Joanna Brown was highly commended in the Life Writing Prize 2020 with Birds can be heard singing through open windows. She wins £500, a writing mentor, and development meetings with an agent and editor. Raised as an only child, losing her parents young further fuelled obsessive reading and diary writing. A qualified teacher, Joanna facilitates creative writing workshops. Recent work includes the development of the literary education programme Africa Writes: Young Voices, linking poets with London school students to explore writing from Africa and the diaspora. She is now immersing herself fully in her own writing practice, unearthing her personal family histories to honour and celebrate unsung Black lives in Britain.
Life Writing Prize judge Sathnam Sanghera said: “I found this story incredibly moving – I had to put it down on two occasions to cry. A timely reminder of the heroism that permeates ordinary life and the important role literature can play in highlighting it.”
Spread the Word’s Laura Kenwright interviewed Joanna during lockdown in May 2020, which you can see here. Joanna reads a short, brilliant extract from her highly commended piece.
Michelle Wood provides BSL Interpretation, and the video is also subtitled.
Published 3 June 2020class="post-25685 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview category-network-knowledge"Interview with Life Writing Prize 2020 Winner Lorelei Goulding
Lorelei Goulding is the Life Writing Prize 2020 winner for Birdie. Lorelei wins £1500, an Arvon course, a writing mentor, 2 years membership to the Royal Society of Literature and development meetings with an agent and an editor. Lorelei is originally from Long Island, New York and lives in rural Somerset with her husband, three children, and very unruly dog. She is currently completing an MSc in Public Health at UWE Bristol and is particularly interested in Adverse Childhood Experiences and how they impact health over the life-course. She has been keeping disorganised journals and writing stories since childhood. ‘Birdie’ is her first work to be published (in the Life Writing Prize online booklet on the Spread the Word website).
Judge Nell Stevens described Birdie as “a masterful piece of life writing, which beguiles and horrifies in equal measure. There is a poise and assurance to the prose, which holds attention and tension throughout. I was completely convinced by, and full of admiration for, this difficult, restrained, unflinching work. My mind has returned to it often since first reading, and I expect it will haunt me for a long time. I cannot wait to see more from this author, who writes like someone we should have been reading all our lives, and deserves a very bright literary future.”
Spread the Word’s Laura Kenwright interviewed Lorelei during lockdown in May 2020, which you can see here. Lorelei reads a short, fantastic excerpt from her winning piece.
Michelle Wood provides BSL Interpretation, and the video is also subtitled.
Published 3 June 2020
class="post-25697 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview category-network-knowledge"Interview with Life Writing Prize 2020
Laurane Marchive was highly commended in the Life Writing Prize 2020 with For the Flesh is Sour. She wins £500, a writing mentor, and development meetings with an agent and editor. Laurane lives in London. Her work has appeared in The London Magazine, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, Review 31 and the TLS. Laurane is a past winner of the French Escales des Lettres. She was recently longlisted for the BBC Short Story Prize and shortlisted for the Spread the Word Life Writing Prize 2019 and the London Short Story Prize 2020. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. She also runs a circus.
Life Writing Prize judge Kerry Hudson said: “Structurally complex, elegant and extremely beautifully written, this story stood out for all of us with its skilfully written prose and extremely impressive ability to conjure setting. I was particularly impressed with the narrative’s ability to turn more familiar themes on their heads and to make us think differently about universal experiences.”
Spread the Word’s Laura Kenwright interviewed Laurane during lockdown in May 2020, which you can see here. Laurane reads a short, brilliant extract from her highly commended piece. Please note that this reading contains graphic sexual references.
Michelle Wood provides BSL Interpretation, and the video is also subtitled.
Published 3 June 2020class="post-25639 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news"Announcing the Life Writing Prize 2020 results
Lorelei Goulding is the winner of Spread the Word’s Life Writing Prize 2020, with Birdie. Now in its fourth year, the Life Writing Prize, in association with Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, was established to find and develop the best new life writing from emerging writers.
Birdie, a heart-breaking story of a young vulnerable girl, was selected from almost 900 submissions received from across the UK. Lorelei Goulding will receive £1500, an Arvon course, a writing mentor, two years’ membership of the Royal Society of Literature and a development meeting with an agent and editor. The judges were writers Kerry Hudson and Nell Stevens, and Sathnam Sanghera, an award-winning columnist and feature writer for The Times. They made their selection from a longlist of twelve, announced in April.
Kerry Hudson comments: “Imagine an emerging writer coming up with descriptions like, ‘Diseased with emphysema and malice’ or ‘My father’s left hand, slapping my face without warning at dinner, like a frog’s tongue snapping at a fly.’ Birdie is extremely confidently written and there are genuinely heart stopping moments of beauty in the prose. Not only this, but it is a narrative that pulls you in slowly and then hits you with a sucker punch and leaves you gasping for air at the end. Such accomplished writing and surely the beginning of an exciting career.”
Sathnam Sanghera comments: “Beautiful, spare, poetical writing, which not only felt professional, but reminded me of one of my favourite memoir writers: Andrea Ashworth. It’s hard to believe this writer is just starting out.”
Nell Stevens comments: “This is a masterful piece of life writing, which beguiles and horrifies in equal measure. There is a poise and assurance to the prose, which holds attention and tension throughout. I was completely convinced by, and full of admiration for, this difficult, restrained, unflinching work. My mind has returned to often it since first reading, and I expect it will haunt me for a long time. I cannot wait to see more from this author, who writes like someone we should have been reading all our lives, and deserves a very bright literary future.”
Lorelei Goulding, originally from Long Island, New York, lives with her family in Somerset and is currently completing an MSc in Public Health at UWE Bristol. Birdie is her first published work and this is the first time that she has entered a writing competition.
She comments: “I’m stunned and overjoyed. I couldn’t believe it when the phone call came. I’m so pleased Birdie seems to have resonated with people – it’s humbling to think something so personal has been so well-received. As a writer I have always been a bit skittish – privately scribbling away for years in dribs and drabs, and too nervous to show my work to anyone – so winning the prize has been incredibly validating for me. I’m so grateful to everyone at Spread the Word for all their support and encouragement, and this experience has afforded me the opportunity to seriously consider my future as a writer, which is really exciting.”
Two writers were highly commended for the prize. They are Joanna Brown for Birds can be heard singing through open windows, and Laurane Marchive, for For the Flesh is Sour. They will each receive a writing mentor and £500.
Joanna Brown said: “It is such an honour to have been highly commended for the Life Writing Prize. I am feeling simultaneously humbled and proud. The news has come at a time of deep reflection for many on the loss of loved ones. Writing about my mother was such a significant step on my writing journey and sharing my memories of her has been a unique and powerful experience. I am so excited about the opportunities that this now presents for me: many thanks to the team and judges at Spread the Word.”
Laurane Marchive said: “I was still crying and tearing my hair out an hour before the deadline for this competition, so it’s definitely nice to be highly commended! A massive confidence boost. Also, I love Spread the Word. They are very supportive to writers and it feels good to be part of their creative projects.”
The three writers to be shortlisted are Maxine Davies for Dad’s Home; Josh Holton for Death and Birdwatching; and Carla Montemayor for North of the River.
The six writers longlisted are Elena Croitoru for On Sigma-Algebras; Stephen Crawley for Down Ashton; SR Shah for Mink Lashes; Sue Hann for Palingenesis; Ruby Eastwood for The Spoon Garden; and Nicky Watkinson for This is a story about friendship.
Ruth Harrison, Director of Spread the Word said: “Spread the Word is thrilled to announce the results of the Life Writing Prize 2020. Birdie is an exceptional piece of writing, and we’re sure that this is a first step for Lorelei in what surely will be a wonderful writing career. Joanna Brown’s Birds can be heard singing through open windows is a timely, delicate and emotive reminder of the lives of those who care for us, and For the Flesh is Sour by Laurane Marchive is a startling and original exploration of life and grief. Now, more than ever, there is value in shared stories, reflecting what brings us together and what distinguishes us. We’re thrilled to publish the online booklet showcasing twelve talented emerging writers and are looking forward to seeing these writers fly in the months and years to come.”
A special anthology featuring the 12 longlisted writers and their work is published by Spread the Word online and available to download in PDF format.
Mentors for Lorelei, Joanna and Laurane are writers Max Porter, Colin Grant and Kerri Ní Dochartaigh who was highly commended in the inaugural Life Writing Prize in 2017.
The Life Writing Prize, which is free to enter, is funded by Joanna Munro. In response to Covid-19 and in association with the Life Writing Prize, Spread the Word has offered free 6-week writing courses to support people to create and write in these difficult times. So far over 1000 people are taking part in these opportunities. An associated fundraiser, create-write-connect, a campaign to raise money for Spread the Word and the Trussell Trust, has raised over £1300 so far, to be shared 50/50 between the two charities.
The 12 longlisted works, readings from longlisted writers and video interviews with Lorelei, Joanna and Laurane are available at http://bit.ly/LWP2020.
Published 3 June 2020
class="post-25637 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-opportunities"create-write-connect:
create-write-connect is Spread the Word’s campaign to offer free writing activity during these unprecedented, difficult times. As part of this, we are offering three free writing courses via email. We are thrilled that author, historian, and Associate Fellow in the Centre for Caribbean Studies, Colin Grant is curating and leading one of these for us, Capturing Your Story in Life Writing.
What is Capturing Your Story in Life Writing?
Everyone is unique, with a set of experiences and memories and way of recounting them that is particular to each individual. But our memories are fragile, faulty and unreliable. The truth and the essence of an experience is elusive and slippery, difficult to convey. Perhaps you have a story to tell that frustratingly hasn’t been told in the way you hoped. Writing from your life experiences can be daunting but is always invigorating. Maybe you’ve stopped and started and stopped again? But each of us has skills of communication that can be nurtured and developed. At our finger tips, with a bit of help, reflection and practice, we have the means to conjure the past and convey those stories and hidden worlds which may at times seem just beyond out reach.
This practical and immersive course on the art of life writing will guide you through the process of constructing your story, working out its order, narrative voice, tone, and editing, selecting what to include or let go. It will help to capture the essence of story and characters that may have proved difficult to pin down.
How do you take the raw material, interviews, memories and reflections and weave them into a plot and gripping tale? Through a mixture of suggested readings and writing exercises, you’ll discover techniques for researching and writing the lives of others, whether they’re admired cultural icons, those you are closest to, or just yourself. You’ll consider how to bring a personal perspective into biographical writing, and learn how to structure a narrative from that most intricate and compelling of subjects: the lives of real people.
About Colin Grant
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 the memoir Bageye at the Wheel, which was shortlisted for the Pen/Ackerley Prize. As a producer for the BBC, Grant’s drama-documentaries included African Man of Letters: The Life of Ignatius Sancho; and A Fountain of Tears: The Murder of Federico Garcia Lorca. Colin is an experienced tutor of life writing for Arvon, City University and Sierra Nevada College. He also writes for several publications including the Guardian, TLS, and New York Review of Books. His latest book Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation was a radio 4 Book of the Week and Telegraph Book of the Year.
What you can expect?
By the end of the course you will feel stretched and stimulated by an experienced, sympathetic and empathetic tutor. I will guide you through the use of a number of writing tools and devices. They include: how and when to use dialogue in dramatising memoir and life writing; how to switch and incorporate different points of view; how to seed foreshadowing in your work; how to use artefacts such as letters and photos to advance storyline and change the texture of stories. You, hopefully, after just a few weeks, will have made a good start at capturing and shaping your life writing, and be prepared to continue with it thereafter.
Who is this course for?
This course is about slowing down and paying attention to the world all around you and in your head. It is a chance to explore all of your senses and to draw on your resources and experiences to tell your life stories. This is a course for all who feel they have a story to tell and a thirst to tell it, but who may need incentives and encouragement, to be shown tools and techniques which will help in the realisation of those stories.
How does it work?
Each week you’ll receive an email with exercises and reading to do in your own time. If you can sign up with a ‘writing buddy’ – someone you would like to write with, or you know you like writing with, some of the exercises will be adapted so you can enjoy doing them together – either in person or remotely. But if you don’t have a writing buddy, that’s ok too.
You’ll receive 7 emails, one a week, on / around the following dates:
Weds 24 June (Intro and Guidance)
Thurs 25 June
Thurs 2 July
Thurs 9 July
Thurs 16 July
Thurs 23 July
Thurs 30 July
What if I am reading this, and want to sign up after the course has started?
That’s ok, do still sign up before the course finishes. In the intro to each week will be links to previous week’s activities, so you can take part in the whole course no matter when you sign up – just wait until the next date on the list and then you can get cracking!
Is this course really free?
Absolutely. In recognition of the financial difficulties many people are facing, and to try and offer some joy and inspiration into people’s lives, we are committed to offering these, and other activities, for free to all writers who are unable to pay. We are asking those who are able and willing to do so to make a donation of their choice to our create-write-connect campaign. 50 % of funds raised will go to Spread the Word and 50% will go to the Trussell Trust.
I have another question
Please email us if you have another question about Capturing your story in life writing.
Please note: When you sign up, you’ll receive an email asking you to confirm that you signed up to receive these emails. Please open the email and confirm that you signed up, or the Capturing your life story in writing emails won’t reach you.
If you don’t receive the confirmation email in your inbox within a couple of hours of signing up, please check your junk / spam email folders and if it’s still not there, contact Spread the Word by email.
Spread the Word is thrilled to bring you video and audio readings from the Life Writing Prize 2020 longlist.
The writers have been selected to be in the top 12 from nearly 900 entries from new and emerging writers across the UK. The Prize judges this year are Sathnam Sanghera, Kerry Hudson and Nell Stevens. The results will be announced on Wednesday 3 June via the Spread the Word website.
Lorelei Goulding reads from Birdie
Josh Holton reads from Death and Birdwatching
Joanna Brown reads from Birds can be heard singing through open windows
Laurane Marchive reads from For the Flesh is Sour
Maxine Davies reads from Dad’s Home
Nicky Watkinson reads from This is a story about friendship
Elena Croitoru reads from On Sigma-Algebras
SR Shah reads from Mink Lashes
Stephen Crawley reads from Down Ashton
Sue Hann reads from Palingenesis
To read more about the Life Writing Prize, head to: bit.ly/LWP2020 or follow #LifeWritingPrize on social media.
Note: Two more writers longlisted but not featured in our readings are Carla Montemayor for North of the River and Ruby Eastwood for The Spoon Garden. All twelve longlisted writers feature in the Life Writing Prize 2020 anthology, which will be available to download for free from Spread the Word’s website from 3 June.
Published 27 May 2020