The judges for the 2019 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize will be revealed before submissions open early year. We work with judges who have either literary experience or demonstrate the traits we expect to see in an adventure-hero. 

We were delighted to work with the following expert judging panel over the course of the 2018 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize:

Kirsty Coventry

Kirsty’s earliest memory of being extremely competitive was on a fishing trip with her dad and younger sister when she was about five. She remembered never being satisfied with simply catching a fish, she had to catch a bigger one. Always.

This competitiveness and her passion for sport, and swimming specifically, has taken her to 5 Olympic Games. Kirsty has won 7 individual Olympic Medals (2 Gold, 4 Silver, 1 Bronze), broken multiple world records, become the top female swimmer in the world and become the top African Athlete in Olympic history. The importance of this is not individual but national because her success has given hope to millions at a time when her country has gone through economic and political turmoil.
Kirsty is a member of the International Olympic Committee, Vice-President of the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee, Vice-President of the International Surfing Federation, a member of FINA’s athlete committee, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency and the newly formed Independent Testing Authority. 

Kirsty has also established the Kirsty Coventry Academy which focuses on youth development, health and education in Zimbabwe. The aim is to reach more children by expanding this initiative throughout Africa so she can continue delivering hope by creating opportunities for others.

Alex Crawford

Alex Crawford has been interrogated by more than one intelligence agency, rescued by the US Army, fired at live on air, and experienced some of the most dangerous places in the world.

She is the only journalist to have won the Royal Television Society’s Journalist of the Year Award three times. She has also won an Emmy, two Golden Nymphs, the Bayeux War Correspondents Award, and the prestigious James Cameron Award, being cited by the judges for her "work as a journalist that combined moral vision and professional integrity". She was awarded the OBE for Services to Broadcast Journalism in the 2012 New Year's Honours List.

After growing up in Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Alex began her career at the Wokingham Times before moving to the BBC and eventually Sky News, where she is currently Special Correspondent specialising in the Gulf, Middle East and Africa.

Stef Penney

Stef Penney is a screenwriter and the author of three novels: The Tenderness of Wolves (2006), The Invisible Ones (2011), and Under a Pole Star (2016). She has also written extensively for radio, including adaptations of Moby DickThe Worst Journey in the World, and, most recently, a third instalment of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise series.

The Tenderness of Wolves won Costa Book of the Year, Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year, and was translated into thirty languages. Under a Pole Star won the 2017 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, and was a Richard and Judy Book Club selection for Autumn 2017. 

Stef is an inveterate armchair explorer, and the least adventurous member of this panel. Or any panel. 

Kevin Conroy Scott

Kevin Conroy Scott is Creative Director at Tibor Jones & Associates having co-founded the company with his wife Landa Acevedo-Scott in 2007 after working as a literary agent at Conville & Walsh and AP Watt. Kevin is a veteran of the New Line Cinema mail room and his journalism has appeared in The New Statesman, Variety, The Independent, The Bookseller, LA Weekly and Written By Magazine. He is also the author of Screenwriters Masterclass (Faber & Faber) and the co-founder of Colombiage, Europe’s most influential Colombian festival of culture and the arts.

Kevin has discovered and agented authors that have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Guardian First Book Award and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and have won the Commonwealth First Book Award, the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Nestlé Prize. He is the literary agent of bestselling author, Wilbur Smith, whose 36 novels have sold more than 122 million copies worldwide since 1964. In 2012, when Kevin orchestrated Wilbur’s move from Macmillan to HarperCollins, The Guardian called it “The Book Deal of the Century”.

Steve Winter

Steve Winter has been attacked by rhinos in India, stalked by jaguars in Brazil, charged by a eleven-foot grizzly in Siberia, and trapped in quicksand in the world's largest tiger reserve in Myanmar. He has slept in a tent for six months at forty below zero tracking snow leopard, flown over erupting volcanoes, and visited isolated villages where residents have never before seen a blond foreigner – or a camera.

During a childhood growing up in rural Indiana, Steve dreamed of traveling the world as a photographer for National Geographic Magazine. His first camera was a gift from his father on his seventh birthday. He became a National Geographic photojournalist in 1991 and still feels so incredibly lucky to have realized his dream, to have what he calls the best job in the world.

Steve specializes in wildlife, and particularly, big cats. He’s been named BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and BBC Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year. He was a two-time winner of Picture of the Year International’s Global Vision Award and won first prize in the nature story category from World Press Photo in 2008 and 2014. He lectures globally on photography and conservation issues and has appeared on CBS Nightly News, 60 Minutes, NPR, BBC, CNN and other media outlets.

Steve feels that he has a great responsibility not only to show and excite readers about the natural world, but about its fascinating people and cultures as well. He wants to give people a reason to care. Above all, he wants to give the readers of National Geographic what he always wanted – a front row seat next to the photographer and writer, part of the team along for the adventure.

In November 2013, National Geographic published Steve’s photography book Tigers Forever: Saving the World’s Most Endangered Cat, with text written by environmental journalist Sharon Guynup.