The Primadonna Prize

The 2022 Primadonna Prize winner revealed

Natalie Gregory is the winner of the 2022 Primadonna Prize, securing a book contract with HQ, an advance of 7.5K for World English rights and the chance to work with Curtis Brown’s Alice Lutyens, who will develop her shortlisted piece into a publishable book. Announced on stage by Lisa Milton at the Primadonna Festival on Friday 28 July, Natalie’s submission, Eating the Spirit, is a tale of hope and grief, the struggles of motherhood and the trauma of silence.

The judges praised Natalie Gregory for her entry, commenting that Eating the Spirit has a ‘haunting eloquence’ and ‘enduringly hopeful tone’. A compelling exploration of motherhood, grief and cultural identity, the piece, and the novel it stems from, tells the story of Lin, a first-time mother of Thai-English descent, who travels across Thailand with her young baby, desperate to connect in some way to her own mother who has died. Interwoven with magic realism and long-lost recipes, the reader is transported to another time and place where the harsh reality of a devastating political past comes to light.

Inspired by Natalie’s own Thai roots and the accidental loss of her mother’s recipes after her death, Eating the Spirit skilfully weaves together love, loss, culture and politics. Natalie beat a shortlist dominated by working-class, original and imaginative writers.


Meet this year's judging panel...

Andi Osho

Author Andi Osho says: ‘it’s so important to create better access to the industry, and this is a fantastic way to get those unheard voices out there.'  


Claire Malcolm

Claire Malcolm is founder and Chief Executive of New Writing North, and can't wait to read this year's entries to the Prize. 

Alice Lutyens

Alice Lutyens is an agent at Curtis Brown.

‘I could not be more excited about joining the exemplary team for the annual Primadonna Prize,’ she says. ‘I’ve seen first hand how valuable prizes are for aspiring authors to achieve recognition and exposure, and this one is particularly special as the first to disregard grammar and spelling – a challenge for most agents!’

Lisa Milton

Lisa Milton is Executive Publisher HQ Stories as well as sitting on the Exec Committee of HarperCollinsUK. She joined HarperCollins in 2015 after a decade as Managing Director of Orion Publishing where she was responsible for Orion, Orion Children’s, Gollancz and Weidenfeld & Nicolson, which was awarded Imprint of the Year at the 2015 Bookseller Industry Awards. Whilst there she published major bestsellers and award winning authors including Maeve Binchy, Ian Rankin, Gillian Flynn and Malala Yousafzai. Lisa is the head judge for this year's Prize. 

Shona Abhyankar

Shona Abhyankar is an award-winning book publicist and one of the Primadonna founding members. She is associate director at ed public relations, a PR agency who specialise in fiction and non-fiction book campaigns, as well as publishing awards and events. Shona’s former roles include Head of Publicity at Penguin Random House and PR Lead for Amazon Publishing UK. She is a mentor for the Publishers Publicity Circle (PPC) and has won PPC awards for her work. Shona’s previous authors include Arianna Huffington, Abi Morgan and Sheryl Sandberg. Find her on Twitter @PublicityShona and on Instagram @shonaandotherstories.

Elissa Soave

Elissa Soave is a Scottish writer. She won the inaugural Primadonna Prize in 2019 and her first novel, 'Ginger and Me' is published by HQ in July 2022.

Also announced were the winners of the Claire Mannion Literary Endeavour Prize, awarded to two of the shortlistees, Jo Morey and Claire Allen for their pieces Lime Juice Money and Sea Glass.  

Jo and Claire have each been offered mentorship or writing feedback from previous Primadonna shortlisted writers, Farah Ahamed and Elissa Soave. 

About the Claire Mannion Literary Endeavour Prize

We set up the Primadonna Prize in 2019 with the aim of opening up access to the publishing industry, and creating a network of writers that supported one another. No one embodied these aspirations more than Claire Mannion, who was shortlisted for the inaugural Primadonna Prize. She strongly believed that although writers were competing against each other for the Prize, it was more important that the competition should bring writers together, and that they should help and support each other, wherever they were on their writing journey.

Following her death in January 2023 at the age of just 42, we wish to honour Claire’s life and writing by offering an additional prize in her name – the Claire Mannion Literary Endeavour Prize – which was awarded to two of the shortlisted writers. It is hoped that by offering this prize in Claire’s name, her legacy of supporting and helping fellow writers will endure.

The Primadonna Prize is for unsigned and unrepresented new writing talent. It was established to open up access to the publishing industry, and is judged anonymously and without regard to grammar or spelling: a first for a literary prize.

To read more about our previous winners, click here. 

Click to read The Primadonna Prize – Terms and Conditions in full.