Monday, 20 June 2011

East Midlands Book Award - a result

There is no doubt that that Shod, by Mark Goodwin, published by the small press Nine Arches, was the surprise - but unanimous - choice of the judges Ian McMillan, BBC man John Holmes and newly-retired Derbyshire Chief Librarian Jaci Brumwell at a well-attended awards ceremony last night. Mark said afterwards "I'm delighted to receive this award especially because it highlights poetry in the East Midlands, an area that is rich in poets". It was also a triumph for Nine Arches and their very active publisher Jane Commanne who edited this book. Mark lifted a cheque for £1000 and a trophy which Ian McMillan thought looked like that flame thing that British Gas used to use as their logo (I think he thought we bought it cheap), querying whether there really should be two "D"s in East Midlands and saying he was sure there was an "e" in East. Had people known I'd organised the trophy and proof-read the engraving some might have thought it was not a joke.

Ian talked through the whole list before returning to the winner saying that the judges found it hard to compare "apples to trombones" as they had to chose from entries across a range of genres. They agreed that the way to do it was not to try to compare in this way but to ask which book most clearly addressed its own genre, stood out from it, and said something new in that genre. The answer was Shod.

The local magazine LeftLion features reviews of all of the shortlisted books, as well as interviews with all the shortlisted writers. Read it here:

It's been an interesting project to work on for this last year. The founders and Trustees of the award are Jane Streeter (from Lowdham Book Festival), John Lucas (Five Leaves' writer and publisher at Shoestring Press), David Belbin (another writer at Five Leaves, but currently best known for his Tindal Street novel) and me. The project has been supported and administered by Aimee Wilkinson and Antonia Bell at Writing East Midlands. We have secured private funding to guarantee running the award for ten years but local legal firm Nelson's ensured a more comfortable budget for this first year. Hart's Restaurant provided a lovely reception for the shortlisted writers, the judges and Trustees, and Gardner's, the book wholesalers, printed attractive point of sale material.

Nominations are already open at Writing East Midlands for books published by East Midlands' writers in 2011 ( The new set of judges are Marion Shaw, former Professor of English at Loughborough, Debbie James from the bookshop in Kibworth in Leicestershire and the Rutland composer - our celeb judge - Gavin Bryars. Now that the project is established we expect more than the 46 entries of this year, so lots of reading for them. None of the judges live in Notts and as we push on to ensure that the EMBA is truly an East Midlands project the award ceremony will also be outside of Nottinghamshire.

Hopefully in this first year we have cleared up a lot of small details - what do we do if people live part-time in the East Midlands only? What about the writer who lives here but is published in the USA? How big should the shortlist be (next year it will be six maximum - easier for bookshops)?

What pleased us all was the enthusiasm from publishers, big and small, from well-published and less well-published writers. We found writers in the area we did not know lived here and are pleased that the East Midlands as a place to be a writer is just that little bit better than we were when we started.

Talking with Mark afterwards he said that he'd been pleased to get onto the shortlist, feeling that it was job done. The judges had been charged, however, with only shortlisting books that they would be comfortable with as winner so no book was shortlisted as a make weight or to appease particular constituencies. This year there were eight novels, and two poetry books. Next year the shortlist might only be children's and history books, or the same again. I'm looking forward to seeing the shortlist.

Well done Mark Goodwin. And well done to the shortlisted writers, who at least took a bottle of something nice home with them to drown their sorrows.

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