Shortlist revealed for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2016

Four of the UK and Ireland’s best young writers have been named on the shortlist for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2016 today:

 An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It 
by Jessie Greengrass (John Murray Originals)
Physical by Andrew McMillan (Cape Poetry)
Grief is the thing with feathers by Max Porter (Faber)
The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood (Scribner)

Generously sponsored by literary agency Peters Fraser + Dunlop, the prize is awarded annually to the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author aged between 18 and 35, and has gained attention and acclaim across the publishing industry and press. £5,000 is given to the overall winner and £500 to each of the three runners-up.

The 2016 shortlist showcases the breadth of experimentation underway in contemporary British writing – poetry, short stories and novels are all represented – with Jessie Greengrass’ time-spanning short story collection An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It (John Murray Originals); Andrew McMillan’s award-winning debut poetry collection on male desire, Physical (Cape Poetry); Max Porter’s bestselling genre-bending debut Grief is the thing with feathers (Faber); and Benjamin Wood’s immersive second novel The Ecliptic (Scribner) all in contention for the overall award.

The shortlist was chosen by a judging panel comprised of acclaimed broadcaster James Naughtie, award winning historian Stella Tillyard, and The Sunday Times literary editor Andrew Holgate. 

“These four authors have different voices, and they’re all original and powerful. No one could read this shortlist - whether one of the novels, the poems or the short stories - without feeling the presence of that talent. It springs from the pages. When you close the books you know you’re going to pick them up again and you also know, with certainty, that these writers are going to weave a lot of magic in years to come.”
— James Naughtie
“From a strong long-list we have chosen four books, each with a distinctive and original voice. These books are not only complete and new in themselves; they also show potential for the development of the writer and the genre. That’s a privilege and a thrill.”
— Stella Tillyard
“After the outstanding shortlist we came up with in 2015 for the relaunched Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, I was, frankly, nervous about matching it this year. But I needn’t have worried. This is a sensationally strong list of books and writers, all of whom have a real future in literature, and any of whom as winner would stand comparison with the prize’s extraordinary list of past recipients.”
— Andrew Holdgate

Since it began in 1991, the award has had a striking impact, boasting a stellar list of alumni that have gone on to become leading lights of contemporary literature.  

Following a seven year break, the prestigious award returned with a bang last year, awarding debut poet Sarah Howe the top prize for her phenomenal first collection, Loop of Jade, which then went on to win the country’s leading prize for poetry, the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Other past winners are: Ross Raisin, God’s Own Country (2009); Adam Foulds, The Truth About These Strange Times (2008); Naomi Alderman, Disobedience (2007), Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind: a History of a Fascination (2004); William Fiennes, The Snow Geese (2003); Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2001); Sarah Waters, Affinity (2000); Paul Farley, The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (1999); Patrick French, Liberty or Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division (1998); Francis Spufford, I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination (1997); Katherine Pierpoint, Truffle Beds (1996); Andrew Cowan, Pig (1995); William Dalrymple, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi (1994); Simon Armitage, Kid (1993); Caryl Phillips, Cambridge (1992); and Helen Simpson, Four Bare Legs in a Bed and Other Stories (1991).

For the first time, this year’s award will also be chronicled by an official shadow judging panel made up of some of the country’s leading book bloggers: Eric Karl Andersen (, Kim Forrester (, Naomi Frisby (, Charlie Place (, and Simon Savidge (

The winner of The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2016 will be revealed on Thursday 8 December.

Shortlisted writers will appear at a special free public event at Second Home, 68 Hanbury Street, London, on Wednesday 30 November, with complimentary beer provided by BrewDog.  For more information and tickets, visit

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About the 2016 shortlist:

An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It
by Jessie Greengrass (John Murray Originals)

An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It is a highly original collection of stories from a startling new voice. The twelve stories range over centuries and across the world. There are stories about those who are lonely, or estranged, or out of time. There are hauntings, both literal and metaphorical; and acts of cruelty and neglect but also of penance. Some stories concern themselves with the present, and the mundane circumstances in which people find themselves, some stories concern themselves with the past. Finally, in the title story, a sailor gives his account - violent, occasionally funny and certainly tragic - of the decline of the Great Auk.

Jessie Greengrass was born in 1982. She studied philosophy in Cambridge and London, where she now lives with her partner and child. An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2016.


by Andrew McMillan (Cape Poetry)

Physical is a stunning debut of raw and intimate poems about masculinity and male desire. Raw and urgent, these poems are hymns to the male body – to male friendship and male love – muscular, sometimes shocking, but always deeply moving. We are witness here to an almost religious celebration of the flesh: a flesh vital with the vulnerability of love and loss, to desire and its departure. In an extraordinary blend of McMillan’s own colloquial Yorkshire rhythms with a sinewy, Metaphysical music and Thom Gunn’s torque and speed – ‘your kiss was deep enough to stand in’ – the poems in this first collection confront what it is to be a man and interrogate the very idea of masculinity. This is poetry where every instance of human connection, from the casual encounter to the intimate relationship, becomes redeemable and revelatory. 

Andrew McMillan was born in South Yorkshire in 1988. His debut collection, Physical, was published in 2015 by Jonathan Cape and was the first poetry collection to win the Guardian First Book Award. It also won a Somerset Maugham Award, an Eric Gregory Award, the Fenton Aldeburgh Prize for Best First Collection and a 2015 Northern Writers Award. It was shortlisted for numerous others including the International Dylan Thomas Prize and the Costa Poetry Award. He currently lectures at Liverpool John Moores University and lives in Manchester.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers 
by Max Porter (Faber)

About Grief is the Thing with Feathers: Once upon a time there was a crow, a fairly famous Crow, who wanted nothing more than to care for a pair of motherless children...
In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother's sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow - antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. This extraordinary debut, full of unexpected humour and emotional truth, marks the arrival of a thrilling and significant new talent.

Max Porter was born in 1981 and works in publishing. He lives in South London with his wife and children. Grief is the Thing with Feathers is his first book.

The Ecliptic 
by Benjamin Wood (Scribner)

The Ecliptic is a rich and immersive story of love, obsession, creativity and disintegration. On a forested island off the coast of Istanbul stands Portmantle, a gated refuge for beleaguered artists. There, a curious assembly of painters, architects, writers and musicians strive to restore their faded talents. Elspeth 'Knell' Conroy is a celebrated painter who has lost faith in her ability and fled the dizzying art scene of 1960s London. On the island, she spends her nights locked in her blacked-out studio, testing a strange new pigment for her elusive masterpiece. But when a disaffected teenager named Fullerton arrives at the refuge, he disrupts its established routines. He is plagued by a recurring nightmare that steers him into danger, and Knell is left to pick apart the chilling mystery. Where did the boy come from, what is 'The Ecliptic', and how does it relate to their abandoned lives in England?

Benjamin Wood was born in 1981 and grew up in northwest England. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, Canada, which he attended with the support of a Commonwealth Scholarship. In 2012, Benjamin's first novel The Bellweather Revivals was published. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Book Prize and le Prix du Roman Fnac, and has gone on to become a bestseller.


The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award:
Twenty-six years old this year, the award recognises the best literary work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish writer of 35 and under. £5,000 is given to the winner, and £500 to each of the three runners-up. The award was suspended in 2008, but now, in generous partnership with Peters Fraser + Dunlop, the award has been revitalised, while building on this remarkable past, offering two significant and exciting innovations: extending its reach by including writers from Ireland and including self-published works as well as those from publishers – putting the prize in tune with the changing landscape of British publishing. 

Peters Fraser + Dunlop is one of the oldest and most established literary and talent agencies in London. We are proud to represent authors, journalists, broadcasters, speakers and estates with specialist expertise in the fields of literature, film, television and radio, public speaking, digital platforms and journalism. We offer our clients the best people to work with and the expertise to develop long-term value in their work across all media while protecting their rights in today’s changing market. Our business is about creativity, enhancement, innovation and service.

The Sunday Times is the UK’s largest circulation quality Sunday newspaper with a circulation of 766,000 (Source: ABC, Feb 2016). Over 182,000 people subscribe to the print edition of The Sunday Times (Source: ABC, Feb 2016). Renowned for its technological innovation, The Sunday Times is available for download on all platforms and devices including Android, Amazon Kindle and iOS. The Sunday Times has a reputation for award-winning, courageous and campaigning investigative journalism, breaking many major world exclusives. The newspaper offers great value to readers and it is recognised not only for breaking news but for its unrivaled coverage of sports, business, the arts and entertainment.


The Society of Authors administers The Sunday Times / Peters, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, The Betty Trask Award and many other prizes and grants, including the Authors’ Foundation. They distributed more than £400,000 to authors in 2015. The Society of Authors is a trade union representing almost 10,000 writers, illustrators and literary translators. They have been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession for more than a century.