PRH chooses eight new writers for WriteNow mentoring programme

PRH chooses eight new writers for WriteNow mentoring programme

Eight new writers have been chosen to join this year's Penguin Random House UK’s WriteNow mentoring programme, with a focus on children's writers

Works in the pipeline range from a powerful and uplifting picture book about a non-binary child starting at a new school, to a darkly magical Victorian adventure and funny middle-grade tales.

Over the next 12 months the writers will work closely with an editor who is an expert in their genre to develop their manuscript and get it ready for publication.

Since WriteNow launched in 2016, 800 writers across the UK and Ireland have been part of the programme and around 50 writers have joined the editorial programme, 15 of whom have already been published or acquired by Penguin Random House imprints, including a number published by Penguin Random House Children’s. These include Burhana Islam, author of Amazing Muslims Who Changed the World (Puffin) Gareth Peter, author of My Daddies (Puffin) and Forever Star (Puffin) and Manjeet Mann, author of The Crossing (Penguin) and Run, Rebel (Penguin). 

Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House Children’s, said: “Each of these eight new writers share our mission to spark imagination in all readers, and I am delighted to be welcoming them to the WriteNow editorial programme. WriteNow is about giving writers the tools and information they need to take the next step on their journey as an author, and is one of the ways we are working to open up our publishing and the wider industry to underrepresented voices, along with initiatives such as the inaugural Jericho Prize, and others.” 

Louisa Burden-Garabedian, senior creative responsibility executive at Penguin Random House UK, added: “It has been such a pleasure working on this year’s WriteNow, and we are excited to welcome eight new incredible writers on to the editorial programme this year. We have learnt a lot from narrowing our focus to ensure we reach as many children’s writers as possible, and so we’ll look to build on this for next year as WriteNow continues to evolve.” 

This year's writers include Ben Williams (pictured, top) a queer, mixed race writer of Afro-Caribbean descent, who is currently working on Grace Weaver and the Other Kingdom, a middle-grade fantasy about a Black girl from east London battling against a magic-wielding police state, and Chloe Lewis, who is working on her book The Dragon, the Princess and the Prince, a middle-grade adventure about a girl with dragon scales, an animal-loving autistic princess, and a prince with a terrible secret.

Lewis is an autistic writer and passionate about seeing more disabled characters in all kinds of fiction. “I think the publishing world can feel very intimidating and mechanical sometimes. Programmes like WriteNow show underrepresented voices that our stories are important and help them to be heard," she said.

Truly Johnston (right) currently works in the public sector supporting volunteering and civil society organisations. Her book, Corrine and the Democonch, is a middle-grade magical realism novel aimed at ages nine and over. “It feels wonderful to have had someone read my work and see potential in it. This has given me a much-needed confidence boost!” she said.

Emma Hewitt is an actor and playwright whose stories are often about gender, power and personal relationships; sometimes with a dystopian or fantasy twist. Her darkly magical Victorian adventure, titled The Theatre at Drury Lane, is about an orphan girl raised in a theatre who discovers she has the power to enter the worlds of plays through acting. Hannah Stephenson is a north-west based writer who runs creative writing and poetry workshops for children in primary schools and arts settings. She was shortlisted for the Writing Magazine Picture Book Prize in 2020 and won the Southport Writers’ Circle International Poetry Competition in 2019. Her book Sloth Sleeps On is a noisy, rhyming picture book about teamwork and not giving up. 

Lucy Tandon Copp has spent the past 10 years writing for newspapers, magazines and newspapers. Her picture book is set in the Malaysian jungle, and follows a talking orangutan and a very stinky durian in a funny tale of trickery and self-preservation. She said: “I applied for WriteNow to shine a light on the amazing culture, people, animals and environment of Southeast Asia. Growing up there were few stories on my childhood bookshelf that thoughtfully resonated with my own mixed heritage and experiences or celebrated the absolute treasure trove of natural beauty and wonder that Southeast Asia has to offer. If I can bring stories like these to life for children today, it would be a dream come true."

Matthew Peter-Carter is a writer, actor-musician, and children’s educator. He is the creative director of Book Club Bunch, actor-led book clubs for children in schools or after school clubs with the aim of educating, entertaining, and inspiring a love of independent reading. His book Arthur Saves Christmas is a funny seasonal middle-grade adventure for fans of The Christmasaurus and Matt Haig. 

The final writer is Tuks, an Italian-British non-binary parent of one. They have a passion for copy and editing, freelance and features writing. Their picture book Them centres around non-binary kid Arlo’s first day in a new school. It is a story "about allyship and how we can do more to step in and stand up for others".