Society of Authors awards £185,000 in grants for work in progress

8 December 2020

48 authors have received a financial grant to support their ongoing writing projects, worth more than £185,000 in total.

The SoA has awarded £185,750 in grants this month to 48 authors to support their works in progress – by buying them time to write or helping with research costs – with some of this year’s writing projects focusing on mothers and daughters, queer auto-fiction, forgotten histories, post-colonial Kenya, and the natural world. For one writer, it’ll be an opportunity to follow ‘in my anarchist great-great-grandmother’s footsteps’ in Ireland and Georgia.

Each year the SoA awards over £370,000 in grants as part of the Authors’ Foundation and K Blundell Trust to support writers with their works in progress and bring exciting new work into the world from a range of genres and styles, at all stages of literary careers. The grants enable writers to focus on their work without the pressures of financial or time constraints.

Meet some of this year’s recipients below.

Grants updates for 2021

The deadlines for applications to our 2021 rounds of grants for work in progress are 1 February, for distribution in May, and 1 July, for distribution in October.

And as Covid-19 continues to impact incomes, we are still distributing hardship grants to authors in financial crisis, from the Authors’ Contingency Fund.


Lauren John Joseph

‘It has come at a crucial point in my writing, and during a particularly difficult year’

“I'm so grateful to receive this award from the SoA Author's Foundation. It has come at a crucial point in my writing, and during a particularly difficult year. It will allow me to complete my novel, At Certain Points We Touch, and I couldn't be happier to receive it! The novel is a work of queer auto-fiction, which centres on the early death of a close friend. It deals with loss, intimacy, and memory, and questions how our age of constant connectivity is changing how we grieve. Elegiac, erotic, and deeply meditative in tone, the book is also an attempt to understand how gender modulates over a lifetime, and to marry such an awakening with the realisation of what one’s mission as a writer might be.”

Lauren John Joseph (formerly La John Joseph) is an artist and performer. Their experimental prose volume, Everything Must Go, was published by ITNA in 2014, and was nominated for a LAMBDA Literary Award and the Polari First Book Prize. Their two plays Boy in a Dress and A Generous Lover were published by Oberon in 2019. They are currently at work on a novel, At Certain Points We Meet.

Photo © Eivind Hansen


Njambi McGrath

‘I can concentrate on redrafting my book without the stress of where my next pay check is coming from’

“When I was a teenager, my mother and I lived in a very dysfunctional compound in post-colonial Kenya. This is the inspiration for my new book The Residents of the Ministry of Works. This grant is a necessary and much appreciated tool that will give me breathing space so I can concentrate on redrafting my book for a few months without the stress of where my next pay check is coming from. I am truly grateful to the SoA Authors’ Foundation grant, specifically a John C Laurence Award. Thank you.”

Njambi McGrath is a rising comedy star with a Radio 4 Series in the horizon. She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir Through the Leopard’s Gaze, optioned for a six-part TV drama series. FestMag described Njambi as a ‘compelling voice of a rarely heard African perspective’. She was in the original line up of the (ARIA) Radio Awards hit BBC World comedy show The New Year’s International Comedy Celebration. Since her debut in 2010, she was voted 1 of 5 up-and-coming female comedians 2012 by Fabulous magazine, barely 14 months later. A year later, she was shortlisted for the BBC Radio New Comedy Awards twice. Njambi has appeared on shows like Saturday Live BBC Radio 4, Loose Ends and a half-hour profile on BBC World Service, and has been showcased on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 4Xtra. She was crowned winner of 2019 prestigious Hackney empire NATYS Award, joining the ranks of previous winners like Stewart Lee and Lee Mark. Njambi’s book was shortlisted as one of the Twentyin2020 writers announced in the Guardian 2019. Away from writing, Njambi is an accomplished comedian with seven one-woman shows and three filmed comedy specials. 

Hannah Regel

‘… an honour to be supported in a project which is so important to me’

“I am extremely grateful to the Authors’ Foundation and K Blundell Trust for this grant. Their assistance will allow me the time and space to complete my first novel which explores a fictionalised encounter with the work of a forgotten ceramicist, based on an archive held in the Women's Art Library, Goldsmiths College. It is an honour to be supported in a project which is so important to me, and for it to be recognised in this way. Thank you so much.”

Hannah Regel co-edited the feminist journal SALT from 2012-2019. She is the author of two published collections of poetry When I Was Alive (2017) and Oliver Reed (2020, both Montez Press). Hannah lives in London.


Alasdair Soussi

‘Financial assistance will help me make this book the best it can be’

“It’s an honour to receive a grant for my ongoing biography of Scottish artist, James McBey. Shadows and Light — The Life and Times of James McBey will be the world’s first biography of this international etcher and painter. Born illegitimately in late nineteenth century Aberdeenshire, McBey went on to become one of Scotland’s and Britain’s most successful artists. He was also the official war artist for the Allies in the Middle East during WWI, sketching from the front line and meeting and painting Lawrence of Arabia in Damascus. Financial assistance will help make this book the best it can be – and I’m indebted to the SoA Authors’ Foundation for their support.”

Alasdair Soussi is a Glasgow-based freelance journalist and filmmaker who writes for Al Jazeera English and The National in Abu Dhabi. He has reported from the likes of Beirut, Cairo and Freetown, and has made a series of short online documentaries for Al Jazeera. His edited work on his grandfather’s WWII war diary and war poetry from West Africa, In the Shadow of the Cotton Tree — A Diary of Second World War Sierra Leone, was published in 2014. Shadows and Light — The Life and Times of James McBey will be published by Scotland Street Press in 2022.


Lydia Syson

‘… I can now travel to Ireland and Georgia in my anarchist great-great-grandmother’s footsteps’

“The SoA's vote of confidence in my current work-in-progress means as much to me as the timely financial support. I’m writing an intimate group biography of three generations of radical mothers and daughters in my family, piecing together a vast and scattered collection of letters, notebooks and unpublished memoirs. The stories these tell – of activism, social revolution and passion – challenge many preconceptions about women’s political and personal lives and also illuminate my own. I can now travel to Ireland and Georgia in my anarchist great-great-grandmother’s footsteps and collect material from a wide range of archives."

Lydia Syson has written extensively on hidden histories, in the form of biography and fiction for adults and younger readers. Mr Peacock’s Possessions (2018), her most recent novel, addresses migration and slavery in the nineteenth-century Pacific. Earlier books explored the 1871 Paris Commune, the Spanish Civil War, World War II’s ‘invasion summer’, and the life and times of a progressive Enlightenment sex doctor. Family history has long been an inspiration, but this is her most personal project to date.  


Mirza Waheed

‘… couldn’t have come at a better time’

“My current novel is about a precipitously transforming natural world and our place in it. It’s also a book about children. I’m very grateful to receive this grant from the Society of Authors, as it will allow me time and freedom to work uninterrupted on the book. It couldn’t have come at a better time. A big thank you.”

Mirza Waheed was born and brought up in Kashmir. His debut novel, The Collaborator, was an international bestseller, a finalist for the Guardian First Book Award and the Shakti Bhat Prize, and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. It was selected by Waterstones as part of its literary debut promotion, Waterstones 11. It was also a book of the year for The Telegraph, New Statesman, Financial Times, Business Standard, and Telegraph India, among others. His second novel, The Book of Gold Leaves, was published in 2014 to critical acclaim. It was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2016, longlisted for the Folio Prize, and was a finalist for the 2015 Tata Literature Live! Book of the Year (Fiction). Mirza has written for the BBC, the Guardian, Granta, Guernica, Al Jazeera English, and The New York Times. Waheed's last novel Tell Her Everything was nominated for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2019 and Tata Literature Live Book of the Year. It will be published in France early next year. Tell Her Everything won the Hindu Prize for Fiction 2019.