Colm Tóibín announces the winner of the
2021 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award

 

  • Mathelinda Nabugodi wins the 2021 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award
  • Runners-up are Yasmine Awwad and Sophie Meadows
  • Judges were Colm Tóibín, Deepa Anappara, Anna James and Ingrid Persaud
  • The winner receives £10,000
  • Runners-up each receive £1,000

 


The winner of the 2021 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award is Mathelinda Nabugodi for THE TREMBLING HAND: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive (non-fiction). This was announced today Tuesday 7th December on social media and at www.deborahrogersfoundation.org.

Colm Tóibín (Chair of the Judges) introduced the shortlisted authors and then announced the winner who will receive the prize of £10,000.

The two runners-up are Yasmine Awwad for THE SHRILLS and Sophie Meadows for THE FROG. Both titles are works of fiction and each author will receive £1,000.

Colm Tóibín, Deepa Anappara, Anna James and Ingrid Persaud, the judges of the 2021 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award, made their shortlist selection from a longlist of twelve. This longlist was chosen by agents within Rogers Coleridge & White, after reading a staggering 983 entries.

The winner Mathelinda Nabugodi is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge where she researches the literary archive of Percy Bysshe Shelley. She is one of the editors of The Poems of Shelley and has published articles on his poetry and translations as well as on the work of Walter Benjamin. She is the first person to be awarded a PhD in Creative Critical Writing from University College London. Her next archival exploration will be at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where she is set to take up a short-term fellowship in the coming year.

Mathelinda Nabugodi says on winning the award:

‘Winning the DRF Writers Award is such a wonderful validation of my work. I am so gratified to know that my attempt to stage a fresh and honest encounter with the Romantic archive has resonated with the judges and all the prize readers.’

Colm Tóibín, Chair of the Judges, comments:

‘There was a genuine excitement in finding these new voices, these different and ingenious ways of approaching narrative. What was apparent in each of the twelve longlisted writers was an energy in the way characters and events were dramatized. The settings and the forms used were various, but what was constant was a commitment to getting it right and making it new. Thus, the time I spent reading these writers of the future was enjoyable and uplifting.

We were not looking for anything predetermined, just the excitement that comes from command of rhythm and tone, or from pacing and plot, or from strength of voice.

The three shortlisted writers could not have been more different. THE SHRILLS by Yasmine Awwad created an atmosphere that was edgy, exciting and totally credible. The domestic conflict had an aura that was intimate and fierce; the scenes when the young women began to live the lives they dreamed of had great energy.

Sophie Meadows’ THE FROG dealt also with restriction and freedom, also with parents and their daughter. But this novel is set in Elizabethan England; it established its period with flair and careful detail. It also set up areas of conflict and possibility that open space for drama as the novel unfolds.

In the end, the award went to Mathelinda Nabugodi for THE TREMBLING HAND: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive because of its ambition and scope, but also because of the quality of the enquiring voice in the book, a voice sometimes tentative and searching, then sure of its scholarship, then puzzled by some large absence in the archive, then engrossed by a poem, an essay, a letter. All the time, that voice made the reader become engaged both emotionally and intellectually in the quest to re-see and re-imagine and re-read the past.’    

Deepa Anappara, Judge, comments:

‘Reading the longlist of twelve entries, I was struck by the diversity of voices and the skill with which the writers combined deft characterisation with narrative urgency. The winning entry, THE TREMBLING HAND, is an engaging and fascinating work of non-fiction that offers a vital and original perspective on Romanticism. The two shortlisted novels, THE FROG and THE SHRILLS, stood out for their propulsive narratives and memorable characters. My congratulations to the winner, the shortlisted and longlisted writers, and all the entrants. It was a pleasure and honour to read these works-in-progress.’

Anna James, Judge, comments:

‘Judging the DRF Prize has been such a joy and a privilege. The longlisted entries had such a breadth of ideas and voices and styles, and it was a wonderful experience to discuss with Colm, Ingrid and Deepa what makes a piece of writing special. I’m delighted with our shortlist and our winner - something original, timely and brilliantly written. I can’t wait to read the finished book.’

Ingrid Persaud, Judge, comments:

‘Judging the DRF Writers Award was a daunting task. The longlisted writers challenged themselves and us as readers by their subject matter and voice and I know we will hear more from all of them. Our winner, Mathelinda Nabugodi’s non-fiction work is original and urgent. I cannot wait to read the final text of THE TREMBLING HAND.’

Gill Coleridge, Director of the Deborah Rogers Foundation, comments:

'Deborah Rogers was never more excited than when she had discovered an extraordinary new voice and would have been thrilled to read the work of these three talented writers at the beginning of their careers. The notable success of the previous finalists of the 2016, 2018 and 2020 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award has already brought distinction and renown to the Foundation. We are confident that the talented winners here tonight will enhance and continue that trajectory and we send them our very best wishes as they embark on their careers'


The 2021 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award shortlisted authors

Mathelinda Nabugodi

THE TREMBLING HAND: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive (non-fiction)

Winner

Mathelinda Nabugodi is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge where she researches the literary archive of Percy Bysshe Shelley. She is one of the editors of The Poems of Shelley and has published articles on his poetry and translations as well as on the work of Walter Benjamin. She is the first person to be awarded a PhD in Creative Critical Writing from University College London. Her next archival exploration will be at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, where she is set to take up a short-term fellowship in the coming year.

Yasmine Awwad

THE SHRILLS (fiction)  
Runner-up

 

Yasmine Awwad is a production editor and writer. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, where she was shortlisted for the 2020 Janklow and Nesbit Prize. In 2019, she was longlisted in the Mslexia Novel Competition, and in 2018, highly commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize. She lives in Brighton. 

Sophie Meadows

THE FROG (fiction)  
Runner-up

 

Sophie Meadows discovered Isabella Whitney in the depths of the University College London library while exploring Renaissance women writers. In 2016, she graduated with conviction that Isabella would be a fascinating protagonist and a First in English Language and Literature. Sophie lives in London, working in advertising and writing fiction. She completed Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course in March 2020.


The 2021 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award longlisted authors

  1. Yasmine Awwad, THE SHRILLS
  2. Kate Cheka, SAME DUST 
  3. Zahirra Dayal, INVINCIBLE JACARANDAS 
  4. Dean Fee, THOSE BOYS THERE 
  5. Allen Bratton, THE HENRIES 
  6. Jennifer Howze, A GOOD TEXAS GIRL  
  7. Sophie Meadows, THE FROG 
  8. Mathelinda Nabugodi, THE TREMBLING HAND: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive
  9. Lanre Otaiku, HERESY
  10. Ingrid Rolington, NOBODY KNOWS
  11. Jessica Traynor, SLAPPED ACTOR 
  12. April Yee, DOSAGE 
     

The Judges

Colm Tóibín

Colm Tóibín was born in Ireland in 1955. He is the author of ten novels including The Master, Brooklyn, The Testament of Mary and Nora Webster and, most recently, The Magician, published in September 2021. His work has been shortlisted for the Booker three times, won the Costa Novel Award and the Impac Award. He has also published two collections of stories and many works of non-fiction. He lives in Dublin.

Deepa Anappara

Deepa Anappara was born in Kerala, southern India, and worked as a journalist in India for eleven years. Her debut novel Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line was named as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post and Time. It was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020, nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, and shortlisted for the JCB prize for Indian literature. A partial of the novel won the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award, and the Bridport/Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a First Novel. It is being translated into 22 languages.

Anna James

Anna James is a writer and arts journalist. She is the author of the bestselling Pages & Co series which has sold into 21 countries. The first three books in the series are out now, published by HarperCollins Children’s Books in the UK and Penguin Young Readers in the US, with three more books to come. Formerly Book News Editor at The Bookseller and Literary Editor of ELLE UK, Anna is currently the host and co-curator of Lush Book Club, as well as writing about books and theatre as a freelance journalist for outlets including The Stage, the LA Times and Buzzfeed. She has also contributed stories for the Kate Mosse edited collection, I Am Heathcliff, and Goldsboro Books’ 21st birthday anthology. 

Ingrid Persaud

Ingrid Persaud was born in Trinidad and won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2017 and the BBC Short Story Prize 2018. She read law at the LSE and was a legal academic for many years before taking degrees in fine art at Goldsmiths College and Central Saint Martins. Her writing has appeared in Granta and Prospect magazines. Ingrid lives in London. Her debut novel, Love After Love, was published by Faber & Faber in 2020 and was the winner of the 2020 Costa First Novel Award.


Previous winners of the DRF Writers Award
 

The winner of the 2020 DRF Writers Award was ‘Pemi Aguda for her novel The Suicide Mothers. In second place came Stephen Buoro with The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa, a work of fiction. Third place was awarded to S.Bhattacharya-Woodward for Zolo and Other Stories, a collection of short stories.  

The winner of the 2018 DRF Writers Award was Deepa Anappara for her novel Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. Since winning the prize this novel has been sold in over 22 territories and was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “a Literary Supernova”.

The runners-up were Dima Alzayat for Daughters of Manat & Other Stories which will be published as Alligator & Other Stories and Chris Connolly for The Speed of Light and How it Cannot Help Us. Both titles are collections of stories.  

The winner of the inaugural 2016 DRF Writers Award was Sharlene Teo for her novel Ponti. Since winning the award this novel has been sold in 10 countries.

The runners-up were Guy Stagg for The Crossway and Imogen Hermes Gower for The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.
 


The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award
 

The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award was the first initiative of the Deborah Rogers Foundation, set up in 2015 in memory of the much loved and respected literary agent, Deborah Rogers. In keeping with Deborah’s special talent for nurturing and supporting emerging new writers, the Award gives £10,000 to a previously unpublished writer whose submission of 15,000- 20,000 words demonstrates literary talent and who needs financial support to complete their first book. The submitted work can be fiction, non-fiction, children’s or short stories. Applicants must reside in the British Commonwealth or Eire. The deadline for submissions this year was 1st July 2021. There were a total of 983 entrants, from which a longlist of 12 was chosen. The judges then selected a shortlist of three. The winner receives £10,000 and the two shortlisted authors £1,000 each.


The Award is biennial, alternating with the Deborah Rogers Foundation David Miller Bursary which offers work placements in publishing houses and agencies worldwide and £10,000 to cover travel and accommodation costs. The first winner, in 2017, was Sam Coates, senior rights executive at Vintage UK and the second, in 2019 was Prema Raj, of AM Heath.