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awards

What defines the best?

November 30th, 2017 by David Graham | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on What defines the best?
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The experience of being a shadow fiction judge for the Saltire Society.

By David MacDonald Graham.

I had the honour of being a shadow fiction judge for the Saltire society, six books to read, take notes and ultimately decide which one was the best. The books ran the gauntlet from the emotional, political, heartwarming, the despairing and the disturbing.

 Judging and reading is an interpretive game and sometimes you need to separate the enjoyment factor and concentrate on craft, tone, intent and relevance. Perhaps, when all of those factors fail, the enjoyment factor remains the only aspect left to work with. It’s a challenge, thinking in and outside of literary factors, determining merits or lack of them. As a writer myself, I had to distance myself from the knowledge, that crafting a book, whatever the reason we choose to create, is not an easy task. A lot of work goes into the craft, a lot of doubt and second-guessing.
I know the work ethic, the difficulties and the attacks of doubt, and I owed it to the writers on the basis of knowing how aggravating and rewarding the process can be, to be as robust as possible in my analysis.
I spent the evening of the panel talking about books with my fellow shadow judges, which is probably how most of us would like to spend our evenings. The discourse and debate was lively, certainly well moderated and when the time came for a consensus, there was one question that challenged my perceptions and ultimately changed my decision.

“What is the best book, what deserves the award?”

Well, to me, these are two questions.

The best book is not necessarily the one that deserves the award. An award is a powerful thing, it creates visibility, it calls attention to both the author and the themes explored in the text. The question then becomes, who needs the award? There are, after all, some books that will always sell based on genre, subject matter and the author’s reputation. There are others that make important points, comment on society and explore culturally relevant issues that may not always be comfortable to read about. It’s possible these books may not find an audience without an award to champion it.

Another question is then raised, which is the most important book?

Bearing in mind, I had only been asked one question and my interpretation threw up four more in the space of seconds, including, is the most important book also the best book?
In a matter of seconds, I found myself asking internally if I had the right to judge, and mentally imagining myself saying to my previous decision;

“It’s not you, its definitely me. You’ll find your way.”

We all have a relationship with the books we read, and I essentially broke up with mine. Luckily there are plenty of books in the metaphorical sea. The book I eventually choose, quite simply, had a role to play that was beyond entertainment, it was a book that needed to be read.
The shadow judging was an invaluable experience, one I would be keen to repeat, armed with the knowledge that my preconceptions could be challenged by a simple question. I extend my thanks to the Saltire society; it will be interesting to find out on the 30th of November if our overall consensus matches up with the judging panel.

If you would like to get in touch, you can;

Twitter me @davidjonwinter

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or LinkedIn me here:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-macdonald-graham-557605b1/

Saltire Society Literary Awards 2014

November 19th, 2014 by Callum Mitchell Walker | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Literary Awards 2014
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SCOTLAND ALBA LOGOOn Tuesday 11th November several of our MLitt & PhD students enjoyed an evening of literature, music and canapés at the Saltire Literary Awards hosted at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. The Saltire Society, a non-political independent charity founded in 1936, hosts the annual ceremony to celebrate the finest Scottish literature produced in the past year.

The most prestigious award of the night, the Saltire Society Book of the Year, was won by an academic work detailing Scottish urbanisation in the 18th century, The Scottish Town in the Age of Enlightenment 1740-1820. Co-authored by professors Bob Harris and the late Charles McKean, the book was produced after a three-year long period of research and also won this year’s Saltire Society Research Book of the Year award. Exploring the transitional development of 18th century burghs and the importance of understanding these changes in society, the book was described as a “pioneering study” by judges. Professor Harris received a cash prize of £10,000 at the ceremony and told guests that he was honoured to win the award in a country “with such a rich tradition of writing”.

Winners in the categories of poetry, history, literature and first book, were awarded £2,000, including Alexander Hutchison for his collection Bones and Breath, which claimed the Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year award. Described as a “masterly new collection” from the poet, the book mixes satire with affection. The History Book of the Year award was won by social historian Steve Bruce for his exploration of cultural and religious change in Scotland in Scottish Gods: Religion in Modern Scotland 1900-2012. Ali Smith took the Saltire Society Literary Book of the Year award home for her novel, How to be Both, described by judges as “an exhilarating read” in which two narratives are linked despite being set centuries apart. Celebrating the emerging talent of first-time authors who have not previously been published, the First Book of the Year award was won by Niall Campbell for his “remarkably powerful first collection” Moontide, which was praised as “one of the most distinctive lyric voices to emerge from Scotland in recent years”.

 

1113921311400The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year award was introduced in 2013 and is supported by Creative Scotland. Celebrating the vitality and innovation of Scottish-based publishers, this year the award was won by Dingwall-based small enterprise Sandstone Press. The publisher was awarded £4,000 to assist further developments in the company’s business and was recognised for their “enthusiastic pragmatism” and the quality of their editorial work. Sandstone faced strong competition from a shortlist including Backpage Press, Freight, Birlinn, Bright Red and Floris. Executive Director of the Saltire Society Jim Tough praised the shortlisted publishers for showing “[the] creativity and adaptability needed to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace”.

Other awards of the night included the Saltire Society Literary Travel Bursary, supported by the British Council. The award went to St. Andrews University student Lenore Bell, who won a cash prize of £1,500. This prize will fund her research for a novel set in Edwardian Brooklyn in the USA.

Supporting the next generation of academics, the Ross Roy Medal is awarded to the best PhD thesis on a subject relating to Scottish literature. This year’s winner was Stirling University’s very own Barbara Leonardi for her thesis, “An Exploration of Gender Stereotypes in the Work of James Hogg”. Dr Scott Lyall, Chair of the judging panel, commented that “Leonardi’s writing is beautiful, and she shows real conceptual and socio-historical nous in opening up Hogg’s writing to a feminist and postmodern analysis”.

Congratulations to all the winners of the night and thank you to the Saltire Society for celebrating the Scottish imagination, and giving us a fantastic evening!

 

 

 

 

Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award Shortlist

August 13th, 2013 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award Shortlist
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The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award has announced its inaugural shortlist, which features BackPage Press, Barrington Stoke, Edinburgh University Press, Floris Books, Freight Books, and Saraband Books.

The Saltire Society comments that the shortlist ‘exemplifies the dynamic and ground breaking work being done by Scottish publishers to engage new readers and take on new challenges, making sure Scottish publishing stand out both nationally and internationally. The mixture of SMEs and larger more established enterprises show how Scottish publishers are making bold and imaginative work in a changing world of publishing, irrespective of their size, age or the pressure to continue on with established working methods.’

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication has been one of the judges for the inaugural award. The winner will be announced later this month at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The full press release is available from the Saltire Society website.