Helen Lederer launches prize for funny female writers
The Women’s prize for fiction was famously set up in response to the Booker prize failing to shortlist any female authors in 1991. Two decades on, a new award celebrating the funniest novels by women has been announced, in the wake of a sexism row over the Wodehouse prize for comic fiction.
Awarded each year at the Hay literary festival, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize has gone to three female authors in 18 years: Helen Fielding, Marina Lewycka and Hannah Rothschild. Earlier this summer, the bestselling novelist Marian Keyes laid into the Wodehouse – previously the UK’s only prize for funny fiction – for its “sexist imbalance”.
“I think by giving the men the prizes, it just reinforces that the men are more important … I love many men but that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the sexist imbalance,” said Keyes in June. “Male voices are automatically given extra weight. I mean, anything that’s ever been said or done by a woman just matters less.”
The Comedy women in print prize (CWIP) has now been launched by Helen Lederer, who told the Guardian that “more needs to be done to celebrate the achievements of women excelling in this field”. She said she hoped it would “bring forward the next generation of female talent as well as shine a light on women who have an established comedy writing career”.
Lederer is an award-winning comedian, writer and actor who is best known for her role as Catriona in Absolutely Fabulous. She published her debut novel, Losing It, in 2015. “As soon as I’d written my novel I looked around for prizes to win (as you do) and there were none,” she said. “Then I got excited about doing something to redress the imbalance. Now that the CWIP is finally on the literary map - it’s as if it was always meant to be there … funny that.”
Keyes – one of the judges for the CWIP – said: “There are countless hilarious, talented female writers currently producing great work. If existing prizes won’t honour funny women writers fairly, it’s time to set up a new prize.”
The CWIP will offer two awards – a £2,000 prize for published female writers, and a £1,000 prize with a free place on the University of Hertfordshire’s MA in creative writing for an unpublished writer. Judges will be looking, they said, for “evidence of wit ranging from irony to absurdity – offering laugh out loud moments and a sense of connection, truth and recognition to the reader”.
The prize will open for submissions on 24 August, with a longlist announced in March 2019, a shortlist in May and the winners unveiled next June.
Jennifer Young, a judge for the prize as well as a novelist and senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Hertfordshire, predicted it would fill a significant gap.
“Women are routinely overlooked for their comedic work, particularly in fiction. As Marian Keyes has pointed out, she’s never been shortlisted for the Wodehouse prize, despite her great success as a writer,” said Young.
“Women’s writing often struggles to get equal attention to men’s, and if the writing is comedic, the situation becomes even more difficult. We’ve all heard the token woman on Radio 4 comedy programmes – the assumption seems to be that men can be funnier than women. Is it that women should be pretty to look at and pleasant to listen to, rather than using their voices to push boundaries? CWIP sets out to challenge that – and to recognise and celebrate women’s ability to be comedic in many ways.”
This year, the Wodehouse prize was cancelled for the first time since it began, after judges announced that none of the 62 books submitted “incited the level of unanimous laughter we have come to expect”.Source: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/10/helen-lederer-launches-prize-for-funny-female-writers-comedy-women-in-print