Life Writing

The Spread the Word Life Writing Prize in association with Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre was established in 2016. 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. Blake Morrison is Patron of the Prize.

Free to enter, the Prize 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 2019 Prize is currently open for entries. You can enter here.

The closing date for entries is 11.59pm on Friday 1 February 2019.

The 2017 prize was won by Jon Paul Roberts for 1955-2012.
The 2018 prize was won by Danny Brunton for New Boy.

For full rules, terms and conditions, see Life Writing Prize 2019 Rules. Got a question? Check out our FAQs here. If your enquiry isn’t listed or you need further information, do get in touch.


JUDGE 2019

Colin Grant

See More

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 

As a producer for the BBC, Grant wrote and directed a number of radio drama documentaries including African Man of Letters: The Life of Ignatius SanchoA Fountain of Tears: The Murder of Federico Garcia Lorca; and Wheel and Come Again: a History of Jamaica’s Reggae 

He is a regular tutor of creative writing for Arvon, Sierra Nevada College and City University, London.  

Grant also writes for a number of newspapers and journals including the Guardian, GQ, Telegraph, TLS, Prospect, New York Review of Books and Granta.  Grant’s next book, Homecoming: Voices of Caribbean Migration to Britain will be published by Jonathan Cape in 2019.

JUDGE 2019

Inua Ellams

See More

Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a poet, playwright & performer, graphic artist & designer. He is a Complete Works poet alumni and a graphic designer at White Space Creative Agency. He facilitates workshops in creative writing where he explores reoccurring themes in his work – Identity, Displacement and Destiny – in accessible, enjoyable ways for participants of all ages and backgrounds.  

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. 

He has been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre, Tate Modern, Louis Vuitton, Chris Ofili, BBC Radio & Television. His first three pamphlets of poetry Thirteen Fairy Negro Tales and Candy Coated Unicorn and Converse were published by Flipped Eye and The Wire-Headed Heathen by Akashic Books. Several plays including the critically acclaimed Black T-shirt Collection and award-winning The 14th Tale are published by Oberon. In 2005, he founded the Midnight Run— an arts-filled, night-time, playful, walking, urban movement that attempts to reconnect inner city lives with inner city spaces.

JUDGE 2019

Ros Barber

See More

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 Authors Club Best First Novel Award and long-listed for the Womens Fiction (formerly Orange, now Baileys) Prize. Her second novel Devotion (2015) was shortlisted for the Encore Award. Her collections of poetry include How Things Are on Thursday (2004) and Material (2008), a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Her PhD was on the relationship between fiction and biography. She is a lecturer in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. 


Life-writing is the most dynamic form of story telling around just now; it connects with readers who speedily see the universal in the particular, and offers a deep dive into the human psyche, reminding us, as Jamaicans say, that “all a-we is one”. Spread The Word’s life-writing prize provides a platform for the very best and daring writing to come through.

Colin Grant Judge, 2019


Spread the Word announces judges for 2019 Life Writing Prize

  • Life Writing Prize

Read the winning stories of the Life Writing Prize 2018

  • Network & Knowledge

An interview with
Danny Brunton

  • Interview

Life Writing Prize 2018 winner announcement

  • Archive


  • Tips


  • Interview

Interview with Highly Commended
Life Writing Prize writer Claire Lynch

  • Interview

Interview with Life Writing Prize 2017 Winner
Jon Paul Roberts

  • Interview

The Winner of the inaugural
Life Writing Prize is…

  • Archive


The Life Writing Prize fills an important gap, as was shown by the volume and quality of entries in the first year. With the support of Goldsmiths and Spread the Word, the Prize looks set to become an essential part of our literary landscape; I’m delighted to act as a Patron.

BLAKE MORRISON, Life Writing Prize Patron


WINNER, 2018

Danny Brunton

See More

About ten years ago, after attending a screenwriting course at Birkbeck, I wrote the first draft of a fictional, feature-length screenplay, based on events that took place in my late-teens in the early 1970s. The screenplay lay gathering dust on a shelf until a couple of years ago, when I dusted it off and wrote the second draft as a true story. As I attempted to develop it further, I realized that there were too many events and characters to fit into a 90-minute screenplay, so I decided to turn it into a book. “New Boy” is the prologue.

Read New Boy by Danny Brunton.


Xanthi Barker

See More

Xanthi Barker works as a learning mentor in a primary school and is studying child psychotherapy. Her previous jobs include waitress, tutor and hypnotist’s assistant. Her fiction has been published in Mslexia, Litro and Open Pen. She grew up in North London and still lives there.

Read Paradoxical by Xanthi Barker


Laura Morgan

See More

In 2017, Laura Morgan won a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award for her short stories, which have been shortlisted in many competitions, including the Brighton Prize and The Moth Short Story Prize. Her work is published in various magazines and anthologies, both in the UK and abroad; a translation of her story ‘The Bridge’ appears in Taking Flight (Vietnam), a collection of international short stories with Margaret Atwood. As well as fiction, she writes reviews and essays, and has featured as a Scottish Review of Books’ Emerging Critic. She blogs creative non-fiction at

Read Small Talk by Laura Morgan

Photo credit of Laura Morgan Ⓒ Rob McDougall 

WINNER, 2017


See More

Jon Paul Roberts is an essayist, journalist, and screenwriter from Chester. He worked as an editor for a Liverpudlian literary magazine In The Red, as well as contributing to various sites and local publications within Liverpool. He has run events including launch parties, open mic nights for writers, and other readings. In his essays he hopes to find the line between his experiences and the forces that influenced him, whether that be film, television, family, or friends. He aims to find silver linings in darker moments by writing about them because, as his hero, Nora Ephron, said, everything is copy. He’s on Twitter @JonPaul13

Read 1955 – 2012 by Jon Paul Roberts



See More

Claire Lynch is a lecturer in English at Brunel University London. Claire lives near Windsor with her wife Bethan and their twin daughters. She enjoys running, which is lucky, as life with two toddlers provides plenty of practice. You can contact Claire @DrClaireLynch on Twitter.

Read The Year Dot by Claire Lynch


Kerri ní Dochartaigh

See More

Kerri ní Dochartaigh is a writer living in a very north-westerly part of Ireland, where the sky is grey and unbearably beautiful; where the land is folkloric and full of swansong. She read English Literature and Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. Her work has been published in some blogs and journals and she is currently shortlisted for the National Memory Day Poetry Prize. Her favourite bird is the curlew, her favourite Undertones’ song is ‘Get over you’ and her favourite cup is mint green with a pale blue handle.

Read Mudlarking by Kerri Ni Dochartaigh


Sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date
with Spread the Word’s news and opportunities.