The shortlist has been revealed for an annual book prize which will see one North Staffordshire author win £500.

Actress turned playwright Deb McAndrew, former teacher Peter Cash, creative writing lecturer Lisa Blower and academic John Shapcott are all in the running for this year’s Arnold Bennett Prize.

The annual book award was established in 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arnold Bennett. Each year one author connected to North Staffordshire takes away a £500 prize. The winner had been due to be announced at the Bennett Society Conference in June, but the event was postponed due to COVID-19.

The judging panel has now released a shortlist of four books, with the winner set to be announced later this year.

The chair of the judging panel, freelance lecturer Morag Jones, said: “I’m very pleased that after much discussion we’re finally able to announce the shortlist for the Arnold Bennett Prize. We received entries of a very high standard and from a diverse range of genres.”

The shortlist includes: Deborah McAndrew for her play The D Road, Peter Cash for his poetry anthology Pitying The Planet, Lisa Blower for short story anthology It’s Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s by Lisa Blower and John Shapcott for Arnold Bennett and Frederick Marriott Parallel Lives.

The judging panel also included Dr Leslie Powner, an honorary research fellow at Keele University and chairman of the trustees of the Arnold Bennett Society, journalist Jenny Amphlett plus Penny Michell and Pat Marshall, also both trustees of the Arnold Bennett Society.

Leslie Powner said: “We cannot actually have a presentation at the moment given the situation nationally with the pandemic. As soon as we can we will do so.”

This year’s prize is for books published during 2019 by authors who were born in or are currently living in North Staffordshire. The prize is also open to writers living anywhere in the world if their work deals with life in North Staffordshire. Books can be of any genre, fiction or non-fiction, and of any length. The books must exist in physical form, rather than purely digitally, and must have an ISBN.

Last year’s prize was won by Guardian columnist Charlotte Higgins for her book Red Thread, a study of mazes and labyrinths.



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