Hackney-based independent publisher Influx Press has won the 2018 Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses for its title Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams.
Influx Press, an outfit run out of east London by Kit Caless, Gary Budden and Sanya Semakula, published Williams’ debut collection last year. The book, which is centred upon the difficulties of communication, has gone on to earn widespread critical acclaim from the likes of The Guardian, The Telegraph, the New Statesman, and the London Review of Books, and has been longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.
Neil Griffiths, the founder of the prize, said Influx's achievement was "exactly what the Republic of Consciousness Prize was set up to reward".
"A small press that is so focussed on what it wants to publish it can see unusually brilliant writing more clearly – especially when it comes to short stories", he said. “Eley Williams is that rare thing, a deeply serious writer working on a playful level. In the middle of her story 'Smote', I was floored. I realised I was reading a prose poet of a very high calibre indeed, and I said to myself: this book will win. The judges agreed.”
Caless praised the collaborative nature of independent publishing while accepting the award.
He said: “We are delighted to win the RoC Prize. This is changing the landscape of literary prizes, for the very reason that the press and the author are awarded. We are really proud of Eley Williams and her book. We wouldn’t have been in this position without her, and she wouldn’t be in this position without us. And that kind of relationship is really important for small publishers. It’s much more of a collaborative effort. When you work with an author on our level, really hands on, really close - for the two parties to be awarded is an exceptional thing for literary prizes. But mainly congratulations to everyone else.”
Williams, meanwhile, said: “It is such an honour to appear on this shortlist, alongside writers who are the blood, bones and held nerve of my favourite type of reading and writing. Thank you indies, and thank you Republic of Consciousness for supporting all they do.”
Returning for the second year in 2018, the Republic of Consciousness Prize rewards independent publishers from the UK and Ireland that take the risk to publish brave and bold literary fiction. It is open to presses that have no more than five full-time employees. Last year's prize was won by Fitzcaralldo Editions.
Influx Press will receive £5,000, with £3,000 going to the publisher and £2,000 to the author. The press triumphed over the shortlisted publishers Les Fugitives, Little Island Press, Charco Press, Dostoevsky Wannabe, and Galley Beggar Press, all of which will receive £1,500 each.
Influx Press started life in 2012, with an anthology of stories about the rapid changes taking place in Hackney. What was supposed to be a one-off publication turned into a small press success story: Influx has published 18 books since, including Jeffrey Boakye’s Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials and the Meaning of Grime, Darran Anderson’s Imaginary Cities, and Chimene Suleyman’s Outside Looking On.
The publisher recently launched a Kickstarter campaign in a bid to grow its business, backed by industry figures including Nikesh Shukla and Max Porter. In November last year, it opened its submissions exclusively to women of colour to expand the range of voices and scope of work it publishes.
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