“When I have told people that I am this year’s chair of judges for the Green Carnation Prize, and indeed one of its founders, people initially get very excited for me. It has been interesting to me that afterwards, when they have had time to think about it, they come back with two recurring questions. The first is; what does the Green Carnation Prize stand for? The second is; do we really need it in this day and age?
Last year, when The Green Carnation Prize was set up, the reason we had for creating such a prize was that there wasn’t an award in the UK specifically for any gay male writers, or indeed any LGBT authors. This year we have changed it to include all LGBT writers, which was something we overlooked last year in the mad rush of creating a prize, getting together a judging panel and having the publishers on board and submitting novels and then reading them all in the space of a month. It was exhilarating and wonderful to read these books that might not have crossed my path otherwise.
Does the prize stand to celebrate LGBT authors and give voice to those who might be less well known, or is it a prize that is pushing authors forward in what some believe is an industry dominated by straight white writers? I would say both. The joy for me in last year’s novels, and indeed in the reading I have done so far for 2011, is seeing what the ‘big gay names’ have to offer as well as discovering authors who have written several books (or more) that I have missed out on and also discovering exciting new debut voices. It’s the joy of learning more through reading and it’s not one that is only enjoyable to LGBT readers but to any reader out there. I recommended pretty much the entire longlist to people last year and not a single one of my straight or gay friends regretted reading any of them. In fact they all liked the fact that they had found some new authors who they could either follow in the future or read the back catalogue of.
We do live in a more accepting world nowadays but by no means are we at a point where sexuality doesn’t cause some slight ruffling of feathers here and there. Some authors still choose to remain in the closet and if that’s their want and they believe that they will loose readers because they are gay that’s there choice, it’s a shame but it’s their right. All we can do is highlight the ones who don’t mind.
So do we need The Green Carnation Prize? I would say absolutely, and not just because of sexuality. It’s also about promoting great books, any literature-based prize is. I hope that in promoting books, regardless of if they have been reviewed highly in the broadsheets or not, been Booker (or any other prize) listed or whether they have a well known author or someone new or relatively unknown, what we as judges in 2011 have to do is give people the opportunity to find great books.
We simply created a prize that aims itself at promoting the LGBT authors out there, but not just to LGBT readers, this is a prize for all readers out there of all sexes, races, cultures, backgrounds and sexualities unified simply by the love of a good book. That’s the idea behind any book prize isn’t it? I hope that anyone and everyone will follow the prize this year and enjoy reading the books as we go forward. I want discussion and debate and to highlight some wonderful reading choices. If we achieve that in the months ahead then I think The Green Carnation Prize is doing just what it should.”
Simon Savidge, Chair of the Green Carnation Prize 2011