Kate Mosse “My name is Kate Mosse and I’m one of the Founders and the Honorary Director of the Orange Prize for Fiction. And it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome you all to the 10th Orange Prize for Fiction.
That is the cue for a big cheer please!
Many of you will have been at these parties for the past 10 years. And, really, many of us, who are involved with the prize are still pinching ourselves and saying we can’t believe it. We did 10 years and we’re still going strong.
You’ll have noticed that there have been lots of pieces in the paper recently looking back over the past 10 years. And one of the questions that I’ve been asked quite a lot is ‘how did it get done? How did it become so successful?’ The truth is, although I’m the person who stands here, year after year, welcoming you to the party and introducing the chair of judges, and setting everything going for the evening, it is an enormous group effort. There are many people who’ve made the Orange Prize for Fiction what it is: I am just one person among a large, large group. And I’m normally terrible, as you know, for going through long long lists of people like a school register, thanking everybody and because we are short of time this evening, I can’t do that.
But I do want to just mention the various people who’ve played a role in the Prize over the past few years. The founding Women’s Committee, obviously, who had the idea in the first place. I was just the one pushed into the room to do the chat, but there were many people involved in that and they have been, if you like, the conscience of the Prize, for the past 10 years. And that has been extremely important.
There is everybody at Orange. We didn’t know – you never do – when you actually start a relationship with a sponsor, what is going to happen. I can honestly say – and it’s not just that I would say this, wouldn’t I? – that it is the partnership between Orange and the Women’s Committee that has made this one of the three biggest prizes. Everyone has worked together and it’s why we’ve been able to deliver hundreds of wonderful books into the hands of hundreds of thousands, millions of men and women around the world who’ve enjoyed the books that have been on the shortlist.
I’d like to thank everybody at Booktrust, and everybody at The Reading Agency, all the booksellers and journalists and members of the media who have supported the Prize over the past 10 years. Some of you were right there when we started, some of you took a little longer to come round. But, as I think the 10 year anniversary publications have shown, everybody has been very supportive. And it’s all about the books, and all about the reading and thank you for supporting us.
Also, the judges, there are many of them, not just the 2005 judges, who are here this evening, and that’s a great pleasure. And, of course, most importantly, all of you here in this room who are authors. Some of you are Orange authors, some of you are not – partly because you’re men – but I’m sure the time will come, no doubt.
But without the authors, obviously, no prize has any validity at all, because you’d have nothing to judge. So, thank you all for your support. I’m not going to mention loads of people, I promised that I wouldn’t, but there are a couple of people I need to mention.
First is the anonymous donor who, more than 10 years ago read an interview with me in the paper, got in contact and said ‘I love the idea of a prize that celebrates writing by women and puts great books by women in to the hands of men and women who’d appreciate them.’ Without that amazing piece of generosity, from that woman, who set up a trust fund through which the prize money is paid, it would have been very hard to get the Prize off the ground. So we are very grateful to her.
I also want to mention Jane Gregory, because although, as I’ve said, it’s always me up here, Jane, who’s standing at the front is absolutely the hidden powerhouse behind the Prize and was there right at the beginning. This is for you as well, sweetie.
And also, very briefly, Harriet and Amanda who’ve worked very hard this year.
Because the Prize has been so enjoyable for all of us, we’ve decided to run a campaign in the autumn called Best of the Best, in association with Woman’s Hour where we are going to promote all 10 of our Orange winners.
The idea is simply to introduce a new generation of readers to the fantastic books that have won the Orange Prize. So, all look out for that in September and the beginning of October.
Because it’s the 10th, we’re doing things slightly differently tonight. Normally we give just the Orange Prize for Fiction, but tonight we are giving three awards. We’re giving the Harpers & Queen / Orange Short story competition – we had a fantastic shortlist this year, and the panel was chaired by Caroline Michel, and we’re going to award this for the first time at the ceremony tonight.
We’re also going to Award the Orange Award for New Writers: our new award for first fiction: novellas, short story collections, novels. And that was chaired by Kamila Shamsie. And then, of course, the Orange Prize for Fiction itself, which was chaired, very appropriately, by Jenni Murray.
Now – the other new thing we’re doing this evening is – you loved her so much last year, we thought we’d better invite us back. Sandi Toksvig has very kindly agreed to reprise her role of 2004, and steer us through the whole of this evenings proceedings.
So, may I ask you to welcome to the stage, Sandi Toksvig.”
Sandi Toksvig “Hello. Ok Thanks very much Kate, the Honorary Director, I am, of course, the Honorary Mascot. Slightly anxious – they’ve made this podium specially for me this year, which suggests I shall be back.
I do enjoy this event, it’s absolutely fantastic, it’s as near as I come to camping. And this year, if I may say so, it is certainly camper than it’s ever been. Now, last year, I opened by saying I thought it was a fuck of a lot of books to read just to get a free phone. I did get a free phone. It was absolutely marvellous. So, thank you Orange. The only thing about it was, it obviously was for a limited period of time, and as luck would have it, that period ran out just before I went up to the Hay Festival last week: that rural idyll, where, in fact Orange phones are the only ones that work.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, in an entirely shallow and self-serving manner, I am back, this evening. Oh yes indeed, Orange: the phone that connects you to the literary festival.
What a marvellous place it is, Hay. I absolutely love it. You can sit there listening to some Byronic boy while mulling over the many roadside opportunities you saw for buying second hand farm equipment.
Now, last year, I chaired the Prize and managed to read 140 books, and I can’t tell you how proud I was that where the Orange Prize led, the Whitbread was sensible enough to follow.
This year, I’ve not chaired the Prize, so I’ve done things a little differently, and not read one single book at all. This puts me in an enviable position. I have absolutely no opinion whatsoever as to who should win, nor will there be any frisson for me when the winner is announced. I have, for the first time in my life, judged the books entirely by the cover.
Can I just say, it’s not to be sniffed at: it’s a hell of a lot quicker.
It is my job, tonight, I’m the stage manager, OK, and what I’m going to try and do is keep things cracking along, because, frankly, it’s hot in here, or I’m menopausal. I don’t know. People will be making a few speeches, but, you know, when they start thanking the first person who gave them a pencil, frankly it’s dull for the rest of us. So I’ll just be cracking you on, ok?
Now, we come on at last to the Prizes. As you know, the Orange Prize is a prize for prose, hence the selection of a sponsor whose name is notoriously impossible to rhyme with anything, and it doesn’t include poetry at all, but we have a little diversion on the superhighway of women’s fiction, as we head off to the Harpers & Queen /Orange Short Story Competition.
This is the fourth year of the prize and it goes from strength to strength: it’s the first year that I’ve heard about it – so that’s a good thing. It’s the first year that we’ve awarded it – I say we, it’s part of my life now – The first year we’ve awarded the prize at the actual Award Ceremony, and this is presumably because you want to make damn sure the thing’s got legs before you invite anybody here: this tent’s jolly expensive and you can’t just have winners here willy nilly.
And, of course, the previous competition winners have had great success. Clare Allen is having her first novel published by Bloomsbury next year. And last year’s winner, Zoe Green, is on a writing course at UEA. Is that some sort of Middle-eastern… Anyway. Must try one of those.
This year, all three of the shortlisted writers did a day’s workshop at HarperCollins hosted by Caroline Michel, who was the chair of judges. And the shortlisted writers are Karina Barker, Sam Binnie and Caroline Drennan. I’m delighted that they’re all three here…
The winner is going to receive £1000 and the two runners up get £500 each
To present the winner with her prize, will you please welcome the editor of Harpers & Queen, Lucy Yeoman. I’d like to say what a marvelous magazine it is.
Kate has turned into Debbie Magee and will be handing out things in a lovely and charming manner.
Anyway. The winner – and can I just say how fabulous for all three of them to have done so brilliantly, but can I just say the winner of the Harpers & Queen / Orange Short Story competition is Sam Binnie.
Sam Binnie ladies and gentlemen! [Huw, please link through to http://books.guardian.co.uk/orange2005/story/0,15850,1502686,00.html]
And, as part of the 10th anniversary, Orange also decided to introduce a new award for first time fiction writers. Can you imagine. John Walsh is going to have apoplexy. “Good God. Haven’t you women done enough? Is there no end to it?”
This Award enables the judges to recognize all kinds of first fiction, short story collections as well as novellas and full-length novels. And particularly exciting is that it has been launched in association with Arts Council England. It’s a three-year partnership, and each year the winner is going to get £10,000.
The emphasis of this award is on emerging talent and evidence of future potential, and I would very much like to welcome the chair of this particular panel of judges to say a few words on their behalf. She’s no stranger to the Orange Prize, as she was one of the authors on the Orange Futures list in 2001, a list of 21 contemporary women writers to watch, will you please welcome Kamila Shamsie.”
Kamila Shamsie “Wonderful writers and disco balls. There’s an intimidating combination.
I’d like to start by thanking my fellow judges, Margaret Busby and Alex Clark, who’ve really been wonderful to sit down with and discuss the stuff of good fiction with. There were a number of books on the list that we really admired. But the three on the shortlist absolutely stood out for us, not just in terms of potential, but also actual accomplishment.
And I’m going to say a few words about each one alphabetically. I’ll start with Diana Evans’ 26a. This is a novel teeming with remarkable characters. It’s a novel that deals with pain and loss, twinness and oneness, with remarkable intelligence, sensitivity and even, at times, humour.
Nell Freudenberger’s Lucky Girls is a reminder to those of us who need it of the demands and the delights of the short story form. These stories take us around the globe and the characters within the stories may find themselves as outsiders, the writer within the stories is always utterly in control of the nuances of the world about which she is writing: these are stories of great elegance and quiet power.
Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now is a book that really explodes genres. I imagine that adolescents must love it, but there’s nothing in it that is not for adults as well. The book moves seamlessly from the idyllic to the apocalyptic: an extraordinary thing to be able to do, and it’s never shy of dealing with things that are taboo or difficult: there are parts of the book that really do continue to haunt me.
When we sat down to choose the shortlist, we didn’t intend to come up with a list that was so varied in its subject matter, in genre, but looking over the books it really is remarkable the range and variety that these three writers have produced.
Each one of these books is a remarkable achievement: even so the judges were unanimous in choosing the winner of the first Orange Award for New Writers, Diana Evans for 26a.
Sandi Toksvig “It is extraordinary that it’s been 10 years. I don’t know if any of you were watching some of the quotes that were up of some of the things that were said when the Prize was first launched? My favourite was Syrie Johnson in the Evening Standard in 1996, writing about the very first Orange awards party, who said ‘lots of glamour, lesbians kissing in the lavatories and conversations centred on make-up, fashion and feminist principles.’
Ok. How come I didn’t get invited to that one? All that’s happened to me tonight is that I’ve actually managed to get the chair of the judges out from the lavatory where she’d got stuck. Anyway, this year, we’ve reached the glory that is the 10th birthday of the Orange Prize for Fiction. And after this, we women, who are notoriously bad at maths will have to count how many ceremonies there have been by taking our socks off. And I mention there a part of the body that I don’t usually go to, because it brings me to this year’s chair of judges.
If ever I feel out of tune with more tucked-away physical attributes, I turn on Radio 4 of a morning and I get an earful of sensible, straightforward and surprisingly cheerful information about matters that, frankly, my mother never mentioned. And all this is delivered with an authority that few can muster, other than the formidable writer, broadcaster, woman I rescued from the ladies’ loo earlier. Welcome, the chair of this year’s judges, she is the inestimable Jenni Murray.”
Jenni Murray “Thank you Sandi. It has been a lifetime terror: I did get locked in the loo and Sandi did help. Good evening, and welcome to the ‘Miss World of Books’. I have to say when I read that 10 years ago, I did wonder why any of us had ever bothered.
There is a little leaflet here, a competition for you to do. And it has quotes from 10 years ago. One of them is ‘I went on Woman’s Hour to talk about the current fuss and I was well and truly handbagged by Kate Mosse, chair of judges and the programme’s presenter, Jenni Murray. It was ghastly, but strangely uplifting, like being mugged by the Salvation Army.’
It was either Polly Toynbee, Victoria Glendenning, Liz Calder, Jilly Cooper or John Walsh. I leave it to you.
I’m going to introduce our shortlisted authors in alphabetical order, because they all get a lovely prize of a beautifully-bound copy of their book.
Joolz Denby who wrote Billie Morgan. It’s a fantastic book, set in beautiful downtown Bradford, a town of which we’re both very fond. It has a terrific cast of characters, one of whom is Billie, who’s a former biker chick … and I really wonder what inspired that idea? Joolz Denby.
The second on the shortlist is Jane Gardam, who’s the author of Old Filth, which stands for ‘Failed In London, Try Hong Kong’. The protagonist is an old man, and we look back on his whole life, and I have to say Jane gives more sympathetic insight into an uncommunicative man than anything I’ve ever read. Jane Gardam.
The third writer on the shortlist is Sheri Holman, with a book called The Mammoth Cheese. This is a huge sweep of a story in smalltown America. It’s incredibly moving and there is more about the making of cheese than you ever imagined there was to know. Sheri Holman.
Marina Lewycka’s A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, is a hilariously funny book about a very serious family dilemma. Two sisters try to protect their elderly father from his passion for a young and rather busty immigrant who’s set to replace their mother, who’s died. Marina Lewycka.
Maile Meloy in Liars and Saints gives us a family saga which covers some 60 years. Secrets and incredibly complex entanglements thicken a gripping plot. Maile Meloy.
And finally, Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin is a very brave book, which addresses an issue that I think few of us would be ready to examine: how frightening the prospect of becoming a mother can be: supposing you breed a child you don’t like? Lionel Shriver.
Now we started with slightly fewer books than Sandi had last year: we only had 120 to read, which we did finally get down to six, and from those, really, a near-impossible task of choosing a winner. I had fantastic judges, they’re all here, Jude Kelly, Joanne Harris, Moira Stuart and Jo Brand, and they approached the task with really admirable diligence, respect and intelligence, and there were pretty fierce discussions.
I’m sure you’ll know who in one very heated moment said ‘Oh bugger the books, where’s the tea and biscuits?’ Of course there was no cake: there was none left.
And so we come to the winner of the 2005 Orange Prize for Fiction.
There will be some 30 British publishers kicking themselves tonight because they didn’t take this book. Serpent’s Tail published the UK version after, I’m proud to say, hearing the author on a programme called Woman’s Hour. She is Lionel Shriver.”
Lionel Shriver “Well, I have a printout with me, which I dared to take out of my bag, at great risk, and it’s titled notes on a ‘acceptance speech’ for the orange Prize, potentially humiliating in retrospect.
The last time I won a literary award was for architectural commentary. It was an essay about the renovation of our school cafeteria and I was seven years old. That’s not just a joke, from which you may infer that I’ve had a number of very lean and hard years. In fact I had an interview about two months ago, and someone asked me if I considered myself an overnight success, and I began to cackle.
And even with this book, which has done far better than anything I have ever written – it’s my seventh book – I was introduced at a literary festival and the presenter said ‘and this is Lionel Shriver’s first novel’ And then he turned to the audience and said ‘And for a first novel it’s pretty good!’
Obviously I have a number of people I’d like to thank. I’d like to thank Serpent’s Tail, it’s quite remarkable that this publisher got not one, but two writers on the shortlist, and I have read Joolz Denby’s book Billie Morgan and it’s a very fine piece of work. It’s a publisher that has a reputation for picking up things that 30 other publishers take a pass on, then doing something with it.
Obviously, I’d like to thank all my friends, especially those who put up with my whingeing for years, that I didn’t win the Orange Prize, or anything like it. I’d like to thank my husband, who gives me great reprieve from words as an accomplished jazz drummer, and who promised to love me even if I lost. And, most of all, of course, I’d like to thank the Orange Prize, the judges this year, Jenni Murray. I’m really overwhelmed. This makes a huge difference to me. One of the reasons it makes a huge difference to me is that, though as you can tell, I’m an American, I’m one of those wannabe Brits who has been loitering in this country for coming up on 20 years.
I have lived primarily in the UK since 1987. What that means is that, while many Americans are not very familiar with the Orange prize, it doesn’t have the same resonance for many American writers as the NBA – and by the way, that is not the National Basketball Association – so they might have vaguely heard of it, or salivated at the money, but it wouldn’t have had the same kind of cultural meaning to them.
But because I have been in the UK for a long time – I was here when the Orange Prize was first introduced. I read all of the press that slagged it off when it first came out. And I have been around as it gradually accumulated credibility and admiration, and I’ve taken a great deal of pleasure in it.
As a consequence, while for other Americans, it might not do so, the Orange Prize has a great deal of resonance for me. And one of the reasons that Orange has gained that credibility, is because of the quality of the writers that it has brought to public attention. And I think that this year’s list is a fine example of that.
I was very nervous tonight, because my competition is so fierce. The other writers are each very talented and accomplished, and I have much admired their work. I have to say that Kevin is a good example of the bravery of the judges of this Prize, because I don’t think that We Need to Talk About Kevin is an obvious choice. I think it’s a difficult book, a dark book, an uncomfortable book. It’s a book about someone that lots of people have difficult liking: in fact about somebody who has difficulty liking herself a lot of the time.
And the fact is, there are a lot of people out there who hate this book. But most of all, having had a really hard time of it, and having been in the fiction biz for about 20 years, I would like to accept this prize on behalf of hundreds, if not thousands of other writers, some of whom I know are very talented and work incredibly hard, and never quite get the recognition they deserve.
I guess to them I say, maybe the moral of this story is ‘hang on in there’.”
Sandi Toksvig “What lovely and fulsome words from Lionel, and all that just from a few notes: imagine if she’d written a full speech!
Can I just say, having chaired, and I know these things, it would have been hotly contested, and I can I just say to the other writers, what a fantastic thing to have arrived here at all.”