The Comedy Women in Print prize is still in its early stages, but it is already having a profound impact on the landscape of comic literature. Launched in 2018 by award-winning comedian Helen Lederer, Comedy Women in Print (CWIP) is the UK and Ireland’s first comedy literary prize. Its formation followed the realisation that only four women had won the Wodehouse award, a UK-based award for comic literature, in its 20-year history.
The award strives to debunk the myth that women cannot be funny, which Marian Keyes, chair of the 2020 CWIP’s judges, believes will prevail for a long time to come. The prize is making a huge step in the right direction by providing women with a platform to express their wittiness. Importantly, this recognition is not only reserved for published authors.
Alongside two published categories, the CWIP prize also has an unpublished category. This ensures the writing of future comic authors is nurtured as the winner receives a publishing deal with HarperCollins. With many well-respected celebrity beneficiaries, the award is set to become an important date in the literary calendar.
This comedic recognition has already seen great success. The winner of the inaugural unpublished novel, Cow Girl by Kirsty Eyre, was published as an audiobook and eBook on the 25th June 2020 and will be released in paperback form in September. Eyre is currently on a blog tour for the book, and she has spoken about how much the prize has impacted her life. She told Nut Press that the prize was a “beacon of hope” that gives “female comedy writers hope, belief and direction.” Eyre demonstrates the importance of the CWIP in encouraging women to reach their potential and deliver funny and moving writing.
The prize highlights “the unique way humour can tackle hard-hitting subjects such as mental health, addiction and gender discrimination.” Striking the balance between comedy and dealing with difficult issues is an incredible achievement that previous winners and current shortlisted books have accomplished flawlessly. At a time when we could all use a few laughs, there has never been a better moment to support the hilarious and thought-provoking offerings of this book prize.
This year’s shortlist is, unsurprisingly, jam-packed full of talented writers and exciting titles.
The shortlist for the Published Comic Novels category:
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (Published 28/05/2019, Vintage Publishing)
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Published 11/04/2019, Orion Publishing Co)
Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen (Published 20/02/2020, John Murray Press)
Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe (Published 28/03/2019, Penguin Books Ltd)
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (Published 18/04/2019, Quercus Publishing)
The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa (Published 13/06/2019, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC)
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (Published 09/07/2019, Headline Publishing Group)
The shortlist for the Published Humorous Graphic novels:
Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide by Kate Charlesworth (Published 25/07/2019, Myriad Editions)
My Husband is a Cultist by Mei Lian Hoe (Self-published)
Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (Published 19/09/2019, Simon & Schuster Ltd)
Was it... Too Much for You? by Danny Noble (Self-published)
Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmond (Published 01/11/2018, Vintage Publishing)
Stand in Your Power by Rachael Smith (Self-published)
And finally, the shortlisted titles for the Unpublished Comic Novels and the potential winner of a publishing contract with HarperCollins.
The Shortlist for the Unpublished Comic Novels category:
The Bird in the River by Zahra Barri
Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy by Faye Brann
Everything Is Under Control by Annette Gordon
The Lady's Companion by Janey Preger
You Can Drop Me Here by Julia Walter
Second Wife Syndrome by Kathleen Whyman
Beth O’Leary, shortlisted with The Flatshare, has spoken about how her attitude towards women and humour has changed since being nominated for the CWIP prize. She believes that female comedy is something “we don’t talk about enough.” O’Leary illuminates why humorous writing is so important at the moment, as it “allows us to move forwards without being overwhelmed by suffering.”
Originally, the announcement for the winner of the prizes was set to take place in July, but due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it has been postponed until September 14th. The silver lining to this situation is that we now have the entire summer to make our way through the shortlisted titles before the judges make their decision.