New prize launched for life writers

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A new literary prize has been launched by a writer development agency in partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London, the Royal Society of Literature and non-profit residential writers' retreat Arvon.

This week Spread the Word announced the inaugural Life Writing Prize for new and emerging writers, supported through the partnerships and a generous donation from former Goldsmiths Life Writing student Joanna Munro.

This year’s judging panel are Morrison, Blake, author and Professor of Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, Katy Massey, writer and researcher specialising in life writing and non-fiction and Margaret Stead, publishing director at Atlantic Books.

2017 will mark the first year of this five-year scheme designed to boost opportunities for life writers within the literary prize circuit.

The winner will receive £1,500, a week at an Arvon residential retreat, two years membership to the Royal Society of Literature and a meeting with an agent or editor as appropriate. Two highly commended writers will receive £500 and a session with a mentor.

Professor Morrison says: “Life writing has a long and distinguished history and has become an increasingly important genre in recent years – the primary means whereby authors (often first-time authors) tell their own stories, or the stories of their families, or the stories of people who matter to them. The creation of this prize is a terrific initiative and I look forward to being one of the judges in its inaugural year.”

Judge Katy Massey echoed his excitement: “This is excellent encouragement for novice writers to pursue what is, after all an extraordinarily popular form for both reader and writers. It’s great that Spread the Word has started this competition and I am very proud to be judging it.”

(The Life Writing Prize judging panel)

Publishing director at Atlantic Books and Life Writing Prize Judge Margaret Stead added: “In recent years there has been a stronger understanding of life writing as a literary form in its own right, and the Samuel Johnson prize (now Baillie Gifford) has had works of creative life writing on its shortlist over the past few years – the most obvious being winner H is for Hawk.

"However there has perhaps been a general tendency to regard it as less ‘serious’ than other forms of non-fiction, and so a prize for life writing will showcase its range and variety, demonstrating how rich and innovative it can be.”

Spread the Word Director Ruth Harrison notes: “Spread the Word exists to help writers make their mark on the page, the screen and in the world. We’re very excited to be launching this new national Life Writing Prize in partnership with Goldsmiths and to be discovering and showcasing 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 over the next five years will help us to help writers establish their writing careers and gain a readership for their work.”

The Life Writing Prize opened for entries on Friday 25 November for ten weeks, closing on 3 February 2017

The Prize is free to enter. Life writers across the country are invited to submit their unpublished pieces to Spread the Word, with a word limit of five thousand words. 

The inaugural Life Writing Prize winners will be announced in May 2017 at a special event at Goldsmiths.

More information, including Prize Rules and FAQs can be found on the dedicated Life Writing Prize part of Spread the Word’s website.

Find out more about the Goldsmiths Writers' Centre

Find out more about the MA Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths