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 of writers Erica Wagner, Hannah Lowe and Unbound Editor Kwaku Osei-Afrifa. 

Spread the Word is pleased to be launching the second year of the nationwide Life Writing Prize, thanks to a generous donation from Joanna Munro and partnership support from Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, the Royal Society of Literature, Arvon, Unbound and Caskie Mushens literary agency.

In its inaugural year, the Prize received 750 entries from writers across the UK, and was won by Jon Paul Roberts for 1955 – 2012, described by the judges as: The winning story demonstrated a great deal of sophistication in the clever way the author gradually revealed the focus of his story. I became moist-eyed reading it. And he achieved all this with elegance, restraint and honesty. It is a very worthy winner.”

2018 marks the second year of the five-year scheme designed to boost opportunities for emerging life writers within the literary prize circuit and wider publishing world. The Prize will offer the winner £1500, a week’s Arvon residential retreat, two-years’ membership to the Royal Society of Literature, a development meeting with agent Robert Caskie and a development meeting with an Unbound editor. Two highly commended writers will receive £500, writing mentoring sessions, a development meeting with agent Robert Caskie and a development meeting with an Unbound editor.

In his new role at the Life Writing Prize Patron, Blake Morrison says: “The Life Writing Prize fills an important gap, as was shown by the volume and quality of entries in the first year. It’s good to know that my Goldsmiths colleague Erica Wagner – an outstanding biographer and critic – will be on the judging panel in 2018. 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.”

Judge Erica Wagner says: “The Life Writing Prize shows how much richness and variety there is in this literary field in the 21st century.”

Judge Hannah Lowe says: 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 a manuscript.”

Judge Kwaku Osei-Afrifa says: “The Life Writing Prize’s mission to find new, unheard voices is what I try to do as a commissioning editor; joining the judging panel was a no-brainer. At Unbound our motto is to liberate ideas and this is no different. It’s an awesome opportunity for both the writers and judges to celebrate the power of storytelling and discover emerging talent for the future!”

Ruth Harrison, Director of Spread the Word says: “Spread the Word exists to help writers make their mark on the page, the screen and in the world. We’re very excited to build on the great success of the Prize’s inaugural year in entering the second year of the Life Writing Prize in partnership with Goldsmiths’ Writers Centre. The Prize discovers and showcases some of the best life writing happening in the UK by emerging talented writers. We would especially like to thank Joanna Munro whose generous support of the Prize is helping us to help writers establish their writing careers and gain a readership for their work.”

The Life Writing Prize will open for entries on Friday 10 November 2017 and close on Friday 9 February 2018 at 5pm. The Prize is free to enter and is open to emerging UK based writers who are currently unagented and have yet to have a full-length literary work published. Emerging life writers across the country are invited to submit one unpublished piece to Spread the Word with a word limit of five thousand words. Further information can be found on our Life Writing Prize website.

The Life Writing Prize-winners will be announced in May 2018 at a special event at Goldsmiths University.

More information including the rules, the judges’ top life writing picks, what the judges are looking for, FAQs and how to enter can be found at

Published 9 November 2017