The East Anglian Book Awards
By Hannah Davenport and Caitlin Evans
When UNESCO named Norwich a “City of Literature”, the title spoke to the centuries-long history of words and ideas flowing through the heart of the East of England. Literary education, academia, culture and entertainment have been at the forefront of the region and so continue to encourage contemporary writers in their authorly endeavours. For such a thriving literary hub to have a regional book prize seems only natural and this position is filled by the East Anglian Book Awards. The East Anglian Book Awards have been running for fourteen years, to celebrate the writing of East Anglia, which the award defines as the following areas of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and the Fenland District. The award is a collaboration between leading East Anglian organisations and companies, such as Eastern Daily Press, the Jarrold Group, the National Centre for Writing and the Arts and Humanities department of the University of East Anglia.
Winners of the prize have long noted the practical power behind receiving recognition from these regional awards. In her The Guardian article about her writing career, previous winner Sarah Perry describes her 2014 East Anglian Book Award as the uplifting catalyst she needed to propel her passion into a career.
“It conferred the sense of legitimacy that I’d never quite been able to summon up: a group of writers had admired my work, and they wanted me to write more.” - Sarah Perry
Perry writes that being handed the trophy in Norwich for her debut novel, After Me Comes the Flood, brought a sense of ease from her back-and-forth mental debate of pursuing a different and, more importantly, higher paying career path. The prize money also enabled a better writing environment as it allowed her to purchase a more suitable laptop, upon which she began her second novel and still uses for her writing to this day. Her second novel, The Essex Serpent, gave back to the East Anglian Prize with its location-specific content and representation. Perry’s case is an inspiring one which proves the necessity of regional writing prizes which encourage lesser-known writers to produce future works of literary merit. She describes how the award gifted her with a feeling of being “free to choose what I write, when I write it, and for whom,” and that this writing will be acknowledged, heard and important.
The East Anglian Book Award’s six prize categories span everything from poetry to children’s literature and there is a judge for each one. The fiction category will be judged by Kate Weston, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. Nathan Hamilton is the Co-founder and Managing Director/Editor of The Publishing Project at the University of East Anglia. As the editor of a number of poetry anthologies, collections and books, he is well placed as the Poetry judge. The History and Tradition Category will be judged by Pete Goodrum who is a writer and broadcaster who has also written several books on local history. Dr Hilary Emmet is an associate professor in American studies at the University of East Anglia. She will be judging the Biography and Memoir entries. Richard Delahaye, also from the University of East Anglia, will be judging the General Non-Fiction category. The Children’s category is the only category which will have two judges overseeing entries. Simon Jones, who works with the National Centre for Writing, will be assisted by his 8-year-old son.
Entries for the awards are now closed and the judges are in the process of drawing up their shortlists for each category. The shortlists will be announced in the Eastern Daily Press, Evening News, East Anglian Daily Times and online. An entrant from each of the six shortlists will then be chosen as the category winner. Of the six category winners, one will be chosen to receive the East Anglian Book of the Year Award. The overall winner will receive £1000 courtesy of the PACCAR Foundation. There will also be a Lifetime Achievement Award in local publishing as well as a Book by the Cover design award which are both supported by East Anglian Writers. In order to qualify for entry, books must either be set largely in East Anglia, or must be written by an author living in the region. The winning entries are sure to represent the breadth of writing talent in East Anglia. The category winners are expected to be announced around the end of October.