Saltire Society Shadow Panels: First Book.

Just last month, we hosted shadow panels for four of the Saltire Society Literary Awards categories, bringing students, SYP-ers and young professionals together to discuss the shortlists and pick their own winners, and wanted to know just how they found the experience. So, we start with the First Book panel!

shadow panel

Heather McDaid (Chair)
I went to the Saltire Society Literary Awards last year as a curious student, so was thrilled to be able to actually take part in some way this year. The First Book list was a real mix: poetry, politics, dystopia, travel, fiction, short stories. Coming together and discussing them with a group was a really interesting experience, and highlighted how differently we all approach books, but how similarly we can critique them.

Returning to the Awards was a real delight – from getting to introduce one of our favourite authors from our list to the panel, to seeing  Michel Faber’s emotive speeches, it just reinforced how exciting the Scottish literary and publishing community is, and how great a place it is to be a part of. I’m hoping that this is the first of many years for SYP-Saltire collaboration, because I know I took a lot from it, meeting great people at the panel and awards, and discovering an author whose work I will definitely be following in years to come!

Charlotte Brady
I loved the insight I got in to the process of discussing books within the context of a literary award. As a result of the experience, I’ve developed a keen interest in the discourse involved in judging books and particularly in the role gender plays in the process. The opportunity to take part in the shadow judging panel came along on the home stretch of an undergraduate degree, a time when even the most promising creative types can find themselves in a panic, applying for jobs in finance.

Seeing Scotland’s thriving literary community, together in the one room at the awards ceremony, and listening to an emotional speech from winner, Michel Faber, reminded me of why I want to contribute meaningfully to the creation of important and beautiful books. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be so involved in a celebration of Scotland’s literary talent and I hope to return to the awards with an even more vested interest in the future, as a publisher.

first book 1

Julia Crawford
I’ve loved the experience of being on a shadow judging panel for the Saltire Society Awards. Aside from the free books (which definitely was a real draw) it was also fantastic to get to go to the ceremony itself.

Before the ceremony, we were invited to a drinks reception. This was daunting but hugely enjoyable. My networking skills might need brushed up a little, but it felt great to be immersed in the literary community. Especially exciting for me was meeting Helen McClory, the author of On the Edges of Vision and the winner of the First Book of the Year Award. Having read and loved her short stories for the shadow judging panel, I was intrigued by what she might be like in person. Possibly needless to say, she was a delight.

Overall I’m so grateful for the experience and opportunity that this has been for me and I will jump at any similar opportunities in the future.

Jo O’Brien
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being part of the shadow panel for the First Book category for the Saltire Society Literary Awards. I am currently doing a Masters in publishing and, as I am from Ireland, this gave me a massive insight into the literary culture of Scotland. It was not only a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow book-lovers and discuss the nominated books with them, but to then get to attend the awards ceremony was a really gratifying experience.

I was so impressed with the awards ceremony, it was a very organised event and it was great to meet the authors behind the books that we had enjoyed and discussed. I even brought some books with me to be signed! It also felt like a very personal affair, it seemed like Scotland’s publishing industry is quite close-knit. I think everyone felt a bit emotional during Michel Faber’s amazing two consecutive wins and his honest words.

The whole experience of being part of the shadow panel and attending the awards ceremony, was really amazing. I definitely want to do it next year and would encourage anyone else interested in it to give it a go.

first book 2

Nathaniel Kunitskaya
Being a member of the shadow judging panel for Saltire First Book award was nothing like I had expected. I was preparing myself for some high-brow literary terminology and references to be thrown around, formal dress and a fair share of discomfort (I am not an English Literature student, although I did study literature). Instead I was welcomed with warmth (tea and biscuits included) at a friendly gathering where everyone got to express their feelings, opinions and insights on the works in a manner both personal and professional. None of the elitist nonsense with which literary gatherings are so often portrayed; everybody present was genuine, keen and passionate.

I joined because I wanted to have a better understanding of the contemporary Scottish literary landscape and because I was keen to read some new fiction (otherwise ignored due to the monstrous size of the existing “to be read” list) – Saltire provided me with both! The awards ceremony was busy and energetic, it gave me the opportunity to meet many inspiring authors and publishing folk as well as bask in the concentrated atmosphere of book loving and appreciation!

Justine Bottles
This month, I had the opportunity to participate in the Saltire Society’s shadow panel for the First Book of the Year award. As an American student with Edinburgh Napier’s MSc Publishing program, this was an amazing opportunity to get an in-depth look at Scotland’s vibrant publishing industry. I was pleasantly surprised by the work we read; as a dedicated fiction reader, I tend to stay within my comfort zone. From Audrey Henderson’s Airstream to Peter Geoghegan’s The People’s Referendum, the First Book of the Year award shortlist consisted of a diverse group of extremely talented authors.

While the group had a tough time coming to a decision, we determined that Helen McClory’s On the Edges of Vision was the winner. Her strange, dark, often jarring collection of short stories is an incredible debut. I was pleased to hear that the Saltire Society agreed; McClory took home the First Book of the Year award on November 26th.

Overall, this was an amazing experience; one I wouldn’t hesitate to participate in again. Although I did not get the opportunity to attend the awards themselves, I found myself checking out the winning and shortlisted works in other categories, eagerly searching for new Scottish books to read. In addition, I discovered Helen McClory; a fabulous new author I plan to follow.


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