Monique Roffey, Patrice Lawrence and Santanu Bhattacharya to judge the second year of the Early Career Bursaries for London writers


“Emerging writers need all the support they can get. These bursaries for early career writers are a lifeline and a very substantial initiative. While it’s been 20 plus years I’ve been writing, I remember those early years vividly. Writers need this vital support, early on. I feel honoured to help and excited to read the entries. Spread the Word are at the forefront of London’s creative writing activist community.” Monique Roffey, Judge, Early Career Bursaries

Spread the Word is delighted to announce the opening of the second year of the Early Career Bursaries for London Writers, which aims to make a significant difference to writers’ development of their craft and support career progression. The judges this year are Monique Roffey, Patrice Lawrence and Santanu Bhattacharya. The programme is made possible by a generous philanthropic gift from Sam and Rosie Berwick.  

The focus of the 2024 Bursaries is on unagented and unpublished London writers of fiction for adults, YA fiction and narrative non-fiction who are on a low income and are working on an existing or early-stage book project.

The Early Career Bursaries for London Writers will provide three bursaries a year each with a value of £15,000, with £10,000 being awarded as cash and £5,000 towards talent development, including mentoring. There is no obligation for Bursary recipients to create an ‘end product’.

Patrice Lawrence, Judge, says: “I started Orangeboy in 2011; it was published in 2016. I wrote it at weekends and on buses and trains, to and from work. A bursary would not only have bought me vital time to write, but equally importantly, time to research the publishing industry. It’s such a privilege to be able support emerging writers on this early part of their journey.” 

Sam and Rosie Berwick, Donors, say: “We are thrilled with how the first year of the bursary programme has evolved and are both unreservedly looking forward to working with Spread the Word and more exceptional writers in 2024. As we move forward, we hope that others might join us in expanding this programme to help more new writers to have the time and space to develop their art, particularly in the context of this extremely difficult economic environment.”

Spread the Word Director Ruth Harrison says: “We are delighted to be re-opening the Early Career Bursaries for a second year and thank Sam and Rosie Berwick for their continued support. If we want to read stories from across our communities, the need to invest in writers on a low-income is evident. The cost of living crisis is directly impacting on writers’ ability to create the time and space to develop their work and build connections and community. With Sam and Rosie, we hope that others will join us in supporting writers and changing range of the stories we get to hear, read and see.”  

The first-year Bursaries received 127 applications, with the three bursaries being awarded to Sheila Atuona, Lilee Cathcart and Selina Suzelle. Their mentors are Leone Ross and Kerry Hudson. Current bursary recipient Selina Suzelle says: “It’s extremely validating to have been awarded an Early Career Bursary. It has boosted my confidence and helped me to implement a regular writing practice. The support and feedback from mentorship sessions has been invaluable and working towards personalised objectives is a motivating force. As my writing project continues to develop, my long-term goals feel more tangible and achievable. I also feel less of a barrier to entry particularly with the nurturance from Spread the Word as an advocate, alongside access to their wider writers’ network.”

Current bursary recipient Lilee Cathcart says: “The Early Career Bursary has given me the most precious gift of undivided time to spend on my novel, with the aim finally to get it finished and seek an agent and publisher. Through the professional development provided by the ECB, I have had the incredible opportunity of being mentored by a professional writer. I have never previously had someone with such wisdom and experience look at my work, and this has greatly improved the quality of my writing.”

Current bursary recipient Sheila Atuona says: “Having an Early Career Bursary feels like unlocking the next level of your journey as a writer; you have this dedicated time not just for writing but for experimenting and honing your work through mentoring, workshops, and research/field trips. Also, you have the support of the Spread the Word team, who are on hand to help and advise you. The award has given me the permission I needed to write.”

Spread the Word and Sam and Rosie Berwick welcome a wider conversation with the publishing industry, philanthropists and funders on the need for philanthropic support for writers and equitable and accessible early career interventions to address the systemic barriers faced by writers on a low income in creating work and progressing a creative career. In 2022, the programme was joint winner of the Achates Philanthropy Prize, recognising Sam and Rosie Berwick’s significant and impactful philanthropic gift to Spread the Word.  

Applications for entries are open from 12pm (midday) on Wednesday 12 July 2023 until 12pm (midday) on Monday 25 September 2023. For more information and how to apply visit:

Published 12 July 2023

Updated 5 September 2023