Writer development scheme Megaphone is to run an extensive mentorship programme next year, after securing funding from Arts Council England's National Lottery project grant.
The scheme, which supports children’s writers of colour, will see six applicants mentored as they write their first full‐length novel for children or young adults. Mentees will receive one‐to‐one remote writing support from a published children’s writer, as well as attending a series of masterclasses from authors including Alex Wheatle, Sharna Jackson, Dean Atta, Patrice Lawrence and Bali Rai.
Megaphone 2021 has also been funded by a donation from Usborne Publishing, and supported by donations in kind from Writing West Midlands. Nicola Usborne, deputy m.d. of Usborne, said: “Megaphone works to assist and amplify children’s writers of colour through their invaluable mentoring and networking programmes – which is so important in the context of writers of colour continuing to be significantly underrepresented in the publishing industry. Usborne is very pleased to support them.”
The announcement comes as a recent CLPE and Book Trust report found that 5% of children’s books featured a main character who was Black, Asian or minority ethnic, while 33.5% of school‐age children are from minority ethnic backgrounds. Commenting on this, Megaphone founder Leila Rasheed said: “It is very clear from the findings that children’s publishing still needs independent, consistent schemes such Megaphone, led by writers and publishing professionals of colour. While it’s great to see the improvements in the latest report, I don’t see evidence of significant systemic change happening yet.”
Megaphone 2021 will also see the establishment of an online forum for up to 50 applicants. Led by volunteer Stephanie King, fiction commissioning editor at Usborne Publishing, Megaphone Community will also offer weekly "Open Door" surgeries to help demystify the publishing process, host online panel events with emerging writers of colour, and be an ongoing, support space for writers to meet and talk online. The community is free and will be offered to everyone who applies, on a first‐come, first‐served basis after the mentees have been selected and formally accepted their place.
Author Serena Patel (Anisha, Accidental Detective), who will be participating in an "in conversation" event on Megaphone Community, said: “I'm thrilled to offer my support for the 2021 Megaphone programme. It is vital that we encourage new voices from underrepresented minorities and ultimately show readers and writers alike that their stories matter. The insight into the world of publishing, as well as support through the editorial process, could help launch the career of an as yet undiscovered talent and inspire future generations of writers. This is an exciting and hugely important project.”
Each place costs £300, although all fees will be fully covered for any applicants unable to pay. Applications are now open and close on 31st January 2021.