Revealed: The funniest female novelists of 2020 | Comedy Women in Print Prize reveals its shortlists

Revealed: The funniest female novelists of 2020

Comedy Women in Print Prize reveals its shortlists

The nominees have been announced for the second annual Comedy Women in Print Prize.

Set up by comic actress Helen Lederer, the award recognises new and established writers – with a new category this year for graphic novels – and is judged by panels of established comedy names.

Lederer said: ‘The 2020 titles reflect a range of surprising heroines that made the judges laugh in different ways. From empowerment to dentistry and chip shops – it’s all here.’

The shortlist for the £5,000 prize for best published comic novels is:

  • Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: a darkly comic take on life, love and family for a young black British woman.
  • Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen: a woman’s predictable life with an alcoholic mother is suddenly shattered, from a funny and exciting new voice in Irish literature
  • The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa: a razor-sharp social satire on men, mental health and money in today’s Johannesburg.
  • The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary: a bestselling debut about unconventional living arrangements for London millennials
  • Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe: the third novel of the semi-autobiographical trilogy sees teenager Lizzie longing to get away from her troubled mothe
  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman: a millennial who works in a bookshop starts a new chapter in life when the father she never knew dies, in this story by an LA-based ghost-writer.
  • Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson CBE: inspired by Shelley’s Gothic classic, this author makes a rare appearance on a comedy shortlist with tales of sex dolls, the bodies we live in and our desires (Jonathan Cape).

Marian Keyes, chair of judges for this category, said:‘I am absolutely delighted with our list. The range is glorious – everything from light-hearted commercial fiction to literary fiction – from established names to new talent – and it’s a demonstration of all the different ways in which women can be funny in print.’

The shortlist for published humorous graphic novels, is:

  • Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide- A graphic guide to lesbian and queer history 1950-2020 by Kate Charlesworth: a pageant of LGBTQI+ history which was an Observer Graphic Novel of the Year.
  • My Husband is a Cultist by Mei Lian Hoe: an offbeat romantic comedy about a florist married to a Warlock
  • Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern: ‘Georgette Heyer meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.
  • Was it... Too Much for You? by Danny Noble: a world of nudity and slapstick surrealism inspired by Ken Russell’s film adaptation of Women in Love
  • Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds: a reclusive art dealer and fraudster faces difficult life choices
  • Stand in Your Power by Rachael Smith: a collection of auto-biographical comics focusing on breakups, dating, depression, and love.

 Janet Ellis, chair of judges in this category, said:‘The most exciting category of all (it’s new! it’s fresh!) has revealed a joyful abundance of top- notch, screamingly funny graphic novels written by women. Every single one of the longlisted books had the judges in fits of laughter and the shortlist is a proper celebration of the best of them. 

‘Provocative, playful, acutely observed and fearless, they tackle a wide range of subjects with a triumphant glee, each one not just a comic adventure but also a work of art. They’re all as witty, brave and smart as the judging panel itself. Watch out for what we choose as the Number One - it’s truly going to be comedy gold!’

The shortlist for unpublished comic novels  is:

  • The Bird in the River by Zahra Barri: The adventures of a singleton who turns to a robot boyfriend and therapy to heal past traumas, by stand-up comedian Barri.
  • Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy by Faye Brann: A wacky, comic spy thriller in which a middle-aged housewife is recalled to her secret life, by writer and performer Brann.
  • Everything Is Under Control by Annette Gordon: Heading towards 50 and looking for her lost mojo, a single mum goes wildly off the rails, by TV producer and director Gordon. 
  • The Lady's Companion by Janey Preger: the romantic adventures of an aristocratic editor, her dear friend and the night-club-dancer she hires, by screenwriter Preger. 
  • You Can Drop Me Here by Julia Walter: a forty-something divorcee has an unlikely romance with a man who lives in a van, from Curtis Brown Creative graduate Walter. 
  • Second Wife Syndrome by Kathleen Whyman: With increasingly hilarious results, Marie has to take action when her husband’s attention seems more focused on his first family than on her and their daughter, by freelance journalist Whyman. 

Fanny Blake, chair of this section, said: ‘This year’s outstanding entries were united by some great comic writing and a real diversity in setting and characters. They jointly demonstrated that there are plenty of funny females writing today, just waiting to be discovered. We arrived at a shortlist to be proud of that’s varied, confident and very funny.’

The winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the Groucho Club in Central London on September 14

The Comedy Women In Print Prize is also crowdfunding to help meet the costs of running the competition in 2021. So far £1,600 of the £5,000 target gas been raised.

The published winner will receive £3,000 from the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society. For the unpublished category, the winner will receive a publishing contract and a £5,000 advance from HarperFiction. An unpublished runner-up receives £2,000 from the University of Hertfordshire and mentoring from the MA course in creative writing. An additional runner-up will receive a place on the online MA in comedy writing from Falmouth University. The graphic novel category winner will also receive a cash prize, to be announced.

Published: 8 Jun 2020

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