Announcing the London Writers Awards Judges 2022


Spread the Word is excited to reveal the judges for the London Writers Awards 2022. The fourth year of the highly successful writer development programme for London writers from backgrounds underrepresented in publishing will run from February 2022 – November 2022  for 30 writers of commercial, literary, YA/children’s and narrative non-fiction. Applications are open from 1 October – 31 October 2021. Spread the Word’s Bobby Nayyar and Ruth Harrison are running a free online seminar on 7 October ‘London Writers Awards: Thinking of Applying?’ aimed at potential applicants for the 2022 programme. 

The 2022 Awards will be judged by author judges: Louise Hare, Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Benjamin Dean, Sara Jafari and Sara Gibbs. The industry judges are: Emma Bal, Davinia Andrew-Lynch, Emma Grundy Haigh, Matt Turner and Milly Reilly. 

They’ll be supporting Spread the Word with selecting the thirty writers who will be offered a place on the London Writers Awards scheme 2022. Here they share their thoughts about the London Writers Awards…

Literary Fiction Judges

a person looks up at the camera - they look thoughtful and engaged are are wearing a turquoise green top with flowersLouise Hare is a Literary Fiction Author Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022

Louise Hare is a London-based writer and has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. Originally from Warrington, the capital is the inspiration for much of her work, including This Lovely City, her debut novel, which began life after a trip into the deep level shelter below Clapham Common. Louise was one of Observer’s top ten debut novelists of 2020 and This Lovely City was shortlisted for the 2021 RSL Ondaatje Prize. She is a judge on the Morley Prize for Unpublished Writers of Colour and is currently finishing edits on her next novel, Miss Aldridge Regrets, which will be published in spring 2022.  

Louise says:I would not be an author today if I hadn’t had support from fellow writers and mentors along the way. For an outsider, the publishing industry can seem impenetrable and, without help and advice, I would have struggled to gain access. The London Writers Awards is such an exciting programme because it offers the opportunity to form supportive relationships and to learn from industry experts. I came back to writing in my mid-thirties because when I was younger, I struggled to find books written by people like me. I assumed that a career in writing was an impossibility, and certainly at the time it would have been a lot harder than it is today. The landscape is shifting but initiatives like LWA are necessary to bolster that change and make sure of its permanence. I can’t wait to read this year’s submissions and discover some of the new diverse talent in London.” 

Ashley Hickson-Lovence is a Literary Fiction Author Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022

Ashley Hickson-Lovencewas born in London in 1991. He is a former secondary school English teacher currently completing his PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia and is a Lecturer of Creative Writing at Arts University Bournemouth. His debut novel, The 392, was released in April 2019. His second novel,Your Show, is released in April 2022. He is currently writing his third novel, About to Fall Apart.  

Ashley says:As a Black man who grew up in a council estate in Hackney, for too long I didn’t think I could ever be a writer. This is why schemes like the London Writers Awards are so refreshingly important. The world of writing must be accessible, inclusive and continue to encourage writers from all walks of life to tell a good story in bold and boundary-breaking ways. Forget tick boxes, quotas and glass-ceilings, every writer should feel empowered by the act of putting pen to paper, equipped with the belief that there is no limit to what they can achieve with belief.”   

Matt Turner is a Literary Fiction Industry Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022

Matt Turner joined Rogers, Coleridge & White in 2012, and is curating a list of literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. Writers he has worked with have won or been nominated for the Costa Book Awards, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Sunday Times Short Story Prize, the JCB Prize, the An Post Irish Book Awards, the Betty Trask Award, the Orwell Prize, the Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, the White Review Short Story Prize and the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award. 

Matt says:As a literary agent I have been following the London Writers Award for a number of years, drawn by the real change that it is effecting within the publishing industry, and by the quality of the writing it champions. It is a vital advocate for underrepresented and marginalised communities, and its package of support – mentoring, creative and career advice – is tailored to afford its cohort success, and the opportunity to be read and to be heard.  In so doing the LWA is helping to make the literary world more accessible, and importantly, richer and fuller. I am honoured to have the chance to be involved.”

a woman wearing a black jumper and trousers, sitting on a bench and smilingMilly Reilly is a Literary Fiction Industry Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022

Milly Reilly is an agent at the Jo Unwin Literary Agency, where she represents literary fiction and a broad range of non-fiction. She is drawn to books written with people at the heart of them, be that a novel, polemic or cookbook. Her authors include Xanthi Barker, Jacqueline Roy, Ben Smoke, Dr Annabel Sowemimo, and The White Pube. 

Milly says:By scouting talented writers from under-represented communities and encouraging their craft over a sustained period of time, this is a scheme that makes a tangible difference. There are too many obstacles in the publishing process — obstacles that can alienate and silence writers — and the London Writers Award is helping to redress the balance of the stories that are being told and listened to. It’s an honour to be a judge for the literary fiction category, and I strongly encourage writers to apply.” 

Commercial Fiction Judges

Sara Jafari is the Commercial Fiction Author Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022.

Sara Jafari is a British-Iranian author and editor. Her debut novel The Mismatch was published in summer 2021 with Cornerstone, Penguin Random House in the UK and Ballantine, Random House in the US. She was a 2018 recipient of the London Writers Awards.  Sara is also a contributor of gal-dem’s essay collection “I Will Not Be Erased”: Our stories about growing up as people of colour (Walker Books, 2019)and Who’s Loving You (Trapeze, 2021).  Outside of her writing, she works as an editor at Penguin Random House Children’s, and in her spare time she single-handedly runs TOKEN Magazine, a literary and arts print magazine featuring under-represented writers and artists.  

Sara says:I know from first-hand experience, as a London Writers Awards Awardee myself, how invaluable the London Writers Awards can be to your writing and project. Spread the Word have been doing the work to help uplift under-represented writers for many years now, and this amazing scheme is a real culmination of all their hard work in helping new writers hone their craft. Starting to write a book can be a daunting process and the London Writers Awards is incredible in guiding you through the process. This programme is a brilliant way to refine your writing skills with invaluable group feedback, and it will give you the tools to look at your own work critically – as well as providing individuals with the insight into the publishing process from beginning to end. I cannot recommend the programme enough.”

a woman with long brunette hair looking up to the right. She's wearing red lipstick and big black glasses. Emma Grundy Haigh is the Commercial Fiction Industry Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022.

Emma Grundy Haigh is Commissioning and Managing Editor at Joffe Books, based in London. She meandered in and out of academia before succumbing to the lure of publishing. As a freelance editor, she worked on Man Booker Prize shortlisters and award-winning crime fiction for publishers big and little. She fine-tuned illustrated children’s books and crafted epic travel guides within Penguin Random House, before returning to a life of crime (fiction editing)She loves working closely with authors to unknot tangled plot lines, push villains to their furthest extremes and draw out the weakness of the hero until they become strengths. 

Emma says: The London Writers Awards is a brilliant initiative spearheading genuine change and growth within publishing. Its work to empower and cultivate the most talented new writers from diverse, underrepresented backgrounds, from the very start of their literary career, is as vital as it is enriching. The London Writers Awards is a brilliant springboard for a whole range of new voices and I am extremely honoured to be part of the judging process for the awards in 2022. I can’t wait to start reading this year’s submissions!”

Narrative Non-Fiction Judges

Sara Gibbs is the Narrative Non-Fiction Author Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022.

Sara Gibbs is a UK-based comedy writer, graduate of the National Film and Television School’s Writing & Producing Comedy course and prolific tweeter, with over 45,000 followers. Her broadcast credits include top satirical radio and television shows such as Newsjack, Sketchtopia, Dead Ringers, The News Quiz, The Now Show, The Mash Report and Have I Got News for You. She is the co-founder of satirical online women’s magazine, Succubus and the founder of The First Laugh Comedy Writing Competition for new writers. She has also written extensively for satirical websites, including CollegeHumor and The Daily Mash. Having received a late autism diagnosis at the age of 30, Sara uses humour to advocate for a better understanding of autism and neurodivergence. Sara’s memoir Drama Queen (Headline, 2021) is both a tour inside one autistic brain and a declaration that a diagnosis on the spectrum, with the right support, accommodations and understanding, doesn’t have to be a barrier to life full of love, laughter and success. It is the story of one woman trying to fit into a world that has often tried to reject her and, most importantly, it’s about a life of labels, and the joy of ripping them off one by one. 

Sara says:One of the most challenging aspects of writing is getting your work seen by the right people in what can often be an opaque industry. The London Writers Award is a fantastic opportunity for writers from diverse backgrounds to receive mentoring and support  to ensure that exciting new talent can reach their full potential and be guided on the path to publication. As an autistic writer for whom traditional networking opportunities and relationship building can be a challenge, I’m thrilled to see such a structured and helpful initiative in place and delighted to support it.”

a person with long dark hair smiling slightly at the cameraEmma Bal is the Narrative Non-Fiction Industry Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022.

Emma Bal is a Literary Agent specialising in non-fiction. After graduating from the University of Bristol with a Master’s in Classics, Emma has spent several years championing authors as an award-winning publicist at Penguin and then as Head of Publicity at Bloomsbury. From debuts to high-profile, award-winning experts in their fields, she has launched and cultivated the careers of historians, poets, activists, polemicists, Nobel prize-winning economists, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists and memoirists. Authors she has worked with include: Reni Eddo-Lodge, Peter Frankopan, Claudia Rankine, Pankaj Mishra, David Kynaston, Richard Thaler, and Patricia Lockwood. Emma has handled the campaigns for many Sunday Times bestsellers such as Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, Humankind by Rutger Bregman, The Establishment by Owen Jones, Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan, Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem and The Anarchy by William Dalrymple. 

Emma says: “I’m so excited to be on the judging panel for the London Writer’s Awards in 2022. The book industry has gone through some promising changes in recent years. We have seen more diverse publishing, and there is a lot more to do. Access is everything and so to be a part of this year’s team of readers at Spread the Word, helping to further opportunities to those who want to write but are often excluded from mainstream culture, is energising and a real joy.”

YA / Children’s Fiction Judges

Benjamin Dean is the YA/Children’s Fiction Author Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022.

Benjamin Dean is an author and celebrity reporter based in London. His debut book, Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow was published earlier this year and was the Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month for February. He can be found tweeting about pop culture instead of finishing a first draft at @NotAgainBen (but if his publisher asks, he’s been hacked and does not know who has been rewatching the Twilight movies and tweeting about it from his account.) His next middle-grade novel, The Secret Sunshine Project, is due to be published in March 2022, followed by his debut YA novel, The King is Dead, in the summer. 

Benjamin says:It can often seem when you’re trying to write or publish a book that the doors in your way will always remain closed. This is especially prevalent for those from marginalised backgrounds trying to break through into an industry that doesn’t always seem to value their voice, their stories, or their identity. Initiatives such as the London Writers Awards can be a huge boost to writers just trying to get their stories out into the world, and I’m so excited to be a judge this year to help discover some incredible talents.”

Davinia Andrew-Lynch is the Children’s/YA Fiction Industry Judge for the London Writers Awards 2022.

Davinia Andrew-Lynch is a literary agent and the founder of boutique agency, ANDLYN.  Initially specialising in children’s and YA Fiction the agency has now expanded to represent a focused list of adult authors of commercial fiction and non-fiction. Davinia co-created the FAB PRIZE in association with Faber Children’s, which is now going into its fifth year. With the aim of discovering black and ethnic minority writers and illustrators the prize has acted as a springboard to many successful careers. Previously, Davinia was an associate film/TV agent and freelance editor and she has drawn upon these skills to offer her clients a tailored and intimate service with big ambition. Her clients include: Annabelle Sami, Malcolm Duffy, Bex Hogan and Davina Tijani (a former London Writers Awards Awardee!). 

Davinia says:Spread the Word have been long standing and continual champions of under-represented voices and the London Writers Award is a testament to the organisation’s commitment to ensuring that publishing takes notice of the true range of talent the UK has to offer.  I’m thrilled to be invited to judge as a judge this year, and cannot wait to see what new voices we will have the opportunity of discovering!”

Applications are open from 1 October – 31 October 2021. Find out more and how to apply here:

Published 21 September 2021