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Book worm: Yet another award to boost literary living

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Author Eimear McBride is tipped for a nomination as the Irish laureate of fiction

Author Eimear McBride is tipped for a nomination as the Irish laureate of fiction

Author Eimear McBride is tipped for a nomination as the Irish laureate of fiction

The average income for writers may be low - less than €14,000 a year, according to a recent UK survey - but there are ways other than book sales for writers to make a literary living.

Indeed, the world seems to be coming down with bursaries, fellowships and literary awards - so much so that the Times Literary Supplement back-page columnist has been advocating an annual Prize for Writers Who Haven't Yet Won Prizes.

And now there's the announcement of a new honour, that of Laureate for Irish Fiction no less, which will net a cool €150,000 over three years for whoever is to be so honoured.

This is the brainchild of the Arts Council, which already awards a handy annual stipend to scores of favoured artists and writers whom it deems to be in need of a few bob. This time around, though, the chosen one will have to sing for his or her supper by giving a few writing classes at UCD and New York University, which are two of the laureateship's sponsors. That shouldn't be any great hardship.

Nominations close on October 3, with the winner to be announced in January, following the fashionable gimmick of a shortlist that's to be declared in the interim. And a few names are already being excitedly mentioned, including Eimear McBride on the strength of one published book and Donal Ryan on the strength of two. Does that qualify them as laureates?

More pertinently, who needs a fiction laureate anyway? The people behind it say that the post has been created to promote Irish literature both here and abroad and to encourage the public "to engage with high-quality Irish fiction". But surely Bord Fáilte is there to achieve the former and various novelists' publishing houses to foster the latter. Or so one would have thought.

Meanwhile, Tara Bergin is the only Irish name to feature among the 20 Next Generation Poets just announced by the Poetry Book Society in England. And certainly when co-judging the inaugural Pigott Poetry Prize last spring, I thought her collection, This is Yarrow, very striking indeed.

Indo Review