I've always loved the Orange Prize for Fiction. I greedily lap up the shortlist because over the years it's helped me discover writers who have become some of my reading heroes - Anne Michaels, Ann Patchett, Marilynne Robinson.
This year's shortlist is particularly intriguing because five of the six writers are published by independent publishers, a great testament to the creative force of these publishing houses. It was wonderful to watch Bloomsbury's CEO, Nigel Newton, at the announcement - unsurprisingly unable to contain his glee at having three of the shortlisted books!
The Prize supporting libraries
But I love the Prize for much more than its honouring of powerful writing. The organisers have been visionary in their embracing of libraries in the plans; they understand the power of libraries' reach into every possible kind of community. Right from the start, 17 years ago now, libraries have featured strongly, and we're loving leading the work on helping libraries get the most out of the prize for their readers.
Libraries promoting the Prize to readers
In these tough times with so many cuts to library staff and bookfunds, we've been holding our breath to see if it's still going to be possible for libraries to continue to work with national partners like the Orange Prize. So we're seriously relieved and thrilled to have signed up 69% of UK library authorities who have committed to featuring the prize in their libraries, and their work with reading groups. This level of sign up means that around 2800 libraries are featuring the prize - such riches for local readers.
There's an intriguing all male reading group shadowing the Prize, and lots of parties being planned for the Awards night on 30 May. We're delighted to have secured two places at the glitzy award ceremony at the South Bank Centre for librarians with the most exciting plans. And that this year's Chair of Judges, Joanna Trollope, is such a library champion - we recently arranged for her to open Mansfield's brand new library.