In 2009 I was asked to be one of the Orange Prize for Fiction judges. I loved it. Although my boyfriend groaned every time I opened another book, I revelled in it. As I charged through the 30 or so books I was sent over in a large box around christmas time, I entered worlds as diverse as 1930s New York to the Cotswolds in the '80s to Japan in the future. An incredible treat and a privilege. Marilynne robinson won and meeting her at the ceremony was one of the highlights of the whole experience.
I was delighted when the founder Kate Mosse asked me if I would like to join the committee that had set up the prize and I couldn't say yes fast enough.
The Orange Prize for Fiction is the largest selling book prize in the world and the only one that is entirely devoted to women. It is a celebration, not a moan. It is to inspire more reading among both genders and to show the fabulous breadth of talent out there.
The prize has become very important in driving a diverse range of book sales as well as championing the talent that might be hidden in some far corner of the globe.
The prize has never complained about the gender balance within the literary prize world, instead it has sought to address it. 14 out of 45 booker prize winners have been women and yet women are 65% of fiction writers. I am a feminist and I love reading so this strikes me as a strange fact when there are so many talented women out there.
So, it is imperative that as orange have decided to move away from this particular kind of corporate sponsorship, we find another great supporter for the prize.
What could be more engaging?
We know that companies who take their wider societal responsibility seriously have more engaged staff and more engaged customers. We know that fiction provides a fabulous backdrop from which to pull any number of different stories about what your corporate values are. We know that the encouragement of reading and writing are among the most basic of human education needs and we know that this joyous, glamorous, high profile institution is one of the best in the UK.
Every CEO is worrying about how to make sure their company survives and thrives in this fierce economic environment and every ceo is thinking about how to drive growth while the world seems to be chaotic and unpredictable.
I think that building and supporting such a major cultural landmark is one surefire way to do something great for UK PLC but also your own organisation. That's why I am firing off emails and making calls left, right and centre - no one is safe in my address book so I apologise in advance if I drop you a line, but exciting and important opportunities like this do not come around very often...
To learn more about the award, please visit the Orange Prize for Fiction website