First-time writer Lorelei Goulding has won Spread the Word's Life Writing Prize, for her "heart-breaking story" Birdie.
Goulding's work was selected from almost 900 submissions received from across the UK. She will receive £1,500, an Arvon creative writing course, a writing mentor, two years’ membership of the Royal Society of Literature and a development meeting with an agent and editor. Birdie will be her first published work, and this is the first time she has entered a writing competition.
This year's judges included writers Kerry Hudson, Nell Stevens and Sathnam Sanghera.
Hudson said: “Birdie was a unanimous winner for everyone on the judging panel and rightly so. Imagine an emerging writer coming up with descriptions like, 'Diseased with emphysema and malice' or 'My father’s left hand, slapping my face without warning at dinner, like a frog’s tongue snapping at a fly.' Birdie is extremely confidently written and there are genuinely heart stopping moments of beauty in the prose. Not only this, but it is a narrative that pulls you in slowly and then hits you with a sucker punch and leaves you gasping for air at the end. Such accomplished writing and surely the beginning of an exciting career.”
Meanwhile Joanna Brown was highly commended for Birds can be Heard Singing Through Open Windows, alongside Laurane Marchive, for For the Flesh is Sour. They will each receive a writing mentor and £500.
Ruth Harrison, director of Spread the Word, said: "Spread the Word is thrilled to announce the results of the Life Writing Prize 2020. Birdie is an exceptional piece of writing, and we're sure that this is a first step for Lorelei in what surely will be a wonderful writing career. Joanna Brown's Birds can be Heard Singing Through Open Windows is a timely, delicate and emotive reminder of the lives of those who care for us, and For the Flesh is Sour by Laurane Marchive is a startling and original exploration of life and grief.
"Now, more than ever, there is value in shared stories, reflecting what brings us together and what distinguishes us. We're thrilled to publish the online booklet showcasing 12 talented emerging writers and are looking forward to seeing these writers fly in the months and years to come."
An anthology featuring the 12 longlisted writers' work is published by Spread the Word online.
The mentors for Goulding, Brown and Machive are writers Max Porter, Colin Grant and Kerri Ní Dochartaigh, who was highly commended in the inaugural Life Writing Prize in 2017.