Goldsmiths alumna Lisa Smith has won the 2019 Pat Kavanagh Prize, presented by United Agents, for her novel-in-progress The Land of Milk and Honey, about two children with Jamaican heritage growing up in early-1980s south London.
The award is presented annually to an outstanding piece of work by a graduate of the MA Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.
The £500 prize was introduced in memory of the much-admired literary agent Pat Kavanagh, who died in 2008. It is judged and awarded by a team of Kavanagh’s colleagues at United Agents, in association with the Goldsmiths’ Writers Centre.
Work by graduates who had achieved a distinction in their MA was submitted to United Agents earlier this year, with Elisabeth Denison, Helen Longstreth, Susannah Dickey, Keshava Guha, Lisa Smith, Kate Richards, Sam Dixon, Declan Pleydell-Pearce, Alan Davies and Lorraine Jones considered for the prize.
Longstreth was named runner-up, for her writing on a young woman whose alcoholic father dies while she is studying in California.
At a Goldsmiths event on Wednesday 16th January, the Pat Kavanagh Prize was presented by United Agents’ Sarah Ballard, following an introduction by Kavanagh’s husband Julian Barnes and readings by the shortlisted writers.
On receiving the prize, which is now in its 10th year, Smith said: “I’d like to thank my supervisors Ardashir Vakil and Tom Lee for their brilliant advice and patience, the amazing women I’ve been workshopping with who have given such generous feedback, and my husband for his love and support – and he’s also an excellent spellchecker.
“Coming back to university, and getting a distinction, now winning this, is a marvellous f**k you to breast cancer.”
Ballard said: “Lisa’s novel The Land of Milk and Honey follows Daphne as she meets fellow-Jamaican Christopher in a hostile school yard, and forms a nervous friendship with him. This is a novel peopled with engaging and vivid characters.
“We knew and cared about each of them; we cringed with Daphne as she watched Christopher making critical mistakes with the bullies at school – and we felt the power dynamic in that environment. Lisa is a very worthy winner of the Pat Kavanagh Prize.”