Saturday, July 14, 2012

Polari First Book prize longlist and what it means

Via Diva, the longlist of the UK's Polari First Book prize:

Rory's Boys  by Alan Clark (Bliss/Arcadia Books)
Pennance by Claire Ashton (self published on Kindle)
The Frost Fairs by John McCullogh (Salt)
Becoming Nancy by Terry Ronald (Transworld)
Exit Through The Wound by North Morgan (Limehouse Books)
Body of Water by Stuart Wakefield (self published)
Modern Love by Max Wallis (Flap)
Ey Up and Away by Vicky Ryder (Wandering Star Press)
Grrl Alex by Alex Drummond, (self published)
Perking The Pansies by Jack Scott (Summertime Publishing)

Perhaps you remember that one of the judges, Suzi Feay, was worried recently about the lack of lesbian fiction submitted to the prize. Perhaps this is because it's almost always referred to as a gay fiction prize; most of the women I know don't think of themselves as gay but as queer or lesbians or dykes. Perhaps it's that, despite the notion that women writers in the UK have it far better than women in the US, lesbian writers in the UK are selecting themselves right out of the race. Perhaps many women these days, particularly newer, younger writers, prefer writing for performance: plays, slam poetry, songs, and so on. We are a social species; women, particularly, like to create, produce and perform in a groups.

From the names on the list, I'd guess that three of the ten finalists identify as women. That's a proportion that is far from satisfactory. It's not the judges' fault, they can't select what isn't submitted. So, once again, let me ask women writers to be brave, to begin. We need your voices.

If you're thinking about beginning, next year consider signing up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon (Wat). This year over 220 writers are taking part. Think about that: 220 people you can turn to for support. Clarion West encourages Wat writers to rely on the support of sponsors, it runs weekly Tweet chats, and updates a group Facebook page. Participants are encouraged to blog and tweet their progress. It turns out to be very useful for both established and emerging writers.

For more on how it works for one writer, see Kelley's marvellous blog posts about her experience last year and this.

ETA: Vicky Ryder's book is currently only available from her website.

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