The judging panel for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the inaugural Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction will be chaired by Monica Ali and Suzannah Lipscomb respectively, it has been announced.
Booker-prize nominated author Ali will head up the prestigious fiction prize, now in its 29th year, alongside judges Ayobami Adebayo, Indira Varma, Laura Dockrill and Anna Whitehouse – with the longlist expected to be announced on March 5 and the shortlist on April 24 next year.
Meanwhile, historian, author and broadcaster Lipscomb will lead Anne Sebba, Kamila Shamsie, Nicola Rollock and Venetia La Manna on the judging panel for the launch of the inaugural Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction, with a longlist set for publication on February 15 and a shortlist on March 27.
The winner of each prize, both to be announced on June 13, is set to receive £30,000 and a limited-edition statuette named the Bessie for the Fiction Prize – sculpted by the late Grizel Niven – and a specially commissioned sculpture named the Charlotte for the Non-Fiction Prize – the artist of which will be announced in January 2024.
On the importance of the new prize for non-fiction, Lipscomb told the PA news agency: “I think there’s a lag when it comes to recognising women as experts. In my own discipline of history, buyers buy more books by men than by women and I don’t think that’s because women aren’t writing excellent history books.
“I think there’s a sense that this is entirely legitimate as the Women’s Prize for Fiction was, because this gap remains and because it seems that we need an extra device to bring these out into the open and bring people’s attention to them.
“Also I just think it’s so important to have women’s perspectives on science and on history and on the world in general.”
The host of podcast Not Just The Tudors also described it as a “real privilege to be part of bringing women’s voices to the attention of the public”.
Meanwhile Brick Lane author Ali said she was “surprised” to be named chair of the prestigious fiction prize but described it as a “great honour”, comparing it to Christmas as boxes of books have been arriving for her to judge.
“I am a big fan of the prize, I think since it’s been founded it’s made a big impact on the literary landscape,” she told PA.
Speaking of the importance of the prize, she added: “…I still think that women’s writing and women’s voices are not necessarily treated equally with men.
“It is changing, but there hasn’t been enough change.
“I think there are lots of high profile women novelists and women are the main buyers of fiction but that doesn’t mean that women are awarded the same respect and regard that their male counterparts are, so I think there’s definitely still a place for this prize.”