40 Under 40

As a special initiative for 2018, our governing Council has decided to elect 40 writers aged under 40 to become Fellows of the RSL. For the first time in our history, we are asking publishers, literary agents, literature organisations and writers to recommend the best young writers for nomination.

RSL Fellowship is a unique lifetime literary honour, which also confers the right to contribute to the governance of the RSL. Fellows must be writers of at least two works of outstanding literary merit or the equivalent in any literary genre. They must be nominated by two existing Fellows, and be elected at a secret ballot of our Vice-Presidents and Council. Every new Fellow is then invited to sign the RSL’s historic roll book, using either Byron’s pen or T S Eliot’s pen.

Our 523 current Fellows encompass the most distinguished authors writing in the UK today. The average age is 70. Only three are aged under 40; none is aged under 30.

With the 40 under 40 initiative, we aim to welcome a new generation of writers into the RSL, and to celebrate the talent and diversity of Britain’s younger writers. In future, we may develop similar initiatives for other groups of writers under-represented in our Fellowship.

The 40 Under 40s will be in addition to our usual annual election of new Fellows of all ages – which in 2018 will be for 30 writers.

Recommendations of writers for 40 under 40 will be assessed by a specially convened panel of our Fellows, chaired by novelist Kamila Shamsie. The panel will make the 40 nominations to the Council and Vice-Presidents for election.  The results will be announced in late Spring 2018.

‘As someone who became an RSL Fellow a couple of years shy of my 40th birthday I know what a boost the Fellowship affords to younger writers. There is nothing quite like being recognised by other writers and asked to join their ranks.’

Kamila Shamsie FRSL, Chair of Panel

Eligibility criteria
The recommended writer must:

    • Have had published in the United Kingdom at least two substantial works (or a sufficient body of other work) in the English language considered by the nominating panel and Council to be of outstanding literary merit
    • Be under the age of 40 at 30 June 2018
    • Be a citizen of or resident in the United Kingdom at the time of recommendation


Read our Press Releases: launching the initiative and announcing of the 40 Under 40 panel.