Anne Brown Essay Prize Shortlist

19 September 2023

It's a special privilege to be trusted with your work. Thank you to everyone who entered the Anne Brown Prize this year. Congratulations to all who made the shortlist.

· On the Covenant, Rodge Glass

· Longyan, Katie Goh

· Impermissible Joys, Roxani Krystalli

. Just Come a Little Closer: Raze (2013), Kirsty Logan

· An Absence Tells the Story, Victoria McNulty

· A Seed, Paul McQuade

· The Birds of the Sun, Stephen Rutt

. Hunting for Vakulenko, Jen Stout

· Sinship, Monica Wolfe

Established in 2021 by the family of the late BBC Scotland journalist and Wigtown Festival Company chair Anne Brown, the £1,500 prize aims to celebrate the best literary essay by a Scottish writer. It will be awarded at a ceremony at the Wigtown Book Festival on Sunday 24 September, hosted by the author and broadcaster Gavin Esler, who is also chair of this year’s judges.

You can attend this event in person and online. Book your tickets here.

With subjects ranging from generational trauma in Glasgow to the threat to Scotland’s indigenous languages, the nine-person selection matches established and emerging talents - including two authors writing in their second language. An expert in international relations at St Andrews University, Greek-born Roxani Krystalli makes the list for her essay about expressing joy in the face of sorrow. Raised in Bucharest under communist rule, Monica Wolfe contrasts her Scottish and Romanian families’ attitudes to sin and secrets.

Best-known for his biography of Alasdair Gray, Rodge Glass tries to understand his relationship with his Jewish family in his piece “On the Covenant”. In “Just Come a Little Bit Closer: Raze (2013)”, novelist Kirsty Logan explores the relationship between female intimacy, violence and eroticism, while performance poet Victoria McNulty’s “An Absence Tells the Story” reflects on the personal and societal consequences of Irish emigration to Scotland.

Migration is also central to Katie Goh’s “Longyan”. The only author to have been previously shortlisted for the prize, she takes inspiration from a journey she made to her grandparent’s village in China.

Two of the shortlisted entries directly address environmental themes. Saltire Award-winning nature writer Stephen Rutt looks at climate change by considering a single species of bird, while “A Seed”, by translator and short-story writer Paul McQuade, draws parallels between ecology and minority languages.

The list is completed by Shetland-based journalist Jen Stout, whose “Hunting for Vakulenko” is based on her reporting from Ukraine.

Wigtown Book Festival artistic director Adrian Turpin said: “Nobody was more curious about the world than Anne Brown. She would have been fascinated by the diversity of human experience and emotion revealed in these essays. With more than 100 entries this year, we are delighted that the award is becoming a vital and established part of Scotland’s literary landscape. We’d like to thank Anne’s children, Jo and Richard, for making that possible.“