The winner of The Barbellion Prize 2022 is Book of Hours: An Almanac for The Seasons of The Soul by Letty McHugh (Self-published, with support from Disability Arts Online).
“Over the course of the pandemic, a complication with my chronic illness left me alone in a darkened room for three weeks. I drew comfort from an imagined Book of Hours. Half Almanac, half prayer book, medieval Books of Hours offered guidance for every situation and every day of the year. As I recovered I started to wonder, where was the spiritual guidebook for people like me; lost, sick, artists who watch too much reality TV? I couldn’t find one, so I made my own... Borrowing wisdom from Anglo-Saxon hermits, contemporary artists, and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Book of Hours is a collection of lyric essay and poetry exploring what it means to have faith, why we chase suffering and how to take solace in small joys.” — http://www.lettymchugh.co.uk
Judge and Barbellion Prize 2021 winner Lynn Buckle on the shortlisted prize entries: “We always knew it would be challenging to pick a winner from such a strong list of publications. We were primarily looking for great writing but were also afforded some great insights into disability issues such as assistive technology, acquired disability, and the struggle for self-acceptance in Harry Parker’s Hybrid Humans. Lauren Foley showed us that we are free to write outside of these boundaries in her snappy, brilliant short story collection Polluted Sex. And Claire Oshetsky’s wonderfully dark and humorous novel Chouette reimagined difference in entirely new ways. To select a self-published book as winner is a radical act, indicating the important role this international literary prize plays in highlighting work by authors whose journey towards publication is inherently more difficult due to chronic illness or disability. It is not just health, but systemic barriers which pose limitations on such writers. I sincerely hope to see Book of Hours traditionally published so that it may reach wider audiences, that readers may be rewarded by Letty McHugh’s beautiful writing and unique contemplations. She writes with intellectual rigour, with curiosity, and hope. She writes of our struggles and joys while interrogating the intersections between disability, suffering, and faith. Book of Hours is a small gem of a book with huge power.”
Barbellion judge Ray Davis on Book of Hours: “… absurdly ambitious — but also disarmingly self-deprecating, plain-spoken in matters of pain and death, as pretty as a pebble beach, and a unique response to the collision of global pandemic and chronic illness. It was a delightful surprise for us, and in the end we hope to extend the surprise.”
Barbellion judge Emmeline Burdett: “… It’s been a real privilege to read all these different texts. In their different ways, they all reclaim disability and chronic illness as legitimate facets of human experience, and thus they are all extremely valuable… Book of Hours needs and deserves a traditional publisher, so that the beauty of McHugh’s writing, and her ideas about chronic illness, may be appreciated as widely as possible.”
For winning The Barbellion Prize 2022, Letty McHugh will receive £1000 and a custom-made Barbellion Prize trophy.
Letty McHugh is an artist and writer based in West Yorkshire, an Associate Artist with Disability Arts Online and a Fellow with Dada Fest International.
The Barbellion Prize is a book prize dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing. The prize is awarded annually to an author whose work has best represented the experience of chronic illness and/or disability.
The awarded work can be of any genre: in fiction, memoir, biography, poetry, or critical non-fiction from around the world - whether it is in English, in translation, traditionally published, or self-published.
The prize is named in tribute to English diarist W.N.P. Barbellion, who wrote eloquently on his life with multiple sclerosis (MS) before his death in 1919.
Submissions for 2023 are now open and end October 31st 2023. Please feel free to donate to the prize using the links at the top and bottom of our website.
More about The Barbellion Prize:
Advisor to the Prize, Professor Tom Shakespeare FBA, Professor of Disability Research at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, comments: "Writers with illnesses and impairments, from Robert Louis Stevenson to Flannery O'Connor to 'W.N.P. Barbellion' himself, have contributed mightily to literature. I applaud the creation of this new prize, hoping it will shine a spotlight on their contemporary successors."
Author and Assistant Professor of Literature, Dr Shahd Alshammari, and member of the 2020 judging panel says: "The Barbellion Prize seeks to amplify voices that are seldom heard, and if they are, they’re not heard enough. It is a privilege reading all this wonderful work and I hope that more publishers discover disabled writers’ writing."
Eligibility for the prize is predicated on the author’s presentation of life with a long-term chronic illness or disability, whether that be in the form of blindness, MS, cystic fibrosis, dwarfism, or another comparable condition that may substantially define one’s life.
Authors - such as those in a carer's capacity - who themselves are not disabled may be considered for the prize if their work is truly exceptional as an articulation of life with illness, but authors who themselves deal personally with illness or disability will take priority in any selection for the prize.
If you are an author, agent, or publisher wishing to submit a work, please consult our 'How To Submit A Work' page. If you have any questions, refer to our 'FAQs' or contact us in confidence via our email (see below).
What is important to us is not just any particular moral or message in a given work... but more so a greater visibility for, and a genuine illustration of, life with illness, disease, impairment, or disability.
You can find more resources at the bottom of our 'Authors Old & New' page.