Saltire Society

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;

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Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016

December 9th, 2016 by ruoqi_sun | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Literary Awards 2016
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As one of the event of Book Week Scotland, this year’s Saltire Society Literary Awards was held on 24th of November in Edinburgh. As a publishing student, I went there to participate in this activity and that was the first time I had ever attended such an event. Fortunately, I met some classmates and it made me feel much better.

To be honest, all the information I know about this award before the event comes from Wikipedia and Facebook. Saltire Society is an organization which aims to promote the understanding of the culture and heritage of Scotland. This organization has a long history, and it has established numerous awards, involving a number of cultural fields. The literary prize is one of them.

Before the award, we got half an hour to drink something and chat with others. At that time, everybody can share their experience with others.  It is amazing that we did not know each other before but the topic was very natural to start. A bag was prepared for each guest in the seating area, including some brochures which introduce the awards of this year, the annual review of Scottish Book Trust and this year’s new book etc. This year’s awards include a total of more than ten items, the specific awards can be found from the following timetable, because I do not want this blog be simply reporting.timetable

Next I want to talk about a few things that impressed me. The first one is about the “Publisher of the year”. The shortlisted publishers are Birlinn, Black and White Publishing, Floris Book, National Galleries of Scotland and Saraband. I remember the last month we just finished a presentation about Saraband. At that time, we searched and found almost nothing about this publisher on the internet, except their homepage. I even thought it was a tiny and financially struggling publisher in Scotland although they have published His Bloody Project which has been popular over the last year. But through this award I changed my mind, Saraband makes its own contribution to the publishing industry even though it is not a big publisher. Its efforts are equally worthy of respect, and its persistence is more worthy of recognition.  It is also because of these publishers who know hard but still insist on it, the literary industry can constantly develop.

The second one is about our professor Claire, I did not know that she was present as an honored guest until her name appeared in the timetable. This made me feel that as a publishing student, I am really involved in the field of publishing, and this kind of opportunity which provided to students are rarely happens in my country.

Finally, I would like to talk about the importance of this kind of awards shortly. As publishers, it can be said our work is less pretentious but very essential. Readers are always attracted to the design and the content of the book, but they do not know all the efforts made by publishers. The publishing industry is not as fashionable as the film industry, and our awards are not as high-profile as the Oscars, but we also need such awards to recognize our efforts during the last year.  Whether it is a publisher which has long history or just a novice, we all need to have such an opportunity to know each other, to see what’s happening in our industry. These good ideas can provide new ways of thinking for more publishers and this trend is also a kind of virtuous circle for publishing industry.

You can get more details of 2016 Saltire Society Literary Awards from here:

By the way, the performance by Niall Campbell during the activity was really nice, fond and full of emotion.  You guys can search the video if you are interested in it.


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!





By the Book: thoughts on the conference

June 2nd, 2014 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on By the Book: thoughts on the conference
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Rachel Noorda, PhD researcher in the Stirling Centre for International Publishing & Communication, reports on attending the By the Book conference in Florence:

Rachel Noorda presenting her paper

Rachel Noorda presenting her paper

I had the great pleasure of attending and presenting at the “By the Book” publishing studies conference which was jointly organised by Benoît Berthou (Sorbonne Paris Cité University), Miha Kovač (University of Ljubljana) and Angus Phillips (Oxford Brookes University) and held on May 23 and 24. The conference location was beautiful—and it was my first time to Italy—but the best part was listening to the exciting research that is taking place internationally in the publishing studies field. The conference brought researchers from the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Lithuania and even South Africa. The focus of the conference was “the book and the study of its digital transformation” but the presenters approached this wide topic from various angles relating to their own experiences in publishing and academic areas of expertise.

This was my first experience presenting a paper at an academic conference. It was a perfect conference to be my first because it was small and intimate, with researchers who were all interested in publishing. I spoke about books as souvenirs, using data I collected from observing the bookselling practices of gift shops at heritage sites in Scotland, particularly those sites run by Historic Scotland.

Stevie Mardsen, fellow PhD Publishing Studies student from the University of Stirling, also presentedFlorence at the “By the Book” conference. Not only was her presentation stellar, but it was comforting to have a friend at the conference right from the beginning. Stevie’s PhD research is focused on the Saltire Society’s literary book awards and so her presentation addressed the importance to some judges to have a physical copy of the book for judging and how this affects the judging process.

All in all, a wonderful experience! There was talk at the end of the conference about holding a similar conference next year, and if so, I will certainly be in attendance.

MLitt Publishing Students visit the Saltire Literary Awards

December 13th, 2013 by Dana Kendra Peters | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on MLitt Publishing Students visit the Saltire Literary Awards
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The MLitt Publishing Studies class of 2014 was invited to attend this year’s Saltire Society Literary Awards ceremony held at Mitchell Library in Glasgow on November 14, 2013.

The awards are the oldest and among the most prestigious for authors based in Scotland. The society is well known for their integrity and commitment to excellence. The Saltire Society strives to celebrate the Scottish imagination and to promote Scotland’s culture for years to come. This goal was certainly achieved at this year’s Literary Awards.

The award categories are as vast and varied as the nominees. This includes: graduate student awards, Scottish history books, and Scottish research books. Such a wide range of published material aims to encapsulate all aspects of Scottish society, continuing to reinforce the Saltire Society’s commitment to the Scottish imagination. The Saltire Society’s website also has a full list of winners and nominees.

However, the most interesting win of the night was the joint win by Air Cuan Dubh Drilseach by Tim Armstrong and As Far As I Can See by Eunice Buchanan. There was an audible amount of surprise throughout the room when two winners were announced, showing that it is a rare occurrence for two people to achieve such an honour.

Just to show how varied the categories and winners are, Tim Armstrong’s book is a Scottish Gaelic science-fiction novel, while Eunice Buchanan’s book is a collection of poems and a short story in Scots. Her book previously won the McCash prize for Scots poetry.

The theme of the evening was small publishers. Many of the winners and nominees were from smaller publishing houses, which goes to show that it is the quality of content and not the name attached to the book that win awards such as these.

Scotland is home to a number of small publishers, supported in part by Creative Scotland, who also strive to support excellence in Scottish arts and creativity.

What was most surprising–and encouraging–was the warmth with which many of the attendees greeted the MLitt Publishing Studies students. When the ceremony ended, many publishers approached the students with curiosity about the course and their attendance at the awards ceremony that night. Quite a few people engaged in conversations about the publishing industry with the students and were quite receptive toward those they approached.

Overall, the evening was a success for the MLitt Publishing Studies students. Not only were they warmly received by the attending members of the Saltire Society, but they were able to observe the world they are working towards.

Thank you to the Saltire Society for their kind welcome to the MLitt Publishing Studies class of 2013/2014.

Saltire Society Publisher of the Year

August 24th, 2013 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Publisher of the Year
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Yesterday at the Publishing Scotland reception at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the winner of the inaugural Saltire Society Publisher of the Year award was made to Saraband Books by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs. Our Director, Professor Claire Squires, was one of the judges for the award.

The judges said Saraband, a small Glasgow-based publisher run by Sara Hunt, ‘is a company that has shown shrewd and strategic business thinking in a shifting context. They are collaborative, innovative and are distinguished by fresh thinking in their use of digital technology. Their move to new approaches still has the interest of authors at its heart.’

Floris Books of Edinburgh was also commended for its work in publishing children’s books. The full shortlist also included BackPage Press, Barrington Stoke, Edinburgh University Press, and Freight Books. The award is administered by the Saltire Society, with support from Creative Scotland and Publishing Scotland. Further details of the award were reported by The Bookseller.

Over the past year we have had students interning at both Saraband and Floris Books, as well as some of the other shortlisted publishers. We are also very pleased that Sara Hunt will be coming in to speak to our students in the forthcoming semester.


Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award Shortlist

August 13th, 2013 by | 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.

Saltire Society Book Awards 2012

November 21st, 2012 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Book Awards 2012
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Every year, the Saltire Society Book Awards shortlists and winners bring attention to the best of Scottish writing. Novels, short stories, poetry, biography and autobiography, history and other works of non-fiction are all celebrated in the literary prizes, which were first awarded in the 1930s, and on a regular basis since 1982.

This year’s awards have a particularly strong Stirling connection. Our Director, Professor Claire Squires, has been since 2011 one of the six judges involved in the process of judging the submitted books. This year, she is joined at the Saltire Society by Stevie Marsden, an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD student, who will be writing her thesis on the book awards, is involved in the administration of the awards at the Society, and also sits in on judging meetings.

This year also sees the shortlisting on the Saltire Book of the Year Awards of our colleague Kathleen Jamie, Professor of Creative Writing. Her book Sightlines joins books by Carol Ann Duffy, James Kelman, Ewan Morrison, Aonghas MacNeacail, Alan Warner and Irvine Welsh on the shortlist.

We’re also really pleased that two of the six books on the shortlist for the Saltire First Book of the Year are published by new Glasgow-based publishing imprint Freight Books. Freight’s publisher Adrian Searle is on our Industry Advisory Board, and regularly comes to Stirling as a Visiting Speaker on the MLitt in Publishing Studies. Other Scottish publishers with books on the shortlist include Cargo Publishing, Fledgling Press and Polygon. Publishing and writing in Scotland is alive and kicking!

The winners of the Saltire Society Book Awards will be announced in a ceremony at the National Library of Scotland on Friday 30 November, as part of Book Week Scotland.

AHRC PhD opportunity in association with the Saltire Society

June 12th, 2012 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on AHRC PhD opportunity in association with the Saltire Society
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The University of Stirling is pleased to invite applications for a three-year Collaborative Doctoral Studentship, fully funded by the AHRC (UK/EU rate) with an additional contribution from The Saltire Society, plus associated expenses, to commence on 1 October 2012 or as soon thereafter as can be arranged.

This studentship will be a collaboration between the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication and The Saltire Society, a charitable organisation in Scotland. The project will focus on the Society’s book awards, which were established in the 1930s, and which were systematically awarded since 1982, as part of the Society’s overall mission ‘to foster and enrich the cultural heritage of Scotland’. Winners have included Alasdair Gray, Edwin Morgan, William McIlvanney, Norman MacCaig, Muriel Spark, Sorley MacLean, Iain Crichton Smith, George Mackay Brown, Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, John Burnside, A L Kennedy, James Kelman, Jackie Kay, Ali Smith and James Robertson; in addition to historians, literary critics, and biographers of Scotland, Scottish subjects and figures. The precise scope and emphases of the work will be shaped by the interests and initiative of the successful application in consultation with their academic supervisor, Professor Claire Squires. The successful applicant will spend some of their time based at The Saltire Society’s offices in Edinburgh, working alongside Saltire Society staff on the current Book Awards, liaising closely with Jim Tough and Sarah Mason (Executive Director and Programmes Manager of the Saltire Society respectively) and Professor Ian Campbell (Chair of the Book Awards judges).

Applicants must have a good first degree in an appropriate subject and a Master’s degree relevant to research into contemporary (late 20th/21st century) literature and publishing. A demonstrable interest in literary prizes and modern Scottish writing would be especially welcome, as would an interest in and aptitude for publishing and literary administration.

Eligibility to Apply

In order to apply, you must fulfil both the academic and the residency criteria laid down by the AHRC.

Academic eligibility – you must:

1. Have applied for and been offered a place to study at the University of Stirling (such an offer will be made to the successful applicant for this studentship);

2. Hold a relevant postgraduate Masters degree.

Residency eligibility – you must:

1. Be a British national normally resident in the UK; or

2. Be an EU national normally resident in the UK, the EU or Switzerland; or

3. Have been resident in the UK or EU for the past three years for reasons other than education.

For full details (particularly regarding residency eligibility, which has many conditions and exceptions), please see the AHRC’s Guide to Student Funding:

Further information on the studentship and on the application procedure is available as a pdf here: AHRC_SaltireSociety_CDA_fps. Potential applicants are welcome to contact Professor Claire Squires (claire.squires [@] or +44 (0)1786 467505) with any questions they may have.

Deadline for applications: 12 noon on Wednesday 11 July 2012.

Interviews will be held at The Saltire Society, 9 Fountain Close, 22 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1TF during the week beginning 6 August 2012.

Saltire Society Literary Awards 2011

December 1st, 2011 by | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Saltire Society Literary Awards 2011
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Alasdair Gray's award winning A Life in Pictures

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, has this year been one of the judges for the Saltire Society Literary Awards. The Awards were made today in a ceremony at the National Library of Scotland. She writes here about her experience of being a judge:

For a while now, I’ve had a research interest in literary prizes. I organised a conference on the topic in 2003, at which James F English gave a keynote lecture which would eventually end up as part of his impressive book on cultural awards, The Economy of Prestige. I’ve also written about literary prizes, including in my book Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain. In this, I traced the role of literary prizes in validating books, establishing authors’ careers, promoting literature, and – all important to the publishing industry – selling books.

More recently, I’ve been acting as the administrator (this year, with the able assistance of  MLitt in Publishing Studies student and intern Helen Lewis-McPhee) for the DeLong Book History Book Prize, which the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing runs, and wrote a blog for them about literary prizes over here. Back when I worked at Hodder & Stoughton, I had the responsibility for submitting our books to prizes (and I remember our excitement when William McIlvanney won the Saltire Book of the Year Award for The Kiln.)

But this year for the first time I’ve been acting as a judge, for the Saltire Society Literary Awards. This has meant, since June, reading over 100 books for the First Book of the Year and the Book of the Year. As you can imagine, this proved both a fantastic experience and a challenge, to the point where I actually felt physically sick from reading so many books at one point. (Don’t worry – I’ve recovered and am reading again.)

Today, we made our awards: to Luke Williams for his brilliantly assured debut novel The Echo Chamber, and to Alasdair Gray for his wonderful A Life in Pictures. Awards were also made for the Scottish History Book of the Year to Emma Rothschild for The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth Century History and for the Scottish Research Book of the Year to James McGonigal for Beyond the Last Dragon: A Life of Edwin Morgan. His publisher Sandstone later celebrated with deluxe chocolate brownies, I hear.

The experience of judging literary prizes is always going to be slightly different from that of analysing or commenting upon them, but nonetheless the two awards I was involved with backed up some of my knowledge about how they work. Luke Williams’ publisher Hamish Hamilton confirmed after the ceremony that they’ve brought forward the release of the paperback of his book to capitalise on sales. Fancy a prize winner for Christmas? (I’d recommend it!)

And then: controversy! The judging panel had decided (unanimously) to award Alasdair Gray the Book of the Year. However, just before the ceremony, we found out via his publisher Canongate that he had decided to refuse the award. We quickly reconvened and – although we had a very fine shortlist (including one of my favourites, A L Kennedy’s The Blue Book) – we decided (as reported it) to refuse the refusal. Will this refusal end up having a greater publicity impact than accepting? We’ll see. There’s almost bound to be an article in the Scotsman about it tomorrow…