agents, publishers and booksellers met in a London flat and decided that something had to be done. And that something turned out to be the Women’s Prize for Fiction. “Everyone at that ad hoc first meeting was puzzled that, despite the ratio of books by men published to books by women being 60/40 in women’s favour, the leading literary prizes nonetheless often seemed to overlook accomplished, challenging, important fiction by female authors,” says the award’s co-founder, novelist and playwright Kate Mosse. The facts made just as compelling reading as the fiction: “By 1992, only 10 per cent of

novelists shortlisted for the Booker had been women,” Kate continues. “Did it matter? The group decided it did, since prizes are an influential way of bringing outstanding writers to the attention of readers.” Eventually set up in 1996, the Women’s Prize for Fiction celebrates work by any woman writing in English, regardless of her nationality, and places emphasis on excellence, originality and accessibility. In its time, the winning bronze statue, known as a ‘Bessie’ has been awarded to the likes of Zadie Smith, Téa Obreht, and most recently to Eimear McBride for A Girl is a HalfFormed Thing. After a 17-year association with Orange, the prize partnered with Baileys in 2013, and following months of deliberations (and a lengthy 150-book reading list) the winner will be revealed on 3 June. “The judging process has been both an absolute joy and a huge challenge!” admits writer and judge Laura Bates. Better known as the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, which encouraged

Profile for Runwild Media Group

Vantage Magazine June 2015  

Welcome to the June edition of The Vantage magazine, celebrating the dynamism of the area and bringing you the latest features, articles and...

Vantage Magazine June 2015  

Welcome to the June edition of The Vantage magazine, celebrating the dynamism of the area and bringing you the latest features, articles and...

Advertisement