Adam Weynouth has been named the Sunday Times/ Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, in association with the University of Warwick, at the London Library tonight for his work Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey.
Judging the prize in 2018, novelist Kamila Shamsie, novelist and non-fiction writer Susan Hill, and Andrew Holgate, Literary Editor of The Sunday Times, backed Weymouth with unanimous enthusiasm. Andrew Holgate said: “It feels as if we have found, ready minted and hidden in plain sight, a really outstanding new contemporary British voice – one who literary editors (myself included; I plead guilty) almost completely failed to spot on publication.”
Awarding the best work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by a British or Irish author aged between 18 and 35, the Young Writer of the Year Award is an unrivalled spotter of future literary greats at the beginning of their careers, with an alumni list that includes everyone from Robert Macfarlane to Zadie Smith, from Sarah Waters to Simon Armitage.
For Kings of the Yukon (Particular Books), Adam Weymouth went on a four-month canoe odyssey through one of the most ruggedly beautiful and remote regions of North America, looking for the king salmon the Yukon’s inhabitants have long depended on. The result is a captivating, lyrical portrait of the people and landscapes he encounters – and an elegiac glimpse into a disappearing world.
Kamila Shamsie said: “Dazzling, often in unexpected ways. Adam Weymouth is a wonderful travel writer, nature writer, adventure writer – along the way, he is also a nuanced examiner of some of the world’s most fraught and urgent questions about the interconnectedness of people and the natural world.”
Susan Hill said: “I was knocked sideways by this book and quite unexpectedly. Adam Weymouth takes his place beside the great travel writers like Chatwin, Thubron, Leigh Fermor, in one bound. But like their books this is about so much more than just travel.”
Andrew Holgate said: “I’ve never seen such a strong and excited consensus among the judges for a winner. Weymouth combines acute political, personal and ecological understanding, with the most beautiful writing reminiscent of a young Robert Macfarlane. He more than holds his own among the award’s illustrious list of past winners, and I’m thrilled that the prize is able to give him some of the exposure he so clearly deserves. He is, I have no doubt, a significant voice for the future.”
Weymouth has triumphed over formidable competition to follow Sally Rooney (Conversations with Friends), to become the 20th winner of the prize. Three other debut authors were shortlisted: the Women’s Prize for Fiction-shortlisted novelist Imogen Hermes Gowar for her debut The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, set in Georgian London; Laura Freeman for her luminous memoir about recovery through literature, The Reading Cure; and the Man Booker-shortlisted Fiona Mozley for Elmet, her Yorkshire-set debut about a family trying to find their place at the margins of society.
Generously sponsored by literary agency Peters Fraser + Dunlop, the Young Writer of the Year Award is running in association with the University of Warwick – home to the acclaimed Warwick Writing Programme. In addition to the prize money of £5,000, the winner gets the opportunity to take up a 10-week residential course with the programme, and all shortlisted authors receive overseas exposure through the British Council, the international partner of the prize.
Earlier this year, the prize, which is administered by the Society of Authors, extended its digital offer with high-profile authors and literary experts contributing to an engaging, accessible online hub for emerging and aspiring writers. Working with its associate sponsor, the University of Warwick, the prize is using its website, youngwriteraward.com, to build a free-to-all content programme in support of writers at the beginning of their careers. Anne Enright, Ian Rankin and Nick Hornby are among the authors writing articles, alongside ‘Top Tips’ and a monthly ‘How To’ series, written this year by AL Kennedy.
Past winners are: Salley Rooney, Conversations with Friends (2017); Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers (2016); Sarah Howe, Loop of Jade (2015); 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).
Keep up to date with the award and join the conversation via:
youngwriteraward.com | twitter.com/youngwriteryear
Notes to Editors
The 2018 Winner:
Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey
A captivating, lyrical account of an epic voyage by canoe down the Yukon River.
The Yukon River is almost 2,000 miles long, flowing through Canada and Alaska to the Bering Sea. Setting out to explore one of the most ruggedly beautiful and remote regions of North America, Adam Weymouth journeyed by canoe on a four-month odyssey through this untrammelled wilderness, encountering the people who have lived there for generations. The Yukon’s inhabitants have long depended on the king salmon who each year migrate the entire river to reach their spawning grounds. Now the salmon numbers have dwindled, and the encroachment of the modern world has changed the way of life on the Yukon, perhaps for ever.
Weymouth’s searing portraits of these people and landscapes offer an elegiac glimpse of a disappearing world. Kings of the Yukon is an extraordinary adventure, told by a powerful new voice.
‘The best kind of travel writing ... An outstanding book’ Rob Penn, author of The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees
‘Enthralling ’ Luke Jennings, author of the books behind the BBC series Killing Eve
Adam Weymouth’s work has been published by a wide variety of outlets including the Guardian, the Atlantic and the New Internationalist. His interest in the relationship between humans and the world around them has led him to write on issues of climate change and environmentalism, and most recently, to the Yukon river and the stories of the communities living on its banks. He lives on a 100-year-old Dutch barge on the River Lea in London. This is his first book.
The 2018 Shortlist:
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)
The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite by Laura Freeman (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (John Murray)
Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth (Particular)
The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award:
Founded in 1991, 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 with the generous sponsorship of Peters Fraser + Dunlop it was revitalised in 2015, building on the remarkable legacy of the prize by introducing 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. In 2017 the prize secured two further partnerships with the University of Warwick and the British Council.
The Sunday Times:
The Sunday Times is the UK’s largest circulation quality Sunday newspaper. 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 unrivalled coverage of sports, business, the arts and entertainment.
Peters Fraser + Dunlop:
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 University of Warwick:
The University of Warwick offers a bespoke winner residency, a festival of events, and a year round programme of digital support for the prize. The University of Warwick is consistently ranked in the top 10 universities in the UK and top 100 in the world, with the Warwick Writing Programme ranked No1 in the UK by The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018. It is one of the UK’s leading universities, with an acknowledged reputation for excellence in research, teaching and innovation alongside pioneering links with business and industry. It is home to the acclaimed Warwick Writing Programme, the largest and most comprehensive of its kind in Europe, which is currently home to renowned authors such as: Will Eaves, Maureen Freely, Michael Hulse, Gonzalo Ceron Garcia, A.L. Kennedy, Tim Leach, David Morley, Sarah Moss, Jonathan Skinner, and David Vann.
The British Council:
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 65 million people directly and 731 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.
The Society of Authors:
The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers. They have more than 10,000 members and have been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession for more than a century. In 2018, they will award more than £575,000 in prizes and grants (for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and translation). The Society of Authors also administers The Sunday Times / Peters, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award, the ALCS Educational Writers’ Award and the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Tom Frew, Senior Press and Media Relations Manager – University of Warwick:
E: a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk