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Thursday
Nov142013

πŸŽˆπŸΈπŸŽ‰ The Murder Wall wins the Polari First Book Prize 2013 πŸŽ‰πŸΈπŸŽˆ

I won an award last night. It was the Polari First Book Prize 2013 and I was presented with it at the London’s Southbank Centre on the sixth anniversary of the Polari Literary Salon. Before the winner was announced, we were treated to a cracking line up of writers, poets and artists: readings from Rosie Garland, Patrick Flanery and Charlotte Mendelson, thought-provoking poetry from Dean Atta, music from the inimitable Dee Chanelle and hilarious comedy from Helen Lederer, all introduced by the one and only writer, journalist and host of Polari, Paul Burston. 

So, by then the nerves were gone, right? Wrong. Drum roll. It was time for VG Lee and Helen Lederer’s double act, the opening of the envelope that would reveal the winner. When my name was read out I couldn’t quite believe my ears and, when I took to the stage, my speech was short. Not wanting to tempt fate I hadn’t prepared one and forgot to name check my fellow nominees – please forgive me! – but I did manage to mention a few people who made this happen for me: my agent Oli Munson who really got what I was trying to say from day one; my fabulous editor Wayne Brookes: my publicist Philippa McEwan who works so hard on my behalf.

I’ve said before that choosing a lesbian as a main character was not the easiest route to publication. Some might call it professional suicide. Until Pan Macmillan came along, even though I was writing crime fiction publishers turned me down, but I ploughed on determined to give Kate Daniels a voice. I feel passionately that we are all equal. In society there are many gay characters in lead roles, so why not in fiction? I wanted her to reach out and say “Hey! I’m here. I’m good at my job and I’m in love with someone of the same sex. Get over it!” The fact that she can’t get over it is immaterial. Kate doesn’t yet feel able to talk publicly about the love of her life for fear that coming out would lessen her chances of promotion. Newsflash! Not everyone can be out and proud . . .

But can I say this? The fact that I have a mainstream publisher guarantees a wide readership and it’s here that aspiring LGBT writers should aim if they want to be heard. It’s a hard road to publication for any writer. Competition is stiff but what Polari does is nurture talent and give the opportunity for writers to showcase their work. I loved my first visit there and it certainly won’t be my last. If they will have me back, I’m hoping to read there myself one day.

I’m thrilled and honoured to receive this very special award, not just because it’s the only one of it’s type – open to any work of poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction that reflects LGBT issues – but because the competition was very strong: Kerry Hudson's Tony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma; Mark O'Connell's Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan; Rebecca Idris' The Sitar; and Jack Wolf's The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones any one of which would have been a worthy winner. I’m delighted that my debut The Murder Wall won through in the end and that it received such high praise from judges: Suzy Feay, Bidisha, VG Lee, Jo Storey-Scott and chair, Paul Burston.

Last night is up there with the proudest moments of my life and I will treasure this stunning award for ever. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the generous sponsor Société Générale, in particular Vincent Francois (chair of the UK LGBT Network) who presented me with a giant cheque for a thousand pounds together with, not one, but four kisses. He’s very French! Thanks also must go to Square Peg Media for getting the word out there about all things Polari and Paul whose idea it was to launch the literary salon six years ago.

The Polari award means that a lot more people will be reading about Kate Daniels. Plans to take Polari on the road are already underway, kicking off at Huddersfield Literary Festival on 8th March 2014. And afterwards, who knows? International Polari? Lastly, can I thank every single person who sent me goodwill messages prior to the announcement and congratulations afterwards. Twitter went ballistic minutes after the award was announced. It was overwhelming at times but it made for such a party atmosphere and a night I’ll never forget.    

Reader Comments (4)

Huge congratulations, Mari! It was wonderful to be with you at the awards ceremony via social media - I was glued to my iPad! I'm so thrilled that you won and can't wait to celebrate with you soon. Best of luck for Kate Daniels number four, MONUMENT TO MURDER. Mel x

November 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMel Sherratt

Aw Mel. Thanks so much. We both have reasons to celebrate. Will lift a glass or two on Saturday and toast each other. Mo and I are so pleased you and Chris are coming to stay. x

November 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterMari Hannah

super congrats, Mari. Your a worthy winner. I feel I have travelled this long road with you from leading up to publication of the Murder Wall, to now with the imminent publication of Monument to Murder and I am proud to be not only a fan but, hopefully a friend and hope to continue following you and Kate down the long road and new adventures. Good luck with Monument to murder. I can't wait to read it! and hope to see you again x

November 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGarry Snaith

Garry, you are such a trooper. I'm proud to count you as a fan and a friend. As you say, you've been there from the very beginning. Hopefully this is the start of a very long journey for both of us. Let me know what you think of the new book. Mari x

November 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterMari Hannah

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