stw-icon

Life Writing
Prize

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 prize was won by Danny Brunton for New Boy.

LATEST

Xanthi Barker on Paradoxical

Xanthi Barker’s story Paradoxical was highly commended for the Life Writing Prize 2018. Here she tells us about the story,..


  • Fiction

Penelope Maclachlan on ‘Lanugo’

Penelope Maclachlan’s Lanugo was longlisted for the 2018 Life Writing Prize. Here she explains a bit about why she wrote..


  • Interview

Dave Murphy reads
‘Screech Owl’

Dave Murphy’s short piece Screech Owl was shortlisted for the 2018 Life Writing Prize. Here he reads an extract from..


  • Interview

Read the winning stories of the Life Writing Prize 2018

We received a phenomenal 529 entries to this year’s Life Writing Prize. From a longlist of twelve entries, the judge,..


  • Network & Knowledge

An interview with
Danny Brunton

Danny Brunton is the winner of the 2018 Life Writing Prize. Spread the Word Life Writing Prize, in association with..


  • Interview

THREE TOP TIPS ON ENTERING THE
LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018

We’re currently open for entries for the second year of Spread the Word’s Life Writing Prize and we want to..


  • Tips

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..


  • Archive

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

INTERVIEW WITH HIGHLY COMMENDED
LIFE WRITING PRIZE WRITER Kerri Ní Dochartaigh

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

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

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

"

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018

Prize Patron

Blake Morrison


See More

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.

Judge

Erica Wagner


See More

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.

Judge

Hannah Lowe


See More

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.

Judge

Kwaku Osei-Afrifa


See More

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.

Mentor

Cathy Rentzenbrink


See More

Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of The Last Act of Love and A Manual for Heartache. Cathy regularly chairs literary events, judges prizes, reviews books and speaks and writes about literacy, literature and everything in between. She has previously worked at Waterstones, Quick Reads and The Bookseller and has seen the book industry from multiple angles. Happiest when talking to strangers about books, Cathy thinks that most lives would be enriched by more reading and writing.

Mentor

Miranda Doyle


See More

Miranda Doyle‘s family come from the tiny island of Coney in Sligo Bay. She grew up in Edinburgh alongside three brothers and a suspicious number of ill-fated pets. With an MA from Goldsmiths in Creative and Life Writing she teaches Memoir and Life Writing at the Faber Academy, has lectured on Autobiography for the Philosophy and European Literature degree at Anglia Ruskin University and continues to teach creative writing. Her debut book, a memoir titled A Book of Untruths, written with the support of an award from Arts Council England, explores the lies we tell ourselves.

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 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.

LIFE WRITING PRIZE HIGHLY COMMENDED 2018

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 aremoteview.wordpress.com

Read Small Talk by Laura Morgan

Photo credit of Laura Morgan Ⓒ Rob McDougall 

LIFE WRITING PRIZE HIGHLY COMMENDED 2018

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 SHORTLISTED WRITER

Kate Ivanova


See More

Kate Ivanova is a Crimea-born multifaceted artist. She is currently completing her BA in English Literature at Kingston University London. Her writing consists of elements of autobiographical fiction and surrealism. In her academic and creative work, she explores issues surrounding memory, trauma, space and identity. Kate works and collaborates with artists and academics in Luxembourg, Cyprus and the United Kingdom. She is the launcher of an ongoing documentary project called ‘The Creatress Project’ which focuses on female artists and their stories. Kate is about to embark on a writing and photographic journey through India, with the aim of documenting and photographing local, female artists and their working space.

Read Being by Kate Ivanova.

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 SHORTLISTED WRITER

David Murphy


See More

David Murphy is a writer of fiction, plays, screenplays and poetry. He won the Dun Laoghaire 1500 trophy for poetry and the Heritage Arts Company Radio Play competition. His plays have been performed at the Exeter Festival and the London Festival of Visual Theatre. He was a co-editor of Tall Tales and Modern Fables magazine, and Studies in Social and Political Thought. He writes about alienation and redemption, the meeting of different cultures, classes and world views, family, and, often, about ice cream.

Read Screech Owl by David Murphy

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 SHORTLISTED WRITER

Ruth Tudor


See More

Ruth grew up Welsh-speaking and with rural feralness. In 2016 her life took a tumble and she writes to make sense of it and the resonance she feels with planetary crisis. Currently researching for a PhD and writing a book, she seeks to be unruly; to disturb mainstream mindsets; to liberate her inner outlaw. She delights in many things: the big blowy breaths of her horses; the shapes cranes make on an urban skyline; talking ideas with friends and colleagues. Her current favourite word: precarity. More at thepracticeofthewild.com

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 LONGLISTED WRITER

Sue Rickard


See More

At age fourteen I fell in love with the classical guitar, an almost obsessive love which led me to follow my tutor, his family and a troupe of Amazon Woolly monkeys to Cornwall, where we lived as a human community alongside our primate cousins. At forty I left and went to university where I received a first class degree, an MA and had an essay published entitled ‘Movies in Disguise’. As I went on to develop a new career as a university lecturer, the events of my earlier life, at the Monkey Sanctuary, became buried at the back of my mind and stayed there for many years. Gradually they have resurfaced as a story I just had to tell.

Read Another Life by Sue Rickard

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 LONGLISTED WRITER

Arun Debnath


See More

Born just after the independence of India and the partition of his motherland – the then East Bengal – Arun Debnath writes about the pain of freedom based on his own life- experience. Qualified as a finance professional but he has devoted his ‘life’ to writing. Having learnt the basics of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, Arun has sharpened his writing skills by writing his first draft novel, ‘Calcutta Calling’. He has written two short articles for the Times and the Guardian. Arun lives in Harrow with his wife and a grown-up girl and a boy.

Read Calcutta Calling by Arun Debnath

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 LONGLISTED WRITER

Farhana Shaikh


See More

Farhana Shaikh is a writer and publisher born in Leicester. She edits The Asian Writer and runs the small press, Dahlia Publishing. Farhana hosts Writers Meet Up Leicester as well as the annual Leicester Writes Festival of New Writing. In 2017, she won Travelex & Penguin’s The Next Great Travel Writer competition and is currently part of Curve’s Cultural Leadership programme. 

Read Finding My Way Home by Farhana Shaikh

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 LONGLISTED WRITER

Penelope Maclachlan


See More

I was born in England. My parents moved to Brazil, where I lived from the ages of three to 13. Later I worked for three years teaching English at universities in Brazil. I love the sound of Brazilian Portuguese, which I speak fluently. Jorge Amado, “grand of man of Brazilian literature”, died in 2001. I love his novels, which I read in his own language, of course. I‘ve had a chequered career. I strive to write, and am lucky enough to have a wonderfully supportive and gifted writing buddy. We send each other our work and give each other the best, most honest, most constructive criticism that we can.

Read Lanugo by Penelope Maclachlan

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 LONGLISTED WRITER

Lui Sit


See More

Lui Sit was born in Hong Kong, raised in Australia and now lives in London. She started writing plays and poetry as a child; a career that peaked at age eight when a newspaper published a poem and sent her five dollars.  She has a degree in English Literature and Drama and another in Politics, Philosophy & Sociology from Murdoch University.  The writing bug followed her to London where she completed the Certificate in Creative Writing at Birbeck University and an MA from Roehampton University. Currently she is finishing her first children’s novel and getting ready to start her second.

Read Mince on Toast by Lui Sit

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2018 LONGLISTED WRITER

Stevie Heaven


See More

Stevie Heaven is a writer from Newcastle. She is a postgraduate student on the MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow and in her other life, she works as a journalist. Once upon a time she co-ran the Desperate for Love poetry night series in Brighton, which featured readings from poets such as Sean Bonney, Jeff Hilson, Geraldine Monk and Tom Raworth. She tweets @StevieHeaven.

Read Oh, Mother by Stevie Heaven

LIFE WRITING PRIZE ALUMNI

LIFE WRITING PRIZE WINNER 2017

JON PAUL ROBERTS


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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE HIGHLY COMMENDED WRITER 2017

CLAIRE LYNCH


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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE HIGHLY COMMENDED WRITER 2017

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 SHORTLISTED WRITER

GILLIAN HAIGH


See More

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 SHORTLISTED WRITER

CATHY GALVIN


See More

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 SHORTLISTED WRITER

KATHY HOYLE


See More

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 kathyhoyleblog.wordpress.com

Read Scab by Kathy Hoyle

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 LONGLISTED WRITER

TOPHER CAMPBELL


See More

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 (http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-homecoming-a-short-film-about-ajamu-1995/ ) 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 (http://rukus.org.uk ) 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  (switchboard.lgbt/patrons-2/) and staring Different for Girls (http://different-for-girls.com/ ). 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. 

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 LONGLISTED WRITER

Lizanne Davies


See More

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 LONGLISTED WRITER

SARA JAFARI


See More

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 LONGLISTED WRITER

DEIRDRE SHANAHAN


See More

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 LONGLISTED WRITER

KASHMIR TUTT


See More

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

LIFE WRITING PRIZE 2017 LONGLISTED WRITER

KAVERI WOODWARD


See More

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 (http://www.bata-ville.com/main_2.html), 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 (http://www.peepaltreepress.com/books/red). 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

SPREAD THE WORD’S E-NEWSLETTER

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