Wellcome Collection x Spread the Word Writing Awards
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This page contains all the information about applying to Wellcome Collection x Spread the Word Writing Awards. If you prefer, you can download all of this information as a Word document or a PDF document.

If you prefer, the information is available here as an Easy Read document, and here in BSL.

What are Wellcome Collection x Spread the Word Writing Awards? 

Spread the Word has partnered with Wellcome Collection to launch an ambitious project aiming to find and support writers from underrepresented groups, who have a big idea for a non-fiction book for general readers, that engages with health and being human.

Do you have a big idea or a burning story to tell that touches on being human? Wellcome Collection explores health and human experiences, from climate change to mental health, identity, wellbeing and infectious diseases, making connections across science, medicine, life and art. But all too often the stories we have told and the narratives in our museum are from a white, Western, ableist perspective. We urgently need new points of view, and new voices.

We are looking for applications from writers who have considered writing non-fiction for a general audience but have not had the guidance and support to develop their ideas. We will be offering up to 6 places on a five-month development programme that will run from February to June 2022.

The programme will offer the selected writers:

  • A £2,000 bursary

  • Insight and Industry days

  • Mentoring by a published author

  • Mentoring by a non-fiction editor

  • An induction to Wellcome Collection, its library and resources

  • 1:1 sessions with Wellcome Collection’s team, including the publishing team, library research specialists and Stories editorial team

  • The chance to be published by Wellcome Collection

  • Four workshops on writing non-fiction

  • Meeting with an agent

  • Travel and Access fund as required

We will be selecting up to 6 writers to take part in the programme. By the end of the five-month programme the writers will have honed their book idea into a proposal and sample extract. We will close the programme with a sharing event at Wellcome Collection with networking with agents and editors. Each writer will be awarded a £2,000 bursary to support their writing and research. There will be a travel fund to support those who live outside of London, as some of the project will take place in person in London. There will also be an access fund to support writers who may need additional support to take part. At this stage we are planning for the opening and closing events to take place in person.

If you have a question or would like more information, please contact Spread the Word’s Bobby Nayyar at [email protected].

Who is this programme for?

The Writing Awards aims to increase the diversity of writers actively writing a non-fiction book that touches on health and being human. Applications will be open to writers who identify as:

  • D/deaf, disabled, and/or neurodivergent and/or

  • Black, Asian, or Global Majority*

  • Unpublished or have not published or self-published a non-fiction book(s) for a general trade audience

  • Unagented

  • Aged 18+

  • Full-time resident in the UK

*Global Majority defined as Black, Indigenous and people of colour.

How we define Non-Fiction about Health and Being Human

To be eligible for the programme, your proposed book project should have a central theme that engages with some aspect of medicine, health, illness, or identity. This can cover many genres of writing – including science, medicine, memoir, history, essay or polemic. Examples published under the Wellcome Collection imprint include After the Storm by Emma Jane Unsworth, The Rules of Contagion by Adam Kucharski, How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division by Elif Shafak, and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.

At some point, health, illness and medicine touch all our lives. Writing that finds stories in those moments adds new meaning to what it means to be human. The subjects these projects grapple with might include but not be limited to: the climate crisis, mental health, physical illness, the body, infection, pain, memory, identity, medical justice, and decolonising health. In keeping with its vision and goals, the Wellcome Collection x Spread the Word Writing Award aims to change whose stories and work is published in the UK.

What you need to do to apply

Applications will be managed by Spread the Word’s Submittable and will be open from midday on Monday 18th October 2021 and close at 5pm on Monday 22nd November. You will need to create a free Submittable account to enter. There will be a form to complete with your contact details plus:

  • An eligibility statement about your writing life, what you aim to achieve in the programme, and how you meet the eligibility criteria (300 words)

  • An outline of the idea for the book you’d like to write and how it relates to health and being human (300 words)

  • Optional access information (150 words)

  • Upload a sample of your writing. This could be from the project you’d like to write or a piece from another prose project, which could be fiction or non-fiction. (up to 3,000 words)

There will also be a form which you can use to enter with Audio or Video files if that is your preference. If you require further information on submitting your entry, please contact us at [email protected]

How is it judged?

There will be several rounds of assessment of your Submittable application plus an interview via Zoom to select the final 6 writers for the programme. In the first stage all entries will be anonymised and read by a first reader as well as staff at both Wellcome Collection and Spread the Word. A longlist will be read by the three judges Dr Annabel Sowemimo, Dr Camilla Pang, and Raymond Antrobus to decide upon the 9 candidates to be interviewed for the 6 spaces on the programme. The interview will take place via Zoom and will last up to 30 minutes. We will undertake our own due diligence at the longlisting stage to ensure that the applicants are eligible. The shortlisted candidates will need to prove their full-time residency in the UK.

We are looking for writers who are fully committed to making a step-change in their writing careers to focus on writing a non-fiction book that engages with some aspect of health. We will be looking for varied and compelling ideas, clarity that you are ready to make the most of this ambitious opportunity, and an exceptional writing sample. The main deliverable of the programme is for each writer to have developed their idea into a proposal plus sample that will be ready to submit to agents and publishers. Our overall goal is for each writer to go on and be published in this field. Wellcome Collection will be requesting first refusal on each proposal for a period of three months from the completion of the programme. This means they will have the first opportunity to make an offer to publish the books developed by the writers.

Key dates

18 October – 22 November 2021 – Application window

Wednesday 27 October, 7pm-8pm – Zoom event about the Awards with Q&A

w/c 3 January 2022 – All applicants will be contacted to let them know if they have been selected for interview

Thursday 13 January – Interviews for shortlisted candidates

Monday 17 January – Shortlisted applicants will be contacted to let them know if they have been selected for the programme

Saturday 12 February – In person Induction and Industry Day at Wellcome Collection in London

Wednesday 29 June – In person evening sharing event at Wellcome Collection in London

There will also be workshops delivered via Zoom in March, April and May. Mentoring sessions will be conducted either in person or online. There will be optional access to the Wellcome Collection Library, plus additional sessions either in person or online. Dates are provisional at this stage. A full schedule of dates will be given to the successful candidates in January 2022.

About Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection is a free museum exploring health and human experience. Our vision is to challenge how we all think and feel about health by connecting science, medicine, life and art. We offer changing exhibitions, museum and library collections, online stories and public events, in addition to a café. Wellcome Collection publishes books on what it means to be human and collaborates widely to reach broad and diverse audiences locally and globally.

Wellcome Collection is part of Wellcome, a global charitable foundation that supports science to solve urgent health challenges. Wellcome supports discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, with a focus on mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.

Useful additional reading 

FAQs are available here as a Word document and here as a PDF document

Terms and Conditions are available here as a Word document and here as a PDF document

Wellcome Collection x Spread the Word Writing Awards Privacy Policy is here as a PDF document


Published 18 October 2021