The Comedy Women in Print Prize (CWIP) has named its 2020 winners – the only awards in the UK and Ireland to recognise work by funny women.
Nina Stibbe scooped the Published Comic Novel prize for Reasons to Be Cheerful, the final book in her semi-autobiographical trilogy, while Sunday Times bestselling author Candice Carty-Williams was named runner up for her debut novel Queenie.
Marian Keyes, chair of the Published Comic Novel judges, said: “I fell in love with Nina Stibbe when I read her memoir, Love Nina, several years ago. When I heard in 2016 that she was writing her first novel, I moved heaven and earth to track down a proof. She has an instinctive comedic touch. She has that extraordinary gift, which is far harder than it looks, of assembling words according to some magical formula, to make a sentence funny. She is a master of bathos, and of juxtaposing two unlikely sentiments in a way to make you howl with laughter.”
The CWIP published winner will receive a cash prize of £3,000 from the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) with £1,000 for the runner-up from an anonymous donor. Meanwhile, in the unpublished category which aims to recognise rising comic talent, the winner receives a publishing contract and a £5,000 advance from HarperFiction, while the runner-up is awarded £2,000 from the University of Hertfordshire and mentoring from the MA course in creative writing. An additional runner-up receives a place on the online MA in Comedy Writing from Falmouth University and the graphic novel category joint winners also receive a cash prize of £1,000 to share.
The online ceremony was hosted by CWIP founder, comedian and actress Helen Lederer from her garden but winners will be able to celebrate their prizes in person at a ceremony to be held at the Groucho Club on January 25, 2021.
Lederer said of the awards which were launched last year: “To have got through this year half out of lock down, and half in, has been a battle – but we won it. We turned the challenge of Covid-19 restrictions into a colourful online spatially distanced extravaganza, with witty contributions from star-studded guests. My garden may now be eligible for its very own blue plaque. I believe in CWIP more than ever, and the success stories in only two years speaks volumes.
“Unpublished writers have since got agents and book deals, while the published authors have entirely bought into the CWIP ethos. The joy of including graphic novels has been huge.”
The full list of named winners and runners up is as follows.
Published Comic Novel winner:
Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe (Penguin Random House) the third novel of the semi-autobiographical trilogy sees teenager Lizzie long to escape her troubled mother (Penguin Random House)
Runner Up: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams the critical and commercial hit of the past year is a darkly comic take on life, love and family for a young black British woman (Trapeze)
Published Humorous Graphic Novel joint winners:
Was it… Too Much for You? by Danny Noble a world of nudity and slapstick surrealism inspired by Ken Russell’s film adaptation of Women in Love (Self-published)
Cassandra Darke by Posy Simmonds: a reclusive art dealer and fraudster faces difficult life choices, from the doyenne of comics (Jonathan Cape)
Unpublished Comic Novel winner:
Tinker, Tailor, Schoolmum, Spy by Faye Brann: A wacky, comic spy thriller in which a middle-aged housewife is recalled to her secret life, by writer and performer Brann
Runner Up: The Bird in the River by Zahra Barri: The laugh-out-loud adventures of a singleton who turns to a robot boyfriend and therapy to heal past traumas, by stand-up comedian Barri
Runner Up: The Lady’s Companion by Janey Preger: the romantic adventures of an aristocratic editor, her dear friend and the night-club-dancer she hires, by screenwriter Preger
Witty Woman of the Year Award winner:
Ruth Jones: BAFTA-winning screenwriter, actress and novelist. Her new novel, Us Three, was published on September 3 (Bantam Press)
CWIP Recognition Award winner:
Mavis Cheek: Critically acclaimed author of 16 comic novels, she also runs and teaches on various writers’ courses.