Declan O’Keefe bursary to the Play It Forward fellowship programme

Call for expressions of interest for disabled creative writers: Deadline Wednesday, 7 July 2021 

Declan O’Keefe was a founding member of CIL who sadly passed away on Thursday, 3 October 2019 after a short illness. Declan generously has left a bequest to ILMI and in order to honour Declan’s memory as a founding member, ILMI will invest some of Declan’s bequest to sponsor a place on the Skein Press “Play it Forward” fellowship programme.

Declan was a librarian and keen patron of the arts. The “Declan O’Keefe bursary” for this fellowship will support an emerging disabled writer to use creative writing to shine a lens on disability and independent living. 

It is ILMI’s intention to source funding to resource the Declan O’Keefe bursary on an annual basis to ensure his legacy will continue to inspire future disabled activists to use the arts to challenge inequality and promote inclusion. 

What is the Play it Forward fellowship? 

The Play It Forward fellowships will commence in July 2021 and run through December 2022. Over the course of eighteen months, fellows will receive structured support including mentoring, editorial feedback, career consulting, participation in workshops, training, festivals and literary events, as well as opportunities to meet and build relationships with editors, agents, publishers, writers and industry experts.

The successful candidate to the ILMI Declan O’Keefe bursary can anticipate spending up to four hours a month on fellowship-related activities including mentoring meetings, masterclasses and writing workshops. The candidate will also participate in the week-long Stinging Fly Summer School in July 2022, as well as attend occasional literary festivals and events which may occur on weekends or select evenings.

Are there any pre-conditions or requirements to apply to the programme?

Disabled writers who are interested in applying for the Declan O’Keefe bursary are not expected to have any formal or informal education in creative writing, or publishing history. All applications will be considered on the strength of the writing sample as well as the candidate’s vision for their writing, alongside a willingness to engage with and the programme and inaugural cohort of fellows. 

I write across fiction, non-fiction and / or poetry — can I submit in multiple categories?

No, please select a single category for submission. We wish to open up this opportunity to as many writers as possible, so will only be able to consider one submission per applicant. 

I have a finished or near-finished manuscript, can I submit it as my writing sample?

No, please adhere to the page limits indicated in the submissions form (a maximum of 10 pages for fiction or non-fiction, and six pages for poetry). Submissions with sample sizes over this limit will not be read, and the corresponding application will not be considered. 

I would like to write in a language other than English, can I apply for a fellowship? 

In the pilot phase, we are unfortunately only able to support writers working primarily in the English language, though we hope to expand this offering in future iterations of the programme.

I have an agent and / or I have already published a book, am I still eligible to apply?

The Play It Forward fellowships are aimed at nurturing and amplifying the talents of writers from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds or communities who do not already have access to opportunities within the literary sector. For this reason, we will prioritise applications from those who do not have literary representation or have not previously published a book. 

How do I apply for the Declan O’Keefe bursary? 

To apply for the ILMI Declan O’Keefe bursary, please email for an application form. The application form will ask aspiring disabled writers some questions about their work and how being part of the Play it Forward programme would benefit their writing. You will also be asked to send examples of your writing will your completed application. 

Please note that the timeframe for this is extremely short and completed application forms and examples of writing will have to be returned by Wednesday, 7 July 2021 at 5pm. so This will enable the  panel of experts to review and notify the successful candidate in advance of the announcement of the 2021 Play it Forward Programme. 

If you have additional questions, please email