Novelist Sara Taylor and non-fiction writer Rachel Hewitt have won the Eccles British Library Writer’s Award, scooping £20,000 each.
The winners will have access to the British Library’s Americas collections for research during a year-long residency, starting in January 2019 as well as £20,000 each to develop a current writing project. For the first time, the 2019 residency will be broadened to include access to the British Library’s Mexico and Latin America collections as well as those relating to the USA and Canada.
Eccles Centre director Dr Phil Hatfield said: “This year saw an exceptionally high quality of applications and it was tough to select two authors. Rachel and Sara’s projects are ambitious and imaginative while also seeking to make creative use of the Library’s collections. Myself and the rest of the judges are excited to see how their research and writing develop over the course of 2019.”
Taylor and Hewitt will be invited to work closely with the head of the Eccles Centre to develop events and activities related to their research, including a launch event once their books are published as well as having the opportunity to write and research in the British Library with rare access to the Library’s curatorial expertise.
Rachel Hewitt and Sara Taylor
Hewitt, a lecturer in creative writing at Newcastle University and deputy director of the Newcastle Centre of Literary Arts, will use the award for her current project In Her Nature (Chatto & Windus) to be published in 2022. The non-fiction title will explore US and UK women’s myriad encounters with the natural world. In Her Nature will centre the voices of largely unsung female naturalists, nature-writers and explorers. Hewitt is author of Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey (2010), and A Revolution of Feeling: The Decade that Forged the Modern Mind (2017).
Taylor’s award will aid her research of her novel Children of Sorrow (Random House) which “will present the experiences of the people who were most intimately affected by the United States’ Eugenics movement from its conception in the late nineteenth century through to the present day”, the British Library said. Taylor, author of The Lauras and The Shore (both Windmill) also acts as co-director and editor of creative-critical publisher Seam Editions. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.
The judges for the 2019 Eccles British Library Award were Professor Sarah Churchwell, professorial fellow in American Literature and chair of public understanding of the humanities at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study; Erica Wagner, author, editor and former winner of the award; Dr Phil Hatfield, head of the Eccles Centre; Catherine Eccles, literary scout and granddaughter of David and Mary Eccles, who endowed the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the Library in 1991 and Dr Mercedes Aguirre, lead curator for the Americas at the British Library.