Click here to skip to content

Eccles Centre Writers in Residence

2015 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award

The Eccles Centre at the British Library is delighted to announce that Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at UEA, writer and 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction judge, and Benjamin Markovits, critically acclaimed author and Granta Best of Young British Novelist 2013, are the joint winners of the 2015 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award.

Now in its fourth year, The Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award was set up as part of the Eccles Centre’s charge to promote awareness of the British Library collections relating to the USA and Canada and to help facilitate the use of these collections.  Each of the winners is awarded £20,000 and will use the collections to research their upcoming publications during their residency which starts in January 2015.  Churchwell is writing a work of non-fiction, entitled Mastery, in which different biographical perspectives on Henry James in 1897, as he was composing The Turn of the Screw, twist and transform different takes on his most popular novel.  Markovits is writing a novel entitled Happy Families, about a large family of first-generation Texans as they make their way up the class-ladder of American life.

The connection with the Eccles Centre will allow Churchwell and Markovits both quietly to research their projects in the great surroundings of the British Library, and to use the Centre’s programme and networks to engage with other researchers, students and members of the public.

Philip Davies, Director of the Eccles Centre, says, ‘The two latest winners of this great prize highlight the role of the British Library’s Eccles Centre for American Studies in supporting the highest quality research and creative writing.  The Library’s superb North American collections will again provide the foundation for projects that have especially strong trans-Atlantic elements.  Sarah Churchwell and Benjamin Markovits, themselves both trans-Atlantic migrants, will be pursuing very different personal projects that both focus on the work and experiences of other trans-Atlantic migrants.’

The judges for the Award were Professor Richard Carwardine, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, Professor Philip Davies, Director of the Eccles Centre, Catherine Eccles literary scout and granddaughter of David  and Mary Eccles, who endowed the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the Library in 1991, Carole Holden, Head of the British Library's Americas and Australasian collections and  novelist Tracy Chevalier, who says, ‘it always surprises me how extensive the British Library’s holdings are on North America.  What a thrill to know that thanks to the Eccles Centre residencies, in  2015 two writers will get to delve more deeply into it.  I hope they uncover treasures!’

Such was the high standard of submissions for this year’s award, that again, two awards were given.

About the winners

Sarah Churchwell is Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities at UEA.  She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby, published by Virago (Little Brown) in the UK and Penguin Press in the USA, The Many Lives Of Marilyn Monroe, and co-editor of Must Read: Rediscovering the Bestseller.  Her forthcoming collection of stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Forgotten Fitzgerald: Echoes of a Lost America will be published by Abacus (Little Brown) on 6 November 2014.  Her journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New Statesman, Observer, TLS, New York Times Book Review, Times, Sunday Times, Telegraph and the Spectator, among others. She comments regularly on arts, culture and politics for UK television and radio, where appearances have included Question Time, Newsnight, Sky News and the Review Show.  She has judged many literary prizes including the Bailey’s (Orange Prize) for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014.  She lives in London.

Benjamin Markovits grew up in Texas, London, Oxford and Berlin.  He left an unpromising career as a professional basketball player to study the Romantics – an experience he wrote about in Playing Days, a novel.  Since then he has taught high school English, worked at a left-wing cultural magazine, and written essays, stories and reviews for The New York Times, Granta, The Guardian, The London Review of Books and The Paris Review. He has published six novels, including Either Side of Winter, about a New York private school, and a trilogy on the life of Lord Byron: Imposture, A Quiet Adjustment and Childish Loves.  In 2009 he was a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and won a Pushcart Prize for this short story Another Sad, Bizarre Chapter in Human History.  Granta selected him as one of the Best of Young British Novelists in 2013.  You Don’t Have to Live Like This, a novel set in Detroit, will come out in July 2015 with Faber & Faber.  HarperCollins will publish it in the USA.  Markovits lives in Highgate, London and is married, with a daughter and a son.   He teaches Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London.

About the Award

The Eccles British Library Writer in Residence Award was first awarded for the calendar year 2012. The Award of £20,000 is open to writers resident in the United Kingdom. Writers should be working on a non-fiction or fiction full-length book, written in the English Language, the research for which requires that they make substantial use of the British Library’s collections relating to North America (the USA and/or Canada).

Watch former Writer in Residence, Naomi Wood, explain how the award helped her research her novel Mrs Hemingway (Picador, 2014).

Read blog posts by current and former Writers in Residence on the Americas blog.

Previous recipients

2014 Recipients - Olivia Laing and Erica Wagner

2013 Recipients - Andrea Wulf and John Burnside

2012 Recipients - Sheila Rowbotham and Naomi Wood

Top of Page Top of page