The weekly herding: winning words and being judgemental

It’s that time of week again when I round up the most interesting articles on the literary block. So pop on the kettle, put your feet up and rest those weary typing fingers for a few minutes.

Judging life

On Thursday, Akhil Sharma was announced as the winner of the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award for his novel Family Life. Previously known as the IMPAC, it is the world’s richest prize for a single novel in the English language, with a purse of €100,000. Sharma’s book was chosen from a longlist of 160 novels nominated by libraries across 43 countries. Told from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy, it’s the story of a family’s move from India to America. Needles to say, the move brings with it unexpected complications.


What we are rarely given an insight into is the judging process in such labour-intensive contests. After all, every one of those books has to be read by and deliberated over by a panel. I’ve always wondered how it works, certainly at longlist level – do all the judges read all the books or is the workload shared, with each arguing the case for their allocated reads? In a wonderful article for the Irish Times, Irish novelist Carlo Gébler gives a detailed and entertaining description of his role as a judge for the competition. He paints a picture of the huge commitment required in wading through such a sea of riches – and in this case, yes, the panel had to read each and every one of the whopping 160 longlist: 

‘It’s summer, late summer, August: the days are shortening and in Fermanagh the leaves on the trees are already turning. I hear the sound of a van (one I have been expecting) reversing through my gates and across the gravel towards the study. I go out. It’s a delivery van, white naturally. The driver, having parked and stopped, is out. He has the back doors of the van open. I saunter over and see that inside the van’s oily rear there are boxes. Several of them. They’re the reinforced kind. The kind used for carrying heavy books. And they have my books. The books I have promised to read. Well, some of them. This was only the first delivery. There will be more. And all in all there were or will be 160 novels to read’ – Carlo Gébler


The glorious victory

Speaking of literary prizes, Lisa McInerney triumphed at this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction with her debut novel The Glorious Heresies. In a reliably lively interview for the Irish Times (again), she talked to Paul McVeigh about her road to publication, the quirky Cork setting for the book and her plans for two more novels set in the same universe.

Here she talks about the vibrant writing style that has made Heresies such a hit with the critics – and the Baileys Prize judges:

‘I wrote it in a bit of a mad rush, which I think contributes to the pacing and to that very peculiarly Irish gallows humour; it’s a breakneck and rowdy thing, I think. Kind of bouncy, but hinting at murk. Like a stone skipped over a lake!’ – Lisa McInerney


Diary of a first draft

photo (45)
Follow along as book #3 is written

As a writing novice, it’s fascinating to follow the progress of authors who’ve been there, done that. Most writers are happy to share their process, chiefly because it’s the one thing they’re regularly asked about (probably second only to “Where do you get your inspiration from?”). YA writer Elizabeth Rose Murray is taking things a step further by charting her writing progress daily on her blog as she embarks on her fourth novel, the concluding book in her Nine Lives trilogy.

You can also follow the journey on twitter, where she’ll be tweeting regularly under the hashtag #1stdraftdiary. Even better, if you feel inspired, you can 1st draft along with her. Elizabeth is extremely approachable as well as a great champion of her fellow writers, and her progress will be well worth watching and cheering on.


Short story competition

Cork doesn’t host many literary competitions, but the Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition is an annual prize that is open to writers around the world. This year’s judge is Danielle McLaughlin, whose short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets was published last year to international acclaim

First Prize is €2,000, publication in the Southword literary journal plus a week-long residency at the Anam Cara Writer’s and Artist’s Retreat in west Cork. Second prize is €500 and publication in Southword. Four shortlisted stories will also be published in Southword and receive a publication fee of €120.

Stories should be a maximum of  3,000 words and the entry fee is €15. The closing date is July 31. All the necessary bits and bobs can be found here.



4 thoughts on “The weekly herding: winning words and being judgemental

  1. That’s exactly what I was aiming for with the blog so I’m delighted to hear it’s coming across that way. Thanks for commenting, Brenda, much appreciated 🙂


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