An alumnus from Goldsmiths, University of London has been awarded the first Spread the World Life Writing Prize for an essay telling the story of his relationship with his father.
Jon Paul Roberts’ text, ‘1955 – 2012’ was praised by the judging panel for its ‘elegance, restraint and honesty’ in its description of the final days of his father’s life.
The judges also made mention of the ‘sophisticated and clever way the focus of the story was revealed’.
Roberts was awarded his prize – membership to the Royal Society of Literature, an Arvon course and £1,500 – at a ceremony at Goldsmiths earlier this month.
Roberts is an essayist, journalist and screenwriter. He is currently working on a ‘memoir-in essays’ about his anxieties, the people who made him, the men he’s fallen for and the places he’s travelled to.
He said: “I don’t think this award will settle in for some time to come. At the risk of outing myself as an oddball dream believer, I had two dreams the week I was expecting to hear back. In the first, I got an email that said I was on the longlist and in the second I got an email about being on the shortlist so, as corny as it sounds, I didn’t even dream I’d win.
“As it happens, I spend a lot of my time watching Oscar acceptance speeches on YouTube when I’m trying to avoid writing, so I know it can be quite annoying when someone keeps saying they didn’t expect it, but I actually didn’t. It’s so thrilling and such an honour to have won. I really am over the moon.”
Established by Spread the Word in 2016 thanks to a philanthropic donation, the Life Writing Prize is open to emerging life writers based in the UK for previously unpublished complete, or beginning extracts of life writing of up to 5000 words.