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  • Writer's pictureHelen Lederer

Three weeks to go!

As we near the closing date of entries…I’ve been looking around for some support from nice people to remind myself the reason for setting up the CWIP prize. It was an idea four years ago when I’d written my novel and looked around - rather hopefully - for a prize. Interestingly, there were no prizes for Funny Female Fiction. Alas, I won’t be set free until this prize happens.

Name drop moment. HELEN FIELDING has sent her support and may offer more to CWIP next year when she isn’t on a deadline. I’m reeling. Allow me a moment…

And now a wonderful piece from MAVIS CHEEK. We taught a comedy writing course together this summer and bonded superbly over vodka, rudeness and a unique camaraderie that only you - dear reader - will know about….

Mavis Cheek - image credit Jayne Douglas

Here she is ….over to you Mavis

"I can tell you why CWIP is not only good - it is really important. When I started writing funny books - in 1988 - the bookshelves in shops had no category for me. They put me in Romance - and frankly - my books were as close to Romance as Rudolph Nureyev was to arc welding. In beautiful downtown Sydney ‘Janice Gentle Gets Sexy’ apparently appeared in the Lesbian Bookshop for want of knowing where to sell it. At one point a Very Famous and Important Male Senior Editor said that ‘he never read women’s fiction’ - actually - when he read mine - he bought it. But that attitude was absolutely prevalent. Beryl Bainbridge and Bernice Rubens were allowed ‘in’ because they wrote wonderfully and played it like the blokes - tough, funny, smoking for England, and taking no prisoners with the media. Then there was Mary Wesley - another one who was let ‘in’ because she, too, wrote sharp, funny books and was sharp, funny, remarkably old for starting up - and quite frightening herself. (But lovely to me). All three joyfully eccentric. No threat. Men would say to me, rather nervously, that their wives/girlfriends had passed on my books to them because they wanted to know why their wives/girlfriends were laughing. And, even more nervously, they would tell me that they liked them. As if it were something rather embarrassing. One bookshop assistant who was organising a reading for me said that he hadn’t thought he’d read my book because it was ‘women’s stuff’ - but that when he did - well, surprise, surprise… And then came the pretty pink, blue and lime green jackets with pictures of women doing unspeakable things while drunkenly in charge of a Selfridge’s bag. Reducing the impact of well-crafted, in your face comedic writing. It’s an art, getting the comic timing right on the page, let alone anything else. You don’t just knock it out. I’m quite sure that if women writers had been promoted like some of their male counterparts, we’d have more women’s humorous - really funny - writing out there. And I’m not entirely sure - having read a few - that some of the male writers who are now classed as ‘comic’ are funny at all - naming no names but - in these bleak old politically/socially depressed days, how much we all long to pick up a book and laugh our socks off. Women can do that for you - as in real life - so on the page. Women are genuinely funny. So - yes - CWIP is tremendously important. TREMENDOUSLY."

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