2005 judges

Short Story Judge: Maggie Gee

Maggie GeeNovelist Maggie Gee was born in Poole, Dorset, and educated at state schools and Somerville College, Oxford where she completed two degrees in English.

After working in publishing as an editor, she took a research job at Wolverhampton Polytechnic where she completed a PhD. Her first published novel was Dying, in Other Words (1981), an experimental black comedy in which a supposedly dead woman triumphantly rewrites the story of her own death. In 1982 Maggie Gee was selected as one of the original 20 'Best of Young British Novelists' and became Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia.

The Burning Book (1983) intercuts the story of a British family whose lives are torn apart by world wars with sections about Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Light Years (1985), structured in 12 sections and 52 chapters to represent a year, places the quarrels of two tiny human lovers in the bigger frame of nature, the planets and the stars. Grace (1989) implicates the British secret state in its fictional parallel to the unsolved real-life murder of an anti-nuclear activist, Hilda Murrell. Where Are the Snows (1991), a satire on the 1980s, begins like an erotic saga as two lovers abandon their teenage children to go on a perpetual holiday, but ultimately suggests you cannot buy up the planet, separate sex from reproduction, and stay young for ever. Lost Children (1994) describes a London full of thousands of homeless children. The Ice People (1998) is a dystopia with a biracial hero, set in a new ice age in 2050: the ice forces people from the rich north to try to migrate south, where they are unwelcome. Her eighth novel, The White Family (2002), shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the 2004 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, tackles the issue of racism in Britain. The Flood (2004), is again a dystopia, but this time with a contemporary urban setting, and explores the effects of a modern-day flood on a city and its inhabitants.

In 2006 she published a collection of short stories, The Blue, and in 2005, My Cleaner (2005), a comedy about the shifting balance of power between a white writer, Vanessa Henman, and her former cleaner, a black Ugandan, Mary Tendo, who returns to London ten years later as a successful professional, because Vanessa's depressed adult son is asking for her, and revolutionises life in the Henman household.

Her second Mary Tendo novel, My Driver, in many respects a mirror image of My Cleaner where Vanessa is off her ground in Uganda, came out in 2009. In 2011 she published her memoir, My Animal Life, trying to discover the meaning of a short life on this hospitable planet. Her work has been translated into thirteen languages.

Maggie Gee is a Fellow and Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature. She has been a member of the Society of Authors' Committee of Management and the government Public Lending Right committee, and was from 2004-2008 the first female Chair of Council of the Royal Society of Literature. She is now one of its Vice Presidents. She is Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University and lives in London with her husband, the writer and broadcaster, Nicholas Rankin. In 2012 she was awarded an OBE for services to literature.

 

Poetry Judge: Andrew Motion

Andrew MotionAndrew Motion was born in 1952. He read English at University College, Oxford and subsequently spent two years writing about the poetry of Edward Thomas for an M. Litt. From 1976 to 1980 he taught English at the University of Hull; from 1980 to 1982 he edited the Poetry Review and from 1982 to 1989 he was Editorial Director and Poetry Editor at Chatto & Windus. He is now Professor of Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in London. He was knighted for his services to literature in 2009.