The Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer's Award

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Submissions are now open for the 2022 Eccles Centre & Hay Festival Writer's Award, a highly prestigious annual literary award of £20,000 for a current writing project exploring the Americas.

The award facilitates and inspires world-class storytelling in the UK and across the Americas, supporting writers in the creative stage of a new fiction or non-fiction project. The prize grants a year-long residency at the British Library and access to curatorial expertise within the Library’s world class Americas collections.

The Writer’s Award is celebrated globally through a dynamic series of events profiling winners at Hay Festival editions in Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Wales as awardees join forces with other celebrated writers and thinkers to explore themes central to the Library’s Americas collections, championing new perspectives to audiences in the UK and Latin America.

Who has won the award before?

A number of critically acclaimed books have been published with the support of the Writer’s Award since it began, 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.

What's the prize?

Two winners will hold the Writer’s Award for one year from 1 January 2022, and will receive:

  • £20,000, in four quarterly grants
  • Unique access to the expertise of the British Library’s curatorial staff
  • The chance to appear at future Hay Festival editions with their published work.

The winners will also have the opportunity to work with the Eccles Centre to develop and facilitate activities and events related to their research at the British Library.

Am I eligible to apply?

The Award is open to submissions of both fiction and non-fiction writing projects written in English, Spanish, Portuguese or any language indigenous to the Americas, which a publisher based in Latin America, Spain or the United Kingdom intends to publish.

  • The work should focus on some part of the Americas – Latin America, North America, Canada and the Caribbean – and needs to make extensive use of the collections of the British Library
  • Writers can be based anywhere in the world and the judges will consider works published in any language indigenous to the Americas, but applications must be in either English, Spanish or Portuguese
  • The winners will be expected to make dedicated use of the Library’s collections over one or more research trips.

The competition is open to any author but please note that neither the Eccles Centre nor Hay Festival will arrange visas, travel or accommodation for Award holders. Awardees will also be responsible for any payments or charges incurred as a result of international bank transfers.

How do I apply?

Submissions will be accepted between 4 May and 16 September 2021, closing at 12.00 BST. The only way to apply is via application form on the Hay Festival website. You will need to submit:

  • A short summary of your project
  • An overview of the nature and extent of anticipated use of the British Library’s collections relating to the Americas
  • An outline of how the project and the writer will promote awareness and use of the British Library’s Americas collections
  • An outline of ways the project and its outputs will contribute to the Hay Festival programme
  • Evidence of an established publisher’s intention to publish the finished book
  • A brief biography and any examples of previous published work
  • A headshot and any accompanying credits or captions

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

For more information about the Eccles Centre or to explore the British Library’s collection visit  

For questions relating to the award email

What happens next?

Submissions close on 16 September at 12.00 BST. A shortlist of applications will be announced in October and the two winners announced in November.

You’ll be in good company. Previous winners include…


Pola Oloixarac and Imaobong Umoren are the current Writer’s Award holders. Oloixarac won for Atlas Literario del Amazonas (Literary Atlas of the Amazon) ­– a work of creative non-fiction revealing the secret history of the Amazon. Umoren won for Empire Without End: A New History of Britain and the Caribbean – an expansive new history of the 400 year relationship between Britain and the Caribbean.


Chloe Aridjis won for her novel Reports from the Land of the Bats, set in Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas, and Daniel Saldaña Paris for Principio de mediocridad, a novel composed of four first person narrations, each an intense relationship with the history and geography of the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico.


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.

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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.