Author Sarah Perry is to chair the judging panel for the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize.
Perry will be joined by journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed, and head of publisher liaison and fiction for Waterstones Chris White on the judging panel. The trio are tasked with finding the novel they believe is most worthy of winning the £10,000 prize and being crowned the best debut of the last 12 months.
Perry’s first novel, After Me Comes the Flood (Serpent's Tail), was released in 2014 and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize. Her second novel, The Essex Serpent (Serpent's Tail), was published in 2016 and was chosen as Book of the Year by Waterstones and the The British Book Awards. It was also nominated for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Costa Novel Award.
Perry said she was "thrilled and flattered" to be asked to chair the panel.
"I feel increasingly passionate about the power of literature to serve as a guiding light in what seem intolerably dark and troubling days, and I am delighted to play a part in a prize that has always shown us what more we have to look forward to from debut authors", said Perry.
Ahmed presents "Front Row" on BBC Radio 4, "the Proms" on BBC4 and "Newswatch" on BBC1, and is a visiting professor of journalism at Kingston University. She was previously a correspondent and presenter at Channel 4 News, Deutsche Welle TV and BBC News, reporting on "Newsnight", the "Today" programme and as the BBC's LA correspondent covering the OJ Simpson case.
White has worked at Waterstones for 10 years and is head of publisher liaison and fiction for the bookseller chain. Having started his career as a bookseller at Hatchards, White moved to Waterstones’ head office in 2008 where he was part of the team responsible for Waterstones 11, a promotion which endeavoured to discover and champion debut writing. He has previously been a judge for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards and a category judge for the British Book Awards.
Last year, the Desmond Elliott Prize was awarded to Francis Spufford for his debut novel, Golden Hill (Faber). Other past-winners include Lisa McInerney, Claire Fuller and Eimear McBride. The award, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, is presented in the name of the late publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, in memory of his passion for discovering and nurturing emerging authors. The judges, with Desmond’s values in mind, will be looking for vividly written novels with a compelling narrative and arresting characters.
Chair of Trustees for the Prize, Dallas Manderson, said: “The Desmond Elliott Prize has a long history of outstanding judging panels and I am delighted to welcome our three exceptional judges for 2018, each of whom brings their own unique wealth of knowledge and experience to the role. It is no easy task that lays before them, but I have no doubt that they will do a tremendous job and look forward to discovering the novel they choose to be this year’s winner.”
A longlist of 10 books will be announced in April and a shortlist in May. The winner will be revealed at a ceremony at Fortnum & Mason on 20th June 2018 where they will be presented with a cheque for £10,000.