Marian Keyes to judge prize for comic women writers

Ruth Padel in Limerick; Eavan Boland in Kilkenny; Longley wins Yakamochi Medal

A new prize for funny female authors launches at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 24th.

From Allison Pearson, Dawn French and Marian Keyes, all the way back to Muriel Spark, Dorothy Parker and Stella Gibbons, readers have been devouring female wit on the page for decades. Female comic novelists consistently top the bestseller lists, so why aren’t they celebrated?

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize is the only existing prize for comic fiction. In the 18 years it has been running only three women have won. This year they decided to withhold the prize because none of the 62 entries were funny enough. Clearly they are missing something.

Comedian and author Helen Lederer aims to address this by introducing a new literary prize that will officially recognise witty female authors and nurture new, unpublished talent. The Comedy Women in Print Award, or CWIP for short, will celebrate female comedy fiction in all its forms, from the absurd and laugh-out-loud to the dark and razor sharp.


“As soon as I’d written my novel I looked around for prize to win (as you do) and there were none!” Lederer said. “Then I got excited about doing something to redress the imbalance. Now that CWIP is finally on the literary map – it’s as if it was always meant to be there…funny that ….”

Celebrated novelist, author of I Don’t Know How She Does It, and Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson is a judge, along with Helen Lederer, Marian Keyes and Jennifer Young, associate dean of the School of Humanities and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire.

“Male voices are automatically given extra weight,” said Keyes. “There are brilliantly funny women writing today, but they are not celebrated as they should be. This prize should change that.”

There will be two categories – published and unpublished. Both winners will be awarded a cash prize and the unpublished winner will be given a place on the Master’s in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire. The award is sponsored by Pegasus Life.

Ruth Padel visits Limerick
Ruth Padel, the distinguished poet, novelist, literary critic, and a direct descendant of Charles Darwin, will visit Limerick for a poetry reading on Thursday, August 30th, at the Granary Library, Michael Street.

Padel will read from Emerald, her latest collection of poems, and her 11th in total. It is a homage to her mother, Hilda Padel, a naturalist, who passed away last year aged 97. These darkly luminous poems speak of the journey into the subterranean realm of the afterlife, and are suffused with the memory and promise of joy.

The catastrophic effects of climate change has also been a long preoccupation and its effects on animal and human behaviour. In her 2012 book, The Mara Crossing, she engages with the crises of ecological devastation and migration both natural and forced, and how these shake up established ideas of who belongs and who does not. “Everything begins with migration,” she observes. “Humans migrate, animals migrate, cells migrate within our bodies. Life on earth began with the migration of a cell. We were all wanderers once. We have all come from somewhere else.”

The reading is part of the ‘On the Nail @ The Library’ reading series hosted by The Limerick Writers’ Centre and is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland, it begins at 6.30pm and she will be accompanied by poet and playwright Neil Donnelly.

Book events in Castlebar
The Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar has a lively programme of literature events coming up this autumn. It ranges from the home-town launch of Sally Rooney's Man Booker-longlisted novel Normal People on Culture Night (September 21st), to a reading and in-conversation event with renowned poet Lemn Sissay (November 16th). Also in the mix is the Wild Atlantic Words Festival featuring the performance of a new song cycle written by Mayo poet Martin Dyar (October 11th), a poetry workshop with Alice Kinsella (October 13th), and Northern Lights, an event featuring leading lights in literature from Northern Ireland, namely Louise Kennedy, Eoin McNamee and Michael Nolan (October 13th). Events for younger people include workshops for children with writer Debbie Thomas as part of the RoolaBoola Children's Arts Festival. The Linenhall is part of an exciting literature audience development initiative in collaboration with Words Ireland and five other venues nationwide. Full details

Graiguenamanagh Town of Books Festival
Authors Patricia Gibney and Helena Duggan will join over 30 independent booksellers and the very best food and craft makers for three days of literature, storytelling, workshops and more from August 24th for this year's Graiguenamanagh Town of Books Festival in the medieval, riverside town in Kilkenny.

The festival is now in its 15th year and is a must for anyone who wants to pick up a bargain in new, second hand, antiquarian, children’s and specialist books, the organiser say. This year’s programme has been extended to include an artisan food and craft element, live music and more.

Gibney said: “I am so looking forward to visiting the Town of Books festival again this year. The atmosphere is vibrant and friendly, and anyone who has a love of books should visit this Graiguenamanagh festival.I hope to talk about my writing process, eg the use of location in the Lottie Parker crime books and the process of writing a series of books,” she said.

Every available space in the picture postcard town is turned into a bookshop for the event which has drawn big names and renowned collectors to the town down through the years, festival spokesperson, Mary Whelan, said.

“This has become a national festival and a fantastic opportunity for independent booksellers to showcase their stock to a captive audience. The physical size of Graiguenamanagh really lends itself to hosting a festival like this. Entire families can walk from one end of the town to the other in comfort and in safety and peruse the books on offer at the various hubs at their leisure.

The festival opens with Where Old Ghosts Meet, an exploration of the life, times and works of Patrick Kavanagh through poetry, prose and song. Visitors will also delight in a local history tour which includes a fascinating look at the rich history and stories of Graiguenamanagh and its environs.

Free children’s activities run throughout the weekend and food and craft stalls will be dotted all over the town, boosting the carnival atmosphere throughout the weekend.

Eavan Boland in Kilkenny
Over the past few years, Kilkenny Arts Festival has welcomed a different leading poet each August as poet in residence. This year Eavan Boland, heralded by Elaine Feinstein as 'one of the finest and boldest poets of the last half century' will be in Kilkenny. Long based in the US, where she is director of the creative writing programme at Stanford University, Boland comes to Kilkenny to read from her work and reflect on a lifetime's engagement with the power of words.

‘I began to write in an Ireland where the word “woman” and the word “poet” seemed to be in some sort of magnetic opposition to each other,’ Eavan Boland once noted. That this has changed is thanks in no small part to her.

Over a career spanning more than 50 years and a dozen collections, from 23 Poems (1962) to A Woman Without a Country (2014), Boland has blazed a trail for other poets to follow, subverting traditional ideas of womanhood and offering fresh perspectives on Irish history and myth.

On Friday, August 17th, at 4pm.hear more of her life and work in an event at the Parade Tower, introduced by Maureen Kennelly, director of Poetry Ireland.

A long-standing champion of emerging voices, Eavan Boland will also lead a poetry workshop on August 16th. Participation is by application. Email for further details.

Kilkenny Arts Office’s Poetry Broadsheet is launched this year by Eavan Boland at the Parade Tower at 3pm on August 16th. The broadsheet gives local writers a platform for their work; the guest editor this year is the distinguished poet Peter Sirr, whose most recent collection Sway was published by The Gallery Press in 2016.

Theresa May commends The Caterpillar's Poetry Prize winner
The winner of this year's Caterpillar Poetry Prize, Coral Rumble, was more than a little surprised to find a letter from the House of Commons in her mailbox recently. The opening line went thus: "I am writing to congratulate you on winning The Caterpillar's annual prize for your poem Mustafa's Jumper". And it went on, commending Coral's "exploration of current issues through the lens of poetry" and her work with schools in the community. Signed: The Rt Hon Theresa May.

It seems poetry, and in particular children’s poetry, is reaching a far wider audience these days than we could ever have imagined. Whatever you might think of Britain’s prime minister, it’s fair to say she has a lot on her plate. So it’s heartening to know that she, of all people, can still find the time to read The Caterpillar, an art and literature magazine for children (and grown-ups) based in Ireland (just south of the border, as it happens), and to recognise a really great children’s poem when she sees one.

The Caterpillar, which has been up and running since 2013, is one of the few outlets in Ireland and the UK for adults writing poetry and short fiction for children, and its annual prizes offer the opportunity for their work to reach a much wider audience. Like the other prizes run by its mothership The Moth, anyone, from anywhere in the world, can enter these prizes. They don’t need to have a publishing history or a degree in creative writing - just as long as they’re passionate about what they do.

The Caterpillar Story for Children Prize (for a story written by an adult for children) is now up and running, so if you fancy being in with a chance to see your work published in The Caterpillar and winning €1,000, then check out You never know who might read it!

Longley wins Yakamochi Medal
Michael Longley has won the Yakamochi Medal, a literary prize awarded to an outstanding poet from anywhere in the world. The prize includes winnings of two million yen (€16,000). Since this is the first edition, there are no previous winner. The Yakamochi Medal is named after Otomo no Yakamochi, a Japanese poet and compiler of the Manyoshu, the oldest existing Japanese collection of poetry. Around half of the poems he composed that were included in the Manyoshu were composed during his time as a governor of Etchu Province, which corresponds to present day Toyama Prefecture.

Story House Ireland course
The next course at The Story House Ireland will run from October 29th to November 3rd 2018 in An Grianán, Co Louth. A Novel Experience will be facilitated by authors Lia Mills (In Your Face; Fallen) and Catherine Dunne (The Things We Know Now) and they will be joined for a midweek dinner and Q&A with debut novelist Lisa Harding who will chat about her writing life and answer any writing-related queries. Areas to be covered will include narrative voice, style, pacing, plot, character development and dialogue.

Included in the €700 fee are five nights’ accommodation; full board; all workshops; one-to-one sessions with each writer to discuss your work; time and space to write; reading and discussion with guest writer. A €200 deposit will secure a place, with the full fee required by September 17th. In the past, a number of local arts offices have supported writers in their area to attend, so it might be worthwhile to approach your local arts officer for assistance.

The Story House Ireland is a volunteer led charity founded in 2014 by Margaret O’Brien and Nollaig Brennan and aims to provide support for developing writers of all ages and backgrounds, complementing the work of existing writing centres.

Winners of iYeats 2018 International Poetry Competition
Galway based poet Sighle Meehan has won the the 2018 iYeats International Poetry Competition. This years judges Martin Dyar and Grace Wells said of Meehan's winning poem, New York, It Had A Ring To It: 'With extraordinary heart and delicacy, this poem brings together themes of immigration, resilience and love. It also presents a subtle evocation of the life of the imagination: the poem's protagonist is defined as much by vision and verbal sensitivity as by hurt and desperation. There's additional power in the poem's uncanny spoken style, the effect of which is deepened by the decision to let punctuation and capitalisation bow to the felt reality of the narrative. But if New York, it Had a Ring to it incorporates the rhythms and the intimacy of speech, it is also charged with an original urgency of passion. The beautiful closing line, emerging as it does from a sequence of dynamic and resonating images, reveals the hallmark of true poetic skill, and transports the reader to a place of profound feeling.'

The 2018 iYeats emerging poetry competition was won by Singapore-native her Sarah Ang, for a poem entitled Helen.

The iYeats Poetry competition was launched by the Hawk’s Well Theatre in 2009 to mark the 50th Yeats International Summer School and the 70th anniversary of the death of W. B Yeats. The iYeats Poetry competition is an online national and international poetry competition which has won a prestigious reputation for the calibre of both entrants and judges, Grace Wells & Martin Dyar (2018) Previous judges have included Billy Ramsell & Jessica Traynor (2017), Moya Cannon & Colin Dardis (2016), Peter Sirr and Catherine Phil MacCarthy (2014). Katie Donovan and James Harpur (2013). Theo Dorgan and Paula Meehan (2012) Gerald Dawe & Enda Wyley (2011), Vincent Woods & Rita Ann Higgins (2010) and Niall MacMonagle & Mary Branley (2009).

The winning poems and videos of the winning poets reading their work is available to view on

The Naturalists by Jaki McCarrick
The Pond Theatre Company, an American home for contemporary British and Irish playwrights, presents the world premiere of The Naturalists by Irish writer, Jaki McCarrick. Directed by Colleen Clinton and Lily Dorment, The Naturalists marks the professional New York debut of McCarrick, best known for her play Belfast Girls, which was developed at the National Theatre Studio in London and was shortlisted for the 2012 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Belfast Girls has been staged to widespread international acclaim and is to make its West End debut next year. McCarrick's play, Leopoldville, won the 2010 Papatango Prize for New Writing.

Set in a rural hamlet in County Monaghan, Ireland, The Naturalists follows the story of brothers Francis and Billy Sloane, whose isolated existence is shaken by the arrival of a mysterious young woman. It is a story of secrets, atonement, and how we can be healed by the land, by each other and, maybe, by the perfect stranger.

“Introducing the work of playwrights like Jaki McCarrick to American audiences is one of the guiding principles of The Pond,” said founding co-artistic directors Colleen Clinton, Lily Dorment, and Sarah Street. “We are privileged to not only present the world premiere of her beautiful unhurried play, The Naturalists, but to also bring her distinct voice to New York for the first time in this professional debut.”

Performances l take place from September 7th-23rd at Walkerspace, 46 Walker Street in Manhattan. Tickets, priced at $45 general admission, can be purchased by visiting or by calling 212-279-4200.