Writer and critic Olivia Laing and author and journalist Erica Wagner, winners of the 2014 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award, have each been awarded £20,000 and will start their residency at the Eccles Centre on January 2, 2014. Now in its third year, the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award was set up as part of the Centre's charge to promote awareness of the British Library collections relating to the U.S. and Canada and to help facilitate the use of these collections. Each of the winners will use the collections to research their upcoming publications.
Laing's book, The Lonely City: Adventures In the Art of Being Alone, is a cultural history of urban loneliness, exploring the complex crosscurrents that exist between loneliness, sex, technology and art. It's set in New York and like her previous two books will be a hybrid work of nonfiction, bringing together elements of biography, criticism, travelogue and memoir. Subjects include Andy Warhol, AIDS, apocalyptic cities, and the art of the machine age. It will be published by Canongate in the U.K., and Picador in the U.S.
Laing said of winning the award: "I'm absolutely delighted to be an Eccles Writer in Residence at the British Library. I did much of the research for my previous two books at the library, and have always found it a very stimulating and inspiring place to work. The British Library holds an astonishing array of relevant material, from monographs on Andy Warhol and David Wojnarowicz to oral histories of people with AIDS in the early days of the epidemic. I know the book will be the richer for this period of immersive research, and I'm extremely grateful to the Eccles Centre."
Wagner's work is a biography of Washington Roebling, the engineer who built the Brooklyn Bridge. The Bridge is an icon the world over, yet the story of its builder--one of heroism, sacrifice and determination--is little known, and Wagner's book will bring an engaging and articulate man to life. A native New Yorker, Wagner has had a life-long attachment to the Brooklyn Bridge and often travels back to New York to cross the East River on its span.
"I am completely thrilled to have won this award," said Wagner. "The resources of the Eccles Centre will be of significant help to me in working on my biography of Washington Roebling; I'm looking forward too to working with the librarians there to further my research." The Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, Builder of the Brooklyn Bridge will be published by Bloomsbury in the U.K., and the U.S.
In cooperation with Philip Davies, director of the Eccles Centre, Laing and Wagner will also have the opportunity to showcase their projects through the Centre's program of events and its web and social media links. "These prizes of £20,000 to each of the winners, are among the most generous awards available to writers in the U.K.," explained Davies. "This year the judges have again championed great writers whose exciting projects will involve exploration of the British Library's rich collections of North American materials--the best in the world outside the USA."
The award is open to all authors of all nationalties, although to be considered writers need to be a resident in the U.K.