How do I submit a work?
Check out our 'How To Submit A Work' page for more information.
Are authors with health problems such as mental illness or cancer - writing about those subjects - eligible for the prize?
The Barbellion Prize is intended for people with chronic, life-long conditions – whether congenital, or acquired as adults. It’s never easy to define exactly who’s in, and who’s out. But there are already prizes for people with cancer or people with mental health conditions, and this prize is not intended to duplicate or overlap with those - while we will still consider any submissions. Nor is it intended for those with disabilities that do not much affect their participation in society. Many, but not all of those eligible will live shortened lifespans, due to CF, MD, MS and other conditions.
But this is not a prize about ill-health or medicine. It is a prize which celebrates and recognises alternative ways of living and finding meaning.
If potential applicants are in any doubt about their eligibility, please contact, in confidence, the administrator of the prize. The decision of the administrator and judges shall be final.
A list of prize winners will offer further guidance as to what we are looking for in the future.
Who is Barbellion?
W.N.P Barbellion (Bruce Frederick Cummings, 1889 – 1919), was an English diarist and naturalist whose life was changed forever after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) before trying to sign up to fight in WW1.
He wrote eloquently, controversially, and movingly about his life, health, observations on culture and society, and his impending death in The Journal of a Disappointed Man; regarded by some as one of the most moving diaries ever written: in the same league as Franz Kafka and James Joyce.
The Barbellion Prize is named in his honour, in homage to him, as he is an exemplar of the sort of work made possible under such terrible circumstances and to the power of writing - as a way to embolden oneself and contend with the realities of illness.
Why was The Barbellion Prize created?
The idea to create a book prize for ill and disabled authors came to Jake Goldsmith in the process of writing his memoir Neither Weak Nor Obtuse. Jake’s memoir is about how his life-long suffering with cystic fibrosis and various other medical conditions shaped his view of the world, his mind, his ideas, and his view on impending death.
Later in the book he reflects on the wider public perception of people with illnesses like his, or of people with disabilities, and how they are often abused, hurt, overlooked, or misunderstood.
He also reflects on the history of literature and writing on illness and the idea of writing as a method of emotional ventilation, and a way to help oneself and others understand these experiences.
Writing is still a brilliant way for ill and disabled people to make some sense of what they experience, yet the history of literature or public awareness of illness, infirmity, sickness, is still comparatively thin and it is still too commonly turned away from, ignored, scorned, or we discriminate when we do see it.
Many people around the world with illnesses or disabilities do not have a voice that is heard, and indeed may be among some of the most voiceless people in our communities.
It can take a lot of time and energy to be ill, and many do not have the luxury of being able to write about their lives, or even the opportunity of an education in order to do that. And it would be better if they were seen and celebrated.
No matter how ubiquitous is, illness and disability will often be neglected or even shamed in everyday life. Disability can become a reality for anyone, and yet we will still neglect it, or find room for abuse.
And in literature, it is still not one of the more essential or primary of subjects - when it perhaps deserves to be given its significance.
As such, The Barbellion Prize was created to espouse the existence of ill and disabled writers, and to reward authors for their good work and effort.