Raynor Winn has been awarded the inaugural £10,000 RSL Christopher Bland Prize for her memoir, The Salt Path (Michael Joseph).
Winn, who has also been offered the choice of a two-week writing retreat in either the South West of France or County Sligo, Ireland as part of her prize, celebrated with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
She tweeted: "I can't believe this just happened. Thank you so much to the @RSLiterature for considering #thesaltpath worthy of this amazing prize. Just celebrating with a cup of tea and a biscuit !!!"
The Salt Path, which recounts Winn's experience as she walked the 630 mile South West Coast Path to escape the prospect of homelessness, was also shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Book Awards and Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize. It has sold 80,903 copies so far in paperback and 24,635 in hardback, according to Nielsen.
Winn's memoir beat competition from a six-strong shortlist featuring Thomas Burke's The Consolation of Maps (Riverrun), Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce (Picador) and A Spy Named Orphan by Roland Philipps (The Bodley Head) alongside De Rightest Place by Barbara Jenkins (Peepal Tree Press) and Alex Reeve's The House on Half Moon Street (Raven Books).
Winn added: "Lovely to meet some of my fellow shortlisters for the @RSLiterature Christopher Bland Prize @ajpearcewrites @storyjoy and Roland Philipps. Just getting our books published made us all winners."
Gillian Slovo, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Archie Bland and Anne Chisholm judged this year's RSL Christopher Bland Prize, which celebrates debut novelists and non-fiction writers aged 50 or over.
Chair of the judges Slovo said: "The loss of a home and the threat of a mortal illness send Raynor Winn and her husband Moth onto the salt path. What follows is a quest vividly described of how to survive being outcast. The Salt Path is a book about a love that holds strong despite privations and about the way we judge others. It uses a shifting landscape of feeling that says much about the power of nature, the stigma of homelessness, and the unexpected choices that can change lives."
The winner was announced last night (Wednesday 29th May) to coincide with Sir Christopher Bland's birthday. Bland, who died in 2017, chaired publishing house Canongate, as well as overseeing the BBC, British Telecom and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was knighted in 1993 for services to the NHS. Bland didn’t start writing until after his retirement, publishing début novel Ashes in the Wind (Head of Zeus) at the age of 76.