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  • Writer's pictureHelen Lederer


Updated: Oct 29, 2018

With the empowering and witty words of Catherine the Great ringing in my ears - ‘Your wit makes other’s witty’ I headed off - in what I hoped was an enabling yet witty manner - to announce the launch of CWIP and the hilarious news that - at last - funny female authors can now win a literary prize for both published and unpublished fiction.

A shy representation of how I mentioned the news to anyone who happened to be passing through The Pleasance Courtyard in Edinburgh

Jenny Colgan – one witty author of at least 7 funny novels (possibly 27 by the time you read this)

Jenny shared her enthusiasm for CWIP as well as her own motivation for wit on the page - ‘comedy was what I loved - I was obsessed with it - I wanted to be a comedian but I was shit at it, so I started writing novels’ (It’s worth reminding ourselves here, that many of Jenny’s novels have been Sunday Times Top 10 bestsellers HL).

And as we later opined (some may note self-conscious use of word ‘opined’ here – intended for irony purposes - please overlook if not helping HL) the plethora of other female funny fiction authors such as Stella Gibbons, Sue Townsend, Muriel Spark, Mavis Cheek, Jenny Éclair, Marian Keyes Allison Pearson and of course many other enticing novelist names that were being rapidly googled - when Jenny (Colgan) appositely reminded us ‘the era is definitely passing where men would say that women just aren’t funny’ adding wisely ‘with the exception of possibly Nigel Farage’.

Gill Sims, another witty supporter of CWIP and a huge success story of a funny author traversing from unpublished to published – stated rather cheerfully ‘I started the blog in February as a joke and it snowballed hugely, then in the October, Harper Collins made a firm offer’.

It must have been firm. Gill’s first book Why Mummy Drinks ended up a bestselling fiction debut of 2017, with over six months in the top ten of the Sunday Times Bestseller Charts.

The wonderful Gill Sims with her book and myself - spontaneously remembering I wrote one as well, but not at the same time…

Gill spoke in a very funny way (some swear words to enhance - HL) yet she was also mindful of why we were all in the room ‘A lot of people come into it from non-traditional routes thinking that comedy prizes aren’t going to be in their grasp, but I think there is an opening for unpublished work' (I think I may have intervened at this point to say something like ‘yes and might we all like to refer to CWIP’s ‘how to enter unpublished section’ in the website…which is being declared open as we speak’ HL).

…And then the wonderful Janet Ellis made an especially welcome speech – wearing, I’d like to think a bespoke tee shirt for the event…

Janet referred back to her novel (optioned - just saying HL) - ‘I like witty women and I wanted to write a book that made me laugh first and foremost. I think what you are doing is amazing (err… CWIP she means HL). In future we will not have to do this, we will just acknowledge funny writing - but at the moment we do need to fight our corner in all areas, within that limited space. A few years ago, it was slightly offensive, and you really had to stand your ground. This time we are really saying women are funny and please can we have a prize, so well done you’.

And then there was Angela Jackson (witty blogger and author) who said crisply ‘when women write funny it’s called chick lit and when men write funny it’s called commercial fiction’ (someone may have cheered at this HL) and JoJo Fraser (funny blogger), who was standing next to Angela (possibly with a croissant and if she wasn’t, I hope she was as they were nice HL ) added that the CWIP prize would be very important because ‘we all hear these voices, no matter what our gender is - were not funny enough were not good enough - tell them to pipe down -these thoughts come in, but they don’t have to define you, you can still get the job done’.

I agreed with JoJo, before rushing off to do two shows (mild showing off but ‘boasting’ is officially received as ‘less arrogant’ after 50) leaving some CWIP supporters who were performing in Edinburgh, to finish the drink.

Was this the clever Sam Leith near the pastries with Jenny Colgan?

The very funny Janey Godley being very funny while I was looking pleased

Myself and comedian and poet John Hegley with satirist Tony Slattery


PS Some members of the TV Production company ‘Big Talk’ allegedly, managed to sneak in to hug the pastry table and see what’s what - but as yet, no record of a photo has emerged – pity – it might have been useful to know who to send the funny novels to for optioning purposes - time enough though - this is only the beginning….

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