British Novelist (and Game Designer) Wins Rolex Protégé Award

The sixth literary pairing in the biennial Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative was announced earlier this month. The program, launched a decade ago, offers emerging artists the opportunity to spend a year under the tutelage of established professionals in their respective fields.

The 20122013 literature mentor, Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, selected as her protégé thirty-seven-year-old British writer Naomi Alderman. The author of three novels—Disobedience (Viking, 2006), which won the Orange Award for New Writers, The Lessons (Viking, 2010), and The Liar's Gospel, forthcoming from Viking in August—Alderman is also a game designer (her latest, Zombies, Run!, is available as an iPhone app).

"The future is a subject of interest for both Margaret Atwood and me," Alderman says in an interview on the Rolex Arts Initiative website. "I have another life outside literary novels: I write computer games. I think games are going to be an important art form in the next hundred years. They’re only just beginning to approach what they'll be. Margaret’s work is grounded in the present, but also the same desire to look forward."

Atwood's thirteen novels include the dystopian classic The Handmaid's Tale (1985), the speculative work Oryx and Crake (2003), the Booker Prizewinning The Blind Assassin (2000), and, most recently, The Year of the Flood (2009). She is also the author of seven short story collections, as well as volumes of poetry and nonfiction and books for children.

In addition to time spent with her mentor in both London and Atwood's home city of Toronto, Alderman will receive twenty-five thousand dollars to subsidize her work during the mentorship year, followed by an additional twenty-five thousand after the program ends. Atwood, for her service as a mentor, receives an honorarium of fifty thousand dollars.

The finalists for this year's mentorship award, all interviewed by Atwood as part of the months-long protégé selection process, were Malaysian novelist Preeta Samarasan, author of Evening Is the Whole Day (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008); American author Claire Vaye Watkins, whose debut short story collection, Brattleborn, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books in August; and South African writer Mary Watson, who won the Caine Prize for short fiction in 2006.

Past mentees include Pulitzer Prizewinning American poet Tracy K. Smith; Togolese novelist and Prix Goncourt finalist Edem Awumey; and Australian novelist Julia Leigh, who recently made her debut in the medium of film as writer and director of Sleeping Beauty (2011).