Recipients of 2023 Early Career Bursaries Announced


“So much of the journey of bringing a manuscript to fruition often misses out the humanity of the writer  – the routines and realities that make support as working-class writers ever necessary. The writers selected will now be able to have their work championed by key industry stakeholders, and move forward with their writing in ways bespoke to their needs, this expansiveness and choice will provide a great example of what can be done when the keys are placed firmly in the hands of working class writers.”  Tice Cin, 2023 Judge

Spread the Word is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2023 Early Career Bursaries for London Writers. They are literary fiction writers Sheila Atuona and C.E Cathcart and narrative non-fiction writer Selina Suzelle. Each writer is awarded a bursary of £15,000, with £10,000 being awarded as cash and £5,000 towards talent development, including mentoring. 

The Early Career Bursaries for London Writers aim to make a significant difference to writers’ development of their craft and support career progression with no expectation of a defined output. The annual Bursary programme is for unagented and unpublished writers who are on a low income. 

Luan Goldie, 2023 judge, said: “Being a judge for the Early Career Bursaries was a huge privilege. I was blown away by the quality of work and how wide it ranged in terms of genre, topic and voice. I’m so excited to see what these talented writers do next and praise Spread the Word for helping writers break down barriers.”

The need for early career writers to receive support is stark. Unlike other artistic professions there is no defined career pathway for writers. It is particularly true for writers whose voices are underrepresented in the UK’s publishing industry who do not have the networks and connections to support them to take their first steps as a writer.  

Developing her short story collection Onitsha, Sheila Atuona, 2023 Bursary recipient, says: “The Early Career Bursary will support me in carving out quality time and space for creating and honing my work. This is crucial for carers like me, who often have to choose between writing and life events. I am excited about the year ahead, and I hope my award encourages applications from people in similar circumstances.

Developing her novel Maudlin, C.E Cathcart, 2023 Bursary recipient, says, “Being awarded the Early Career Bursary is such a privilege. Having struggled on my own for so long to support and nurture my writing, to have this expert support and guidance will be life changing. Not only is it a recognition of someone else’s belief in me and my writing, but it will give me the most precious gift of all—time to devote to finishing my novel. I’m so excited to see where the year will take me.”

Developing her autobiographical project, Selina Suzelle, 2023 Bursary recipient, says: “I’m immensely pleased to have been chosen as a recipient for the Early Career Bursary. Not only is it extremely validating to have my work recognised, it’s also an exciting and encouraging prospect to be supported with the development of a project that I am so passionate about. Both the mentorship and funding are going to be vital assets that will allow me to commit to a dedicated writing practice and I can’t wait to get started!”

The Bursaries are made possible by a generous philanthropic gift from Sam and Rosie Berwick, who won the 2022 Achates Prize for Individual Philanthropy for the programme. The 2023 judges were Tice Cin, Jeffrey Boakye, Luan Goldie and Dr Mark Blacklock.

Sam and Rosie Berwick, donors, say: Both of us are delighted that the first year of this project has kicked off with three such incredible writers. We wish them all the best as they develop their writing over the next year and we look forward to watching with huge interest how things progress.”

Ruth Harrison, Director, Spread the Word, says: “The Early Career Bursaries programme is a timely and critical intervention that responds to the challenges working class writers and writers on a low income face in progressing their creative work and careers. There is an urgent need to invest in and support early stage writers, particularly those from marginalised communities, if we want to make a real difference to writers and the stories we get to read and hear.” 

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.

The 2024 Early Career Bursaries programme will open for submissions in August 2023.

Image descriptions, left to right:

Selina Suzelle, standing in front of a black door, has dark hair which is pulled back from her face. She is looking straight at the camera with a smile and wears a black polo neck top and gold hooped earrings.

Sheila Atuona, a black woman with long braided hair, is standing and smiling at the camera, arts akimbo, wearing a black dress with a brown belt. She is standing in front of a wall covered in framed paintings and images.

C.E Cathcart, a white woman with blonde hair sits at a table in a room with yellow wallpaper, smiling. She wears a black turtleneck jumper and red lipstick.