Debut novels by Dolly Alderton and Mel Giedroyc are both on the shortlist for the 2021 Comedy Women in Print Prize.
The UK and Ireland’s only awards to celebrate humorous writing by women, the Comedy Women in Print (CWIP) Prize is now in its third year and will have a physical winners ceremony in November.
Alderton’s fiction debut, Ghosts (Penguin), is praised by organisers as “a witty, relatable and big-hearted story of modern life, love and relationships”. It is pitted against Giedroyc’s The Best Things (Headline), which is described as “a polished first novel from the Bafta-winning TV presenter, who turns a rags-to-riches story on its head”.
Joining them on the six-strong shortlist are Diksha Basu’s Destination Wedding (Bloomsbury Circus), a "hilarious and eye-opening tale” which follows New Yorker Tina at her cousin’s big family wedding in Delhi, along with Jane Ions’ Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters (Bluemoose Books). The latter, about a middle-aged woman trying to put herself first, offers “laughs on every page".
Dial A for Aunties (HQ) by Jesse Sutanto, about a matriarchal family of Chinese-Indonesian wedding planners, is described as “a highly original, madcap, murder romcom". Lynne Truss' 1957-set Murder by Milk Bottle (Raven Books), delivers “a fast-paced romp full of laugh-out-loud set pieces".
The shortlist was judged by author Joanne Harris, actress Maureen Lipman, journalist and presenter Steph McGovern, writers Cathy Rentzenbrink and Nina Stibbe as well as Susan Wokoma, actress and writer. Harris, chair of the judges, said: “This is a fantastic shortlist, showcasing the tremendous breadth and diversity of women’s comic writing. From domestic disaster to murder most femme, this list offers something for everyone.”
While the CWIP Prize for Published Comic Novel aims to increase exposure for diverse female voices in all genres of comedic writing, the award for Unpublished Comic Novel celebrates new talent.
The six nominated manuscripts include The Lady Detective by Hannah Dolby, Fools Rush In by Jo Lyons, Rebecca Rogers’ The Purgatory Poisoning, The NCT Murders by Katherine Sumner-Ailes, Labour Law by Clare Ward-Smith and The Death and Life of Agnes Grace by Emma Williams.
The Unpublished Comic Novels category was judged by HarperCollins editorial director Martha Ashby, journalist and editor Sarah Shaffi, and writing and journalism academic Dr Jennifer Young as well as 2020 winner Faye Brann, presenter Gloria Hunniford, and comedian and actress Thanyia Moore.
Shaffi, chair of the panel, said: “The books we've chosen show raw talent, huge potential, put women's voices at the fore and, importantly, had us laughing throughout. I love that our shortlist consists of everything from historical fiction to contemporary romance via a murder mystery. It shows the depth and breadth of funny women writing today and I hope that this year's shortlist can be built on in future years to create a more inclusive and welcoming landscape for funny women writers."
Actress, author and comedian Helen Lederer, who launched the CWIP in 2018, said: “When CWIP began as an idea five years ago, there was no parity. Women’s wit on the page was not being celebrated, let alone thought of as equal. Now in our third year, we have created witty writing careers and honoured wonderful, comedic authors.”
The main CWIP winner will receive a cash prize of £3,000 from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). For the unpublished category, the winner will receive a publishing contract and a £5,000 advance from HarperFiction, a place on the University of Hertfordshire MA course in Creative Writing, or a writing mentorship. Runner-up will receive a place on the online MA in Comedy Writing from Falmouth University.
CWIP is also awarding a £300 prize to the winner of the Comedy Cringe Flash Competition, in partnership with organisations Black Girl Writers and People in Harmony. Entrants were encouraged to share their most cringeworthy flash fiction stories of 250 words or less to be judged by actress and writer Llewella Gideon and members from Black Girl Writers and People in Harmony.
The CWIP winners, along with the honorary awards for Witty Writer of the Year and Witty Game Changer, will be announced at a ceremony at the Groucho Club on 8th November 2021.
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