Twelve writers appointed in the third year of the RSL International Writers Programme

30th November, 2023



The Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the UK’s charity for the advancement of literature, has today, on its 203rd Birthday, announced the authors honoured in the third year of the RSL International Writers programme. This annual, life-long award recognises the contribution of writers across the globe to literature.

Twelve authors from countries all over the world whose work spans essays, literary fiction, plays, poems and non-fiction have been recognised this year for their work. They are: Tony Birch, Yussef El Guindi, Lorna Goodison, Yaa Gyasi, Han Kang, Yiyun Li, Attica Locke, Valeria Luiselli, Anne Michaels, Scholastique Mukasonga, Maria Stepanova, and Gao Xingjian. A celebration of literature’s power to transcend borders and bring people together, the programme forms an ever-expanding global community of writers.

The RSL International Writers programme was announced in 2020 as part of RSL 200, a five-year festival championing the great diversity of writing and writers in the UK. The programme recognises the contribution of writers across the globe to literature in English, and the power of literature to transcend borders to bring people together. At a time of rising nationalism, RSL International Writers celebrates the many ways in which literature can shape a future world.

A life-long honour, new writers are invited to join the RSL’s International Writers each year forming an ever-expanding global community of authors. Readers and writers were asked to recommend writers outside the UK for nomination. Maureen Freely chaired a panel of Fellows and Honorary Fellows including Sandra Agard, Kit Fan, Daniel Hahn, Margaret Jull Costa, Hannah Khalil, Musa Okwonga and Gaby Wood. The panel nominated the RSL International Writers, who were then appointed by Council.

While the RSL is the UK’s charity for the advancement of literature, we recognise and seek to celebrate the power of literature to bring us together, beyond borders and across cultures.

Maureen Freely, Chair of this year’s panel, said:

“The RSL International Writers programme, now in its third year, is delighted to welcome twelve new fellows to the fold. They come to us from five continents and as many languages, with most working across a variety of forms. All are writers of great distinction. Though no two are alike, they share a fascination for erased lives and histories that can, once restored, serve as eloquent reminders of our commonalities as readers, writers, and global citizens. We would like to thank all those who took the trouble to recommend them to us. We hope they will keep up this excellent habit as the programme enters its fourth year.”

Kit Fan, who was on this year's panel but will also be the 2024 Chair, said: 

“Reading, like writing, is a form of travel. To be truly international, we’ve to read across cultures, languages, time zones and geographies. I’m honoured to be chairing the selection panel for the 2024 RSL International Writers and very much looking forward to celebrating writers who give us the spark of solidarity in our turbulent world.”

Yussef El Guindi said: 

“The good and bad of being a writer is the isolation in which one often operates. Being nominated as an RSL International writer goes a long way to easing that isolation and tethering one to the good works of RSL, an organization that is all about creating community and building bridges. I am honoured to be invited in.”

Lorna Goodison said:

“Thank you to the Royal Society of Literature for considering me worthy to be counted in the company of some of the world's most distinguished writers. My poems and stories were born of a need to create praise songs for ordinary Jamaican people, and this honour is theirs as well as mine.”

Yiyun Li said:

“I’m deeply honoured by this recognition, and grateful to the RSL. At this time of turmoil, I hope literature continues to be a beacon for all readers.”

Attica Locke said: 

“I can’t think of a time in our immediate history when we have needed literature’s power more — its power to collapse boundaries by making room for everyone’s stories. To the degree that my work is recognized as contributing to humanity, to love and understanding of what unites us across cultures, countries, and religions, I am humbled beyond any measure. I am deeply honoured to be nominated as a Royal Society of Literature International Writer.”

Scholastique Mukasonga said: 

“It’s with a vivid emotion that I receive the RSL International Writer award. I would like to thank the RSL on behalf of those for whom I write my books. I realise how far I have come since the month of November 1959, at just 3 years old when I discovered escape and exile. The Royal Society of Literature International Writers honours me as a writer and Rwanda as a member of the Commonwealth. It is a precious encouragement to continue to write in this beautiful adventure that is Literature. I would love to deeply thank the jury who by their choice have shown me the interest in the history I tell in my books. With all my highest gratitude and consideration.”

Biographies of the twelve new international writers are available here.

The panel of judges for the 2024 International Writers programme has also been announced.

Joining Chair Kit Fan are Moniza Alvi, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Chloe Aridjis, Homi K.

Bhabha, Margaret Busby, Maureen Freely, Deirdre Osborne and Nathalie Teitler.


The Entente Littéraire Prize and the RSL Jerwood Poetry Awards will join the existing roster of awards and prizes presented by the RSL, bringing together writers and readers in celebration of the breadth of literature today.

Announced in September 2023 by Her Majesty The Queen and Madame Brigitte Macron, the Entente Littéraire Prize (Prix de l’Entente Littéraire), is a UK-France literary prize for young adult literature, that looks to encourage and celebrate the joy of reading and shared literary experiences between France and the UK. The Prize is inspired by the Entente Cordiale, the 1904 agreement between the UK and French governments that improved bilateral relations. The idea to establish a UK-France literary prize was agreed by the Prime

Minister and President Macron at the UK-France bilateral Summit in Paris on 10 March 2023.

The RSL is working with the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, the French Ministry of Culture, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the British Embassy in Paris and the French Embassy in London.

Speaking at the prize’s announcement in Paris in September, Her Majesty The Queen said:

“Mme Macron and I share a deep love of literature and a passion to promote literacy: through our respective work, we have seen first-hand the life-changing power of books to bring us joy, comfort, companionship, laughter and hope, opening our eyes to others’ experiences and reminding us that we are not alone. To quote Victor Hugo once again,

“Apprendre à lire, c'est allumer du feu; toute syllabe épelée étincelle, “To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” Ladies and gentlemen, you have the ability to light fires with your words and I greatly look forward to reading the winners’ books next year.”

UK Ambassador to France, Dame Menna Rawlings said: 

“The cultural links between the UK and France run deep, and I was delighted that both the UK-France Summit and Their Majesties’ State Visit to France highlighted the importance of these artistic ties. The Entente Littéraire Prize will promote some of the most exciting young adult literature from all corners of the UK and France, shining a light on Franco-British literary talent and inspiring more young people to discover fiction from both sides of the Channel.”

French Ambassador to the UK, Hélène Duchêne said: 

“I am delighted to see the launch of this new literary prize, which will foster cultural ties between our two countries’ young people. Young adult literature offers readers engaging, imaginative worlds and compelling stories while providing them with the keys to understanding our times and embarking on the journey of life.”

The Prize will be opened to submissions in early 2024, when the judging panel will also be announced.

The RSL Jerwood Poetry Awards is a new flagship programme supporting poets across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England to make significant step-changes in their careers. Through direct financial support, mentoring, professional development workshops and project funding, the RSL will provide what a poet needs to meaningfully develop their creative practice: time, encouragement and connection.

Generously funded by Jerwood Arts and Creative Scotland, these Awards continue the work done from 2017 to 2022 in the Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships, which enabled poets to build the next stage in their professional lives. Taking learning from this previous programme, the new round of Awards will create career-making opportunities for selected poets. Mentoring from RSL Fellows and financial support will be given to 12 poets over three years. In each edition, an award will be ringfenced for one poet from each nation – Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. 

Selection of the winning poets will use a nomination process, which has been highly successful in the past in encouraging and supporting poets who would not normally apply for major awards. A range of literature and poetry organisations — from grass-roots collectives to national development agencies across the four nations — will be invited to nominate poets for whom they believe this award could help them in developing their practice and getting to what they feel is the next level in their poetry career.

Each poet will receive a £10,000 stipend to give them time to write, as well as mentoring from an RSL Fellow poet and the opportunity to take part in networking sessions and put on their own events and performances.

Alan Bett, Head of Literature & Publishing at Creative Scotland said: 

“Time and space to create new work is among the most valuable commodities a writer can have. This fellowship provides that opportunity for poets, enhanced with expert mentorship, networking and the platform to showcase their work, evolving their professional practice and profile. Thanks to National Lottery players, Creative Scotland is able to support a Scottish poet as part of this 4-nations collaboration, helping them to develop new poetry and share their skill across the UK and beyond.”

The RSL Jerwood Poetry Awards is generously funded by Jerwood Foundation and The National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

From debut works and unpublished short stories, through to the notoriously challenging second novel and outstanding contributions to literature, the RSL’s awards and prizes celebrate the value of the written word in all its forms, whilst supporting emerging and established writers at both the beginning and at some of the most challenging moments of their careers. The RSL’s other annual awards and prizes are: the RSL Ondaatje Prize,Companions of Literature, the Encore Award, the RSL Christopher Bland Prize, the RSL Giles St Aubyn Awards for Non-Fiction, the V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize, the RSL Literature Matters Awards and the Benson Medal. 

Bernardine Evaristo, President of the RSL, said: 

“The ever-expanding portfolio of the Royal Society of Literature initiatives continues the essential support and acknowledgement of writers at different stages of their careers along with a commitment to fostering global relationships. Thriving and impactful, it is an utterly unique organisation, founded two centuries ago, and embracing inclusivity in the twenty-first century.”


RSL welcomes Catherine Riley as incoming Head of Communications and Partnerships, joining from previous roles as Director of Primadonna Festival and Head of Communications for the Women’s Equality Party.

Catherine Riley said: “I am thrilled to be part of the growing team at RSL, bringing my deep commitment to the RSL’s mission to celebrate and support authors and to demonstrate that books and writing are for everyone. I can’t wait to get started.”

Also joining the team as Programming Manager, Mekella Broomberg has previously worked as Head of Arts and Culture at JW3 and Festival Curator at Jewish Book Week.

Mekella Broomberg said: “I am so looking forward to getting stuck into this role. I love the process of transforming the solitary acts of reading and writing into a collective encounter. There’s nowhere better to do this than at an organisation that is so essential in shaping the way we engage with literature in the UK. And one which exemplifies how to be the most inclusive, creative and dynamic of bicentenarians.”

The RSL is grateful to the Hawthornden Foundation for supporting its work over the course of RSL 200.

For further information and press enquiries please contact Bread and Butter PR | 07921 264 564 | 07951 980 905

Notes to Editors

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL)

Founded in 1820, the Royal Society of Literature is the UK’s charity for the advancement of literature. The RSL acts as a voice for the value of literature, engages people in appreciating literature, and encourages and honour writers.

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery.

Further information at Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Learn more about the value of art and creativity in Scotland and join in at www.ourcreativevoice.sco