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Polari Prizes: the UK’s Only Award for LGBTQ+ Literature Has Reopened for Submissions

By Maisie George and Amy Joan Sayner


The Polari Prizes, the UK’s only award for LGBTQ+ related literature, is undeniably a key date in the literary calendar, and its submissions have recently reopened with a deadline of 6 May 2024. Launched in 2011 by the novelist and activist who founded the Polari Literary Salon, these prestigious prizes recognise the value of queer literature and give credit to authors for their thought-provoking depictions of the LGBTQIA+ experience, which has been historically underrepresented. They welcome all types of genres, from memoirs and poetry, to thrillers and historical fiction, meaning that the longlists and shortlists are incredibly diverse. There are three prizes in the running: Polari First Book Prize, Polari Book Prize, and Polari Children’s and YA Prize.


The Polari First Book Prize will be awarded to a debut book which portrays the LGBTQIA+ experience. This prize is sponsored by the prominent literary PR consultancy FMcM Associates who will gift the winner £1,000 as well as the opportunity to appear on the judging panel the following year. Following this tradition, last year’s winner Jon Ransom will join the judging panel this year, along with author Rachel Holmes, author and writing coach Karen McLeod, co-chair of Spread The Word Simon Richardson, and author Paul Burston (Chair). Ransom was awarded the 2023 prize for his captivating novel The Whale Tattoo, which explores the challenges of queer love and loss in a monotonous seaside town. Previous winners also include Kirsty Logan, Amrou Al-Kadhi, Diriye Osman, Mohsin Zaidi, and Adam Zmith.


The Polari Book Prize is considered the overall prize and is sponsored by the D H H Literary Agency who will award the winner a cheque of £2,000. Like the First Book Prize, the 2023 winner Julia Armfield will appear on the judging panel along with literary critic Suzi Feay, cultural sector leader Chris Gribble, author and comedian VG Lee, and author Paul Burston (Chair). Last year, Armfield received the prize for Our Wives Under The Sea which offers a beguiling portrayal of the relationship between two women within a gothic-style tale. It has also previously been awarded to authors such as Andrew McMillan, Kate Davies, Diana Souhami, and Joelle Taylor.


The Polari Children’s and YA Prize will also be returning for the second time after its inaugural year in 2022. This year, the prize will be sponsored by Ash Literary Agency who specialise in Children’s and YA books and will be gifting the winner £1,000. The panel will be composed of educator Rayyan Aboo, librarian Zoey Dixon, writer Erica Gillingham, author Sam Sedgeman and author Jodie Lancet-Grant (Chair). In 2022, Ian Eagleton and James Mayhew were awarded the prize for their picture book Nen and the Lonely Fisherman, a heartwarming tale of friendship and love in adverse circumstances with underlying environmentalist themes.


For a book to be eligible, it must have been published in the 12 months up to 1 February 2024 (although this is twenty-four months for the Polari Children’s and YA Prize), and the author must have been born or reside in the UK and Ireland. It is important to note that whilst the submission deadline is 6 May 2024, publishers must express their intent to submit by Thursday 18 April. Following the deadline for submissions, the longlists will be announced in July, followed by the shortlists in September. The winners will be awarded their prizes on 29 November at the British Library.


For further information about submissions, please contact polariprize@gmail.com with the name of the prize you wish to enter in the subject line. The Polari Salon website also includes useful information if you wish to find out more. 


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