Allie Rogers can often be found among the thousands of books in the University of Brighton’s Falmer library – but now she’s earning accolades for her own literature.
The librarian’s debut novel Little Gold, which draws on the author’s childhood memories of Brighton, has been nominated for the Polari Prize.
Founded by journalist and author Paul Burston in 2011, the prize is awarded to a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience in poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction.
A shortlist of six titles will be announced on July 24, with the winner being revealed on October 20 as part of the London Literature Festival.
We caught up with Allie to talk about her nomination, why she feels so at home in Brighton and the rewards of working at the University.
What does it mean to you to be longlisted for the Polari Prize?
It’s hugely encouraging to be longlisted for the Polari Prize. Having a first book published at the age of 46 was wonderful but also daunting so this recognition is very welcome. To have made the long list is an honour.
Do you think the prize plays an important role in the representation of LGBT authors?
The Polari Prize has grown over the last eight years to become an important feature of the LGBT literary calendar. This year the prize attracted a record number of entries, with four times the usual number of submissions and more from major publishers. I can only hope that this is an indication that the publishing world is finally waking up to the need for greater LGBT representation. The Polari Prize continues to play a significant role in showcasing the range of new LGBT themed work being produced by authors working in poetry, prose, fiction and non-fiction.
In Little Gold, you draw on your childhood memories of Brighton. Do you have a lot of pride in your hometown?
Well, there’s nowhere quite like Brighton, is there? I have always felt that being born here was a blessing from a passing lesbian fairy as it was a wonderfully empowering place to grow up, come out and, later, to raise my own children. As well as the beautiful Brightonians, the town sits in that magical space between the Downs and the sea. Hard times in my life have always been made easier to endure by the fact that Brighton can give you a damn good hill to toil up and a breathtaking view when you get to the top.
Do you often inject autobiographical elements into your fiction?
Well, fiction comes out of our heads and what’s in our heads comes from our lived experience, so I don’t see how any author can claim not to draw from their own life in some way. But that doesn’t mean I write what has happened to me because I’m very much a fiction writer and I love that freedom to spin a story. Of all the characters I have ever written, Little Gold probably comes closest to my own heart but her story is her own.
In my second book, Tale of a Tooth, I wrote from the perspective of a four year old boy, Danny White. For that book, I drew on early memories, particularly sensory impressions, but I also used my more recent experiences of life with my own children. However, once again, the story is Danny’s own and not based on things that have happened to me.
How do you balance working at the University library and writing fiction?
I work 20 hours a week in Falmer Library so I am able to fit in my writing around those hours. I wrote a lot of Little Gold in the computer room in Falmer Library, both on my days off and late in the evening when I had finished work. I am lucky in that, once a story has gripped me, I am driven to write and don’t tend to struggle to get down to it.
What is your favourite thing about working at the University of Brighton?
My favourite thing about working at the University of Brighton is the people. As well as our great students, I am lucky to work with kind, generous colleagues who are very supportive of my ‘other life’ as a writer. Librarians tend to be interested and interesting folk. The Falmer campus is also beautiful; I often spot our resident woodpecker out the library window and sunsets over Stanmer Great Wood are rather special.