Hollie McNish wins the Ted Hughes Prize

Writer and performance poet Hollie McNish has won 2016's £5,000 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her poetic memoir about becoming a parent, Nobody Told Me (Blackfriars, an imprint of Little, Brown). 

McNish was announced the winner of the award, funded by Carol Ann Duffy from her honararium as Poet Laureate, at a ceremony at the Savile Club in Mayfair yesterday (29th March).

The Poetry Society’s Ted Hughes award judges, award-winning poets Jo Bell and Bernard O’Donoghue and singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams, praised McNish's "funny and serious, humane and consciousness-raising" work for its "vivid language", its ability to "put things that most people ignore right back in the spotlight" and for "skilfully tackl[ing] hidden agendas and political issues in our society".

One of the judges, Bell, said the collection had changed the way he thinks about women and should be compulsory reading for new parents. Taken from the author's personal diaries, it blends poetry and storytelling following McNish through pregnancy to her first pre-school drop off.

"Adrian Mitchell said that 'most poetry ignores most people' but Hollie’s book puts things that most people ignore right back in the spotlight," said Bell. "This book is more than the sum of its parts, combining the immediacy of a diary with straight talking poetry from a spoken word tradition. This book is funny and serious, humane and consciousness-raising: it changed the way I think about women (and I am one). Should be given to every new parent, and handed to them along with their baby-care products."

Williams said the collection would "resonate outside the poetry world to reach a new generation of poetry readers" and praised it for tackling issues such as public breast-feeding, non-waged care work and interracial relationships.

O’Donoghue, who last year was shortlisted for the TS Elliot Prize, added of McNish's work: "Hollie McNish describes the experience of pregnancy and young motherhood in a vivid language that brings both forms to life, and makes them real for readers to whom these things are new as well as those to whom they are familiar."

McNish's new collection, Plum, will publish in June 2017 with Picador. She has previously written two other collections, Papers (Greenwich Exchange) and Cherry Pie (Burning Eye Books) and co-wrote the play Offside (Bloomsbury).

Little, Brown win auction for John Grant's memoir

Little, Brown has bought the autobiography of musician John Grant.

Grant, who used to front American indie band The Czars, rose to fame in 2010 with his debut solo album, "Queen of Denmark". In the book, he will not only tell the story of his career but of his "extraordinary" life. 

Editor-in-chief Antonia Hodgson acquired world rights at auction from Becky Thomas of Johnson & Alcock, on behalf of Showpony Management.

Grant said: "Flying in the face of all reason and good judgement, Little, Brown is giving me the opportunity to write a book about my experiences in life thus far. It is the tale of a lower-middle-class homosexual humanoid male musician, addict, chronically depressed language enthusiast and underachiever who, in spite of himself, is learning to enjoy life, make sense of relationships and become an adult. Perhaps this is the cure for insomnia you've been searching for."

Hodgson said: "I’m a huge fan of John Grant’s music, but had no idea just how extraordinary his life has been. It is a story of family, alienation, masculinity, self-destruction, survival, the creative spirit – and told with such wit and honesty it moved everyone here who read the proposal. His voice on the page is just as unique and intimate as his music – you are drawn straight into his world. And what a large, compassionate, fascinating world it is."

Two Roads acquire Survival Guide to Anxiety by Aaron Gillies aka @TechnicallyRon

Two Roads has acquired The Anxiety Survival Guide: How to survive the end of the world (when it’s in your own head) by comedy writer Aaron Gillies.

Senior editor Kate Hewson pre-empted world rights from Becky Thomas at Johnson & Alcock.

Gillies, who most recently coined the popular Donald Trump nickname "Wotsit Hitler" as @TechnicallyRon on twitter, has written for and been featured in a range of publications, including Buzzfeed, the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Huffington Post.

While there are many books on surviving a zombie apocolaypse or nuclear war, Gillies wanted to write book about how it is to feel like the world is ending every single time you wake up. This, he explains, is what having anxiety is like, and his book The Anxiety Survival Guide aims to help readers by exploring the "tools to fight back", whether medication, therapy, CBT, coping techniques - "or simply a dark sense of humour".

Hewson said: "I have loved Aaron’s tweets on his battles with his brain for ages, and they always resonate far and wide. I think this is a much-wanted and needed book – something which captures the ridiculousness as well as the struggle of anxiety, and which, all comedy aside, will genuinely help people."

Gillies book continues the trend seeing an increase in publishing on mental health issues that publishers last year said reflected cultural change. But Gillies said there was still "a long way to go" until mental health was taken seriously enough.

He said: "Whilst the conversation about normalising mental health issues has begun, there is a long way to go, and anxiety can be brushed off as a lesser cause. My writing background is comedy, and I want to bring this to conversations around mental health, and to discuss anxiety in a healthy, informative and humorous way."

The book will be published on 19th April 2018.

Sphere buy travel memoir by Anna Hart

Sphere has acquired Departures, a book about exploring the world as a woman traveller, by journalist and travel writer Anna Hart.

Commissioning editor Rhiannon Smith acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in the book from Becky Thomas at Johnson and Alcock.

In Departures, drawing on 10 years experience of travel writing, Hart will write about the highs and lows travelling alone as a woman, showing that even the experts get it wrong (sometimes) and how to get it right.

Smith said: "I love Anna’s writing, and through our discussions I was completely convinced that her insight and humour would make for a wonderful book. Anna’s experience is second to none – there’s no-one better to navigate through the peril and pitfalls, as well as the incredible highs and independence that travel can bring. I’m so looking forward to sharing Departures with readers."

Hart, who is currently travel editor at Stylist magazine, said: "This feels like the perfect time to write about the highs and lows of travel, roaming the world as a solo female and what adventure means in 2018. I’m completely thrilled that Rhiannon and Sphere are publishing Departures, truly the perfect publishers."

Sphere will publish in trade paperback and e-book in January 2018.

Kate Tempest shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards

We are delighted that Kate made the shortlist for the 2016 Costa Poetry Award in the Poetry category for Let Them Eat Chaos.

The Costa Book Awards is one of the UK's most prestigious and popular literary prizes and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year, written by authors based in the UK and Ireland.

The judges said it was "A magical book about now....indispensable, wonderful, a cry from the heart to a wounded world."

Let Them Eat Chaos (Picador) is a call to action, and, both on the page and in Tempest's electric performance, one of the most powerful poetic statements of the year.

The prize for the category winner and the overall winner is announced in January 


Tom Watkins makes the Penderyn Music Book Prize longlist

We're very excited that Tom Watkins' memoir Let's Make Lots of Money: Secrets of a Rich, Fat, Gay, Lucky Bastard has made the Penderyn Music Book Prize Longlist. Tom will be up against the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Marr.  

Judging the 2017 award will be comedian and musican Stewart Lee; singer Charlotte Church; joint m.d. at Rough Trade, Geoff Travis; singer and writer Tracey Thorn; musician Eliza Carthy; musician and former singer and guitarist of Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore; and Jane Beese, head of music at the Roundhouse.

Thorn said: “I’m looking forward to judging this prize, which shines a light on great music writing - a genre that often gets overlooked. It’s a strong and varied long list, with a good range of different voices and different perspectives.”

The shortlist will be announced in early March and the winner will be revealed at the Laugharne Weekend Festival on 9th April 2017.

Let's Make Lots of Money was published by Virgin Books in July 2016. 

William Trevor: 24 May 1928 – 20 November 2016

With great sadness the death of William Trevor, KBE, one of the great fiction writers of our time, was announced on Monday 20th November.

Born as William Trevor Cox in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland in 1928, William Trevor was educated at St. Columba's College in Dublin. After graduating in history from Trinity College, Dublin, Trevor married Jane Ryan whom he’d met at university and to whom he dedicated many of his books and the couple moved to England where Trevor set himself up as a sculptor ‘rather like Jude the Obscure without the talent’ as he once described himself. The first of two sons was born in London where Trevor got a job as copywriter and it was only when he took a full-time job at a London advertising agency that he really began writing.  His first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, which he subsequently disowned and refused to have republished, came out in 1958. In later years he chose to describe The Old Boys, which was published in 1964 and went on to win the Hawthornden Prize for Literature, as his first novel. In its comedic portrayal of unseemly, sometimes desperate behaviour hidden beneath a thin veil of decorum, it prefigured the theme of most of his early and middle-period novels, many of them set in a rundown, post-War London. Later he turned his attention to his native Ireland, and in particular the tensions between the fading Anglo-Irish gentry and their Catholic neighbours. These were more complex books, exploring ideas of loyalty and betrayal, loss and belonging, often through multiple viewpoints, but always with a deeply felt compassion for all his characters.

Trevor went on to write over fifteen novels, which were garlanded with awards: he won the Whitbread Prize three times and was short-listed for the Booker Prize four times, most recently with The Story of Lucy Gault in 2002, which was a favourite for the Prize but lost out to The Life of Pi. Trevor’s novels are widely admired but it is perhaps on his short stories that his literary reputation will come to rest. For many years a contributor of stories to the New Yorker, he had a firm belief that the short story was as great an art form as the novel, and as difficult to write. His Collected Stories, published by Viking in two volumes in 2009, runs to almost 2000 pages, and the best of them, including ‘The Ballroom of Romance’, ‘Kathleen’s Field’ and ‘Cheating at Canasta’,  are among the greatest stories of the last half-century, drawing comparison with the earlier masters of the form, Chekhov, Maupassant and Joyce.

A modest and private man, Trevor disliked talking about his books and abhorred any personal publicity, believing that the work should stand for itself. He lived for many years in a secluded house in Devon, visiting Ireland frequently, taking walking holidays in Italy, and pursuing his passions of gardening and watching sport – especially rugby, cricket and tennis. But it was writing that truly absorbed him. 

Andrew Hewson, Chairman of J&A gave the following statement: 

"William Trevor was an early client of our agency's founder John Johnson. John fostered the close links with his then editor, James Michie at the Bodley Head, and introduced William to Peter Matson at the Sterling Lord Agency in New York, who remained his American agent all his life.

"There followed a sequence of critically acclaimed novels from The Old Boys to Children of Dynmouth, three anthologies of award winning short stories, and a series of some of the most outstanding single plays commissioned by the BBC, ATV and Anglia Television. These combined to install William Trevor as a true Master of the English language, a standing he was to sustain without pause.

"On John Johnson's retirement William became a client of the inestimable Pat Kavanagh at A.D. Peters, later PFD, but in a typically generous gesture he asked that John Johnson Ltd, and later Johnson & Alcock, continued to represent the back list. To our great pleasure the association was renewed in 2008, and we oversaw the republication of all of his early works, continued international success, and the publication of his Collected Stories, one of his most lasting contributions to the canon of literature.

"This agency looks back with great fondness over many years of friendship, and looks forward to safeguarding the legacy of this great man's life's work, as takes its rightful and honoured place at the forefront of modern literature."  


On 1st June the winners of the 2016 Cross Sports Book Awards will be announced at a ceremony held at Lords Cricket Ground in London. Emily Bullock's beautiful and brutal debut, THE LONGEST FIGHT, set in the gritty world of 1950s boxing, is shortlisted in the New Writer of the Year category and we'll be keeping our fingers crossed! An Independent on Sunday book of the year, where it was described as 'a fine addition to the canon of boxing literature', THE LONGEST FIGHT has most recently been reviewed by the Historical Novel Society: 'In her story about redemption and hope, Bullock's writing is as taut as the fighters in her ring'.

THE LONGEST FIGHT was inspired by Emily's boxing grandfather and she writes about how this fed into her experience of becoming a writer, in an essay for Bookanista. Emily will appear on BBC Radio 4's Open Book this summer to explore the enduring appeal of the boxing hero in fiction today. Myriad holds World English rights to THE LONGEST FIGHT: translation, film/TV and all other rights are with Ed Wilson at Johnson & Alcock. 

Margaret Hewson Prize 2015

We’re delighted to award the Margaret Hewson Prize 2015 to Anthea Morrison. Her short story, You Have What You Want about a new mother’s midnight riverside stroll won over all the judges with its clear, spare prose and powerful description of a woman’s altered state of mind. 

The Prize is open to all students on the Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway – it aims to recognize and encourage new writing talent, and to commemorate Johnson & Alcock agent Margaret Hewson and her unique contribution to the publishing world.

Johnson & Alcock acquires Fox Mason

Johnson & Alcock has acquired the Fox Mason agency.

Ben Mason established Fox Mason in 2010, after eight years spent working at various London agencies.  His diverse list includes prize-winning authors of literary fiction as well as bestselling commercial fiction and non-fiction.

Anna Power at Johnson & Alcock said: “We’ve long admired Ben’s literary taste, and the vision and energy with which he’s built his thriving agency.  We’re delighted to be expanding Johnson & Alcock, as well as continuing with representation of so many of the brilliant Fox Mason authors.”

Ben Mason added: “I'm honoured to have worked with fine writers and great people. But now it's time for a new chapter in my career and I couldn't be leaving my clients in more capable - more professional hands. I know J&A will do an awesome job and I look forward to watching from the other side of the Atlantic as my clients thrive.”

Becky Thomas will join Johnson & Alcock as an Associate Agent bringing her full list of clients which include Kate Tempest, Tyler Keevil and Suzanne Moore.

The true face of Shakespeare revealed

Botanist and historian Mark Griffiths reveals in this month's Country Life magazine how he cracked a many-layered Tudor code and revealed the face of the living Shakespeare for the first time, on the title page of John Gerard’s Herball, 400 years after it was first published.


IN LOVE AND WAR is BBC R4 Book at Bedtime

Alex Preston's novel In Love and War is on Radio 4 in their Book at Bedtime slot, running for two weeks from 25 November, read by Carl Prekopp. 

A tale of love, heroism and resistance set against the stunning backdrop of 1930s Florence, In Love and War weaves fact and fiction to create a thrilling portrait of a man swept up in the chaos of war.  The book is currently available in hardback published by Faber.

Praise for In Love and War:

“Rich in period detail and utterly compelling… brilliant.” Kate Saunders, The Times

“Rich and evocative… powerfully affecting, ambitious in its scope, precise in its attention to detail and infused with a love for Florence and its motley eccentrics – their courage and their suffering.” Stephanie Merritt, The Observer

“An evocative portrait of passion and fascism. There is much to admire in Alex Preston’s third book…  a living, breathing Forsterian idyll, complete with eccentric and glamorous expats, bohemian writers, and passionate love affairs, all played out against the backdrop of scorching heat and iced Negronis. Taken aback by a stunning view from a window, Esmond is told that Florence is a city of such scorci: ‘A view you glimpse, all of a sudden, that leaps inside you.’ Preston’s narrative offers something comparable.” Lucy Scholes, Independent

Publication of PAPER ONLY

The founders of The Papered Parlour have written their first book published by Pavilion and you can check out the trailer for it below. Jam-packed with 20 projects to kick-start your creativity, Paper Onlyis an ode to and celebration of paper.  From block printed wallpaper to handmade flowers, this book encourages you to scatter your sketchbooks with inspiration and take artistic risks.


[Video removed] 

Source: https://etio.wistia.com/medias/trjj3vtu7d

Chantal Coady OBE

Congratulations to Chantal Coady, author of Rococo, Mastering the Art of Chocolate (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) who has just been made an OBE for services to chocolate making in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours List. Her involvement with chocolate goes back to 1983 when she opened her first chocolate shop, Rococo Chocolates, in London's Kings Road. Rococo now has 3 shops in London and one in the Northwest at the Chester Grosvenor, and continues to be the pioneering hub of the New British School of Chocolate. Chantal was recently awarded the Grenada Ruby Award for outstanding contribution to the business development of Grenada where Rococo jointly owns a cocoa farm, and the OBE also recognizes Rococo Chocolates' contributions to many charities over the years.

Writer/director confirmed for Solzhenitsyn film

Primeridian Entertainment has hired Cyrus Nowrasteh to write and direct a film on Soviet dissident and Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, based on D.M. Thomas's Orwell Prize-winning biography Alexander Solzhenitsyn: A Century In His Life.

"It's a privilege to tell the courageous story of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn," said the director. "Millions suffered and died in the Soviet labor camps. As a survivor, he resolved to tell the world about it. The power of his pen, despite the suppression of his work and every effort to silence his voice, helped bring about the downfall of one of the greatest tyrannies mankind has ever known."

Solzhenitsyn was a Red Army officer who, after being accused of anti-Soviet propaganda, was imprisoned by Stalin in the gulag system in February 1945. The period later became the basis for his three-volume The Gulag Archipelago, a chronicle of his ordeal as captive in the Soviet forced labor camp system, unacknowledged during the Stalinist era. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970, was expelled from the former Soviet Union in 1974, and lived in exile in Vermont until he was able to return to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the mid-1990s. Solzhenitsyn died in 2008.

See the full story here: http://www.deadline.com/2013/05/cannes-cyrus-nowrasteh-to-helm-film-on-soviet-dissident-alexander-solzhenitsyn/

Dr Thomas Dixon presents BBC Radio 4 series on friendship

Dr Thomas Dixon will present a new series 'Five Hundred Years of Friendship' on BBC Radio 4.  The series launches on Monday 24th March with Thomas comparing social networks in the 16th century with those of today.  This is the beginning of an absorbing story in which both the similarities and the differences between friendship past and present emerge.

The series will be supported by blog posts on the History of Emotions Blog at Queen Mary, University of London, where Thomas is the Director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions.