Women Fail to Seduce Male Readers

New research published by the Orange Prize for Fiction reveals that women still have to work twice as hard as men to get their books read by the opposite sex.

Additionally men will often pass over books written by men if the choice of cover design or title indicates that it is a ‘female read’ regardless of subject matter.

The research [in which twenty books were shown to 200 respondents – male and female] was commissioned to address the following questions:

How important is the gender of the author in our choice of books?

To what extent are particular authors’ books perceived as being written mainly for women, for men or for both and on what basis is this judgement made?

Do books written by women have to ‘work harder’ to sell to men than vice-versa?

Respondents — who were chosen to be a nationally representative selection of adults who read literary fiction — were shown front and back covers of 20 titles and asked to categorise them as intended to be read i) mainly by men ii) mainly by women iii) by both about equally. In addition, focus groups were used for qualitative research…

2005 Prize – Speeches

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 …

Celebrating 10 years of the Orange Prize for Fiction

Which of the 10 Orange Prize for Fiction prize-winners is your favourite?

In celebration of 10 years of the Orange Prize for Fiction, we’re working in association with BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to find out which Orange Prize-winner you think is the Best of the Best.

If you’d like to read or re-read the ten winning novels over the summer, we’ve listed them below.

Orange Prize winners

1996 Helen Dunmore – A Spell of Winter

1997 Anne Michaels – Fugitive Pieces

1998 Carol Shields – Larry’s Party

1999 Suzanne Berne – A Crime in the Neighbourhood

2000 Linda Grant – When I lived in Modern Times

2001 Kate Grenville – The Idea of Perfection

2002 Ann Patchett – Bel Canto

2003 Valerie Martin – Property

2004 Andrea Levy – Small Island

2005 Lionel Shriver – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best of the Best on Woman’s Hour

Each weekday morning from Monday 12 September to Friday 23 September, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour will feature one of the Orange Prize chairs of judges – Kate Mosse (1996) Professor Lisa Jardine (1997) Sheena Macdonald (1998) Lola Young (1999) Polly Toynbee (2000) Rosie Boycott (2001) Sue MacGregor (2002) Ahdaf Souief (2003) Sandi Toksvig (2004) and Jenni Murray (2005) – discussing the book that won the year they chaired the judging panel and talking about other fiction submitted that year.

The chairs of judges will also meet together and pick their Best of the Best. Their choice will be announced on the evening of Monday 3 October.

From Friday 23 September vote for your overall favourite out of the ten winning novels on the Woman’s Hour website, or via text or phoneline, details to be announced.

The results of this poll will be announced on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on …

Orange Award for New Writers – Winning Book Review

26a by Diana Evans

Twins Georgia and Bessi are happy in their Edenic attic bedroom. They have each other, strawberry-scented beanbags for making important decisions on and a door.

On the outside they’ve chalked ‘26a’, declaring their independence from the rest of the house; on the inside ‘G + B’, proclaiming their essential one-plus-oneness.

Doownstairs, things are a bit stranger. Their older sister Bel is growing up, much faster than their parents think is appropriate and their younger sister Kemy is becoming increasingly obsessed with Michael Jackson.

Meanwhile, their mother Ida is pining for Nigeria – her homeland – and misses her own mother. Their father, Aubrey, drinks, and morphs from repressed Yorkshireman to roaring, angry drunk after a few too many. And he has a few too many most nights.

As the twins grow up, and engage with the outside world, life – somewhat inevitably – becomes increasingly complicated, and they have to cope with increasing separation and the differences in what they – and each other – want.

This proves easier for one twin to negotiate than the other, with tragic consequences.

A moving coming-of-age novel with a difference.…

Resources for writers

The Orange Award for New Writers will be awarded for the first time in 2005 to coincide with the Orange Prize for Fiction’s 10th birthday celebrations. The winner will receive £10,000 to help her pursue her work with greater freedom.

Winner announced (7 June 2005)

Shortlist announced (25 April 2005)

The judges will be looking for emerging talent and the evidence of future potential and seeking to identify writers of excellence, originality and accessibility.

All first works of fiction – including novels, short story collections and novellas – written by women of any age or nationality and published in book form in the UK between 1st April 2004 and 31st March 2005 will be eligible. Novels can be entered for both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Orange Award for New Writers in any given year.

The Orange Award for New Writers 2005 shortlist will be announced on Monday April 25th and the prize will be awarded at the 10th Orange Prize for Fiction Award ceremony on Tuesday June 7th.

The Orange Award for New Writers is supported by Arts Council England.

The judges for 2005 are novelist Kamila Shamsie (chair) – who was one of the 21 writers featured in the Orange Futures promotion, editor and publisher Margaret Busby and writer and journalist Alex Clark.…

Shortlisted Author Interview – Meg Rosoff

What sparked How I Live Now?

It felt to me as if thousands of loose elements floating in space suddenly converged into a book: the horrible premature death of my youngest sister from cancer, a desperate desire to get out of advertising, a need to impress my new agent, the early rumblings of the Iraq war … for a start.

When did you first realise you wanted to write fiction?

Very early. I began writing stories when I was about seven (mainly about horses), but lost my nerve later on. It took 38 years for me to start writing fiction again. As Shakespeare says, ‘the readiness is all.’

And what did you do before you started writing?

I began my career in academic publishing in New York City, worked at Time Inc, and the New York Times, moved to PR and then advertising, had a stint as deputy press secretary for the NY Democrats in 1988, wrote movie titles and poster copy for Tristar films – and those are just the jobs I remember. I saw in my daughter’s Guinness Book of World Records that the record number of jobs held by a single person was 68; I think I must come very close.

I worked in advertising for 15 years, and was fired repeatedly for insubordination and general lack of commitment, but in retrospect I have to admit I learned an immense amount about writing from the experience.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing the ever-problematic second novel (about a boy obsessed with fate), and am just starting a third, based on the story of Bellerophon and Pegasus.

Please could you tell us about what’s on your bookshelf? The old stuff, the unread stuff, the favourite books, the passing enthusiasm …

The ones I’d rescue in a …

Shortlisted Author Interview Nell Freudenberger

What sparked Lucky Girls?

After I graduated from college, I got a job teaching English in Bangkok. From there I went to India for the first time, and fell in love a bit. I went back to Delhi the following summer and lived in a strange apartment on Pandara Road, with a particularly memorable landlady.

Once I was home in New York again, I found myself missing that time in Delhi in particular. I was working in an office, and in the mornings before work I started writing the first story in this book, “Lucky Girls.” I had always thought that I couldn’t write a story set in India – maybe I thought an American couldn’t write about India.

Once I started, of course, I realized that I wasn’t writing about India, but about being an American; for whatever reason, it wasn’t until I went to Asia that I began to think about what that meant.

When did you first realise you wanted to write fiction?

I wrote stories and poems and things in high school. I was always a very enthusiastic reader of fiction, but until I got to college I insisted that I wanted to be a doctor. My father is a writer, and when I was a child, he often seemed to be drinking coffee or volunteering for chores around the house – anything but sitting in his office. It didn’t look like any fun to me.

And what did you do before you started writing?

My first job was cocktail waitressing at an Irish bar/Caribbean restaurant in Boston. I taught English in Bangkok and then in New Delhi, and worked for two years as an editorial assistant at the New Yorker magazine.

What are you working on now?

A novel that takes place in Los Angeles, …

What sparked 26a?

It was sparked by the death of someone close to me. I had a weirdly comic and mystifying experience of grief and bereavement that had a lot to do with being a twin.

The idea of being cut in half but also doubled by the experience stayed with me for a long time before I began writing the book, which eventually became a novel, essentially, about the relationship between twins.

Other themes in the book, such as marriage and dual heritage, and the contrasts of comedy and tragedy, realism and the supernatural, became metaphors for twinness, for ‘two-ness’.

When did you first realise you wanted to write fiction?

I used to read a lot when I was a teenager and I was enthralled by this power some books had of enveloping you in another world, peculiar, vivid, complex worlds where anything was possible. I started off by writing poetry, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties, working as a journalist and feeling somewhat restricted writing articles, that I began to want to create such worlds myself.

The way I read was changing. More than simply enjoying being seduced, I began to think about how and why I was being seduced. The more aware and discerning I became as a reader, the stronger became the desire to write. Good fiction, good writing, makes me want to write, and vice versa.

And what did you do before you started writing?

I went into journalism not long after graduating from a media studies degree. I was a dancer for a while, but then decided that if it was a toss between dancing and writing, writing was the thing. I worked full-time on a woman’s magazine then went freelance and began writing fiction alongside journalism.

What are you working on now?

Another …

2005 prize

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Serpent’s Tail)

Kevin Katchadourian killed seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher, shortly before his sixteenth birthday.

He is visited in prison by his mother, Eva, who narrates in a series of letters to her estranged husband Franklin, the story of Kevin’s upbringing.

A successful career woman, Eva is reluctant to forgo her independence and the life she shares with Franklin to become a mother.

Once Kevin is born, she experiences extreme alienation and dislike of Kevin as he grows up to become a spiteful and cruel child. When Kevin commits murder, Eva fears that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become. But how much is she to blame? And if it isn’t her fault, why did he do it?

Lionel Shriver has written for The Economist, the Wall Street Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other publications. She lives in London and New York.

We Need To Talk About Kevin is her seventh novel.…

Orange Award for New Writers

Kamila Shamsie is the author of four novels, including the forthcoming Broken Verses (Bloomsbury, April 2005).

She is the recipient of a fellowship from the Arts Council of England, has been shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys Award (for both In the City by the Sea and Kartography), and is the recipient of two prizes from the Academy of Letters in Pakistan.

She is one of the 21 writers chosen as part of the Orange Futures campaign. She lives in Karachi and London, and is currently teaching in America.

Read an interview with Kamila Shamsie

Margaret Busby

Margaret Busby, born in Ghana and educated in Britain, co-founded the publishing house Allison & Busby Ltd, of which she was editorial director for 20 years.

She is the editor of Daughters of Africa: An International Anthology of Words and Writing by Women of African Descent, contributes to many publications and has written drama for the stage and radio.

Read an interview with Margaret Busby

Alex Clark

Alex Clark is a freelance literary journalist and broadcaster who has written for the Guardian, the Sunday Times and the Times Literary Supplement. Alex currently writes for the Daily Telegraph‘s books pages and is also writing a book about only-children.

Read an interview with Alex Clark…