Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize


In 2017, Katy Whitehead was awarded the prize for Adventures in Synthetic Fun, an essay exploring the concept of ‘synthetic fun’ coined in the 1960s by Jeremy Sandford, and the changing nature of fun in an era of increasing automation, disputed oppression, widespread affective labour, illusory meritocracy, costly social mobility, divisive politics, and a degraded imagination. Katy Whitehead has been short- and longlisted for prizes including the Mslexia novel award, Myriad Editions First Draft competition, Penned in the Margins Generation Txt, and a Sky Academy Arts Scholarship. She has previously worked in publishing for five years, most recently as a commissioning editor, of books by Lena Dunham and T. Geronimo Johnson. She lives in Clapham with her husband, and mentors regularly at the Ministry of Stories.

Her proposal was one of seventy entries, and one of five to be shortlisted. The other four shortlisted entries were: 

Wolf: An Anatomy of an Illness by Elinor Cleghorn, an essay tracing the clinical and cultural histories of Lupus, intertwining life writing and autobiography with medical and cultural historiography. Elinor Cleghorn is a writer, researcher, lecturer, and curator. She received her PhD from Birkbeck College, the University of London, in 2012, and carried out post-doctoral research at the Ruskin School of Art until 2015 on a project exploring the artistic, philosophical, neuroscientific resonances of the neurological condition mirror-touch synaesthesia. She is the founding editor of qualia, an experimental online journal, and lives and works in Sussex.

English as a Foreign Language by Evan Harris, a candid, critical and humorous essay about the influential practice of teaching English as a foreign language and the issues it raises about language, identity and work. Evan Harris is a writer living in London.

Other, Mixed by Will Harris, an essay on the experience of being mixed race, and examining how mixed-race characters throughout history, both real and imagined, might challenge the politics of the present. Will Harris was born in London, of mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage. He co-edits the small press 13 Pages and helps organise The Poetry Inquisition. His poems have been published in The Poetry Review, The White Review, and The Rialto, where he is also an Assistant Editor. His debut pamphlet, All this is implied, is published by HappenStance this summer. He is also a fellow of the Complete Works III, and will be published as part of the Bloodaxe anthology Ten: poets of the new generation later this year.

Possession by Rebecca Ley, an essay about grief through the lens of objects, juxtaposing the essentially intangible nature of mourning with a human desire to hold onto material objects and tangible matter (including possessions, places, words, and physical pain). Rebecca Ley was born in Oxford and studied History of Art and Philosophy at University College London. After working for a few years in London, she completed a Master’s degree in Creative Writing (Novels) from City University. She has written two novels that are as yet unpublished, and has written personal essays for Wander Magazine, a literary journal she co-founded. She is represented by David Godwin.


The Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize is an annual competition for unpublished writers. Made possible by an Arts Council grant in 2015, the prize awards £3,000 to the best proposal for a book-length essay (minimum 25,000 words) by a writer resident in the UK and Ireland who has yet to secure a publishing deal. 

Submissions will open from 1 January to 15 March 2017 and will be judged by an editorial committee put together for this purpose. The judges will be looking for proposals for essays that explore and expand the possibilities of the essay form, with no restrictions on theme or subject matter. In addition to the £3,000 prize, which will be in the form of an advance against publication with Fitzcarraldo Editions, the winner will have the opportunity to spend up to three months in residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Spoleto, Italy, during the summer of 2017, to work on their book. The winner will then be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2018.

The Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize aims to find the best emerging essay writers and to give them a chance to develop and showcase their talent. It will also provide future winners with their first experiences of publishing a book, from the planning, research and writing of it through to the editing, production and publicity stages.


The Mahler & LeWitt Studios are established around the former studios of Anna Mahler and Sol LeWitt in Spoleto, Italy. The residency programme provides a focused and stimulating environment for artists, curators and writers to develop new ways of working in dialogue with peers and the unique cultural heritage of the region. For more information please visit


Joanna Biggs is a writer and editor at the London Review of Books. Her book about the way we work, All Day Long, is published by Serpent's Tail. 

Brian Dillon is a writer and critic. His books include The Great Explosion (Penguin, 2015), Objects in This Mirror: Essays (Sternberg Press, 2014), Sanctuary Sternberg Press, 2011), Tormented Hope (Penguin, 2009) and In the Dark Room (Penguin, 2005). He is UK editor of Cabinet magazine, and teaches critical writing at the Royal College of Art.

Joanna Kavenna is the author of The Ice Museum, Inglorious (which won the Orange Prize for New Writing), The Birth of Love, Come to the Edge and A Field Guide to Reality. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Guardian, Observer, Telegraph, Spectator, London Review of Books and New York Times and she has held writing fellowships at St Antony's College Oxford and St John's College Cambridge. In 2011 she was named as one of the Telegraph's 20 Writers Under 40 and in 2013 was listed as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. She lives in Oxfordshire.

Paul Keegan has been editor of the Penguin Classics and Faber poetry editor; he co-founded Notting Hill Editions, has edited the Collected Poems of Ted Hughes and The Penguin Book of English Verse.

Jacques Testard is the publisher of Fitzcarraldo Editions, and a founding editor of The White Review.  


In 2016, Matthew McNaught was awarded the inaugural Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize for Immanuel, an essay about faith, doubt and radical religion, inspired in part by his experiences growing up in an evangelical Christian community in the south of England. He lives in Southampton, where he works in mental health, and has written for n+1. Immanuel will be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2018.

His winning proposal was one of seventy entries, and one of five to be shortlisted. The other four shortlisted entries were: 

Corona by Felix Bazalgette, an essay inspired by the crash of Corona satellite #1005 in Venezuela in 1964, the history of aerial photography, the use of vision as metaphor, and the lies that sustain militaries. Felix Bazalgette is a writer from London. He has been published by The Economist, 3:AM Magazine and Wide Range, among others, and is co-founder of MOOT PRESS.

Bad For You by Alice Hattrick, an essay about perfume and all its associations blending life writing with criticism, and drawing on personal experiences of death, gendered and psychosomatic illness and emotional attachments, as well as art and its history. Alice Hattrick is a writer and producer based in London. She is currently Contributing Editor of EROS journal and co-Editor of A-OR-IST magazine. Her writing on art, health and perfume has appeared in frieze, n-o-o-n, The White Review, Eros, A-o-rist, and the book After Butler's Wharf: Essays on a Working Building (2013).

Growing up Modern by Jennifer Kabat, a collection of essays exploring art, war and the landscape, examining modernism's legacy, and what might be scavenged from it. A recent finalist for Notting Hill Editions’ Essay Prize, she contributes frequently to frieze, BOMB and The Believer and was awarded a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for her criticism. She was included in The Promise at Arnolfini and Autobiography at Index (Stockholm Sweden). Her ongoing collaboration with the artist Kate Newby The January February March will be featured at The Poor Farm (Waupaca, WI) this summer. She teaches at NYU.

Double-Tracking by Rosanna Mclaughlin. Inspired by Tom Wolfe's notion of duplicitous identities, Double-Tracking looks at the cultural phenomenon of 'being both' – whether establishment and bohemian, butcher and aesthete, or an ingenue and initiate of high-culture – tracing the history of duplicity through mythology and literature, philosophy, fashion, the art market, politics, photography and camp. Rosanna Mclaughlin is a writer and curator, who lives in London.


Please read these eligibility and entry rules carefully before submitting. Submission of an entry is taken as acceptance of the entry rules. For any queries not covered below, please 

1) The competition is open to unpublished writers residing in Great Britain and Ireland only.

2) Entrants should submit a proposal for a book-length essay (over 25,000 words) to The proposal itself should be no longer than 5,000 words. Entrants may also submit a separate writing sample of up to 5,000 words. Proposals and samples should be double-spaced, 12pt.

3) Each proposal should outline the subject matter, scope, style and structure of the proposed essay, and include a word count, delivery date and biographical note.  

4) The proposals must be original, not previously submitted to a publisher. The writing sample may be previously published work. 

5) Entries can also be sent by post to Fitzcarraldo Editions, 243 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DN. 

6) Only submissions received by email or by post by midnight on 15 March 2017 (GMT) will be considered.

7) Entries that are incomplete, are corrupted or submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

8) The entry must be the entrant’s own original creation and must not infringe upon the right or copyright of any person or entity.

9) Co-authored entries will not be accepted. 

10) Writers who have existing contracts, or who have previously held contracts, with publishers for books of fiction or non-fiction are not eligible to enter.

11) Writers who have published writing (fiction or non-fiction) in magazines and journals are eligible to enter.

12) Writers who have published books of poetry are eligible to enter.

13) Writers may submit only one proposal per iteration of the prize. 

14) The proposed essay must be written in English (no translations).

15) Submissions must be made by the author of the proposal.

16) There are no age restrictions.

17) When submitting, please include a short covering letter including your contact details, your name and the title of your proposed essay. The covering letter should be in the same document as your submission.

18) Submissions from writers residing outside of Great Britain and Ireland will not be considered.

19) All submissions should include page numbers.

20) The essay must be original and should not have been previously published anywhere in full or in part. Published work is taken to mean published in any printed, publicly accessible form, e.g. anthology, magazine, newspaper. It is also taken to mean published online, with the exception of personal blogs and personal websites.

21) Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.

22) No editorial feedback will be provided to unsuccessful entrants.

23) The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into regarding the judging process.

24) Fitzcarraldo Editions will have the exclusive right to publish the winning essay, once written. 

25) Only submissions which meet all Terms and Conditions will be considered.

26) By entering this competition, each entrant agrees to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.