Free to Enter Life-Writing Prize from Spread The Word

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The Spread the Word Life Writing Prize run in association with Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, aims to find the best life writing from emerging writers from across the UK. The Prize defines life writing as ‘intended to be true’, reflects someone’s own life journey or experiences and is not fiction.

The 2019 Life Writing Prize winner will receive £1,500, publication on Spread the Word’s website, an Arvon course, two years’ membership to the Royal Society of Literature and a development meeting with an editor and an agent. Two highly commended entries will each receive £500 and two mentoring sessions, a development meeting with an editor and an agent, and be published on the Spread the Word website. Three writers will be shortlisted, and six will be longlisted.

The judges for the 2019 Prize are: author and historian Colin Grant, poet and playwright Inua Ellams and novelist and academic Ros Barber.

Ruth Harrison, Director, Spread the Word said: ‘We are excited to be working with the judges and Goldsmiths’ Writers Centre on this unique Prize, which not only celebrates the range and vitality of life writing in the UK but also has the development of writers at its heart. In 2018, 64% of submissions came from outside of London and we’re hoping that for the 2019 Prize we will get to read and hear the voices of writers from across all of our communities.’

Open to emerging writers living in the UK aged 18 or over, the Prize was established to celebrate and develop life writing in the UK thanks to a generous donation from Joanna Munro. 

Colin Grant is an author, historian, and Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies. His books include: Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey; and a group biography of the Wailers, I&I, The Natural Mystics. His memoir of growing up in a Caribbean family in 1970s Luton, Bageye at the Wheel, was shortlisted for the Pen/Ackerly Prize, 2013. Grant’s history of epilepsy, A Smell of Burning, was a Sunday Times Book of the Year 2016. Grant says “Experience is not enough in life-writing; how you render, convey and illuminate the story is what counts. I shall be looking for fresh stories told in a dynamic way that also best reflects the material. Graham Greene counselled that writers need a sliver of ice in the heart when composing their stories; I disagree. I am looking for writers who can convey their stories with empathy and compassion.”

Inua Ellams is a poet, playwright and performer, graphic artist and designer. His creative work has been recognised with a number of awards: The Live Canon International Poetry Prize, The Arts Council of England Award, a Wellcome Trust Award, twice shortlisted for the Brunel Prize for African Poetry, longlisted the Alfred Fagan Award, Edinburgh Fringe First Award 2009 and the Liberty Human Rights Award.

Ros Barber is a poet, novelist, and academic. Her critically-acclaimed verse novel The Marlowe Papers (2012), a fictional reimagining of the life of Christopher Marlowe, was winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize, joint winner of the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and long-listed for the Women’s Fiction (formerly Orange, now Baileys) Prize. Her second novel Devotion (2015) was shortlisted for the Encore Award and she is a lecturer in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The winner of the 2019 Life Writing Prize will be announced at the Prize ceremony taking place at Goldsmiths, University of London on Thursday 16 May 2019.   The closing date for entries is 11.59pm on Friday 1 February 2019.  All the details are on the Spread The Word website.

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