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The judges for the Northern Writers’ Awards change each year to ensure a mix of taste and opinions is reflected across the awards.

This year’s judges are literary agent Elise Dillsworth, writer Richard T Kelly, poet Clare Pollard and YA writer Juno Dawson. Juno Dawson will also be judging this year’s Cuckoo Young Writers Award. The journalist Peter Wilby will be judging the Clare Swift Short Story Award. The Andrea Badenoch Fiction Award will be judged by the friends and family of Andrea Badenoch, including the writers Debbie Taylor and Margaret Wilkinson. This year’s fiction judges will also be judging the Northumbria University Student and Alumni Award.

Judging poetry, including the New North Poets Mentoring Scheme

Clare Pollard was born in Bolton in 1978 and lives in London. Her first collection of poetry, The Heavy-Petting Zoo (Bloodaxe, 1998) received an Eric Gregory Award. It was followed by Bedtime and Look, Clare! Look! (Bloodaxe, 2005), which was made a set text on the WJEC A-level syllabus. Her fourth collection Changeling, was a PBS Recommendation and her fifth is Incarnation (Bloodaxe, 2017). Clare supports herself by working as an editor, teacher and translator. She has recently been a judge for the PBS Next Generation list, Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize and the Manchester International Poetry Prize. She is also a playwright and broadcaster.

Credit: Hayley Madden

Judging fiction

Newcastle-born writer Richard T. Kelly is the author of three highly acclaimed novels: Crusaders (2008), The Possessions of Doctor Forrest (2011), and The Knives (2016), all published by Faber and Faber. In 2013 he co-wrote Judith Tebbutt’s memoir of hostage in Somalia, A Long Walk Home, a Sunday Times bestseller and National Book Awards nominee. He has also published several studies of filmmakers, including Alan Clarke (1998) and the authorised biography Sean Penn: His Life and Times (2004). His first drama for television, Eclipse, aired on Channel 4 in 2010. Richard is also a Contributing Editor at Esquire magazine.

Credit: Caroline O'Dwyer

Elise Dillsworth set up her own literary agency in 2012 and represents literary and commercial fiction, non-fiction, especially memoir, autobiography and biography. She is also interested in cookery and travel writing. Previously she was a commissioning editor at Virago Press, an imprint of Little Brown Book Group and co-founded the Diversity in Publishing Network in 2005. She has been a judge for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Bocas Fiction Prize, SI Leeds Prize and the London Short Story Prize.

Judging Children’s and Young Adult/Cuckoo Young Writers Award

Queen of Teen 2014, Juno Dawson is the multi award-winning author of six novels for young adults. In 2016, she authored the best-selling Spot The Difference. Her next novel was the beautiful and emotive Margot & Me (Jan 2017). Juno also wrote the bestselling non-fiction guide to life for young LGBT people, This Book Is Gay. In 2016 a follow-up, Mind Your Head, featured everything a young person needs to know about mental health. Juno grew up in West Yorkshire and now lives in Brighton. In 2015, Juno announced her intention to undergo gender transition and live as a woman.

Credit: Joel Ryder

Judging the Clare Swift Short Story Award

Peter Wilby, who will be judging the Clare Swift Short Story Award, is a journalist who worked very closely with Clare while he was editor of the Independent on Sunday. He subsequently became editor of The New Statesman (1998-2005), for which he still writes the First Thoughts column. He also writes for The Observer and The Guardian.

Judging the Andrea Badenoch Fiction Award

Debbie Taylor is Editorial Director of Mslexia, which she founded in 1999. She has written for Oxfam, UNICEF, Anti-Slavery, WHO and others about women and social issues and worked as an editor for New Internationalist and Writing Women magazines. Her books include My Children, My Gold (Virago), a nonfiction travelogue about single mothers, and The Fourth Queen (Penguin), a novel set in a harem in 18th Century Morocco. Her latest novel, Herring Girl (Oneworld), a paranormal historical thriller set on the banks of the Tyne, came out in 2014.

Margaret Wilkinson has written extensively for the stage and radio. Her five-part radio dramas, Out of the Ashes and Passover, were broadcast on BBC Radio 4; as were her afternoon dramas, Can You Hear Me? and I Decided to Kill My Brother-in-Law After Dinner; and her Saturday drama, I Married a Marxist. In 2012, she returned to North East theatres with modern gothic thriller Blue Boy, directed by Tess Denman-Cleaver and produced by New Writing North in co-production with Northern Stage. She is a senior lecturer on the MA in creative writing at Newcastle University.

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