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. 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. Two highly commended writers will receive £500 each, a writing mentor, a development meeting with agent Robert Caskie of Caskie Mushens literary agency and a development meeting with an editor at Unbound publishers . The 2017 Prize was won by Jon Paul Roberts for 1955 – 2012. The 2018 Life Writing Prize will be open between Friday 10 November 2017 – 5pm on Friday 9 Feburary 2018.


How to enter
the Life Writing Prize 2018

Hello! We hope you are considering entering the Life Writing Prize 2018. This page contains information you need to know..

  • Opportunities

Announcing the Spread the Word Life Writing Prize 2018

Spread the Word announces second national Life Writing Prize in association with Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre with an inspirational judging panel..

  • News

About the Life Writing Prize 2018 Judges

Find out more about the Life Writing Prize 2018 Judges Erica Wagner, Hannah Lowe and Kwaku Osei-Afrifa, including their bios,..

  • Network & Knowledge

Announcing the 2018 Life Writing Prize Mentors

Spread The Word are delighted to announce that Cathy Rentzenbrink and Miranda Doyle will be mentoring two highly commended writers..

  • Life Writing Prize

Life Writing Prize
recommended reading

Looking for life writing suggestions? The Life Writing Prize 2017 winner and highly commended writers, and judging panel share their..

  • Think

The Winner of the inaugural
Life Writing Prize is…

….Jon Paul Roberts for his memoir-in-essay 1955 – 2012.                  Claire Lynch was highly commended for..

  • News

Interview with Life Writing Prize 2017 Winner
Jon Paul Roberts

Hot on the heels of Jon Paul Roberts winning the inaugural Spread the Word Life Writing Prize 2017 for his..

  • Interview


Kerri ní Dochartaigh was highly commended in the inaugural Life Writing Prize 2017 for ‘Mudlarking’, a piece of life writing..

  • Interview

Interview with Highly Commended
Life Writing Prize writer Claire Lynch

Claire Lynch was highly commended in the Life Writing Prize 2017 by the judges for her breathtaking life writing extract ‘The..

  • Interview


I’m delighted to be judging the Spread the Word Life Writing Prize, which is unique in giving developing life-writers valuable acknowledgement and opportunity to develop.”

Hannah Lowe, Life Writing Prize Judge 2018


Erica Wagner

Erica Wagner was the literary editor of the Times (UK) for seventeen years and is now a contributing writer for the New Statesman and consulting literary editor for Harper's Bazaar. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, and the New York Times, among others. She is the author of Ariel's Gift, Seizure, and the short story collection Gravity; she is the editor ofFirst Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner. Chief Engineer: Washington Roebling, the Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge, was published this year by Bloomsbury. She was the recipient of the Eccles British Library Writer’s Award in 2014, and she is a lecturer in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives in London with her husband and son.

Hannah Lowe

Hannah Lowe’s first poetry collection Chick (Bloodaxe, 2013) won the Michael Murphy Memorial Award for Best First Collection and was short-listed for the Forward, Aldeburgh and Seamus Heaney Best First Collection Prizes. In September 2014, she was named as one of 20 Next Generation poets. She has also published three chapbooks: The Hitcher (Rialto 2012) R x (sine wave peak 2013) and Ormonde (Hercules Editions 2014). Her family memoir Long Time, No See was published by Periscope was featured as Radio 4’s Book of the Week. Her second collection, Chan, was published in 2016 by Bloodaxe.

Kwaku Osei-Afrifa

Kwaku Osei-Afrifa was born in London and studied English with Creative Writing at Royal Holloway University. He is a Junior Editor at Unbound working under the liberatingly broad remit of commissioning across all genres of fiction and non-fiction across the two Imprints. Before this, he joined the industry assisting directors at first independent publishers, Canongate then publisher and retailer Titan Entertainment Group. He used to run a fortnightly comedy night in Piccadilly Circus, trawling conspiracy theories about dead and replaced cultural icons and writing.


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




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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



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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

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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



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Gill Haigh lives in Hackney, East London. For several years she has hosted an informal weekly writers’ group – laughingly called the ‘salon’ – in the living-rooms of various tiny flats around central London (she moves a lot). In 2016 she was short-listed for the Literary Consultancy’s Pen Factor prize for Singing to Seals, which she is now editing in the hope of finding an agent and getting it published. In 2013 she won the Commonword Prize for Diversity in Children’s Literature for her YA novel, Out of Water, which she’d written as an assignment for her MA in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth. After years of bar-work, beach-photography, waiting tables, cleaning, nannying, shop-work, being a (very inefficient) secretary, scavenging for and selling stuff, cooking, teaching, van-driving, farm-labouring, working in factories etc. etc., Gill retired from wage-slavery and these days she enjoys reading, writing and sleeping.

Read Singing to Seals by Gillian Haigh



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Cathy Galvin has roots in Connemara and England. A journalist, she has worked on staff for Newsweek and the Sunday Times, where she founded the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award. She is founder and director of the UK’s leading promoter of short fiction, the Word Factory. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including New Walk, Visual Verse, the Morning Star, London Magazine and Letter To An Unknown Soldier (Collins). In 2016, she published her second collection of poetry, Rough Translation (Melos Press), was artist in residence at the Heinrich Boll Cottage, Achill Island, and was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship. The Missing Sixth is part of a larger work set in England and Ireland, exploring her mother’s short life.

Cathy Galvin Writer

Cathy Galvin was shortlisted in the 2017 Life Writing Prize for The Missing Sixth. 



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Kathy Hoyle

Kathy Hoyle is a mature student at the Open University, currently studying for a degree in Creative Writing. She hopes to graduate next year.  She loves to write short, poignant stories and this year she has been long-listed for the Sunderland short story award and short-listed for the Bedford international writing competition.  Her work has appeared, in audio, on the Brum radio ‘Tall Tales’ programme and published in the Firefly literary magazine. She is currently working on a fantasy novella for Young Adults and a short story collection. She can often be found procrastinating on Twitter @kathyhoyle1 or blogging at

Read Scab by Kathy Hoyle



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Topher Campbell is a filmmaker, theatremaker, writer and actor. He has directed plays at numerous theatres across the UK. At 24 he won the Regional Young Directors Training Scheme Award and is a recipient of the 2005 Jerwood Directors Award. For television he directed Doctors and EastEnders. For BBC Radio Drama he established the Norman Beaton Fellowship. His short films The Homecoming ( ) and Mulatto Song have been shown worldwide. His documentary In This Our Lives The Reunion was Official Selection 2009 BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and at Pembe hayat kuirfest 2016 Istanbul. In 2000 alongside artist-photographer Ajamu he established rukus! Federation ( ) creating the UK’s first and only BLGBT Archive. In 2008 rukus! received the Archive Landmark Award by London Metropolitan Archive. As writer Topher has written articles for Sable, AXM Magazine, QX Magazine, Gay Times, Attitude Magazine and The Guardian. Published work includes: For Colored Boys, Black and Gay in the UK , On Freedom: Powerful Polemics by supporters of Belarus Free Theatre. Between 2006-08 Topher was a Programmer for the BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Between 2008-2015 Topher was artistic director of The Red Room Theatre and Film Company. Topher is currently a Patron of Switchboard  ( and staring Different for Girls ( ). DFG is nominated for a Diversity in media Award 2017 and is available to view on Lesbian Box Office.

Topher Campbell was longlisted for Battyman: Growing Up Black and Gay in the UK. 


Lizanne Davies

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I have been writing for seventeen years, about the same length of time as I have been a Professional Driver. Born in London in 1967, I have lived in London for most of my life, mostly in the East End. Since I was little, I have been fascinated with cars and driving, always wanting to grow up to be a Lorry Driver. I grew up in the Eighties, with Thatcherism and high unemployment; by the time I started secondary school I couldn’t see a future in which I had a job at all. But, in over thirty years, I have only been unemployed for four months altogether. Mostly factory work, initially; my redundancy package from the Ford Motor Company giving me the freedom to work for an Agency while working out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Read Attack of the White Van Woman by Lizanne Davies



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Sara Jafari is a writer, and former Flight 1000 Associate with Spread The Word. She writes short stories, and has written one novel. Sara has been published in Syrup Magazine, Tales Magazine, Flight Journal, Spread The Word and in gal-dem magazine She also works as an Editorial Assistant at Harper Collins, and runs her own literary and arts magazine TOKEN Magazine. You can follow her on Twitter: @sarajafari.

Read The Knob Head Question by Sara Jafari



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Recently I won the Lightship publishing Novel Award and was 2nd in the Inaugural Spread the Word Writing Award with subsequent publication in ‘Edgeways’ from Flight Press. Some of my fiction has been shortlisted for the Asham Award, the Willesden Herald Competition, Aidan Higgins Award and Elle Magazine.  I have had work read at Liars League, and The Word Factory, London.

Read 9 Days – Modes of Distraction by Deirdre Shanahan



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Kashmir Tutt arrived in Birmingham, England aged 2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Integrated studies from the University of Birmingham. She is the second sibling of five and the eldest daughter, which was why she, as a Sikh girl, was ‘never allowed’ to do things her English contemporaries took for granted. Her father was killed in a car accident in 1969 but he left a life-long imprint, and a second- hand stereo, from which her ethics and musical taste grew. She gave up a twenty-five year career in the commercial sector to take up life, which has mostly been spent travelling, teaching, reading or dreaming. She enjoys music, gardening, house design and all things aesthetically pleasing. Kashmir is currently writing a humorous memoir set in the 1960’s and ’70’s (when the greatest music was produced), featuring a bilingual brummy upbringing, and a passion for the rock band Thin Lizzy.

Read Thin Lizzy by Kashmir Tutt



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I began writing as a child. I fell in love with words. They were an escape. My first published work was a poem in a local competition anthology when I was fourteen. Then I stopped writing poetry and began writing essays. I started to write for myself again after my first child was born. It was unexpected. I snatched moments to write at the breakfast table or in bed late at night. Since then, my writing has begun to take on a life of its own. It has adventures. One day some poems ran off to the theatre to be read by actors. Another time, a girl made the words into a bharata natyum dance. My writing has travelled to the Czech Republic on a coach (, it has put me in a film, and taken me to read to audiences at the Barbican & Tate Britain. Short fiction and poetry have journeyed in brown manila envelopes to the editors of literary reviews and magazines; other pieces have made it into anthologies and collections ( Once in a while, my writing has been short listed for prizes (Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2013 & Spread the Word Life Writing Prize 2017). I never know what it will do next. Words still provide an escape, but, they offer so many other things now. Most importantly, they are the start of a conversation. I’m just waiting to see who I’ll get to talk to next …

Read Nomad by Kaveri Woodward



Blake Morrison is the Patron of the Life Writing Prize, and was a judge in its inaugural year in 2017. Blake Morrison was born in Skipton, Yorkshire, and educated at Nottingham University, McMaster University and University College, London. After working for the Times Literary Supplement, he went on to become literary editor of both The Observer and the Independent on Sunday before becoming a full-time writer in 1995. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and former Chair of the Poetry Book Society and Vice-Chair of PEN, Blake has written fiction, poetry, journalism, literary criticism and libretti, as well as adapting plays for the stage. His best-known works are probably his two memoirs, And When Did You Last See Your Father? and Things My Mother Never Told Me. Since 2003, Blake has been Professor of Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths College. He lives in south London.


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