Indie publisher Nine Arches Press is offering mentorships to poets from marginalised and under-represented communities based in the West Midlands to "challenge the current lack of diversity in poetry, publishing and literature more generally".
In partnership with Writing West Midlands, the publisher is offering 10 free mentoring sessions to the poets. The Dynamo mentoring scheme will provide a unique free two-hour one-to-one mentoring session with Nine Arches Press editor and poetry mentor Jane Commane. The scheme is being targeted at communities who are currently under-represented in poetry publishing and in contemporary poetry in general – for example; disabled, low-income, BAME and LGBTQI+ poets.
The Dynamo mentoring session will involve an editorial assessment of up to six poems, plus discussion about routes open to new and emerging poets, advice on publishing and a chance to discuss next steps in creative development of poetry and building a track-record of publication and profile.
Applicants should currently be living, studying or working in the West Midlands region, defined as Birmingham, West Midlands conurbation, (which includes the city of Wolverhampton and large towns of Dudley, Solihull, Walsall and West Bromwich) and the cities of Coventry and Stoke on Trent, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire.
Commane told The Bookseller: "I launched the Dynamo mentoring scheme because I'm aware that BAME, disabled or deaf, low-income and LGBTQI+ poets and writers are far too often under-represented both in UK poetry-publishing and by the literary/publishing industry more generally. And I'm acutely aware too that they have been under-represented on our own list and in the submissions we have received in the past, and that this must change. Reading Spread the Word's 2015 report 'Writing the Future' and also Nikesh Shukla's thoughts on challenging and changing the lack diversity in publishing made me think carefully about what Nine Arches Press might be able to actively do in terms of making these changes and breaking down some of the barriers. Offering free, specifically-targeted mentoring for individual poets in our region seemed like a good place to start."
She added: "I am grateful to Writing West Midlands and Arts Council England for their support, which has made this scheme possible. My aim is for the mentoring scheme to continue as a key commitment in our future plans, and to explore further avenues for targeted mentoring and development in other ways too. All of which, I hope, will contribute towards challenging the current lack of diversity in poetry, publishing and literature more generally."
In response to comments made by Faber c.e.o. Stephen Page, who said the publishing industry was too 'London-centric', Commane added: "I think it could be argued that publishing does tend to be rather London-centric, but then, so are many of the other media and creative industries - and there are some brilliant independent presses publishing great new work in London, too. One positive way to view this is that it does create space for us to make our own opportunities in regions like the North and the Midlands. Small (and not-so-small) but mighty independent publishers in the regions are often innovative in finding new approaches, taking risks and building communities of loyal readers and writers around the kind of work they do and titles they publish."
More information about the scheme and how to apply can be found here.
In August, an alliance of independent publishers based in the North of England came together to form the Northern Fiction Alliance in an attempt to “level the playing field” and promote regional diversity in publishing.
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