Authors Alison MacLeod and William Atkins have been judged joint winners of the 2016 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award. Two winners have been awarded this year due to the "high standard of submissions".
The award was set up by the Eccles Centre in 2012 to promote awareness of the British Library's collections relating to the US and Canada. Each of the winners was awarded £20,000 as well as access to the library's collections to research their upcoming publications during a residency beginning in January 2016.
MacLeod is writing a novel inspired by the 1960s trial of Penguin Books over DH Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover. It follows a trail of suspicion across post-WW2 London, leading ultimately to the US and "the very core of Establishment forces". Her most recent novel Unexploded (Hamish Hamilton) was longlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, while her short fiction has been nominated for The BBC National Short Story Award and the Sunday Times EFC International Short Story Award. MacLeod's next collection will be published by Bloomsbury in the UK and the USA.
Her co-winner Atkins - who is the author behind the acclaimed travel narrative The Moor (Faber & Faber) - will be researching a new travel narrative "interrogating the Western concept of the desert". Outside of the library, he'll do this by travelling to Australia, Central Asia, the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa and the American West. The Desert is due to be published internationally (Faber & Faber in the UK and Doubleday in the USA) in 2018.
The authors' connection with the Eccles Centre will allow them acces not only to one of the world's greatest research libraries, but to use the Centre’s programme and networks to engage with other researchers, students and members of the public.
Professor Philip Davies, director of The Eccles Centre and one of the judges, said: “In awarding the 2016 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence prizes to William Atkins and Alison MacLeod the judges have once again demonstrated the breadth and depth of the library’s wonderful collections on North America, and of their immense value in providing a foundation for writers of enormous talent. The prizes will offer these 2016 award holders the chance to explore trans-Atlantic and global themes from an American focal point through the unique resources of the British Library, and the projects undertaken by William Atkins and Alison MacLeod will, in the future, guide readers through the times and the spaces that they have found within those collections.”
In addition to Prof Davies, judges for the Award were Professor Sarah Churchwell, professorial fellow in American literature and chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study, Richard Carwardine, president of Corpus Christi College Oxford, Catherine Eccles literary scout and granddaughter of David and Mary Eccles, who endowed the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the Library in 1991; and Dr Matthew Shaw, lead curator for the Americas at the British Library.
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