Sutanto wins £3,000 CWIP Prize with debut 'crackling with comic energy'

Sutanto wins £3,000 CWIP Prize with debut 'crackling with comic energy'

Debut author Jesse Sutanto has won the CWIP Prize for Published Comic Novel, for her "deliciously frantic comedy caper" Dial A for Aunties (HarperCollins), with Dolly Alderton coming runner-up.

The third annual Comedy Women in Print Prize (CWIP) winners were announced this evening (Monday 8th November) at a ceremony at The Groucho Club in London. Shortlistees, judges, previous winners and friends of CWIP gathered to celebrate in-person for the first time since the inaugural year.

Dial A for Aunties tells the story of a matriarchal family of Chinese-Indonesian wedding planners set in California. An adaptation of the book for screen has already been snapped up by Netflix.

The Published Comic Novel runner-up prize was presented to the Sunday Times columnist and author of Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton, for her "marvellously accomplished" fiction debut Ghosts (Fig Tree).

Sutanto and Alderton were awarded £3,000 and £500 respectively from the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). They beat a shortlist that included writer and actor Diksha Basu, TV presenter Mel Giedroyc, journalist and debut novelist Jane Ions, along with writer and journalist Lynne Truss.

Joanne Harris, author and chair of judges for the CWIP Published Comic Novel Prize, said: “The panel of judges had a wonderful time reading and re-reading the books. There was so much variety, originality, insight and humour in this shortlist that it wasn't easy selecting just two. However, we all agreed that Dial A for Aunties should be the winner: it's a deliciously frantic comedy caper, filled with absurd situations, hilarious dialogue, wonderful family dynamics and crackling with comic energy. The runner-up, Ghosts, is a marvellously accomplished, tender, witty and human story that should speak to women everywhere.”

Commenting on her win, Sutanto told The Bookseller: “It doesn't feel real to win such a huge prize. I'm so grateful to people like [prize founder] Helen Lederer for giving this opportunity to women who would otherwise have been overlooked. I think that the landscape for comic women writers is so bright right now, thanks to people like Helen shining a spotlight on us. For years now, we have actually dominated the comic landscape, but have been given very little recognition, and I'm so excited that we're finally getting our moment in the limelight. I think it's only going to push us to work harder, be even better than before, and I look forward to seeing the great new heights we're about to achieve.”

The Unpublished Comic Novel prize was won by job centre worker Rebecca Rogers. Judges praised her "truly original" The Purgatory Poisoning, which has won her a publishing contract and £5,000 advance from HarperFiction.

Sarah Shaffi, author and chair of judges for the CWIP Unpublished Novels Prize, said of Rogers' work: “We were so impressed with the whole shortlist, and the many different ways in which the authors used comedy to make us laugh and to tell their stories. Our winner, The Purgatory Poisoning, is a book that we all felt was truly original. Rebecca's world building is remarkable, and her characters and plot propel the book to unexpected places. The Purgatory is a delight—and a laugh—to read from start to finish.”

A further Unpublished Comic Novel prize runner-up, Hannah Dolby (The Lady Detective), received a place on the online MA in Comedy Writing from Falmouth University. A second runner-up, Katherine Sumner-Ailes (The NCT Murders), won a place on the University of Hertfordshire MA course in Creative Writing or a writing mentorship.

Actor and writer Meera Syal was given special acknowledgement for her contribution to wit on the page, including her debut novel Anita and Me, receiving the Witty Writer of the Year Award. Stand-up comedian, podcaster (of "The Guilty Feminist") and screenwriter Deborah Frances-White was named Witty Game-Changer for her role in transforming the perception of witty women in comedy and beyond.

CWIP also awarded a £300 prize to A J Morris, who won the Comedy Cringe Flash Competition, run in partnership with Black Girl Writers and People in Harmony: Making Mixed Race Matter. The competition was judged by members of both organisations alongside "Ab Fab" actress and writer Llewella Gideon.

The UK and Ireland’s only awards to shine a light on humorous writing by women, CWIP was launched by actress, author and stand-up comedian Lederer in 2019, with the aim to increase exposure for diverse female voices in all genres of comedic writing as well as uncover, nurture and support fresh talent.

Lederer said: “I am as in-awe of the judges as I am of the authors. I don’t know how they did it, but the judges managed the balance between personal comedic instinct and an unashamed, shared passion to celebrate witty writing. To choose between any of these wonderfully clever, uplifting novels is virtually impossible, but CWIP is genuinely thrilled to share these titles. For the cost of a book, a reader can be instantly connected, lifted and feel less isolated."

Author and former CWIP judge Marian Keyes is a supporter and patron of the prize. CWIP 2021 is also supported by ALCS, Blackheath High School GDST, Brownhill Insurance, Espensen Spirit, Scrivener and The Writers’ Guild.