Poetry judge: Wendy Cope
“Although I’m known for using traditional forms, I am not prejudiced against poems that don’t rhyme or scan, as long as they are good. If you do use a traditional form, you’ll need to get the metre right. Judging previous competitions, I’ve found that the most important quality is authenticity of voice – that is to say I’m put off if the poet seems to be using a special voice for poetry, rather than just being her/himself.”
Wendy Cope read history at Oxford University and taught in London primary schools for fifteen years. She has been a freelance writer since 1986, when her first book of poems, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, was published. Her other collections are Serious Concerns, If I Don’t Know, and Family Values, which appeared in 2011. Two Cures for Love: selected poems 1979-2006 was published in 2008. She has also written for children and edited several anthologies, including Heaven on Earth: 101 Happy Poems and The Funny Side: 101 Humorous Poems. Her work has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2010 she was appointed OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list and she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She lives in Ely. photo credit: Adrian Harvey
Michèle Roberts was born in 1949, twenty minutes after her twin sister Marguerite, to a French mother and an English father. She grew up in Edgware, a suburb of north-west London. Michèle and her sisters attended two local convent schools. Summer holidays were spent at the house of their French grandparents in Normandy, near Etretat in the Pays de Caux.
“I read for a B.A. in English Language and Literature at Somerville, Oxford. In those days this was a women's college: the majority of Oxford colleges did not accept women. Next, I spent two years studying to become a librarian. I knew I wanted to write but knew, too, how important it was to be able to support myself. I spent a year working for the British Council in South-East Asia. The Vietnam War was devastating the area. I gave up my job and went travelling instead.
After this I gave up any idea of working as a librarian and began earning my living from a variety of part-time jobs. Often I wrote at night. I got involved in a writers' group, writing short stories, and worked on my first novel, A Piece of the Night, which came out in 1978. It's always been important to me to be financially independent, and I've worked as a hospital cleaner, temp secretary, clerk, teacher, journalist, reviewer and critic.
Life as a writer was very hard at first. Still, a chosen poverty is easier to bear than the enforced sort. When Daughters of the House was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1992 and won the WH Smith Literary Award in 1993, I started making more money, and could finally give up the part-time jobs.
I've lived in many different places, including Italy and North America, but at the age of forty-four I bought my first home: a small house in France. At the moment I live in both France and England, moving back and forth between the two, and also spend some time at the University of East Anglia, where I am currently Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing.
I was honoured to be made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. I am a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member of PEN and The Society of Authors. As well as writing, I serve as a judge for literary prizes, have presented radio arts programmes such as Night Waves, have chaired the British Council's Literature Advisory Committee, and have travelled abroad extensively with other writers on tours organised by the British Council.
I have been married twice, have two stepsons, am close to my nieces and nephews, and spend as much time as possible with my friends. Friends are crucial, a source of great pleasure. As a writer I need a great deal of solitude but in the evenings I like to get out and have a good time.”
photo credit: Graham Jepson/Writer Pictures
Flash Fiction judge: David Swann
"I'm not looking for flash fiction written to any set formula. I just want the same thing that I hope for in all my reading - to be moved in some way."
David Swann has had five successes at the Bridport Prize. His book, The Privilege of Rain (Waterloo Press, 2010), was shortlisted for the 2011 Ted Hughes Award. The stories and poems in the book are about his work as a writer-in-residence in a prison. A former newspaper reporter, he now lectures in English & Creative Writing at the University of Chichester.
David’s fiction was collected as The Last Days of Johnny North (Elastic Press, 2006), and he is now hard at work on a trilogy of novels and a flash fiction collection. He divides his time between Brighton and Hove, but sometimes teaches in Crete and goes for long walks. Otherwise, he enjoys badminton and discovering new types of cheese. photo credit: James Ebdon