The writers joining Hachette UK's inaugural Grow Your Story programme will include Charlotte Forfieh, Indigo Griffiths, Remi Graves, Ramya Jegatheesan, Ismail Karolia, Amina Makele, Lola Okolosie, Sara Sehdev and Sumerah Srivastav, whose novels-in-progress span crime, historical, sci-fi, fantasy and literary fiction.
Earlier this autumn, Hachette UK’s network for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees THRIVE launched the fiction development programme in partnership with David Higham Associates, The Future Bookshelf, Spread the Word and Hachette UK’s adult trade divisions. In September unagented and unpublished writers from BAME backgrounds were encouraged to apply, including a 3,000-word sample of their work, if they had a novel they hoped to submit within three to six months of completing the workshops.
The final selection of writers was decided by a panel of judges featuring Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, head of editorial for gal-dem, freelance writer and author of Mother Country; Orion fiction publisher Emad Akhtar; Joelyn Rolston-Esdelle, co-chair of THRIVE; Niki Chang of DHA; and author Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.
Among the recruits, Remi Graves is a former Barbican Young Poet and London-based drummer, whose work has been featured at St Paul’s Cathedral and on BBC Radio 4. Meanwhile, Indigo Griffiths is an actor who, while filming as a series lead in "Still So Awkward" for CBBC, initially started writing to address the lack of roles for mixed-race performers. Sumerah Srivastav is co-chair and founding member of the Equality &Diversity Committee at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB), and also a screenwriter and playwright.
In total 10 writers will be supported through the programme, which starts in January 2021.
Pictured from left to right: Top row—Charlotte Forfieh, Indigo Griffiths, Remi Graves; Middle row—Ramya Jegatheesan, Ismail Karolia, Amina Makele; Bottom row—Lola Okolosie, Sara Sehdev, Sumerah Srivastav. One further writer in the cohort has opted to remain anonymous.
The chosen writers will have the opportunity to develop their manuscripts through a series of online workshops with industry professionals. Each writer will receive one-to-one mentoring with both a Hachette UK editor and a David Higham Associates agent for up to nine months, complete with fortnightly check-ins with fellow writers and the opportunity to read their work at a special showcase event in spring 2021.
"It’s been such a joy to read new voices with fresh takes, creating memorable characters and covering groundbreaking subject matter," Akhtar said. "The submissions have spanned the globe from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe – and hopscotch just as easily between past, present and future as they do between crime, historical, sci-fi, fantasy and literary fiction. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come as the industry broadens its own horizons, as well as those of the millions of readers it aims to reach and reflect. If this is a glimpse into the future, then we have so much to look forward to."
Rolston-Esdelle added: "The breadth of writing has been great to see and a pleasure to read, with submissions from literary fiction to romance, sci-fi fantasy to crime thriller, and all things in between. The volume and quality of the submissions further proves to us that talented writers of colour have always been here; as an industry, it’s our responsibility to put in the work to find and nurture them. I’m looking forward to seeing how the shortlisted writers’ work develops after taking part in Grow Your Story and seeing what comes next from them – hopefully in bookshops one day soon."