Prize received four times the number of entries this year, with a significant rise in submissions from major publishers.
The longlist for the Polari First Book Prize was announced tonight at the Polari Literary Salon at London’s Southbank Centre. Founded by journalist and author Paul Burston, the Prize is awarded annually to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction. Now in its eighth year, the Prize is celebrating a record number of submissions in 2018, with a significant rise in entries from major UK publishers.
The Polari First Book Prize 2018 longlist is:
• Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard – Alex Bertie (Wren & Rook)
• Through Your Blood – Toby Campion (Burning Eye)
• Mussolini’s Island – Sarah Day (Tinder Press)
• A Marvellous Party – Ian Elmslie (Ignite)
• Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride- 30 years of Gay Britain– Paul Flynn (Ebury Press)
• Pansy Boy - Paul Harfleet (Barbican)
• Carnivore - Jonathan Lyon (HQ)
• Elmet – Fiona Mozley (John Murray)
• Little Gold – Allie Rogers (Legend Press)
• Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney (Faber)
• Bravado – Scottee (Oberon)
• Is Monogamy Dead? : Rethinking Relationships in the 21st Century– Rosie Wilby (Accent Press)
Both humorous and hard-hitting, the 2018 longlist showcases an outstanding breadth of form, content and creativity, bringing together fiction, plays, poetry, memoir and graphic art. As well as much-lauded titles from Sally Rooney and Fiona Mozley, it includes a memoir from young transgender YouTuber Alex Bertie, an anthology by UK National Poetry Slam Cham-pion Toby Campion, an explosive literary thriller by Jonathan Lyon, a musing on modern relationships by Rosie Wilby, and a 30-year social history of gay Britain by Paul Flynn.
Chair of judges Paul Burston, said:
“The judges were impressed at the range and quality of books submitted this year. There were far more submissions from major publishers, with equal numbers of books my women and men, and several trans titles - all of which is reflected in the long list. There were some books we loved but which sadly didn’t make the final list. Choosing 12 titles from the huge number of submissions was difficult but shows that LGBT+ writing in the UK is growing in scope and confidence.”
Judges for the 2018 prize are author, journalist and host of Polari Literary Salon, chair Paul Burston; author and former Head of Literature & Spoken Word at the Southbank, Rachel Holmes; author, performer and writing coach Karen McLeod; author and comedian, VG Lee; and playwright, actor and producer, Alexis Gregory.
The shortlist of up to 6 titles will be announced on Tuesday 24th July 2018 at a special Polari Literary Salon hosted at the Southbank Centre. The winner will be announced on 20th October 2018 at the London Literature Festival.
Notes to editors
Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie (Wren & Rook)
• A brave and ground-breaking first-hand account of the life, struggles and victories of a young transgender man, as told by YouTuber Alex Bertie.
• Alex Bertie is a 21-year-old transgender YouTuber from rural Dorset. While attending school aged 14, he started making videos on sexuality and gender identity, continuing to do so with weekly uploads. His YouTube channel, TheRealAlexBertie, now has almost 300,000 subscribers, he has 72,000 Instagram followers and 47,000 Twitter followers.
Through Your Blood by Toby Campion (Burning Eye)
• Refreshingly frank, perceptive and funny, these poems are psalms of identity, broken tradition and desperation sung from the back lanes of a Midlands city.
• Born and raised in the Midlands, Toby Campion is a UK National Poetry Slam Champion and a World Poetry Slam finalist. Toby has performed his poetry on stages across the UK, from Glastonbury Festival to London’s Royal Albert Hall, and in countries around the world, including America, Italy, Spain, Albania and South Korea.
Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day (Tinder Press)
• In 1939, a group of gay and bisexual men were rounded up and imprisoned on a tiny Italian island, their lives changed forever. Based on a true story in 1930s Italy, Mussolini’s Island is a powerful exploration of wartime life and the desperate acts committed by individuals when fighting for their lives.
• Sarah Day lives in London, where she works as a science communicator at the Geological Society. She has writ-ten columns for a variety of publications, including The Guardian and Vagenda. After graduating with a Masters in the History and Philosophy of Science from Durham University, she studied Science Communication at Imperial College London. Mussolini’s Island is her first novel.
A Marvellous Party by Ian Elmslie (Ignite)
• This memoir is a wonderfully candid and engaging account of one man’s journey from family home to the heart of the gay cabaret scene, and the characters he met along the way.
• Ian Elmslie decided to set his life to music from an early age. A public school survivor, secretary, lead singer and old folks care assistant, he finally found a pathway to the spotlight at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. After three years of anarchic community theatre, a chance phone call opened up the velveteen curtains to the twilight world of the gay cabaret circuit, where he found infamy as one half of the award-winning musical comedy duo, Katrina and The Boy.
Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride - 30 years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn (Ebury Press)
• Paul Flynn charts the long road to gay equality through 30 years of cultural milestones—from Manchester’s self-selection as Britain’s gay capital to the marriage of Elton John. The book includes candid interviews from major protagonists, such as Kylie, Russell T Davies, Will Young, Holly Johnson and Lord Chris Smith, as well as the relative unknowns crucial to the gay community.
• Paul Flynn has worked as a journalist for over two decades. He began writing at City Life magazine in Manchester and is currently the Senior Contributing Editor at Love and a columnist for Attitude and Grazia.
Pansy Boy by Paul Harfleet (Barbican)
• Pansy Boy is a picture book written and illustrated by artist Paul Harfleet. Rhyming couplets tell the story of a boy who revels in the joys of summer, exploring the flora and fauna around him. Reluctantly he returns to school where he is subjected to incessant bullying. Intelligent and bright, he is driven to create a plan to reclaim his school. Pansy Boy is a creative extension of Paul Harfleet’s ongoing artwork, The Pansy Project. The artist has been planting pansies at the site of homophobia since 2005.
Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon (HQ)
• Meet Leander: lover, fighter, liar. He learnt a long time ago that nothing is as intoxicating as blood. But whether it’s his or someone else’s doesn’t matter any more. Up to now, it’s been his secret. But it’s hard to remain invisible when you leave a trail of destruction everywhere you go. So, when he comes to the attention of one of London’s most infamous criminals, Leander decides to put his appetite for violence to the ultimate test.
• Born in the UK, Jonathan Lyon lives between London and Berlin and works as a writer and musician. He has had a chronic illness for over a decade.
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (John Murray)
• A lyrical commentary on contemporary English society and one family’s precarious place in it, as well as an explo-ration of how deep the bond between father and child can go.
• Fiona Mozley was born in Hackney but grew up in York and studied at Cambridge before moving to Buenos Aires for a year - without speaking any Spanish. After briefly working at a literary agency in London, she moved back to York to complete a PhD in Medieval Studies. She also has a weekend job at The Little Apple Bookshop in York. Elmet is her first novel and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.
Little Gold by Allie Rogers (Legend Press)
• The heat is oppressive and storms are brewing in Brighton in the summer of 1982. Little Gold, a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, is struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos. Into her fractured life steps elderly neighbour, Peggy Baxter. The connection between the two is instant, but just when it seems that Little Gold has found solace, outsiders appear who seek to take advantage of her frail family in the worst way possible.
• Allie Rogers was born and raised in Brighton. Her short fiction has been published in several magazines and anthologies including Bare Fiction, Queer in Brighton and The Salt Anthology of New Writing. She has performed at local live literature events including the Charleston Small Wonder Flash Fiction Slam, which she won in 2014.
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Faber)
• A startling, intimate story of high-risk relationships, youth and love....Winner of the 2017 Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. A Sunday Times, Observer and Daily Telegraph book of the year.
• Sally Rooney was born in 1991 in the West of Ireland, and lives in Dublin. She graduated from an MA at Trinity College and was ranked the number one competitive debater at the European Universities Debating Championships in 2013. Her work has appeared in Granta, The White Review, The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Pages anthology.
Bravado by Scottee (Oberon)
• Scottee grew up around strong, brave and violent men and boys. Bravado is his memoir of working class masculinity, exploring the graphic nature of maleness and the extent it will go to succeed.
• Scottee’s work is often about outsiderness; race, sexuality, class, age and gender, creating spaces where the per-ceived underdog is celebrated. In 2010 Scottee won the title of Time Out Performer of the Year and in 2015 he was included on Independent’s Rainbow List as one of Britain’s most influential LGBTQI+ people.
Is Monogamy Dead? : Rethinking Relationships in the 21st Century by Rosie Wilby (Accent Press)
• In early 2013, comedian Rosie Wilby found herself at a crossroads with everything she’d ever believed about romantic relationships. Mixing humour, heartache and science, Is Monogamy Dead? details Rosie’s very personal quest to find out why Western society is clinging to a concept that doesn’t work that well for some of us and is laden with ambiguous assumptions.
• Rosie Wilby is an award-winning comedian who has appeared on the likes of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Loose Ends. Since being a finalist at Funny Women 2006, she’s been steadily building an army of fans. She has performed at Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and Latitude, as well as being published in The Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Independent and more. She’s currently the co-host of Radio Diva on Resonance FM alongside Heather Peace. Her first book, Is Monogamy Dead? was published in August 2017 and follows her TEDx talk of the same name.
About the Polari First Book Prize
• The Polari First Book Prize was launched in 2011 and previous winners include Paul McVeigh, Kirsty Logan, Diriye Osman, James Maker, Mari Hannah, Saleem Haddad and John McCullough.
• Polari First Book Prize partners with WH Smith Travel and last year’s shortlisted books were displayed in Travel outlets nationwide.
• The Polari First Book Prize accepts books published in English by a writer born or resident in the UK and Ireland. Books must have been published in the 12 months up to 1 February 2018. Self-published works in both print and digital formats are eligible.
About Polari Literary Salon
• Polari Literary Salon began in 2007 in the upstairs room of a bar in Soho. Events are now held monthly at the Southbank Centre and regularly sell out.
• In 2013, Polari was named ‘LGBT Cultural Event of the Year’ in the Co-op Respect Loved By You Awards.
• Polari recently completed a 16 date tour, funded by Arts Council England and including dates in Edinburgh, Brighton, Birmingham, Hull, Newcastle and Dublin.
• Tour dates for the remaining half of 2018 include The London Science Museum, Bradford Literature Festival, Milton Keynes Literature Festival and The Printworks in Hastings.
About Paul Burston
Paul Burston is journalist, author and founder of the Polari Literary Salon and Polari First Book Prize. A founding editor of Attitude magazine, he has written for many publications including the Guardian, Time Out, The Times and The Sunday Times. He is the author of three books including Lovers and Losers, shortlisted for the Stonewall Award. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating 33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world.