Children's novelist wins Glen Dimplex

 

FIRST-TIME writer Sally Nicholls, whose book, Ways to Live Forever, is about a young boy dying of leukaemia, was declared winner of the Glen Dimplex New Writers Awards 2008 at a gala dinner in Dublin last night.

She was presented with €25,000 in prize money for the novel, which was published earlier this year by Scholastic Children's Books.

The awards, with a total prize fund of €45,000, recognise writers who have been published in Ireland and Britain for the first time in the past year. There are five categories: fiction; poetry; biography/non-fiction; children's book; and a book in any genre in the Irish language.

Ways to Live Foreverwon the children's category as well as the overall award. The winners in the four other categories, each awarded €5,000, were: Allan Bush, in fiction, for Last Bird Singing, published by Seren; Nia Wyn in the biography/non-fiction category, for Blue Sky July, also from Seren; Will Stone for his poetry collection, Glaciation, from Salt Publishing; and Simon Ó Faoláin for his poetry collection in Irish, Anam Mhadra, published by Coiscéim. It is hoped that the awards, now in their third year and organised in association with the Irish Writers' Centre, "will continue to provide encouragement to, and a forum for, promising writers to further develop their skills at a critical time in their careers", according to Glen Dimplex chairman Martin Naughton. The winning book, "in time, will become a children's classic", predicted chairman of the judges, poet and Irish Timesjournalist Gerard Smyth.

Speaking at the awards ceremony at Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane, he said the book had "qualities of story-telling to draw in readers of any age. It is profound, honest, intelligent, funny and sad, and filled with scenes that continue to haunt after the final, inevitable chapter."

Nicholls, who was born in Stockton in the UK, wrote the novel while enrolled in a creative writing master's programme at Bath Spa University.

During the course, she won the prize for the writer who showed the most potential. Nicholls, who is in her early 20s and currently based in London, is writing her second novel.

Ways to Live Foreverhas already won the 2008 Waterstone's Children's Book Prize and is longlisted for the 2009 Manchester Book Award.

This year's awards attracted almost 350 entries from publishers in Britain and Ireland. A shortlist of 30 emerging writers was announced last month. According to Smyth, the quantity and the quality of the books as well as "the range of themes and preoccupations across the genres . . . suggest just how vibrant, unfettered and thriving the literary imagination continues to be".