Four debuts have been shortlisted for the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award after a record number of submissions forced an expanded judging panel. First works from poet Raymond Antrobus, short story writer Julia Armfield and novelists Yara Rodrigues Fowler and Kim Sherwood were chosen from more than 100 entries from UK and Irish publishers to be considered for the £5,000 prize.
To work through the volume of entries, judging chair and Sunday Times literary editor Adam Holgate added writer, editor and bookseller Nick Rennison and the University of Warwick’s Gonzalo C Garcia to the existing panel, which included writer Kate Clanchy and author Victoria Hislop.
On the shortlist sits Hackney-born Raymond Antrobus’s poetry collection The Perseverance, published by indie press Penned in the Margins, and London-based Julia Armfield’s collection of dark short stories Salt Slow (Picador). Brazilian-British writer Yara Rodrigues Fowler’s novel on a bicultural upbringing Stubborn Activist (Fleet) was also nominated, as well as creative writing teacher Kim Sherwood’s Testament (riverrun) which draws on her grandmother’s experiences as a holocaust survivor.
Clanchy said: “Reading through all the books for the judging process affirmed for me that there is still such a thing as a literary generation – a zeitgeist of concerns, ideas and images which belong especially to those born in a particular time. We read many books about identity, the body and inheritance, and we chose four especially searching and beautiful treatments of those themes, all of them books which brought something new to their forms. It’s a thrilling shortlist, and I can’t imagine how we will choose a winner.”
The award is open to British or Irish writers in fiction, non-fiction or poetry under the age of 35. The winner will be given a year’s membership of The London Library, in addition to a bespoke 10-week residency at the University of Warwick, and £5,000 prize money. The 2019 winner will be announced at The London Library on 5 December 2019.
The prize was founded in 1991 and took a seven-year break from 2008 to 2015. Last year, Sally Rooney became the first Irish Young Writer of the Year for Conversations with Friends (Faber).
This is the first year the award has the University of Warwick as title sponsor, in addition to the Sunday Times, following two years as associate partner.