The Eccles Centre and Hay Festival Writer's Award

Rachel Hewitt and Sara Taylor, 2019 Writer's Award recipients, photographed by Clara Molden

What is the Writer’s Award?

The Writer’s Award was founded by the Eccles Centre for American Studies in 2012 to increase awareness and use of the British Library’s American collection (North, Central and South America, and the Caribbean) – one of the world’s foremost and the largest outside of the region. 

It is the only literary prize in the UK to combine a substantial prize of £20,000 with a residency at one of the world's most prestigious libraries. With unique access to the both the Library’s Americas collection and curatorial expertise, we will support you through the creative process.

The winner will hold the Writer’s Award for one year from 1 January 2020, receiving four quarterly grants of £5,000. They will also have the opportunity to appear at future Hay Festival editions to showcase and talk about their published work. The winner will also have the chance to work with the Eccles Centre to develop and facilitate activities and events related to their research.

A number of critically acclaimed books have been published with the support of the Writer’s Award including Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone and The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science by Andrea Wulf.

Following a new partnership with Hay Festival, the Writer’s Award will reach more audiences than ever, and, for the first time, welcome submissions for writing projects in Spanish and languages indigenous to the Americas.

How do I apply for the Writer’s Award?

Submissions for The Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer's Award 2020 are now open.

Submissions are welcome for works in English, Spanish and languages indigenous to the Americas and for fiction and non-fiction writing. All applications must be written in English or Spanish. To qualify for the award, you must have a Latin American, Spanish or UK publisher secured for your work.

The closing date for submissions is 16 September 2019 at 12.00 BST (GMT+1). The shortlist of applicants will be announced on 5 November and winners will be announced on 25 November 2019.

Find out more

The judges reserve the right to request further information, including full book proposals, at a later stage of the application process.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.  

Apply now

Watch 2016 winner Will Atkins and current recipient Sara Taylor talk about what the Writer’s Award means to them.

Previous winners

Writer Rachel Hewitt and novelist Sara Taylor. Hewitt is a Lecturer in Creative Writing, and author, Sara Taylor is a novelist as well as co-director and editor of creative-critical publisher Seam Editions. 

Novelist and short story writer Stuart Evers, and the author, librettist and screenwriter Tessa McWatt.

Author Hannah Kohler and writer and musician Bob Stanley

Author and editor William Atkins, and author Alison MacLeod. Atkin’s book The Immeasurable World: Journeys in Desert Places was published by Faber in 2018. 

Professor Sarah Churchwell and novelist Benjamin Markovits. Markovit's book A Weekend in New York was published by Faber in 2018.

Critic and writer Olivia Laing and journalist Erica Wagner. Laing's book The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone was published by Picador in 2016 and was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize. Wagner's book Chief Engineer: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge was published in 2017 by Bloomsbury.

Historian Andrea Wulf and poet and novelist John Burnside. Wulf’s book The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the lost Hero of Science was published by John Murray in October 2015 and won the 2015 Costa Biography Award and 2016 Royal Society Science Book Prize. Burnside's book Ashland and Vine was published by Jonathan Cape in 2017.

Writer Sheila Rowbotham and novelist Naomi Wood. Wood’s book Mrs Hemingway  was published by Picador in 2014. Rowbotham's book Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers, and Radicals in Britain and the United States was published by Verso in 2016.

About the Eccles Centre

The Eccles Centre for American Studies was founded in 1991 to increase awareness and use of the British Library's extensive collection of books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers and sound recordings related to the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. Located at the British Library, the Centre works in collaboration with the Library's Americas curatorial team and external partners interested in the promotion of North American studies in the UK. It runs a diverse events programme, funds research, offers training in the North American collection and produces publications and digital exhibitions designed to introduce the quality and breadth of the collection.

About Hay Festival

Hay Festival is a not-for-profit organisation that brings readers and writers together to share stories and ideas in sustainable events around the world. The festivals inspire, examine and entertain, inviting participants to imagine the world as it is and as it might be. 

Find out more about the editions over the year ahead which include events in Colombia (Cartagena, Medellín and Jericó), Mexico (Querétaro), USA (Dallas), Spain (Segovia), Chile (Santiago), Peru (Ayacucho and Arequipa) and in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. Meanwhile the festival’s Bogotá 39 project continues to spotlight Latin America’s new voices. 

Writer’s Photobook 2012 - 2017

As part of the Eccles Centre’s 25th anniversary programme, a photobook was compiled in celebration of the first dozen holders of the Writer’s Award. Featuring portraits of all the award winners by Eccles Photography Fellow Ander McIntyre, it is available to view here

Image: 2019 Eccles British Library Award Winners Rachel Hewitt and Sara Taylor

Eccles, British Library and Hay Festival logo

Case studies

More Case studies
…This placement introduced me to a career path I had not considered before.…

During her PhD research placement, Laura examined the Library’s holdings of North American migrant literature.

…Everyone is really willing to help each other out…

Melissa is doing collaborative PhD research on photographs of the British West India Regiments between 1865-1914.

…I can't imagine writing another book without the British Library's collections…

Author Naomi Wood was one of the Eccles British Library Writer's Award holders (formerly the Writer in Residence programme). She used our collections to research her novel Mrs Hemingway, on Ernest Hemingway and his wives.