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A new award for essay writing with a £15, 000 first prize has been announced. Named in honour of the master of the English essay, the William Hazlitt Essay Prize will be awarded annually to the best essay in English of between 2,000 to 8, 000 words. Judged on the originality of the idea, the quality of the prose and the ability to communicate to a wide audience, the winning writer will receive a hefty £15,000, with five runners up receiving £1,000 each.
The competition, run by Notting Hill Editions, a publishing imprint devoted to the best in non-fiction essay writing, is open to both published and unpublished works.
Author and journalist Harry Mount, who will chair the judging panel for the prize, said ‘The British have always underplayed the importance of the essay, and yet we’re naturally very good at them. The mixture of wit, brevity and original thought suits us down to the ground. Such a generous prize is bound to produce a fresh crop of first-rate essays from established and new writers.’
“It does not treat of minerals or fossils, of the virtues of plants, or the influence of planets; it does not meddle with forms of belief, or systems of philosophy, nor launch into the world of spiritual existences; but it makes familiar with the world of men and women, records their actions, assigns their motives, exhibits their whims, characterises their pursuits in all their singular and endless variety, ridicules their absurdities, exposes their inconsistencies, ‘holds the mirror up to nature, and shows the very age and body of the time its form and pressure’; takes minutes of our dress, air, looks, words, thoughts, and actions; shows us what we are, and what we are not; plays the whole game of human life over before us, and by making us enlightened Spectators of its many-coloured scenes, enables us (if possible) to become tolerably reasonable agents in the one in which we have to perform a part. It is the best and most natural course of study.”
— William Hazlitt, ‘On the Periodical Essay’ (1821)
The submission deadline for 2013 is 1st August. More details on entering here.
Check out some of the essays we love at Litro in our True Tales section, where we showcase creative non-fiction, essay writing and memoir.
Emily Cleaver is Litro's Online Editor. She is passionate about short stories and writes, reads and reviews them. Her own stories have been published in the London Lies anthology from Arachne Press, Paraxis, .Cent, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, One Eye Grey, and Smoke magazines, performed to audiences at Liars League, Stand Up Tragedy, WritLOUD, Tales of the Decongested and Spark London and broadcasted on Resonance FM and Pagan Radio. As a former manager of one of London’s oldest second-hand bookshops, she also blogs about old and obscure books. You can read her tiny true dramas about working in a secondhand bookshop at smallplays.com and see more of her writing at emilycleaver.net.