The 2024 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize, an annual competition for unpublished writers, is open to submissions from 8 January until midnight on 17 March 2024. The judges will be looking for essays that explore and expand the possibilities of the essay form, with no restrictions on theme or subject matter. Initially 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 & Ireland who has yet to secure a publishing deal. In addition to the £3,000 prize the winner will have the opportunity to spend up to two months in residency at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Spoleto, Italy, to work on their book. The book will then be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions.

The prize aims to find the best emerging essay writers and to give them a chance to develop and showcase their talent. It also provides the winner with their first experience of publishing a book, from the planning, research and writing of it through to the editing, production and publicity stages. The prize is judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Max Porter and Jacques Testard. Full submission guidelines can be found below.

In 2023, Ghalya Saadawi was awarded the Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize for her proposal Between October and November, an essay on time and loss under an extended, capitalist modernity, on what we keep and what is taken away. The essay has its beginnings in a letter to a friend, in which Saadawi explored political family histories, fashion and music’s retromania, postponement of writing, and the eruption of the past in the present. Written in fragments and digressions that thread cultural criticism, family memoir and life writing, the essay continues to think through the continued cultural obsession with the past and the future, foreclosed revolutionary legacies, the contradictions of destruction and tradition, mourning and the mediation of memory. The other shortlisted authors, chosen from 107 entries, were Luke Allan for There is another world, but it is this one, Toby Chai for Embryos Denied Mitosis, Pete Kowalczyk with Time is a Border, Matthew Porges for The Balkan Bridge by Matthew Porges, and Asa Serezin with The Divorce Plot. The 2023 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Max Porter and Jacques Testard.

Marianne Brooker won the 2022 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize for her proposal Intervals, an essay about choice, interdependence and end-of-life care, to be published in February 2024. Blending memoir, polemic and feminist philosophy in order to transform grief into a resource for politics, Intervals explores the space between proximity and complicity, charting the author’s care for her mother as she refused food and water at the end of her life, determined to end her suffering from Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. The other shortlisted authors, chosen from 124 entries, were Chloe Evans for Elastic Bands, Holly Isard for Molecular Visions, Benoit Loîseau for Fast, Oliver Shamlou for Shabaneh and Radio Silence by Stephanie Y. Tam. The 2022 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Max Porter and Jacques Testard.

Heather McCalden was awarded the 2021 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize with The Observable Universe, a prismatic account of grief conveyed through images, anecdotes and Wikipedia-like entries, calibrated specifically for the Internet Age. Centred on the loss of her parents to AIDS in the early ’90s, The Observable Universe questions what it means to ‘go viral’ in an era of explosive biochemical and virtual contagion. It will be published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in March 2024. The other shortlisted entries were Q is for Garden by Jenny Chamarette, The Report by Joshua Craze, Terra Nullius by Joanna Pidcock, The Raven’s Nest by Sarah Thomas, and Broken Rice by April Yee. The 2021 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Max Porter and Jacques Testard.

Thea Lenarduzzi was awarded the 2020 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize with her proposal for Dandelions, a family memoir and social history about two women piecing together themselves and each other from the fragments of four generations’ worth of migration between Italy and England, and the stories scattered along the way. Dandelions was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in September 2022. The other shortlisted entries were Not Revolving by Rashed Aqrabawi, Black Space in the Basement by Elliot C. Mason, Which As You Know Means Violence by Philippa Snow, We Blew Them Into Shards of Dust by Sean Stoker and Mrs Gargantua: Cuba, the United States and the New Man by JS Tennant. The 2020 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Paul Keegan and Jacques Testard. 

In 2019, Polly Barton was awarded the fourth iteration of the Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize for Fifty Sounds, an attempt to exhaust her obsession with the country she moved to at the age of 21, before eventually becoming a literary translator. From min-min, the sound of air screaming, to jin-jin, the sound of being touched for the very first time, from hi’sori, the sound of harbouring masochist tendencies, to mote-mote, the sound of becoming a small-town movie star, Fifty Sounds is a personal dictionary of the Japanese language, recounting her life as an outsider in Japan. Fifty Sounds was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in April 2021. The other four shortlisted entries were On Lunar Thinking by Amy Budd, There is California Champagne: Dignity and Work at the End of the World by Michael Docherty, Tender as Memory by Maria Howard, and Common Periwinkle by Bryony White. The 2019 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Paul Keegan and Jacques Testard. 

In 2018, Joanna Pocock won the prize for Surrender, a narrative non-fiction work on the changing landscape of the West and the scavenger, rewilder and Ecosexual communities, inspired by a two-year stay in Montana. Surrender was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in May 2019. The other five shortlisted entries were A Woman’s Place by Rachel Andrews, Oliver Basciano’s Tichile┼čti, Felix Bazalgette’s Natural MagicGay Bar by Jeremy Atherton Lin, and Rebecca Perry’s Four Invocations. The 2018 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Paul Keegan and Jacques Testard. 

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. The other four shortlisted entries were Wolf: An Anatomy of an Illness by Elinor Cleghorn; English as a Foreign Language by Evan Harris; Other, Mixed by Will Harris; and Possession by Rebecca Ley. The 2017 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Paul Keegan and Jacques Testard. 

In 2016, Matthew McNaught was awarded the inaugural Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios 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. Immanuel was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in June 2022. The other four shortlisted entries were Corona by Felix Bazalgette; Bad For You by Alice Hattrick; Growing up Modern by Jennifer Kabat; and Double-Tracking by Rosanna Mclaughlin. The 2016 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Paul Keegan, Ali Smith and Jacques Testard. 


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 Harper’s and co-founder of Silver Press. Her book about the way we work, All Day Long, was published by Serpent’s Tail in 2015. Her second book, A Life of One’s Own, was published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in May 2023. 

Brian Dillon is a writer and critic. His books include Suppose a Sentence (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2020), Essayism (Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2017), 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; Fitzcarraldo Editions, 2018). He teaches creative writing at the Queen Mary. Affinities, a book about the intimate and abstract pleasures of reading and looking, was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in February 2023. 

Joanna Kavenna is the author of The Ice Museum (Viking, 2006), Inglorious (Faber & Faber, 2007), The Birth of Love (Faber & Faber, 2011), Come to the Edge (riverrun, 2012), A Field Guide to Reality (riverrun, 2017) and Zed (Faber & Faber, 2019). Her writing has appeared in the New YorkerGuardian, Observer, Telegraph, SpectatorLondon 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.

Max Porter is the author of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers (Faber & Faber, 2016), winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize; Lanny (Faber & Faber, 2019), longlisted for the Booker Prize; and an essay, The Death of Francis Bacon (Faber & Faber, 2021). His latest novel, Shy, was published in April 2023 by Faber & Faber. 

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


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 email 

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, A103, 8-12 Creekside, London SE8 3DX. 

6) Only submissions received by email or by post by midnight on 17 March 2024 (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. Entrants should also submit a separate one-page cover letter on how they propose to use the residency at the Mahler-LeWitt Studios. 

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) A meeting will be organised with all shortlisted writers to discuss their book proposal before the award of the prize. 

22) Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.

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

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

25) Fitzcarraldo Editions will have the exclusive right to publish the winning essay once it has been written, but reserves the right not to publish. 

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

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