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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Celebrating The 100th Issue: Comedy Women in Print

By Grace Briggs-Jones and Mythily Merai 

As The Publishing Post reaches its milestone 100th issue, let’s pay homage by revisiting our first article spotlighting literary prizes. This piece highlighted the 2020 Comedy Women in Print Award, featuring notable winners such as Ruth Jones (known for Gavin & Stacey and Sister Act! The Musical), Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy by Faye Brann and Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, among others.

The Comedy Women in Print Prize was founded by Helen Lederer to recognise, celebrate and encourage witty women writers. The award brings significant publicity and respect to its winners, along with a publishing deal with Harper Collins for the 'new' funny writer in the Unpublished Novel category. Additionally, the Unpublished Novel winner receives a place on an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire and an MA in Comedy at Falmouth University, not to mention a substantial cash prize for the Published Novel winner.

This award spotlights some of the most talented women in comedy, judged by esteemed figures from the comedy world. In 2021, judges included Steph McGovern, Dame Maureen Lipman, Susan Wokoma and Thanyia Moore. For the 2022 and 2023 awards, judges such as Anita Dobson, Susie Blake and Llewella Gideon lent their expertise. For any witty writer, being evaluated by such respected individuals is a significant honour.

Since its inception, the award has seen a sharp rise in entries, demonstrating the large pool of hilarious authors eager to be discovered. The themes explored in each category are diverse, ranging from pregnancy and detectives, to weddings and friendship, ensuring there is a book to suit every reader's taste. Past winners of the Comedy Women in Print Prize have set a high standard, contributing significantly to the visibility and appreciation of women's comedic writing. Some notable winners include:

  • 2019 Published Novel Winner: Laura Steven for The Exact Opposite of Okay  Laura Steven’s debut novel, a sharp and witty exploration of social media shaming, captivated readers with its bold humour and timely themes.

  • 2019 Unpublished Comic Novel Winner: Kirsty Eyre for Cow Girl – The novel captures the rugged spirit of the American West, where dreams are as big as the wide-open skies. Through the vivid prose, Eyre paints a portrait of resilience and determination, where the heroine’s journey unfolds against a backdrop of dusty trails and boundless horizons.

  • 2020 Published Novel Winner: Candice Carty-Williams for Queenie Queenie received widespread acclaim for its frank and funny portrayal of a young Black woman navigating life, love and mental health in London. Carty-Williams's win underscored the importance of diverse voices in comedy.

  • 2020 Published Comic Novel Winner: Nina Stibbe for Reasons to be Cheerful – A humorous coming-of-age novel set in the 1970s, Reasons to be Cheerful follows the quirky and lovable Lizzie Vogel as she navigates her first job in a dental surgery. Stibbe’s sharp wit and observational humour vividly bring to life the eccentric characters and peculiar situations Lizzie encounters.

  • 2021 Published Comic Novel Winner: Jesse Sutanto for Dial A for Aunties – A novel combining romance, humour and crime, Dial A for Aunties follows a wedding photographer whose aunties help her cover up an accidental murder. The novel is celebrated for its humour, engaging plot and the depiction of a close-knit, meddlesome family.

  • 2022 Published Comic Novel Winner: Michelle Gallen for Factory Girls Set in the 1990s, Factory Girls sees a group of young women navigating work and life amidst the political tensions of the era. The novel is celebrated for its sharp, raunchy humour and authentic depiction of working-class life.

  • 2022 New Voice Award Winner: Nikki May for Wahala – Nikki May delves into the complexities of identity and belonging within the Nigerian diaspora, weaving a narrative that resonates with cultural pride and personal struggle. May’s prose vividly portrays the clash between tradition and modernity, offering a compelling exploration of family ties and the quest for self-discovery amidst societal expectations.

The Comedy Women in Print Prize not only celebrates literature, but also provides tangible support and opportunities for women writers, helping them to gain recognition and further their careers in the literary world. Winners in the published category receive a cash prize of £3,000, while the unpublished winners are awarded a publishing contract with HarperFiction and a £5,000 advance. Runners-up in the unpublished category receive additional support, such as mentoring and educational opportunities. 

In 2024, the Comedy Women in Print Prize plans to introduce a Legacy Recognition Award to honour the late Sue Townsend, author of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, celebrating her impactful and satirical work. There is also to be a surprise award, called the Game Changer Award, that will be presented to an individual who has made a significant impact on comedic literature, echoing the Lifetime Achievement prize given to Jilly Cooper in previous years. 



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