I knew there was something I’d forgot to mention so I thought I’d better let you know, I’m going to be a shadow judge for the Comedy Women in Print Prize.
The Comedy Women in Print prize is the brainchild of comedian and actor Helen Lederer and was established in 2018 to celebrate and support female comedy writers. The two published prize winners receive a cash prize and the unpublished winner receives a publishing contract with Harper Collins.
This year’s judging panel is chaired by Marian Keyes, author of 13 novels which have been translated into 33 languages and sold over 40 million copies. Her fellow judges are author, screenwriter and Celebrity Masterchef winner Emma Kennedy, comedy actor Lolly Adefobe, author and actor Pauline McLynn, actor and screenwriter Joanna Scanlon and journalist, screenwriter, author and winner of the 2019 inaugural CWIP Published Prize, Laura Steven, who won with her book, The Exact Opposite of Okay.
The short listed books are:
Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen, published by John Murray.
Routine makes Majella’s world small but change is about to make it a whole lot bigger.
*Stuff Majella knows*
-God doesn’t punish men with baldness for wearing ladies’ knickers
-Banana-flavoured condoms taste the same as nutrition shakes
-Not everyone gets a volley of gunshots over their grave as they are being lowered into the ground
*Stuff Majella doesn’t know*
-That she is autistic
-Why her ma drinks
-Where her da is
Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn’t like gossip and she isn’t interested in knowing her neighbours’ business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.
Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.
But Majella’s safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella’s one chance at escape.
The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa, published by Bloomsbury.
Blessed adj. [pronounced bles-id]
The state of being blessed, often referring to a person, usually female, who lives a luxurious lifestyle funded by an older, often married partner, in return for sexual favours.
Young, beautiful and ambitious, Bontle Tau has Johannesburg wrapped around her finger. Her generous admirers are falling over themselves to pay for her Mercedes, her penthouse, and her Instagrammable holidays. It’s a long way from the neighbourhood she started out in, and it’s been far from easy.
Along with making sure she always looks fabulous – because people didn’t sacrifice their lives in the freedom struggle for black women to wear the same cheap T-shirts they wore during apartheid – Bontle’s also hustling to get her business off the ground. And if that wasn’t enough, her ex is still refusing to sign their divorce papers. It’s not that she stopped loving him, but he was just so stubborn about wasting his medical degree on treating the poor.
Yes, Bontle gets the blues from time to time, who doesn’t, the shrink keeps wanting to talk about a past she’s put firmly behind her. And what she doesn’t think about can’t hurt her, can it?
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman, published by Headline.
Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own. . . shell.
Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, an excellent trivia team and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
So when the father she never knew existed dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers.
And if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny and interested in getting to know her…
It’s time for Nina to turn her own fresh page, and find out if real life can ever live up to fiction. . .
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary, published by Quercus.
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…
(You can read my review here.)
Frankisstein by Jeanette Winterson, published by Vintage.
As Brexit grips Britain, Ry, a young transgender doctor, is falling in love. The object of their misguided affection: the celebrated AI-specialist, Professor Victor Stein. Meanwhile, Ron Lord, just divorced and living with his Mum again, is set to make his fortune with a new generation of sex dolls for lonely men everywhere.
Ranging from 1816, when nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley pens her radical first novel, to a cryonics facility in present-day Arizona where the dead wait to return to life, Frankissstein shows us how much closer we are to the future than we realise.
Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe, published by Penguin.
Teenager Lizzie Vogel has a new job as a dental assistant. This is not as glamorous as it sounds. At least it means mostly getting away from her alcoholic, nymphomaniacal, novel-writing mother. But, if Lizzie thinks being independent means sex with her boyfriend (he prefers bird-watching), strict boundaries (her boss keeps using her loo) or self-respect (surely only actual athletes get fungal foot infections?) she’s still got a lot more growing up to do.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, published by Trapeze.
Queenie is a twenty-five-year-old Black woman living in south London, straddling Jamaican and British culture whilst slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white, middle-class peers, and beg to write about Black Lives Matter. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie finds herself seeking comfort in all the wrong places.
As Queenie veers from one regrettable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be? – the questions that every woman today must face in a world that keeps trying to provide the answers for them.
Between now and September, myself and my fellow shadow judges shall be reading the shortlist before we deliberate, cogitate and digest our way to declaring a winner and a runner up.
Because I’m a swot, I’d already read and reviewed The Flatshare before it was even longlisted. I’ve even managed to squeeze in The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. However, because I also always leave my homework until the last minute it means I’ve still got the remaining five books to read. And come up with some vaguely cohesive thoughts about them and not just inane ramblings. Which will be the hard part. I’m looking forward to seeing what myself and my fellow shadow judges think of the shortlist, and whether our choices will be reflected in the judges decisions.
As mentioned above there are three prizes. The CWIP prize for a published comic novel, the CWIP published humorous graphic novel prize and the CWIP prize for an unpublished comic novel, each with their own judging panel.
You can find out more about the shortlisted novels, the CWIP prize and the judging panel on the Comedy Women in Print website.
Right well. That’s a lot of excitement for one day. I’d better get reading…
(P.S. I think this means I’m allowed to follow Marian Keyes and Helen Lederer around. I’ll check the small print…)