David Farrier and Lisa Woollett have won the inaugural RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for first commissioned works of non-fiction.
The awards were judged by Richard Holmes, Afua Hirsch and Fiona St Aubyn.
Farrier was presented with a £10,000 award for his book Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils (4th Estate), about the search for the fossils of "our haunted future". The judges said: "David Farrier has proposed a big visionary book, combining environmental sciences and world literature in a highly original and imaginative way."
Farrier lives in Edinburgh, where he teaches literature at the University of Edinburgh. His work on future fossils has appeared in magazines including Aeon and The Atlantic. He said: "I am thrilled and delighted to receive an RSL Giles St Aubyn Award. The story of the future fossils we’re making and the world we will leave behind for future generations is one of the most important there is, and I feel honoured to have the support of the Royal Society of Literature in telling it."
Woollet was presented with a £5,000 award for her book Scavenging (John Murray). Structured as a series of beachcombing and mudlarking walks, Woollett traces members of her family who were once dustmen and scavengers. "This is a gem of a book and a find in itself. In an intimate and evocative narrative she describes how the landscape has changed over the centuries, and gives a unique perspective into the curious objects she finds when the tide is out", said the judges.
Wollett worked as a freelance documentary photographer for 12 years and in the past four years has self-published two books. Her current projects include a children’s book due out in spring 2018.
She said: "I am delighted. To have the support and encouragement of the award at this stage of the book is wonderful and will allow me the time to make it as good as I possibly can."
Joanna Jolly received a special commendation for her work in progress From the Red River: The Story of the Murder of a Canadian Aboriginal Girl, Tina Fontaine (Virago). The judges said that the "book promises to be a gripping and humane account of the disappearance and murder of First Nation women in Canada."
The Royal Society of Literature has established annual awards for first-time writers of non-fiction – in perpetuity – thanks to a "significant bequest" from author and RSL Fellow Giles St Aubyn. The RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards build on the RSL’s experience of a previous form of non-fiction awards, generously supported by Jerwood Charitable Foundation from 2004 to 2016.
The authors were presented with their awards on Wednesday 29th November 2017 by Prince Edward, The Duke of Kent, at an event held at John Murray’s house, 50 Albermarle Street, London, W1.
In leaving his bequest to the RSL, St Aubyn wrote: “I wish to help aspiring authors to get their works published, particularly authors of works of non-fiction which require a good deal of preliminary research. The sort of authors I have in mind would be those who have not already been published and who are struggling to get their feet on the first rung of the ladder.”
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