We are delighted to reveal the judges for the 2022 Desmond Elliott Prize – the flagship in our Early Career Awards portfolio.

The Desmond Elliott Prize, which is the country’s largest prize for first novels and worth £10,000 to the winner, will be chaired by its 2020 winner, the writer and poet, Derek Owusu. Derek will be joined by award-winning journalist and author, Symeon Brown, and Cheltenham Literature Festival’s Programme & Commissions Manager, Lyndsey Fineran. Together they are tasked with finding the novel they believe is most worthy of being crowned the best debut novel of the last 12 months.

Derek said:

‘It’s an honour to judge any prize but it’s even more special to work with a prize that did so much for my career and continues to do so for others. And I’m very happy I can be a part of that – I’m really looking forward to reading so many incredible books.’

Derek Owusu was awarded the 2020 Desmond Elliott Prize for his debut novel That Reminds Me, the first work of fiction to be published by Stormzy’s Merky Books imprint. His second solo work, Losing The Plot, will be published in 2022 by Canongate Books. Owusu was also one of the founding members of the Black Writers Guild, whose formation was due to the lack of representation and inequalities that exist within mainstream publishing in the UK.

Read more about the judges here

‘It’s an honour to judge any prize but it’s even more special to work with a prize that did so much for my career.’

The Desmond Elliott Prize is run by the National Centre for Writing as the flagship in its Early Career Awards portfolio, which also includes the UEA New Forms Award and the Laura Kinsella Fellowship.

NCW Chief Executive Chris Gribble said:

‘We’re delighted and proud to have Derek, Lyndsey and Symeon join us as judges for the 2022 Desmond Elliott Prize. All three are deeply connected to the best new writing, most exciting new writers and the most urgent stories being created today and will do a brilliant job in guiding the prize this year. The last couple of years has seen a boom in reading and a reading public more confident and open than ever before to outstanding new work; the Desmond Elliott Prize longlist offers an exhilarating snapshot of the best on offer this year and we’re very excited to make a start!’

The Desmond Elliott Prize longlist will be announced on 21 April and the shortlist will be announced on 7 June 7. The winners of all three prizes will be revealed on 1 July 2022.