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  • Writer's pictureHelen Lederer

If everyone got an A there would be no bees. Discuss.

At school, I remember my headmistress coming into each classroom at the end of the school year and (gravely) read out loud the results of the summer exam results. She would enunciate each name and then she would stop, look up dramatically, and say (still gravely) ‘all those girls have passed’. Then there would be silence, while we squirmed about and reflected upon the implications of all those names not on the list (me).

I rarely get on any list - unless it’s about my age or accumulated driving points.

So, here’s the thing. I set up CWIP to shine a light on the books funny women authors had published already, and the books funny authors could get published in the future. And so - by the very nature of a prize – it follows that some names must be on a list for other people to read out (thankfully not by my headmistress who is currently deceased).

But that’s all. Comedy on the page divides everyone – it’s the last bastion of literary communication that is yet to be fully understood or agreed upon. It is passionate, it is knowing and rarely beige. And it is effing glorious.

Photo of the judges of the unpublished prize.
Our unpublished prize judges from left to right - Karen McPherson, Jenny Eclair, Dr Jennifer Young, Lara Marshal, Fanny Blake, me (just in it for the photo), Teresa Randall (minute taker extraordinaire), Martha Ashby (Harper Collins).

And so, as the first set of judges assembled, I felt it was the least I could do to secure some quality biscuits (and small pastries) for the table and offer a few ice breaker jokes as people took their seats. I am not a judge. I have no vote. Instead, I have secured amazing women judges to support this prize - who all willingly read the long list to get us to the next stage. Biscuits, pastries and feeble humour were my best bet, while Ryman provided notebooks and King of Soho (sponsor of the published cash prize) offered two spanking bottles of gin.

Both judging meetings were equally vivid and vital. Muriel Spark said ‘ridicule is the only honourable weapon we have left’ and I thank all those amazing and talented women judges who wrangled with their very various passions and genuine affection for the power of wit. The fact that each judge was keen to find commonality at the same time - means they have generously helped meet the hopes of CWIP’s first year.

Our published prize judges.
Our published prize judges – award winning Katy Brand and Kathy Lette, and me - in front of some pebbles.

Photo of the other judges.
Our other judges were elsewhere while pebble pic was taken - Marian Keyes, Shazia Mirza, Allison Pearson, Susan Calman.

The shortlist is out on 30 May... A list is made up of words in a running order. But the art of producing witty fiction to make others laugh – be it on a list or otherwise - is all - you knew that.

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