The Guardian

Two authors, one prize: competing with my spouse for the same award

We have shared each other’s books as we share our lives. So it’s more than a little odd to be lined up against each other on the Portico prize shortlist

By Benjamin Myers

‘We are going head-to-head in a metaphorical literary death-match’ ... Benjamin Myers.


There are an infinite number of things for couples to fall out over – a husband’s slovenly attitude towards domestic hygiene, for example, or a wife’s propensity for blasting 13-hour-long Spotify playlists entitled 1980s Wine Bar Classics (these are just examples, you understand). But two writers who happen to be married finding themselves on the same literary prize shortlist is, I imagine, a rarity, yet a situation loaded with potential rancour.



And so it was that Adelle Stripe and I awoke on Monday morning to discover that our respective books, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile and Under the Rock, are both up for the Portico prize, an award that best evokes the spirit of the north of England”. The strong shortlist also features Saltwater by Jessica Andrews, Ironopolis by Glen James Brown, The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness by Graham Caveney and The Mating Habits of Stags by Ray Robinson.

Emotions were mixed to say the least: we have each lived the other’s books and now we are going head to head in a literary death match. Because we live in the Yorkshire village of Mytholmroyd, birthplace of Ted Hughes, friends have jokingly referred to us as “Ted and Sylvia”. I would argue that Adelle, who is actually from Yorkshire, and is enigmatic and formidable, must be Hughes, while I, nervous and overly sensitive, feel more akin to Plath.

Actually, we’re not like either, and our dog Cliff doesn’t care as he picks up on the passive aggressive vibes passing between us over our porridge, patiently wondering which of us will stop tweeting first and take him out.

The winner of the Portico prize will be announced on 23 January. I hope it doesn’t lead to divorce.

From The Guardian.

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