Blake Morrison is Patron of the Spread The Word Life Writing Prize. Blake is a poet and author and professor of Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths University, and brings passion and experience to the role of patron.
We asked him just why he is so interested in life writing and the prize – and what tips he has to offer budding entrants.
What do you think the value is for people to write about their life?
To make sense of it, especially where there has been trauma – understanding is a way of gaining control and banishing demons.
Although life writing is based on truth, there’s always an element of fiction in it, as memory and perspective play a role. Does this blurring of lines interest you at all?
Some blurring is unavoidable, My own rule is ‘Never knowingly make things up’. But that doesn’t mean everything I write is true. Memory is unreliable. When you’re recalling conversations, for instance, the dialogue will always be an approximation, not the literal truth. Emotional truth is the most important thing.
Why are you interested in life writing?
There’s a special interest in reading a book where what the author describes is their own experience, not something they’ve invented. There’s a buzz in reading work where you think ‘Wow, this really happened’ – an extra frisson.
What makes a good piece for you?
A combination of candour and control – a voice that’s honest but which (paradoxically) the author has worked hard to create.
What advice would you have for budding writers?
Write your first draft as if no one is peering over your shoulder and reading it. Then try it out on someone, or in a workshop. And afterwards be willing to revise, revise, revise.
Want to know more?
More information including the rules, the judges’ top life writing picks, what the judges are looking for, FAQs and how to enter can be found at www.spreadtheword.org.uk/life-writing-prize