Image of books on shelves in a library

London literary charity commissions report into flagship award

A London literary charity has commissioned a report about its flagship award’s performance, while it continues to support all 120 writers develop their careers. 

The London Writers Award, facilitated by literary charity Spread the Word and funded by Arts Council England, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and ALCS, has been supporting cohorts of writers since 2018, with 43 publications from 26 writers and 42 awardees securing representation.

Selected writers, all from underrepresented communities, took part in a year-long programme of twice monthly peer to peer feedback sessions, craft masterclasses with publishing professionals and one-to-one professional development.

A woman pointing at post it notes on a white board, with people sat around a table listening to her
A stock image of people participating in a workshop

Programme Manager Bobby Nayyar said: “One of the key things about an organisation like Spread the Word is understanding that writing is a very slow art form, and it takes time.

“Maybe someone works on a project and they don’t get the result that they want with it, but it’s an important part of them developing as a writer, and writer development is long term.

“Sometimes, things turn out great, someone starts a project, finishes the project, gets an agent straight away and gets a book deal straight away, but that’s more exceptional, normally, it takes a long time.

“I think it is about the community aspect of it. It’s about people having a life changing experience.”

Writers were chosen through a rigorous selection process, with extracts from the pieces they intended to write about and a supporting statement about their intentions for the programme. 

A woman sat at a desk writing on her laptop
A stock image of a woman writing on her laptop

Tommy Rowlands, from the 2021 cohort, said: “By the time I’d started, I had a rough first draft of a novel, and then our first masterclass, were basically told that we were now competing with all of our favourite writers and all the writers in bookshops.

“Our tutor Jarred McGinnis said, if every sentence you write doesn’t terrify you, then why are you writing? 

“And so that was, for me, almost like a call to arms and I literally started again, digitally ripped up that first draft, and then started exploring exactly the things I wanted to explore.”

By pushing writers to explore subjects they want to explore and creating a supportive community, the awards have helped support writers while they produce their novels and also develop their careers.

Emma Lowther, from the 2021 cohort, said: “I definitely feel like I’ve got a little bit of the safety net with the Spread the Word team behind me. 

“Even though the award is over, I feel like if I need advice, or if I need to just run something by someone, there is a really great team of people there to help with that, which is lovely.”

Once they have finished the course, participating writers are offered the opportunity to facilitate workshops as part of the ‘Developing Tutors’ programme. 

Lowther said: “Being a writer isn’t just sitting at a computer and writing a novel, it’s also reaching out to the community and building yourself as a subject matter expert and so, having the opportunity to learn how to run workshops was really helpful.”

Children’s writer Priscilla Mante, who worked on the first book in her three book series ‘The Dream Team’ as part of the London Writers Award 2018 as a way to reconnect with her childhood dream of being a writer. 

Mante said: “I promised myself I would write for children because of the joy I felt reading as a child.”

She was also inspired by her experience working with children in care, and her observation that books for children lacked diversity. 

The report into the scheme will be released later this year, in the meantime a series of workshops for Londoners delivered by London Writers Award participants can be found on the Spread the Word website.  

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