Front cover of Ginny Baily's book Africa Junction

English PhD student wins major UK literary prize

English PhD student Ginny Baily has won a major UK literary prize for her debut novel Africa Junction.

Ginny was awarded ‘The McKitterick Prize’ which is presented annually to a writer over the age of 40 for a first novel.

Africa Junction originated as an Exeter Creative Writing PhD and was published by Harvill Secker just prior to Ginny receiving her doctorate from the University of Exeter earlier this year.

As a well respected literary award, The McKitterick Prize is awarded by the Society of Authors and has been given to numerous distinguished novelists in the past including Helen Dunmore and Simon Mawer.  Ginny was awarded the prize by a very experienced panel of judges which included the writer Paul Bailey, Terence Blacker and Mavis Cheek, who called Africa Junction "a bold life-affirming first novel” and said that it “generates a warmth of feeling that cannot be counterfeited.”  

In addition to a monetary prize of £4000, Ginny has been given a slot at the Marlborough literary festival in September, alongside such luminaries as Michael Frayn and Howard Jacobson.

Ginny commented, “It’s impressive that the prize is awarded by the Society of Authors because it means that established and successful writers have chosen my book. I feel really honoured by that. It feels like the perfect prize for me and recognition that for some of us things come to us later on in our lives and, for all sorts of reasons, we are late bloomers!”

She added: “Writing the first novel within the scope of my PhD gave me direction and support while I was doing it and getting this award at this stage is just wonderful.

I'm now working on my second novel and winning this award helps me focus on that with new confidence and certainty. The book is set in Italy and I'm going to use some of the prize money for first hand research.”

Philip Hensher, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Exeter said, “We are thrilled that a student who we have seen through an MA and PhD to the publication of her first novel should be recognised in such style, and our highest congratulations go to Ginny.”

Ginny is also co-editor of Riptide; a bi-annual anthology of new short fiction by both established and emerging writers.  Riptide is achieving considerable success and has published stories by students at all levels of study, as well as staff and alumni. Volume 7 recently launched at Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) has been stocked by many independent bookshops across the county, and, for the first time, Waterstones on Exeter High Street.

Volume 8 of Riptide will appear early in 2013 to coincide with the Exetreme Imagination Children's Literature Festival. Riptide are also collaborating with Cygnet Theatre to produce a dramatisation of some of the best poems and with the Bike Shed Theatre for a festival event.

Professor Helen Taylor, University of Exeter Arts and Culture Fellow, commented, “This is wonderful for Ginny and a real tribute to the Creative Writing staff who have nurtured her.  It is this kind of acclaim that confirms the excellence of our writing programme. Ginny is one of a distinguished group of published graduates including Luke Kennard and Jane Feaver, and she and Sally Flint have helped put Exeter on the map with their successful journal Riptide which goes from strength to strength.”

Ginny and Riptide’s co-editor Sally Flint will be giving a short story workshop on July 14th at RAMM - using their artefacts for inspiration to create original prose and poetry. The best work will have the chance of appearing in Riptide 8. 

Date: 25 June 2012