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.
The 2021 prize has been awarded as of February 12th 2022, with prize money amounting to £1000. Submissions for 2022 are now open and end October 31st 2022. Please feel free to donate to the prize using the links at the top and bottom of our website.
We are delighted to announce that the winner of The Barbellion Prize 2021 is What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle (Époque Press).
“What Willow Says is undeniably brilliant,” says Barbellion Prize 2021 judge, writer and bookseller Eleanor Franzén. “Potentially both disorienting and reorienting to a non-Deaf audience, which is really what I think the best writing about all sorts of experience ought to be.”
What Willow Says is a powerful story of change and acceptance, as a deaf child and her grandmother experiment with the lyrical beauty of sign language through their love of trees, set to a backdrop of myths, legends, and ancient bogs.
“Reading the entries for the Barbellion Prize made one thing absolutely clear – disability literature has never been more vibrant and searchingly alive as it is now,” says fellow judge Karl Knights, writer, poet and winner of the 2021 New Poets Prize.
“We are delighted to award the prize to Lynn Buckle’s What Willow Says,” says Jake Goldsmith, founder and Director of The Barbellion Prize. “There was a stellar shortlist this year – it’s a common thing to say, but picking a winner is hard. In future years, when we have the capacity to do so, it is our intention to award all shortlisted authors a prize, with the trophy going to the winner – first among equals.”
Praise for What Willow Says:
“A powerful, moving book… every sentence, phrase and word is worth savouring.” - The Irish Independent.
“In a strong year for Irish writing, the standout was the poetic What Willow Says by Lynn Buckle.” - Rónán Hession, The Irish Times Books of the Year 2021.
“…a contemplative and lyrical exploration of the intersections of language, love and grief.” - Eoghan Smith, booksirelandmagazine.com.
British-born artist and writer Lynn Buckle, resident in Ireland for thirty years, has previously been listed as Easons Best of Irish Literature and nominated for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. She receives £1000 and a custom trophy, along with a copy of W.N.P. Barbellion’s The Journal of a Disappointed Man.
The Barbellion Prize 2021 Shortlist:
The Winner of The Barbellion Prize 2020 is 'GOLEM GIRL: A MEMOIR' by Riva Lehrer (One World/Virago).
For winning the 2020 prize, Riva Lehrer will receive £1000, a custom-made crystal glass Barbellion Prize trophy and certificate, as well as a copy of W.N.P. Barbellion's The Journal of a Disappointed Man.
You can support the prize and help us continue to celebrate the work of disabled authors by donating - using the links below.
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.