The Spread the Word Life Writing Prize, in association with Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, supports emerging writers and celebrates and develops life writing in the UK.
Selected from over 500 entries by 2018 judges Erica Wagner, Hannah Lowe and Kwaku Osei-Afrifa, the 2018 Life Writing Prize winner is Danny Brunton, with New Boy.
Erica Wagner said: ‘I was impressed by the overall quality of the writing; choosing a winner made for fascinating discussions with my fellow judges. It’s worth noting that we all said that the key to a successful piece of life writing is not simply experience, however; the best pieces had a real sense of narrative drive, however subtly expressed.’
Brunton’s New Boy is based on events that took place in his late teens in the early 1970s and forms the prologue to his book. The judges said of New Boy: it ‘offers a window into a previously-unseen world’ (Erica Wagner), ‘robust energy and a wonderful sense of chaotic veering’ (Hannah Lowe) and the way that is tells ‘a story that hasn’t been told with this much firsthand energy before’ (Kwaku Osei-Afrifa).
The Prize rewards the winner with £1500, an Arvon course, two years membership to the Royal Society of Literature, a development meeting with agent Robert Caskie of Caskie Mushens literary agency and a development meeting with an editor at Unbound publishers.
Brunton said: ‘Winning this competition has given me confidence that I can write well, and that my story is worth telling. I appreciate that my voice has been heard and although my story is particular, it resonates with other people. The fact that the judges have read my work and found some merit in it has given me the encouragement I need to press on with my writing project.’
Kwaku Osei-Afrifa said: ‘Our industry needs to do more to diversify the talent pool and the stories we’re telling and giving unpublished, under-represented writers a platform with this Prize does just that. It will only help and create careers for the future.’
Two writers were also highly commended by the judges: Xanthi Barker for her piece Paradoxical, about her father’s death, and Laura Morgan for her piece Small Talk, which is a dark tale about pregnancy. They will each receive £500, a writing mentor and sessions with a literary agent and an editor.
Barker says: ‘I’m completely chuffed the piece was chosen and excited to read the other stories. It’s such a lonely and uncomfortable process writing anything, the support Spread the Word gives writers is invaluable.’
Morgan says. ‘Part of this stunning Prize is the chance to discuss your work with an agent/editor, which feels momentous. Spread the Word’s commitment to new writers is rare and inestimable. I’m delighted to be highly commended in this wonderful competition.’
The 2019 Spread the Word Life Writing Prize will open in November 2018.