As the Accolades Collide
We are, as you may have noticed, passing through the publishing-award equivalent of what zodiacal scholars sometimes call the “Mercury storm.” At this time each year, many awards programs reach their winner announcements.
Journalists who cover book publishing are especially aware of this because, unlike others, we aren’t able to pick and choose which awards to pay attention to and which to ignore. We’re expected to cover them all. This creates something between bad Franz Kafka and good Neil Simon at times, as we try to remember where we are in each program’s cycle. Is it the announcement of the jurors, the call for submissions, the longlist, the shortlist, the winner?
There are so many awards programs at the international level that we annually cover prizes we don’t even recall doing before. There are prizes for just about everything except Authors Who Go Through Grocery Store Doors Sideways, and I’m afraid that one is getting a sponsor soon and announcing its jury.
Most of the awards are based in the United Kingdom. No one loves an award like the Brits do, and they hand them to each other year-round, nonstop. The FutureBook’s current round this week has each category named “Best of Lockdown.” The Women Poets Awards were just named. They’ve done a readers’ vote to name Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie the “Winner of Winners” in 25 years of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, good call. They gave the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding at the British Academy to Hazel Carby.
The Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction is set to announce its 2020 winner on Tuesday (November 24). And on that same day (Tuesday), the Society of Authors in London will announce its shortlists for six, count ’em, six awards for writings in translations–a total 35 translated titles coming into English from six languages. For those of us who love international literature, this one is an annual bonanza of good content.
There may not always be an England but there will always be book awards there.
- South Africa went for Trever Noah’s young readers’ edition of his memoir in the 2020 SA Book Awards.
- Germany has put out the call for its annual Buchtrailer Awards (yes, for book trailers).
- Vietnam has opened a children’s picture book award.
- Canada’s Cundill History Prize (a covetable US$75,000 to the winner) is going to be handed out during a two-day “festival” of online events, December 2 and 3.
- Right on top of the Cundill, the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year winner will land on December 1.
- Aspen Words’ terrific issue-driven Literary Prize has named its longlist–for 2021.
- The esteemed Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the United Arab Emirates has had a record-breaking 2,349 submissions this year from 57 countries, 12 of those nations weighing in for the first time–a good sign that this is an international prize gaining well-deserved traction.
- The Sunday Times / University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award will name its winner on December 10. That one is for writers 35 or younger from Ireland or the UK. Of course, the name of the prize is so long that by the time they’ve read it out, the winner may be a year older and no longer eligible.
And we’ll soon be in our 2020 Clean Up on Aisle Two mode, as we try to gather up the various programs that got past us during other news–What? It’s not all about awards?–such as Souvankham Thammavongsa’s win of the Scotiabank Giller Prize in Canada for her short-story collection How To Pronounce Knife. Not familiar with the Scotiabook Giller? It hands over CAN$100,000 (US$76,562) to the winner and CAN$10,000 to each shortlistee.
If you’d like to see some of this coverage at Publishing Perspectives, our prize story tag will get you there. Any time you need to see the latest awards news we have, just hit that link.
Two awards just this week, however, have helped me define something about the value of awards for writers. It goes beyond the obvious (and very welcome) assist in marketing and selling a book with a WINNER seal on its cover.