Author Danielle McLaughlin plans to immerse herself in writing after winning one of the world’s most lucrative literary awards.
From Donoughmore, Co Cork and UCC’s writer-in-residence, Ms McLaughlin is the third Irish writer in four years to win the Windham-Campbell Prize worth €146,000.
Her debut short story collection, Dinosaurs on Other Planets published in 2015 just a few years after she had to give up practising law following ill-health, was selected.
It was cited by judges for stories that “capture the beauty and brutality of human relationships, imbuing them with near-magical qualities rooted in the details of everyday life in a manner both wry and resonant”.
Ms McLaughlin was on a trip to Copenhagen with her family to mark her 50th birthday when the phone rang and she discovered she had won. And it came at a time when Ms McLaughlin was beginning to question whether she should return to law.
“It was like a miracle,” she said.
I was experiencing a bit of a wobble, psychologically, in my writing life. In a sense, it was like an answer to a question I had started asking myself.
The Windham-Campbell prizes are among the richest literary prizes in the world. Eight authors, who write in English, are selected as winners each year to “call attention to literary achievement” and to allow them to “focus on their work independent of financial concerns”.
“A lot of the writing life involves working on projects that not only don’t earn any money but are loss-making. So this kind of support is immensely important,” Ms McLaughlin said.
The prizes were established in 2013 after the writer Donald Windham left his estate to Yale University. He had struggled financially during the early part of his career but had long wanted to create a literary award.
Authors are nominated and judged anonymously, so they don’t know they are in the running until the winners are notified out of the blue by the prize director Michael Kelleher.
Ms McLaughlin co-hosts with Madeleine D’Arcy, the Fiction at the Friary free monthly event in Cork.