We are absolutely delighted that Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing won our prestigious Kerry Group Novel of the Year Award 2014. There can’t be a person in Ireland who hasn’t heard the story of how her book gathered dust in a drawer for almost a decade after it was rejected by numerous publishers for being too experimental. It was eventually picked up by Galley Beggar Press and took the literary world by storm.
As well as winning the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize for fiction in 2013, established to reward fiction that breaks the mould or opens up new possibilities for the novel form, it was shortlisted for both the Folio Prize and the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. During the past few days it has also been shortlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize.
I spoke with Eimear shortly after the announcement was made of her Listowel win last night and asked her how she was feeling. “I’m delighted,” she said, “absolutely delighted. It means a lot to win an Irish prize, particularly with the great history The Kerry Group Award has; a tradition of wonderful writers who I love and admire.”
Has she visited Listowel Writers’ Week previously? “No I haven’t, but lots of people have asked me if I’d been and when I said I hadn’t, they said, ‘You’ll love it. It’s the best festival.’ So I’m really delighted to be here. It’s a lovely town with a great atmosphere and welcome.”
Eimear is staying until Friday, as she also had an event today alongside author Paul Lynch, and plans to get in a bit of famous Listowel socialising. “I’m looking forward to having a great night out in JB Keane’s Pub. Apparently that’s the place to go.” And she’s right. A visit to John B’s is a must when at Listowel Writers’ Week!
Below is an extract from Eimear’s acceptance speech:
“Literary fearlessness is part of our culture. It’s part of who we are as people. It’s part of who we are as writers and who we are as readers, and it’s a constant battle for us to fight against the forces of the dumbing down. And while it is a huge personal source of pride for me to win The Kerry Group Award, I hope that it is also an incentive to publishers to remember our great literary tradition.
“Our fearlessness is not a museum piece, and it is not about a legacy that is to be curated for people to remember from the history books. It is alive and it is with us. It is in the writers on this shortlist and in the writers that are sitting here tonight and throughout the country. I hope that the next time an unusual looking manuscript crosses a publisher’s desk they will remember that there is a readership out there for these kind of books, and that they will give them a chance. Thank you very much.”