An award such as the Windham-Campbell Prize is a highly sought after accolade and one of the richest literary prizes in the world. Eight English language authors are selected every year to “call attention to literary achievement” and let writers “focus on their work independent of financial concerns”.
Basically every writer’s dream- to get paid to keep writing what you want to write.
The Windham-Campbell prizes were established in 2013, thanks to the writer Donald Windham leaving his estate to Yale University. Windham struggled financially during his first attempts at being a professional author, and along with his partner Sandy Campbell, had long wanted to create a literary award to support fellow writers. Authors are anonymously nominated and judged, and winners are notified by the prize director Michael Kelleher with no previous warning.
Donald Windham left his estate to his fellow writers in the form of a literary prize
One winner, Danielle McLaughlin- author of Dinosaurs on Other Planets, was on a day out with her family to mark a significant birthday when she discovered she’d won one of this year’s Windham-Campbell prizes, and it seems the prize came at a good time.
“It was like a miracle,” McLaughlin said, “arriving at a time when I was experiencing a bit of a wobble, psychologically, in my writing life. In a sense, it was like an answer to a question I had started asking myself.”
Joining McLaughlin for this year’s honourable prizes are essayist Rebecca Solnit, historian and journalist Raghu Karnad, poet Kwame Dawes, novelist David Chariandy, poet Ishion Hutchinson, and playwrights Patricia Cornelius, and Young Jean Lee.
McLaughlin, who first entered the professional literary world in 2015 with a collection of short fiction, was chosen by judges for her stories that they say “capture the beauty and brutality of human relationships, imbuing them with near-magical qualities rooted in the details of everyday life in a manner both wry and resonant”.
Commenting on the uneasy world of a writing career, McLaughlin said:
“A lot of the writing life involves working on projects that not only don’t earn any money but are loss making. So this kind of support is immensely important.”
The lucky winner is now planning to “treat myself to a year of writing, writing, writing”.
Kwame Dawes, author of City of Bones, explained how he feels about the award:
“It is good to be seen,” he said. “My general reaction is gratitude, and joy because I could walk down the hall to the dining room and say to my wife Lorna, ‘Guess what?’ And we could laugh. And she could ask, ‘SO is there any money?’ And we could laugh more. And then tell the children, and they could laugh and say, ‘Nice one, pops.’ Which is delightful.”
David Chariandy, who wrote Brother said:
“This prize is life-changing, since it affords me the chance to focus in a genuinely sustained way on my writing. I’m currently working on a triptych of a novel – a series of complicated but intimate affairs between people of African and South Asian descent, beginning in Trinidad during the uneasy post-emancipation/indenture period, and proceeding to Europe of the 50s and then North America of today”.
Rebecca Solnit, who inspired the term ‘mansplaining’ with her essay Men Explain Things to Me was in Bogotá when she heard the news:
“After the sheer amazement settled, I felt so grateful to have this encouragement and support to do what I’ve wanted to do all my life: just write books”.
Jamaican poet Hutchinson, author of House of Lords and Commons was pleasantly surprised by the award:
“It provides a buffer between the demands of day-to-day work and the imaginative work I am involved in. The Caribbean is still an unexplored and very rich terrain, and I feel bound up in a kind of excavation of what it means in multiple ways, to be a Jamaican, in light of history and our contemporary moment”.
His work was chosen for “conjuring Jamaica and the world within” in verse that “surprises and stuns with formal innovation, musical clarity, and historical depth”.
Theakston Old Peculier has been the title sponsor of the festival almost from the start back in 2006 and so the award is now in its thirteenth year. Crime remains one of the most popular literary genres, and so here are the six novels that have made the shortlist for 2019, giving you plenty to add to your TBR!
The Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation, created in 2015 opens a space for these writers, reaches out to them, and awards an annual prize for adventure writing. The shortlist for the Best Published Novel in adventure writing for 2019 has been released and we have that for you now!
The prize has a royal patron in Princess Beatrice and it was she who awarded the winning author with the prize at a ceremony in the Mayfair Hotel in London this week. The prize is supported by Amazon and the National Literacy Trust. Read More