The Young Writer of the Year Award is hosted (almost) annually in the UK and sees a writer under the age of 35 receive a cash prize of £5,000, as well as the distinction of winning this honour for a work of fiction, non-fiction, or poetry.
This year’s entries were shortlisted to the following:
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Reading Cure – Laura Freeman
Elmet – Fiona Mozley
Kings of the Yukon – Adam Weymouth
(Links to purchase below)
The panel of judges consisted of novelist Kamila Shamsie, novelist and non-fiction writer Susan Hill, and Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times, each of whom backed Weymouth with great enthusiasm.
Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey is described as “A captivating, lyrical account of an epic voyage by canoe down the Yukon River.” It recounts Weymouth’s own experience canoeing down the river and meeting people who have counted on its King Salmon migrations for generations. Climate change has seen a sharp decline in the salmon’s numbers and Kings of the Yukon examines how the modern world may have permanently changed a way of life that spans centuries.
Speaking of Weymouth’s book, Andrew Holgate said: “It feels as if we have found, ready minted and hidden in plain sight, a really outstanding new contemporary British voice – one who literary editors (myself included; I plead guilty) almost completely failed to spot on publication.”
Kamila Shamsie described the book as“Dazzling, often in unexpected ways. Adam Weymouth is a wonderful travel writer, nature writer, adventure writer – along the way, he is also a nuanced examiner of some of the world’s most fraught and urgent questions about the interconnectedness of people and the natural world.”
Susan Hill said “I was knocked sideways by this book and quite unexpectedly. Adam Weymouth takes his place beside the great travel writers like Chatwin, Thubron, Leigh Fermor, in one bound. But like their books this is about so much more than just travel.”
Rounding off the shower of praise, Andrew Holgate finished by saying: “I’ve never seen such a strong and excited consensus among the judges for a winner. Weymouth combines acute political, personal and ecological understanding, with the most beautiful writing reminiscent of a young Robert Macfarlane. He more than holds his own among the award’s illustrious list of past winners, and I’m thrilled that the prize is able to give him some of the exposure he so clearly deserves. He is, I have no doubt, a significant voice for the future.”
The Young Writer of the Year Award has been going since 1991 and previous winners include Max Porter for Grief is the Thing with Feathers (2016), Ross Raisin for God’s Own Country (2009), and Zadie Smith for White Teeth (2001). No doubt we’ve not heard the last of this year’s shortlisted writers.
The Bookseller reports that in all, forty-eight bookshops are competing, from nine regions of the UK and are all hoping to win in their local area before going forward to compete for the overall, nationwide prize.
Here are the shortlisted books for each region. We have some of the bookshops listed in our bookshop section so the ones featured are linked:
Behrouz Boochani is a failed asylum seeker from Iran who has been held on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for almost six years. The place doesn’t get much coverage for an offshore detention centre that holds failed refugees indefinitely, and maybe it should but all that might be about to change as Boochani’s book is about his time on the island and his attempted journey to safety.
This year’s winners have been announced by Poets & Writers, and the well-deserving recipients of the 2019 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award are:
Reginald Dwayne Betts – “for mentoring individuals involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and for his efforts to reform these systems.”
Reginald Dwayne Betts writes memoirs and poetry. His most recent collection of poetry, Bastards of the Reagan Era, won the 2016 PEN New England Award in Poetry. While his memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival and Coming of Age in Prison, is just the beginning of his campaigning to reform the criminal justice system in the UK. He has also made numerous visits to prisons and juvenile detention centres, where he shares his poetry and talks about the power of reading, literacy and mentoring those in incarceration.