This week went off to a great start thanks to Shay’s luck! In her inbox dropped an email letting her know she’d won two tickets to the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 20th Anniversary event at the Piccadilly Theatre in London.
Now unfortunately for Shay, she wasn’t actually able to make it…so, me being the wewiner in London very graciously pretended to be a Mrs Keyworth (!) for the night and took along my friend Pam.
This Prize for Fiction is a super prestigious award recognising excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing all over the world. Winners get £30,000 (yes please) and a beautiful bronze statue created by Grizel Niven called ‘Bessie’ (I’ve already cleared a space for her in my bookcase)…and of course the recognition that they are 100% badass (which is the best bit!).
This night celebrated some of the incredible women who have won in the last ten years. Novelist, co-founder and Chair of the board, Kate Mosse, hosted the evening, alongside the 10 judges of the prize for the last ten winners…and four incredible actors – Stanley Tucci (be still my beating heart! Oh how I love you so), Sheila Hancock, Sia Kiwa and Prasanna Puwanarajah.
Seating was unallocated so Pam and I decided for the royal circle (because we’re fancy) and turns out, our spot was perfect.
The lights dimmed and out walked our team for the evening. Kate Mosse introduced everyone involved and explained that we’d hear from each of the judges about why they chose their book as the winner and then hear an excerpt from each one read aloud. Perfect.
Now, I won’t lie. I’ve actually not read any of the books on the winners list (!!!???) which comes as a huge surprise to me, seeing as I’m almost always found nose deep in a book. But for some bizarre reason these seem to have slipped through. However, I think it made the evening that bit more exciting. I had no idea what to expect and I was not at all disappointed. And hey…it just means I have more books to add to my ever grown pile of things to read and love!
[Special shout out to Prasanna’s electric blue socks, so cool]
And WOW, how incredible it was to hear from all these books. We heard these women write of love, loss, heartbreak, fear, war, truth, lies, the past, present and future, food, sex, men, women and children…and so much more. I don’t think I’ve been on such a rollercoaster of emotions in such a short amount of time. And the way these women write. It was inspiring. I think growing up, going through the education system, it’s so drilled into you from such a young age that you must write like this and if you don’t then you’re wrong. These women prove quite the opposite. Writing is fluid. Writing is personal. Writing is as much of a spectrum as there are colours in the world. There is no wrong or right way to write. If you think it, get it down. If you love it in your mind, love it on a page. If you believe it, make others believe it too.
This evening filled me with confidence for my own writing. And made me believe that achieving goals is both possible, and important. In a society where women are still looked upon, more often than not, as weak, I can’t explain properly how much strength there was not only on the stage, but in the entire theatre and beyond. I truly love that the power of words has the ability to change people’s lives.
And so the winner, the Best of the Best prize was announced. And it went to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun, which tells the story of the Biafran War in the 1960s through the characters Olanna, Ugwu, and Richard. Murial Gray, saying “it is a piece of important history” first picked the book for the award in 2007.
All in all, this night was magnificent. I’m so glad I went along. I was of course sad that Shay wasn’t able to come too…but hey, maybe we’ll be winning our own Women’s Prize for Fiction in the next twenty years and can celebrate together then! Thank you to Bailey’s for holding such an awesome award and thank you to all the women for making us know that we can do this!
And for now…I better get started on reading that big pile of books…