What’s it like having an Early Career Bursary?


The second year of the Early Career Bursaries for low income London writers are now open for applications. Spread the Word spoke to the first three Early Career Bursary recipients, Sheila Atuona, C.E Cathcart and Selina Suzelle about their experience on the programme.

Sheila Atuona talks in this short video about her experience on the programme, followed by a written interview with C.E. Cathcart and Selina Suzelle.

What are the Early Career Bursaries?

Selina: The Early Career Bursaries is a 12 month programme of funding awarded to unagented and unpublished London-based writers on low incomes. The purpose of the bursary is to support the career progression of new and emerging writers by offering financial relief and craft development opportunities.

C.E.: The Early Career Bursaries are an incredible opportunity for aspiring writers living in London on low incomes to be given the precious chance to make their writing dreams a reality. Generous financial support is coupled with a personalised professional development plan and mentoring to help us map out our pathway towards publication.

Why did you apply?

 Selina: I applied because I had writing ambitions that I was struggling to fulfil due to a lack of time and confidence. I had previously been longlisted for Spread the Word’s London Writers Awards which was encouraging and this opportunity seemed even more appropriate as a stepping stone to dedicate myself to the further development of my writing project. The financial support on offer was appealing as I could anticipate how that would benefit me with more time to write but the opportunity for direct mentorship felt even more significant as I hadn’t had access to this previously.

C.E.: I applied for the Early Career Bursary because I have been writing in stolen moments for the past five years, never able to devote my full time and attention on my novel. The ECB made this a possibility for the first time.

What’s it like having been awarded an Early Career Bursary?

 Selina: It’s extremely validating to have been awarded an Early Career Bursary. It has boosted my confidence and helped me to implement a regular writing practice. The support and feedback from mentorship sessions has been invaluable and working towards personalised objectives is a motivating force. As my writing project continues to develop, my long-term goals feel more tangible and achievable. I also feel less of a barrier to entry particularly with the nurturance from Spread the Word as an advocate, alongside access to their wider writers network.

C.E.: The Early Career Bursary has given me the most precious gift of undivided time to spend on my novel, with the aim finally to get it finished and seek an agent and publisher. Through the professional development provided by the ECB, I have had the incredible opportunity of being mentored by a professional writer. I have never previously had someone with such wisdom and experience look at my work, and this has greatly improved the quality of my writing.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying?

Selina: If you meet the criteria and there’s a story that you’re desperate to tell, do apply! You have nothing to lose and should you be successful, the feeling of having the potential of your writing talent recognised and supported is immensely motivating and could be life changing.

C.E.: I feel so lucky to have been awarded the ECB and I urge anyone thinking of applying to just do it! If you have the passion to write but not the means to make it happen, this could be the exact opportunity that you need.

There is more information on how to apply for an Early Career Bursary for London writers here: spreadtheword.org.uk/early-career-bursaries-are-open-for-applications/

Published 12 July 2023