Comedy writers Katy Brand, Jenny Eclair and Kathy Lette are joining authors Marian Keyes and Allison Pearson to judge the inaugural Comedy Women in Print Prize.
Launched at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2018, the CWIP Prize was created by "Absolutely Fabulous" actress and stand-up comedian Helen Lederer to recognise female comedy writing and nurture new talent.
Joining Brand, Eclair and Lette, will be books journalist and novelist Fanny Blake, comedian Shazia Mirza, HarperFiction editorial director Martha Ashby, along with librarian and blogger Lara Marshall, prize organiser Karen McPherson and author Susan Calman.
Keyes, Pearson and Dr Jennifer Young, head of writing and journalism at Falmouth University, were confirmed as judges last year.
Lederer, also a novelist, said: “I seem to have been banging on about CWIP for years (well I have actually – OK four) but had no idea what it meant to actually make a prize happen from nothing. I’m not exactly a lady who lunches, more a lady who begs people to do stuff for CWIP all the time, but it’s paid off. Without the amazing calibre of quality judges and team members this would have remained a grumpy dream.”
Keyes said: “A myth abounds that women aren’t funny. Naturally it wasn’t women who came up with this nonsense: women know how hilarious other women are. Nevertheless, female comic writers don’t get anything like the recognition that male comic writers do."
The CWIP was announced months after the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize was cancelled last May, after judges said no entry made them "laugh out loud". This led to criticism from Keyes, who has again outlined her frustrations.
"In the 18 years since the inauguration of the Bollinger Wodehouse prize for comic fiction, women have won two and a half times. Just over 7%," she said. "Whatever the reason, I want female comic writers to be given the recognition they so richly deserve and which is long overdue. I’m delighted to be a judge for this prize.”
Ashby said: “I’m a huge fan of a) women, b) women who write and c) women who write funny books, and this prize ticks all those boxes so perfectly! I’m very much looking forward to reading all the entries and I can’t wait to ferret out some brilliant new talent.”
The winning author in the published category will be offered a £2000 cash award. Alongside this the CWIP Prize will offer the winner of the unpublished category a publishing contract and £5,000 advance with HarperFiction. The unpublished runner-up will receive a free place on the MA course in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire.
The closing date for submissions from aspiring and published comic women novelists is 28th February, with the shortlist revealed on 30th May. The winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the Conduit Club in London on 10th July.
For more information, visit comedywomeninprint.co.uk.