The Spread the Word Life Writing Prize 2020

Free to enter, the Prize aims to find the best life writing from emerging writers from across the UK. The Prize defines life writing as ‘intended to be true’, reflects someone’s own life journey or experiences and is not fiction. The competition is open to writers who have yet to publish a full-length work or have a literary agent.



Prizes on offer will see one entry named the winner, which in the judges’ opinion, is the best piece of life writing. The winner will receive £1,500, publication on Spread the Word’s website and in the Prize booklet, a writing mentor, an Arvon course (subject to availability), two years’ membership to the Royal Society of Literature, an optional development meeting with an editor and an agent.

Two highly commended writers will receive £500 and two mentoring sessions, an optional development meeting with an editor and/ or an agent, and be published on the Spread the Word website and in the Prize booklet.

Three writers will be shortlisted, and six will be longlisted. Writing mentors will be allocated to the three writers by the Spread the Word team after conversations with the writers about their work and moving it forward. All shortlisted and longlisted writers will be offered the opportunity to publish their work on the Spread the Word website and Spread the Word Life Writing Prize booklet and read a brief extract from their work, or have their work read on their behalf, at the Life Writing Prize ceremony in London at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, Wednesday 10 June 2020 in the evening. Aside from cash, all other prizes are subject to availability.

Writers coming from outside London will be offered travel money to attend the ceremony.



  • Entries should be original works of life writing of no more than 5,000 words (does not include the title). The word count will be checked at longlisting stage and entries longer than 5,000 words will be disqualified. There is no minimum word count.
  • Entries should be own personal experience. Traditional biographies where the piece is only about the experience of someone else are excluded. Pieces where a writer weaves a significant amount of their own experience in with someone else’s life, or a concept, are welcome.
  • Writers only submit one entry each. Multiple entries by the same author will result in only the first entry being considered for the Prize and any additional entries disqualified.
  • Entries must be the original, previously unpublished work of the entrant. Pieces of writing that have already secured a publishing deal but have not yet been published are ineligible.
  • All work submitted for consideration must be the entrant’s own original writing and should not have been published online, in a physical format or have been broadcast on or before 11th June 2020. Work found to published online, in a physical format or have been broadcast will be disqualified. This includes pieces that are self-published on a blog or in a self-published book.
  • Entries can be self-contained pieces of life writing, or the first 5,000 words of a longer piece of work.
  • The Life Writing Prize 2020 is open to writers aged over 18 and resident in the UK who are emerging writers, and they define emerging writers for the purposes of the Life Writing Prize as identifying with the following bullet points:
    • Not agented
    • Does not have a publishing contract for a full-length work at the time of entering (please let Spread the Word know if you sign a publishing deal for a full-length work after you have entered the Prize, as this would render you ineligible).
    • Has not previously published in print a full-length work. They define a full-length work: – A complete work of fiction or non-fiction over 50,000 words- Ten or more short stories either in a collection or published individually – A professionally produced theatre script or screenplay, or radio play – Twenty or more poems either in a collection or published individually
  • For the purposes of the Prize, self-published authors of any of the definitions above are welcome to enter (as long as the piece you are entering is totally unpublished, including self-published).
  • Entries must be the individual and original work of a sole author.
  • Entries must be in English



Monday 3 February at 11am.

Published on:
14 Jan 2020


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