The judges for the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize are Preti Taneja (chair), Sinéad Gleeson and Sonia Sodha.
Preti Taneja was awarded the 2018 Desmond Elliott Prize for her debut We That Are Young by that year’s judges, author Sarah Perry, award-winning broadcaster Samira Ahmed and former Waterstones’ head of fiction Chris White. A retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear set in modern-day India, the novel explores the play’s themes of severed relationships and warring families against the backdrop of the 2011 anti-corruption riots in India. It has since been optioned for television by French studio Gaumont (Narcos) in collaboration with Indian producer Dina Dattani (The Ashram).
‘I am delighted to be chairing the Desmond Elliott Prize. The National Centre for Writing has expanded this respected prize to offer a year-round platform of support and mentorship, alongside generous financial assistance to a writer whose work speaks to our times. This award says: your time to write and to develop your craft and career is vital and worth nurturing. My fellow judges and I can’t wait to immerse ourselves in the best debut fiction of 2019 from across the UK and Ireland. We will be looking to shortlist three exceptional first novels; our chosen winner will be an outstanding talent who will truly benefit from the endorsement of this prestigious Prize.’
Sinéad Gleeson’s debut collection Constellations: Reflections from Life (Picador 2019) won Non-Fiction Book of the Year at 2019 Irish Book Awards. Her essays have been published by Granta, Winter Papers and Gorse, and broadcast by BBC and RTÉ. Her short stories have been featured in several anthologies including Being Various: New Irish Short Stories (Faber, 2019) and Repeal the 8th (Unbound, 2018). She has edited the award-winning anthologies The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers and The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland, with The Art of Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories, forthcoming from Head of Zeus in October 2020. She is currently working on a novel.
Sonia Sodha is chief leader writer at The Observer and deputy opinion editor at the Guardian and an author. She makes and presents Analysis documentaries for Radio 4 and is a regular contributor to news and current affairs programmes such as Question Time, Newsnight, BBC Breakfast, the Sky paper review and the Today programme. She’s a trustee of the philanthropic foundation the Trust for London and a former school governor. Prior to working in journalism, Sonia held a variety of senior policy roles at think tanks and charities, and also worked in frontline politics as a senior policy adviser to Ed Miliband while he was leader of the opposition.