06/12/2011

The British Library announces two winners of the Eccles Centre Writer in Residence award

A pioneering socialist feminist and a burgeoning novelist have been appointed the first ever Writers in Residence at the British Library’s Eccles Centre for American Studies. The two writers, who begin their year-long residencies in January 2012, are Sheila Rowbotham, the respected British socialist feminist writer and honorary fellow of the Universities of Manchester and Bristol, and Naomi Wood, known for her critically acclaimed debut novel The Godless Boys. http://www.bl.uk/ecclescentre

Both Writers in Residence will increase awareness of the British Library’s extensive North American holdings, while using them to research their upcoming publications with funding from the Eccles Centre.

The two winners were chosen from a list of applicants of a very high standard by a panel of judges comprised of Richard Carwardine, president of Corpus Christi College Oxford, Tracy Chevalier, renowned author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, Philip Davies, Director of the Eccles Centre for American Studies, Catherine Eccles, Literary Scout, and Carole Holden, Head of the American & Australian Studies curatorial team at the British Library.

Rowbotham and Wood strike an interesting contrast – one a well established political, non-fiction author and the other a burgeoning novelist, which the judges agreed would be an interesting collaboration. Both writers are now working on their next books: Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway is a historical novel, exploring the lives of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives, while Sheila Rowbotham’s non-fiction Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in the US and Britain 1880 to 1910, will trace a small network of British and American radicals during the turn of the century.

The award of £20,000 and residency at the British Library was open to writers resident in the UK, working on a full-length book which would require substantial use of the British Library’s collections relating to North America. Working with Philip Davies, Director of the Eccles Centre, the two winners will develop and participate in seminars, workshops and other events related to their projects and raise the profile of the Eccles Centre via the web and social media campaigns. Both winners were chosen partly for their innovative ideas for how to do this, as well as the unique value the Library’s collections will bring to their research.

Philip Davies, Director of the Eccles Centre for American Studies, says, “It is a particular thrill to launch this award by doubling the number of recipients for its first year. Sheila Rowbotham and Naomi Wood will pursue their research within the breathtaking range of resources at the British Library, and will simultaneously bring new initiatives to the Centre's programme”.

Catherine Eccles, Literary Scout, comments, “It is enormously exciting to be involved in this new award: supporting writers and their works-in-progress is exactly the sort of initiative Mary Eccles, co-founder of the Eccles Centre, would have delighted in”.

Tracy Chevalier says, “It was fascinating to discover the myriad ways in which British Library resources will be used for research into all things American. It reminded me of what a treasure trove the British Library is – an essential part of any writer’s research”.

-Ends-

Notes to Editors:

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

The Eccles Centre for American Studies was founded and endowed by the late David and Mary Eccles. Based at the British Library the Centre has two broad aims: to increase awareness and use of the Library's North American holdings, and to promote and support the study of North America in the United Kingdom through the collections and a programme of events. The Centre's programme includes public lectures, discussion panels and concerts, academic conferences and seminars, teacher and student events and web based study resources. The focus of the Eccles Centre is on the USA and Canada, but can extend to include the hemispheric, comparative and international topics in which these countries play a major part. The Centre works in co-operation with the Library's American Studies curatorial team, and with many other partners interested in the advancement of knowledge about America.

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