On Wednesday 20th May this years’ winner of the Kim Scott Walwyn Prize was announced to a room buzzing with publishing talent at the Free Word Centre in Clerkenwell. The prize is in its 10th year and was set up in the memory of the inspirational Publishing Director Kim Scott Walwyn. It is managed by the Prize Committee and Book Trust and is run in partnership with the Society of Young Publishers and the Publishing Training Centre. The award was originally founded to recognise women who had made an exceptional contribution to the industry and attracted nominations from high level professionals, with past winners including Lynette Owen and Claire Alexander. However, in more recent years the focus has shifted to the rising talent within publishing and to qualify for entry you must have no more than 7 years’ publishing experience. The Kim Scott Walwyn prize is an important opportunity to recognise and encourage women who are demonstrating outstanding potential early in their careers and although there is always controversy surrounding awards that are aimed at a specific gender, race or demographic, until equality of the sexes is achieved in employment, this prize remains relevant.
Keynote speaker, Kate Mosse, firmly validated the importance of the prize, particularly as it is open to self-nominations. She encouraged the audience to do things to make things happen and asserted that it is not unladylike or vulgar to promote yourself and women need to become more comfortable with being self-confident. She urged us to understand that in celebrating your own achievements you can help other people.
Mosse, who was one of the founders of the Orange Prize for women’s fiction (now the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction ) is clearly passionate about women and minority groups gaining a stronger voice in the higher echelons of publishing and literature and believes “we are better with a plurality of voices”. Whilst clear that she doesn’t feel the publishing industry is diverse enough and needs to learn and be better, Mosse did credit the industry as being one, by nature of what it does, in which we feel that our voice counts. Mosse’s speech was both a rallying cry and a valedictory statement for minority prizes. She left us with the comparison that without literary prizes world changing books of quality might not continue to be published and without prizes for women and other minorities, the equality and diversity of the workforce, which is key to growing a stronger industry, might not be achieved.
The 2015 shortlist was certainly diverse with entrants from different disciplines and sectors: from production in scientific publishing through to children’s books commissioning and a literary agent who came to publishing as a second career.
Congratulations to the five shortlisted entrants (listed below) who were all worthy of the award and a big well done to this year’s winner Rebecca Lewis-Oakes.
Shortlist for the 2015 Kim Scott Walwyn Prize
- Brianna Corbett – Production Archivist, Taylor & Francis Group
- Rebecca Lewis-Oakes – Editor, Puffin Books
- Anna James – Books News and Media Editor, The Bookseller
- Nisha Doshi – Senior Commissioning Editor, Cambridge University Press
- Jo Unwin – Literary Agent, Jo Unwin Literary Agency