Dylan Thomas & Folio Prize Lists and a Book Launch

Literary prize season is upon us! I sometimes find it overwhelming, but mostly I love it. Last month I submitted a longlist of my top five manuscripts to be considered for the McKitterick Prize. In the past week the Dylan Thomas Prize longlist and Folio Prize shortlists have been announced. The press release for the former notes “an even split of debut and established names, with African diaspora and female voices dominating.”

  • Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books) – novel (Australia)
  • Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press) – novel (Ireland)
  • God’s Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – short story collection (Nigeria)
  • Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)
  • Phantom Gang by Ciarán O’Rourke (The Irish Pages Press) – poetry collection (Ireland)
  • Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduor (Oneworld) – novel (Kenya)
  • Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu (Canongate Books) – novel (UK)
  • I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Books) – novel (UK)
  • Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing) – short story collection (UK)
  • Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus) – poetry collection (Somalia-UK)
  • Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens (Picador, Pan Macmillan) – novel (UK)
  • No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib (Atlantic Books, Allen & Unwin) – novel (Lebanon)

I happen to have already read Warsan Shire’s poetry collection and Nell Stevens’ debut novel (my review), which I loved and am delighted to see get more attention. I had Seven Steeples as an unsolicited review copy on my e-reader so have started reading that, and Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is one of the books I treated myself to with Christmas money. There’s a possibility of a longlist blog tour, so for that I’ve requested the poetry book Phantom Gang. The shortlist will be announced on 23 March and the winner on 11 May.

This is the first year of the new Rathbones Folio Prize format: as in the defunct Costa Awards, the judges will choose a winner in each of three categories and then the category winners will go on to compete for an overall prize.


  • The Passengers by Will Ashon
  • In Love by Amy Bloom
  • The Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland
  • Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson
  • The Social Distance Between Us by Darren McGarvey


  • Quiet by Victoria Adukwei Bulley
  • Ephemeron by Fiona Benson
  • Cane, Corn & Gully by Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa
  • England’s Green by Zaffar Kunial
  • Manorism by Yomi Ṣode


  • Glory by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser
  • Pure Colour by Sheila Heti
  • Emergency by Daisy Hildyard
  • Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Amy Bloom’s memoir In Love was one of my favourites last year, but I’m unfamiliar with the rest of the nonfiction shortlist and all the poetry collections are new to me (though I’ve read Zaffar Kunial’s Us). From the fiction list, I’m currently reading Elizabeth Strout’s Lucy by the Sea and I’ve read part of Sheila Heti’s bizarre Pure Colour and will try to get back into it on my Kindle at some point. In 2021 I was sent the entire Folio Prize shortlist to feature on my blog, but last year there was no contact from the publicists. I’ve expressed interest in receiving the poetry nominees, if nothing else.

The Women’s Prize longlist is always announced on International Women’s Day (8 March). Very unusually for me, I have already put together a list of novels we might see on that. I actually started compiling the list in 2022, and then last month spent some bookish procrastination time scouring the web for what I might have missed. There are 124 books on my list. Before cutting that down by 90% I have to decide if I want to be really thorough and check the publisher for each one (bar some exceptions, each publisher can only submit two books). I’ll work on that a bit more and post it in the next couple of weeks.

Last night I attended an online book launch (throwback to 2020!) via Sam Read Bookseller in Grasmere, for All My Wild Mothers by Victoria Bennett. Vik saw me express interest in her book on Twitter and had her publisher, Two Roads, send me a copy. I knew I had to attend the launch event because the Bookshop Band wrote a song about the book and premiered it as a music video partway through the evening. I’ve read the first 50 pages so far and it’s a lovely book I’ll review in full later in the month.

The brief autobiographical essays, each titled after a wildflower and headed by a woodcut of it, sit somewhere between creative nonfiction and nature writing, with Bennett reflecting on her sister’s sudden accidental death, her years caring for elderly parents and an ill son, and the process of creating an “apothecary garden” from scratch on a social housing estate in Cumbria. Interviewed by Catherine Simpson (author of When I Had a Little Sister), she said that the book is about “what grows not in spite of brokenness, but because of it.” The format is such in part because it was written over the course of 10 years and Bennett could only steal moments at a time from full-time caregiving. She has also previously published poetry, but this is her prose debut.

Simpson asked if she found the writing of All My Wild Mothers cathartic and Bennett replied that she went to therapy for that purpose, but that time and words have indeed helped to mellow anger and self-pity. She found that she was close enough in time to the events she writes about to remember them, but not so close as to get lost in grief. The Bookshop Band’s song “Keeping the Magic,” mostly on cello and guitar, has imagery of wildflowers and trees and dwells on the maternal and muddling through.

Yesterday was a day of bad family news for me, both a diagnosis and another sudden death, so this was a message I needed, of beauty and hope alongside the grief. It’s why I’m so earnestly seeking warmth and spring flowers this season. I found snowdrops in the park the other day, and crocuses in a neighbour’s garden today.

Which literary prize races will you follow this year?

What’s bringing joy into your life these days?


34 responses

  1. I have sworn not to follow any literary prizes this year and will only read from their lists if a title really interests me 🙂 Of these lists, I most want to read I’m A Fan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That seems like a good strategy to avoid disappointment! I heard about I’m a Fan from Simon Savidge, but it was also a Foyles book of the year. I think it’s a good bet for the WP longlist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I heard Patel talk at an event in Newcastle (alongside Maddie Mortimer!). She was brilliant!


  2. Two of my favourite prizes! There’s any number I’d like to read on the DT longlist: Arnott, Baume, Patel and Stevens in particular. For the Rath. Folio, I don’t know apart from Zaffar Kunial as I loved Us. Last year, I didn’t really follow any prizes, but I do like these two, and the Sunday Times Young Writer one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t heard anything about Young Writer yet; this time last year I think we’d already received review copies of the shortlist. Their admin/publicity seems to have changed. I hope it’s still a possibility this year. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any overlap with the Dylan Thomas Prize list.


  3. I loved both Limberlost and Seven Steeples and am keen to read Send Nudes. Like you, I was also very impressed with In Love. Have fun with the McKitterick

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Baume’s style isn’t my favourite, but I’m interested to find out what happens to the central couple.

      My role in the McKitterick is over … now to sit back and see what gets shortlisted!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I, like Laura, am eschewing most lit prizes this year, although I’m going to enjoy watching other bookish people following them! I’m so sorry to hear of more grief for you. Flowers really do help at this time of year. (My best tip is that M&S does small bunches of daffodils for £1, which I much prefer to the giant bunches of random, unseasonal stuff that Tesco flogs for £6-£9.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a relaxing approach. You can just read the eventual winners, or whichever other nominees grab your interest.

      Thank you. You know what it’s like to be far away from family and unable to attend funerals or offer more than moral support in illness.

      A posy of daffodils sounds like a lovely way to cheer up the dining room. I’ll have a look at M&S when I’m in town on Tuesday.


      1. It’s really hard, isn’t it. All you can do is send your love from far away. I hope the daffodils lift your spirits a little 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so sorry you’ve had bad news – hope flowers, spring and books will cheer you up. I am usually not very ‘au fait’ with literary prizes, as I tend to want to wait and read books after the buzz has died down, but the Rathbone Folio one looks a bit more interesting and diverse than most.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cuddling with the cat under an electric blanket while reading from a giant stack of books is my much-loved evening routine.

      I’m especially keen on prizes that consider multiple genres at once. The Folio is quite a highbrow one as it’s chosen by fellow writers, so ‘authors’ authors’ do well.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The only literary prize I’ve ever followed is the Booker and my interest in that has waned in recent years. Once upon a time, the minute the longlist was announced, I’d head to the library to reserve as many as I could. Now I find the choices underwhelming – its as if they have been chosen to tick as many boxes as possible

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your moniker has become less apt, I suppose 🙂 I don’t follow the Booker particularly closely, but most years the longlist will put at least or two books on my radar.


  7. So sorry to hear of your unexpected grief and the shock from a diagnosis of illness. Appreciating nature around you helps you mend a little and refocus.
    Thanks for reading and considering Riverina Bluebells in the McKitterick Prize this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you — the diagnosis was for my stepfather, and luckily his prognosis is good. It just was a terrible day with both bits of news coming at once.

      I agree that nature helps. At least once a day I have a good walk along the canal and seeing birds and the changing foliage cheers me up.

      The McKitterick Prize saw a huge increase in the number of manuscripts submitted this year, so they were split between three of us judges. As it happens, yours was not in my stack this year, but I wish you good luck!


  8. Really sorry for your bad news, Rebecca, and hoping you find some much-needed moments of sunshine in your reading. And, yes, after a miserably muddy winter here in Maryland, I say, come on spring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember my (MD) nephew’s quip from some time back, that it was so stinking cold it could at least have had the decency to snow.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m quite surprised at how often I dislike the prize-winning book in several of the prize lists. But Limberlost’s well-placed. I haven’t found anyone who didn’t think it a fine read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I often like one or two books from a longlist much more than the eventual winner. I wasn’t too keen on Arnott’s Flames, so I haven’t read his further work, but I’ve heard so many good things about Limberlost that I could be persuaded.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you should. I’ll be interested to see whether you enjoy it: I do hope you will.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m not really a bookish prize follower, but I like reading about it through other bloggers!

    I’m very sorry for your double bad news, and that you’re far away from family affected. This time of year is hard even without sad news. Things that bring me moments of joy: movement, music, my cat, the birds in the backyard, coffee, chocolate… and books, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, all those things! The only one I’m deficient on is exercise. I’ll take my Nook onto the cross trainer this afternoon.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m sorry about the bad family news and wish you strength to get through it and help others to. My go-tos are a walk in some kind of tree-adjacent location and a big pile of books and a blanket. Or a sleep, to be honest.

    I don’t tend to follow prizes but like seeing others’ lists. From all the ones you have here I have only read the Warsan Shire poetry which seems quite shocking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I walk the tree-lined canal path at least once daily, but our nearest proper wood is a drive away. Blanket + books is also a daily treat! I don’t allow myself naps often at all, though — I’d get far too used to them 🙂

      I was disappointed there wasn’t more poetry on the Dylan Thomas list this year. A few of the novels look like they might interest you?

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh no, Rebecca… I’m sorry to hear there’s more bad news. And so far away. xo

    These prizes do feel overwhelming, but for me I think it’s more because many of these books are not even on my radar and I don’t have time for more books on my radar! I see Sheila Heti is there, though, which is nice.

    A few things that bring me happiness right now are books, tea, walks, snow, texting silly things to my friends, and my kids. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Naomi. We think my uncle’s memorial service will be held off until spring so the winter weather doesn’t hinder anyone. I’m still unlikely to be able to attend, though.

      I was pleased to see the Heti on there, even though it’s a bizarre book I haven’t finished yet! I think we have Ali Smith’s taste to thank for the shortlisting.

      Oh for some snow! Since it doesn’t seem likely to happen here, I’m settling for early signs of spring instead. Seeing flowers and buds at the park has been making me happy the past couple of days.


      1. Flowers work , too! 🙂

        Bizarre is a good descriptor for Heti’s book! Lol


  13. I love Sara Baume’s work, coming to it through her nonfiction work Handiwork first, Seven Steeples was wonderful, a kind of hybrid work, is it a novel or a prose poem I asked myself. Speaking of poetic works, Okwiri Oduor’s Things They Lost is that too, what an extraordinary narrative voice, I’m reading it at the moment and love it’s cadence.

    I also recently read All My Wild Mothers, a book that seemed perfect to me, in appreciation of the natural world, of navigating grief and raising a child unconventionally. Lovely that you were able to attend the launch.

    I’m sorry to read of your recent loss and news, I hope you are able to find solace and the right company and support during this period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope I’ll be able to read more from the Dylan Thomas list. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is somewhat challenging in style, but now that it’s also on the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award shortlist I will redouble my efforts to read it.

      All My Wild Mothers beautifully combines so many of my interests. I’m about halfway through.


  14. […] in February, I attended the online book launch via Sam Read Bookseller in Grasmere. With conversation, readings and song, it was the ideal […]


  15. […] a reminder of the full longlist, see my post from last month. I’ve read 3.5 books from it now and would be delighted to see Nell Stevens’ […]


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