New SoA fiction prize encourages positive representation of disability in literature

10 June 2022

The first prize of its kind, founded by author Penny Batchelor and publisher Clare Christian, open to authors with disabilities or chronic illnesses

Announcing the new prize at Southwark Cathedral. From left, Clare Christian and Penny Batchelor (photograph © Adrian Pope)

Announcing the new prize at Southwark Cathedral. From left, Clare Christian and Penny Batchelor (photograph © Adrian Pope)

The Society of Authors is excited to announce the ADCI Literary Prize, an annual literary award open to authors with a disability or chronic illness, for novels that include a disabled or chronically ill character.

Sponsored by Arts Council England, ALCS, the Drusilla Harvey Memorial Fund, the Hawthornden Literary Retreat, and the Professional Writing Academy, the prize will become part of the SoA Awards stable, joining ten other annual awards for fiction, poetry and non-fiction, worth more than £100,000.

The winner will receive £1,000 and two runners-up will each receive £500.

‘Celebrating disabled authors and their stories’

The co-founders of the prize, author Penny Batchelor and publisher Clare Christian, first identified the need for the prize while working together to publish Penny’s debut novel My Perfect Sister.

Both Penny and Clare are vocal campaigners, calling for better representations of disability in publishing and bookselling, and advocates for disabled people navigating their way through a publishing industry that often struggles to be accessible. Over the past six months alone, they have led the #KeepFestivalsHybrid campaign, calling for wider access to literary festivals and events post pandemic, and successfully lobbied Amazon to introduce a new Disability Fiction category to its books section.

Author and co-founder of the ADCI Literary Prize Penny Batchelor said about the launch:

I'm over the moon that after two years of planning, and with the support of the SoA and other organisations, the SoA ADCI prize is now a reality. The prize will make a great difference in highlighting the importance of positive disability representation in our culture, as well as raising the profile of DCI authors and their books to readers and the wider publishing industry. Huge thanks go to my fellow co-founder Clare Christian for coming up with the idea and approaching me with it. I'm humbled to be on the judging panel and look forward to getting stuck in reading once submissions are open. We're already coming up with ideas for Year 2, including ways to encourage more disabled and chronically ill people to pick up a pen, discover the joys of writing and consider a career as a novelist.

Co-founder and publisher at RedDoor Press Clare Christian said:

When Penny submitted her first novel (My Perfect Sister) for consideration, I loved the fact that she had included a disabled character who was simply a character, rather than a lead character overcoming huge challenges. It made me think a lot about how disabled people are represented in literature, and when I read an interview with Penny about how the only book she had read as a child that included a disabled character, ended with him miraculously being able to walk again, it really cemented this concern that people living with disability are simply not seeing themselves reflected in their reading. I wanted to find a way to improve that and so the idea for the prize was born, and approaching Penny, as both an author and a person living with disability, was a no-brainer. It goes without saying that we're both hugely grateful for the support we have received for the prize so far.

The Society of Authors Head of Prizes and Awards Robyn Law said:

I was delighted when Penny and Clare approached the SoA with their plans for a new prize that has become the ADCI Literary Prize. We recognised this as an opportunity to celebrate disabled authors and their stories and we are so proud that this new prize will be part of the SoA Awards given out each summer. The ADCI Literary Prize aligns perfectly with our industry commitment to inclusivity among creators, audiences, and industry professionals. We believe this is essential for building a strong creative economy and ensuring that the benefits of cultural participation are shared by all.

The new prize opens for entries in August and will be awarded for the first time at the SoA Awards in June 2023. It will join the stable of other SoA Awards, which include the Betty Trask Prize and Awards, the Eric Gregory Awards, the Queen’s Knickers Award, the Paul Torday Memorial Prize and, awarded for the first time this year, the Volcano Prize. Together they form the UK’s biggest literary prize fund, worth over £100,000 annually.

Prize sponsor logos - the Professional Writing Academy, ALCS and Arts Council England