Picture © Kath Keep.

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Picture © Kath Keep.


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Earlyworks Press Biography Challenge

First Prize: £100 Cash Advance & Royalty Contract,

Small Press Publication

OR £350 Cash


Professional Critiques of Submissions

Advice on Synopses and Proposals

Author-Signed Books and

Cut-Price Earlyworks Press Writers' Club Membership

for the top ten.


Competition now closed. Results will be reported on these pages in due course.


Sponsored by Circaidy Gregory Press




Andrew Lownie



Andrew Lownie

"I’m a great believer that all history is really biography as it’s people who generally shape events rather than inexorable historical movements. All of us, I think, are fascinated by what makes people ‘tick’  and hence our traditional love of biography.

"What I look for in a biography, though it has to be totally accurate and well-researched, is what I also want in a novel – a strong narrative arc, a compelling story, the ability to set  a scene, to create a sense of place and to delineate character.

"What I love about biography is it can be used to humanise almost any story and it can take many forms from “the cradle to the grave” approach to the “slice of life”. In the hands of a pro, it can be the most satisfying of any genre."

Andrew Lownie read history at the universities of Cambridge, where he was Dunster History Prizeman, and Edinburgh. He has run his own literary agency specialising in history and biography since 1988 and is the author of several books including a life of John Buchan and a forthcoming biography of Guy Burgess. In 1997 he founded The Biographers Club, of which he is now President, and he sits on the board of Biographers International Organisation.

Tony Palmer



Tony Palmer's vast filmography of over one hundred films ranges from early works with The Beatles, Cream, Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa (200 Motels), to the famous portraits with and about Walton, Britten, Stravinsky, Maria Callas, André Previn, John Osborne, Leonard Cohen (Bird on a Wire), Margot Fonteyn and Menuhin, as well as feature films such as Testimony, starring Ben Kingsley as Shostakovich. His 7 hour 45 minutes film on Wagner, starring Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier and Vanessa Redgrave, was described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of the most beautiful films ever made". Among over 40 international prizes for his work are 12 Gold Medals at the New York Film & Television Festival, awards from the Jerusalem, San Francisco, Sao Paolo, Sofia, Cuenca and London Film Festivals, as well as numerous BAFTA (British Academy of Film & Television) EMMY, GRIERSON nominations and awards. In 1989 he was awarded a major retrospective of his work at the National Film Theatre in London, the first maker of 'arts' films to be so fêted. He is also a prize-winning opera and theatre director, recipient of three Platinum and two Gold records, author of seven books - most famously The Trials of Oz - and was awarded a SONY Prize as a radio presenter. An honorary citizen of both Athens and New Orleans, a D.Mus (Hon), D.Litt (Hon) and FRGS, he is the only person to have won the PRIX ITALIA three times. Apart from his new film about Britten, Nocturne, his most recent film Falls The Shadow about Athol Fugard won this year’s Gold Medal at the New York Film & Television Festival.





Maddy Price

"For me a biography or autobiography has got to have a great emotional story. I am drawn in by characters as much in non-fiction as I am in fiction, and a biography should have many of the same elements. Romance, intrigue, a vivid setting and a fantastic ending are all important. But what I love about biography and autobiography is that they have an extra level – an exciting sense that this all really happened. A great biography can spark a lifelong love of a time, a place or a person, and that’s what is really special about the genre."

Maddy Price studied English Literature at Birmingham University before completing a Master’s degree in Publishing Studies at City University, London. She worked at Robert Hale and Transworld Publishers before joining Hodder and Stoughton as Assistant Editor of non-fiction in April 2012. Over the years she has worked on books by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Clarissa Dickson-Wright and Mary Robinson, among many others. She is passionate about memoir and biography, with a special interest in Tudor history. 

First round reader Karen Bartlett

Karen Bartlett


Karen Bartlett is a writer and journalist who recently co-wrote ‘After Auschwitz’ the bestselling memoir by Anne Frank’s step-sister Eva Schloss, published by Hodder and Stoughton. She has written extensively for The Sunday Times, The Times, The Guardian and WIRED from around the world, and has presented and produced for BBC radio. Previously she worked in politics and was director of Charter88, a campaign group for democratic reform. Karen is particularly interested in biographies of recent historical figures.

Competition administrator 

Kay Green

Author and English teacher Kay Green has been working with the English language in a variety of ways for all her professional life. Her first book of fiction was published by Elastic Press in 1999, and she has written course materials for general and business English exam course students. Now owner/editor of Circaidy Gregory Press and competition administrator for Earlyworks Press, Kay will be coordinating the judging of the biography challenge, and discussing next steps with the short listed authors, come the time.

Inspirations for entrants

Competition administrator Kay Green writes:

Whether you have written biographies before or are embarking on your first in order to enter this challenge, whether you are working on a celebrity biography, a historical text, a memoir of a local character or the story of your own life, I hope these articles by our panel and associates will spark off some new ideas and ways of working, and encourage you to show us what you decide is the best way to approach biography writing. I look forward to seeing the resulting entries.

The ‘Truth’ - a partial view 

by Tony Palmer

What is the truth about another person? What is the truth about ourselves? We have no idea. We present different faces to different people; we invent, or at the very least embroider, our past. We invent incidents and repeat them to others so often that eventually we believe them to be true....

Click here to read Tony's article

Adapting a Book to a Play

by Tom O'Brien

Brian Harding is an alcoholic. He is in his late sixties now and had his first drink in 1953, on Coronation Day. Sixty years on he is still drinking daily; it is killing him, but as he says ‘if I stop now it will kill me quicker’.  I first met Brian a number of years ago; he was selling copies of his book ‘My Wretched Alcoholism – This Damn Puppeteer’ outside Natwest Bank in Hastings town centre, and I was persuaded to buy a copy...

Click here to read Tom's article

Biography Challenge How to Enter


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