Transworld has bought world rights in a novel by carer Charlene Allcott - the first to be published hailing from Penguin Random House’s WriteNow mentoring scheme.
Allcott was selected as one of 12 mentees on the trade publisher’s WriteNow programme in March this year, launched as part of the publisher’s bid to publish more voices from under-represented communities.
Born in London, Allcott works in Brighton part time with young people in a residential care home as well as caring for her three-year-old son who has autism. Transworld will now publish her novel The List in summer 2018, followed by a second novel the following year.
The debut is described as a “raw, honest and hilarious re-coming of age story” about call-centre worker Martha, who must come to terms with the breakdown of her marriage and get her life back on track.
Francesca Best, the senior commissioning editor at Transworld, who bought the novel and has been mentoring Allcott over the last six months to develop the manuscript, said it had “a uniquely fresh, surprising and self-deprecating voice; one of the most captivating I’ve encountered in ages”.
“Charlene’s comedic skill is masterful, but her debut novel also contains moments of huge poignancy as all the big themes of life – marriage, divorce, family, parenting, friendship and what it means to be an adult – are drawn into play,” she said. “I am incredibly excited about bringing Charlene’s writing to a wide audience.”
Allcott at a WriteNow event
Allcott said her novel about starting over and finding the confidence and conviction to be who you want to be was also something that the WriteNow had helped her to do. “Participating in the mentoring programme hasn’t only opened a door for me; it has blown that door clean off its hinges,” she said.
When it launched, WriteNow was a “leap of faith into the unknown” for PRH, its c.e.o. Tom Weldon said.
“We wanted to open up our world of publishing and books, which too often can seem out of reach for so many people, “ he said. “We wanted to inspire and inform writers across the country about how to get their book published. Perhaps most importantly we wanted to find new talent. That’s why it’s so exciting to see an acquisition so early in the WriteNow process, especially as we are only about six months into our first year-long mentoring programme."
He added that the company was “confident” Allcott’s would be “the first of many acquisitions” from this cohort of "incredibly talented writers".
All mentees are given the opportunity to seek agent representation but Allcott decided to do the deal directly with Transworld. All mentees are also given paid membership to the Society of Authors.
Now in its second year, to date WriteNow has welcomed 300 writers to six regional events across the UK and received nearly 5,000 applications from writers around the country, including from a socio-economically marginalised background, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) or BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) communities, as well as writers with a disability.
Those writers selected for the 2017 mentoring programme will be announced in December.