2023 DRF Writers Award Winner Announced

  • Judges Abdulrazak Gurnah, Claire Adam and Annalena McAfee announce Neil Rollison as the winner of the 2023 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award for his work, The Dead Don ’t Bleed.
  • Two runners up were congratulated: Michelle Alipao Chikaonda for The Dying Embers of Our Setting Sunand Alicia McAuley for The Caul.
  • Neil Rollinson receives £10,000, the two runners up £1,000 each
  • 864 entries were considered.
  • A shortlist of three was chosen from a longlist of nine.
  • Chair of the judges, Abdulrazak Gurnah announced the news at a ceremony at Faber, The Bindery, London on Thursday 9 November.

The judges for the 2023 Award were Nobel Prize winner Abdulrazak Gurnah (Chair), along with award-winning novelist, Claire Adam, and the renowned writer and journalist, Annalena McAfee.

‘The panel read through a longlist of nine pieces of writing. There was a great deal to admire in all of them and we congratulate all the submitted writers and their achievements. We arrived at our shortlist after intense and pleasurable discussion and unanimously chose The Dead Don't Bleed as the recipient of the Deborah Rogers Foundation Prize.’ - Abdulrazak Gurnah, chair of the Judges

The DRF Writers Award is presented to a writer whose submission demonstrates outstanding literary talent and who needs financial support to complete their first full-length book. £10,000 is awarded to the winner; two runners-up each receive £1,000.

The winner of the 2021 DRF Writers Award was Mathelinda Nabugodi for The Trembling Hand: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive, a work of non-fiction to be published by Hamish Hamilton in the UK and Knopf in the US in 2024.

THE DEAD DON'T BLEED by Neil Rollinson (novel)

NeilRollison (Custom).jpeg
Neil Rollinson was born in Yorkshire and lives in the north east of England. He studied painting at St Martins School of Art and has published four collections of poetry with Jonathan Cape. He has spent most of his adult life teaching poetry at various universities in the UK, including Bath Spa, London University of the Arts, and Oxford Brookes. 

He is currently taking an extended period of leave in an attempt to concentrate more fully on his writing. The Dead Don’t Bleed is his first foray into writing prose.


Judges of the 2023 Writers Award

Abdulrazak Gurnah is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2021. He is the author of ten novels: Memory of Departure, Pilgrims Way, Dottie, Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award), Admiring Silence, By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award), Desertion (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize) The Last Gift, Gravel Heart, and Afterlives, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Fiction 2021 and longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize. He was Professor of English at the University of Kent and was a Man Booker Prize judge in 2016. He lives in Canterbury.

Claire Adam was born and raised in Trinidad. She read Physics at Brown University and later took an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she gained a distinction. Her debut novel Golden Child was published by Faber & Faber and SJP for Hogarth in 2019, and was listed as one of the BBC's 100 Novels that Shaped our World. It was awarded the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, the Author's Club Best First Novel Award and the McKitterick Prize 2020. She lives in London.

Annalena McAfee worked in newspapers for more than three decades. She was arts and literary editor of the Financial Times and founded the Guardian Review, which she edited for six years. She has written eight children’s books, and has three novels The Spoiler, Hame and Nightshade published by Harvill Secker.

The previous Winners of the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award

Nabugodi Mathelinda

The winner of the 2021 DRF Writers Award was Mathelinda Nabugodi for The Trembling Hand: Reflections of a Black Woman in the Romantic Archive, a work of non-fiction to be published by Hamish Hamilton in the UK and Knopf in the US in 2024. 

Mathelinda said: ‘Winning the DRF Writers Award is such a wonderful validation of my work. I am so gratified to know that my attempt to stage a fresh and honest encounter with the Romantic archive has resonated with the judges and all the prize readers.’

The runners-up were Yasmine Awwad for The Shrills and Sophie Meadows for The Frog. Both titles are works of fiction.

The winner of the 2020 DRF Writers Award was ‘Pemi Aguda for The Suicide Mothers. In second place was Stephen Buoro for The Five Sorrowful Mysteries of Andy Africa and in third place S. Bhattacharya-Woodward for Zolo and Other Stories. All three titles were works of fiction.

‘Pemi said: “As artists, our financial lives are so precarious and so receiving support of this size, especially now, fills me with peace about the near future. So, thank you.”

The winner of the 2018 DRF Writers Award was Deepa Anappara for her novel Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. Since winning the prize this novel will be translated into 22 languages and was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as “a Literary Supernova”.

Deepa said: “Winning the DRF Writers Award and listening to the helpful comments of the judges gave me both the permission and conviction I needed to finish my novel.”

The runners-up were Dima Alzayat for Daughters of Manat & Other Stories which was published as Alligator & Other Stories and Chris Connolly for The Speed of Light and How it Cannot Help Us. Both titles are collections of stories.

The winner of the inaugural 2016 DRF Writers Award was Sharlene Teo for her novel Ponti. Since winning the award this novel has been sold in 10 countries.

Sharlene said: “Winning the Deborah Rogers Award was life-changing and provided me with the confidence and support to finish my novel.”

The runners-up were Guy Stagg for The Crossway, a memoir, and Imogen Hermes Gower for her novel The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.

The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award

The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award was the first initiative of the Deborah Rogers Foundation, set up in 2015 in memory of the much loved and respected literary agent, Deborah Rogers. In keeping with Deborah’s special talent for nurturing and supporting emerging new writers, the Award gives £10,000 to a previously unpublished writer whose submission of 15,000- 20,000 words demonstrates literary talent and who needs financial support to complete their first book. The submitted work can be fiction, non-fiction, children’s or short stories. Applicants must reside in the British Commonwealth or Eire. The winner receives £10,000 and the two shortlisted authors £1,000 each.

The Award is biennial, alternating with the Deborah Rogers Foundation David Miller Internship Programme which offers work placements in publishing houses and agencies worldwide and £10,000 to cover travel and accommodation costs. The first winner, in 2017, was Sam Coates, senior rights executive at Vintage UK and the second, in 2019 was Prema Raj, of AM Heath.