Devised by comedian, actress and author Helen Lederer, the fourth annual Comedy Women in Print Prize (CWIP) winners were announced this evening (Monday 17th April) at a star-studded ceremony at The Groucho Club in London. Shortlistees, judges, previous winners, and friends of CWIP gathered to celebrate, with esteemed guests and presenters including Meera Syal, Vanessa Feltz, Paula Wilcox, Pauline McGlynn, Dawn Butler MP, Yasmine Alibhai-Brown, Shazia Mirza, Ayesha Hazarika, Kathy Lette, Samira Ahmed Robert Bathurst, Debbie McGee, Denise Welch as well as honorary award recipients Jo Brand and Sharon Horgan to name a few…
This year's winning books feature women on the cusp of change - messy, transformative, bold, hilarious. Less about gags, and more about the multitude of ways women express humour about the most urgent topics, the humour in these genre-defying titles has the power to travel to new audiences.
But it’s also a reminder that writing we consider fun and light - about love and dating for instance - can move us deeply and change us.
CWIP Honorary Awards
Witty Impact Award - Sharon Horgan
Honorary Game-Changer Award - Jo Brand
A special acknowledgement, the Witty Impact Award, was given to actor, writer, and producer Sharon Horgan for her contribution to wit on the page and screen as well as changing the literary canvas with women led comedy. This award was presented by Meera Syal who was last year’s recipient of the same award.
Stand-up comedian, actor and author Jo Brand was named Witty Game-Changer for her role in transforming the perception of witty women in comedy as well as pushing boundaries across all media.
Published Novel Prize
Winner Published Novel - Michelle Gallen for Factory Girls
Runner-up Published Novel - Bonnie Garmus for Lessons in Chemistry
New Voice Published Novel - Nikki May for Wahala
The winner of the Published Novel prize was awarded to Irish writer Michelle Gallen for her fearless, raunchy, and real novel, Factory Girls, the story of Northern Irish schoolgirl who takes a holiday job in a shirt factory in 1994. As tensions rise among the Catholic and Protestant workforce, Maeve realises something is going on behind the scenes at the factory.
Gallen’s first novel Big Girl Small Town (shortlisted for the 2020 CWIP Published Novel) is already being adapted for TV by the team behind BBC drama Gentleman Jack, after director and actor Kathy Burke bought the rights.
The runner-up of the Published Novel prize was presented to author and science editor, Bonnie Garmus for her ‘beautifully written, utterly original’ fiction debut, Lessons In Chemistry, soon be an Apple TV+ drama, where scientist-turned-TV chef, Elizabeth Zott takes on workplace sexism in 1960s America.
The winners of the Published Novel category for 2022/23 were decided by a celebrated panel of judges that included broadcaster Angie Greaves; comedian and author Arabella Weir; Anita Dobson; comedy actor Susie Blake; and author Jess Sutanto (winner of CWIP’s 2021 Published Comic Novel award).
Head Judge Angie Greaves said: ‘Books that make you laugh so much that you will miss your train are priceless – thankfully, the judging panel were all in accord these titles. It was an utter privilege being part of this journey.’
Winners Gallen, Garmus and May were awarded £3000, £1000, and £500, respectively from the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), a private donor and Penguin.
While an inaugural runner-up for a debut published author and part of Penguin’s Sue Townsend legacy initiative with CWIP - was awarded to Anglo-Nigerian author Nikki May for her comedic and joyously relatable friendship thriller, Wahala, soon to be a major BBC drama.
Unpublished Novel Prize
Winner Unpublished Novel - Silvia Saunders for Happy Above Us
Runner-up Unpublished Novel - Christina Carty for While He Looked at
Runner-up Unpublished Novel - Veronika Dapunt for Death and Her Life
Runner-up Unpublished Novel - Louise Jensen for Miss Merriman Regrets
Commendation Unpublished Novel - Niloufar Lamakan
The winner of the Unpublished Novel prize was London school librarian, Silvia Saunders, for her novel, Happy Above Us, where a twenty-something librarian juggles friendship, grief, and the housing crisis, as her boyfriend unravels. The judges declared it a clear winner, articulating the messiness of millennial life while injecting the perfect amount of warmth, placing this novel firmly in the same genre as Meg Mason’s Sorrow and Bliss and Monica Heisey’s Really Good, Actually.
Saunders won a publishing contract and £5000 advance from HarperFiction.
The runner-up of the Unpublished Novel prize was Veronika Dapunt for Death And Her Life, which crosses into surrealism and fantasy while maintaining sharp, hilarious observations of the everyday. Dapunt won a place on the online MA in Comedy Writing from Falmouth University.
The second runner-up of the Unpublished Novel was Christina Carty for While He Looked At The Moon, a bawdy, sarcastic, lyrical novel about an unplanned pregnancy. Carty won a place on the University of Hertfordshire MA course in Creative Writing or a Writing Mentorship.
CWIP also awarded a runner-up ‘Book to Screen’ mentorship from TV production company Schnoobert Productions – a company dedicated to enriching comedy outside London - to North Yorkshire author Louise Jensen, for her debut novel, Miss Merriman Regrets - which offers a delightfully subversive edge to the cosy crime genre.
While Niloufar Lamakan was awarded the inaugural CWIP Commendation Prize for her debut novel, Swiping At 60 - which embraces (with gusto) the genre of sex and older participants, offering real diversity of character and precinct.
Short Story Prize
And for the first time, CWIP partnered with publishers Farrago for a Short Story prize. The Short Story Prize was awarded to Sorry Delivery by published author, Paula Lennon, about a slacker delivery driver with narcolepsy who encounters a dead body on her route.
The short story judges were Abbie Headon, author Gabby Hutchinson Crouch, Yasmeen Khan, comedian Olga Koch, Ria Lina, and author Chrissie Manby.
Abbie Headon head judge said, ‘Our judging panel is made up of novelists, scriptwriters, comedians, and editors – in short, women who know good comedy writing when they see it.’
Lennon received a £1000 cash prize and, along with the 12 shortlisted authors, will be published by Farrago in an anthology in the autumn, to be called ‘The Book of Witty Women’. These laugh-out-loud short stories by women writers are joined by guest authors Kathy Lette, Sadia Azmat and Lucy Vines.
Helen Lederer, founder of the Comedy Women in Print Prize, said:
“To choose between any of these wonderfully clever, uplifting novels is impossible, but we have created a platform to celebrate the wit that is already out there, as well as enable new witty writing. That, at least, is a big tick, before I pop my clogs. To recommend a witty book to anyone is a more than a gift - it can be a lifeline…”
CWIP was established in 2019 to celebrate women’s wit and enable writing careers where doors had been closed. The act of publishing an unknown writer, by a well-known publisher, plays a significant part in achieving this aim. This is the UK and Ireland’s first and only prize to shine a light on witty novels by women - celebrating diverse women’s voices and kick-starting comedy writing careers.
Previous winners and highlighted CWIP authors have included Dolly Alderton, Mel Giedroyc, Nina Stibbe, Candice Carty-Williams, Gail Honeyman, Diksha Basu, Andi Osho, Daisy Buchanan, and Beth O’Leary, who demonstrate the wide breadth of reliably funny voices.
Since CWIP began, 20 new writers’ careers have been launched. The most recent success story being Rebecca Rogers with The Purgatory Poisoning released on 2nd March