We’re currently open for entries for the second year of Spread the Word’s Life Writing Prize and we want to hear from as many writers as possible. Formed in association with the Goldsmiths Writers’ Centre, this prize is open to emerging writers living in the UK aged 18 or over to celebrate and develop life writing in the UK.

We launched the Life Writing Prize for the first time ever in 2017, receiving over 700 entries. This year we’re looking to top that tally and will be offering the winning writer £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 Robert Caskie and a development meeting with an Unbound editor.

Interested in entering? Check out these brilliant top tips from last year’s top three writers – Jon Paul Roberts, Claire Lynch and Kerri ní Dochartaigh…

Jon Paul Roberts, winner of the Life Writing Prize 2017

“My advice, if you’re on the fence about entering, is to just go for it! When the deadline was approaching last year, I wasn’t going to enter. I had the piece written but I was apprehensive and nervous. Then, my friends forced me into it. How could I, a life writer, not enter a Life Writing Prize? One that was free to enter and run by, Spread the Word, an incredible organisation? The fact is, you have nothing to lose. The 2017 Life Writing Prize long listed a whole load of talented writers with varied and interesting stories. The support from Spread the Word since I won has been brilliant, the validation that I was working towards something worthwhile was so useful as I continued on, and the response to the essay once it was published was invaluable.”

Claire Lynch, highly commended for the Life Writing Prize 2017

“Tip: Small is Beautiful. My advice is to think carefully about how best to use your 5,000 words. I started writing my piece The Year Dot when I heard about the Life Writing Prize so I had the length in mind from the start. For me, this meant capturing the key parts of the narrative in short fragments. Other writers had already written longer pieces and had to select the best 5,000 words to enter. If that’s the case for you, be sure to choose an extract that really gives a sense of your story and how you want to tell it.”

Kerri ní Dochartaigh, highly commended for the Life Writing Prize 2017

“Exactly one year and a day before I wrote the piece I sent to Spread the Word I stood rooted to the spot in front of a wall in Dublin on which a graffiti artist had painted my favourite writer’s last words: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ I only noticed it because I looked up to follow the path of a grey wagtail.

The week before I wrote ‘Mudlarking’, on the opposite side of the street I discovered another piece by the same artist’:  U Are Alive *avail of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

I wrote my piece because of the first wall and I sent it into the world because of the second… Trust yourself. Be true to your experience. Listen to that wee voice when you first awaken in the morning that tells you to write, write, write and to send that out into our beautiful world. And always follow the path of wagtails – especially in winter.”

Find out more information and how to submit your entry here. The deadline is 5pm on 9 February 2018.