British Writing Awards
Partly because Britain is the home of so much good quality writing, across many genres, there are many writing awards that support and honour British and Commonwealth writers. Writing is engrained within the national culture of Britain, so it is natural that awards are created, and sponsorship is raised to find new talent and also to support existing writers, at different stages of their careers.
This is not to say that many writers who never get awards and struggle to make any kind of a living from their work are not worth seeking out - there is such a vast range of writing out there that barely gets a readership or an audience, and this will always be the downside of the market for new and experimental writing and writers.
Only a few new writers will rise to the surface every new year, and get recognition and a measure of success. At least some awards exist to support this process, and keep writing in all its many genres, from fiction, to sports writing to cookbooks, within the public eye.
Which are the Top Awards?The biggest writing award in the world is the Norwegian Nobel prize for literature. Recently, British writers who have won this tremendous accolade include the Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney, and the London playwright Harold Pinter, famous for plays full of menace, silence, and "the weasel under the cocktail cabinet". This award brings with it huge cachet, lots of money and a guaranteed increase in sales of the authors books. As with these two British examples, it is usually recognition later on in the writers career, in recognition of a large and varied body of pre-existing work.
Other notable awards include the Man Booker Prize, the Costa Book Awards, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. The 2007 Costa Book Award was won by Scottish writer A L Kennedy, who has written an impressively different range of work including novels and short story collections, as well as being a stand up comedian.
The Costa Awards started life in 1971 as the Whitbread award, and in its lifetime, through the sponsorship by the brewers and now the coffeehouse company, it has awarded big prizes to such accomplished authors as Seamus Heaney, for his translation of the classic 'Beowulf'; Mark Haddon for his inspirational tale of childhood dysfunction 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time', 'Birthday Letters' by Ted Hughes - his final collection of poetry before his death in 1998, and to Phillip Pullman for 'The Amber Spyglass', part of his astounding 'Her Dark Materials' trilogy.
The Man Booker Prize, also known as the Booker Prize, is given exclusively for full length novels, and as a rule the judges have a more conservative brief. This year the award was given to first time novelist Aravind Adiga for his novel 'The White Tiger'. The prize has been running for 40 years, and in that time it has only been awarded for four debut novels.
2003's winner, DBC Pierre and his novel 'Vernon God Little' was a brave but valuable choice, and it catapulted this strange but hugely talented author into the writing life. Arundati Roy's novel, 'The God of Small Things', which won in 1997, also was plucked out of obscurity, and winning the Booker Prize set her on the path of an established writer, from which she has never looked back.