WriteNow, a Penguin Random House campaign to find, mentor and publish new authors from communities under-represented on bookshelves, has opened for applications in Manchester and the West Midlands.
It is offering 150 "marginalised" unpublished writers one-to-one time with editors and access to literary agents, booksellers and published authors at regional events in Birmingham, Manchester and London, specifically targeting writers from a socio-economically marginalised backgrounds, writers who come from LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) or BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) communities, or writers with a disability.
Authors attending the events include Birmingham’s Kit de Waal, Jonathan Coe, and Lynsey Hanley, Manchester’s Nii Parkes and Oscar de Muriel, and John O’Farrell, Abir Mukherjee, Bernardine Evaristo and Sathnam Sanghera. The Birmingham Insight Day will also be attended by Waterstones Birmingham regional manager Stuart Bartholomew and Leila Rasheed who runs Megaphone, a development scheme for BAME children’s authors.
Altogether 10 "exceptional" writers will go on to benefit from a year of mentoring with PRH with the goal of having their book published.
Unpublished, marginalised writers in and around Manchester and the West Midlands can apply to attend one of the WriteNow insight days by visiting the website and submitting a sample of their work by midnight on 28th October.
Insight days in Manchester and Birmingham will both include sessions on "Publishing, de-mystified", "Writing fiction and non-fiction for adults", and "Writing for children and young adults" as well as one-to-ones with editors.
To launch WriteNow, PRH has partnered with writer development charities Writing West Midlands in Birmingham and Commonword in Manchester.
PRH UK author Bali Rai, who is from Leicester, commented: “WriteNow is about doing, not talking. It's about practical action rather than yet more discussion and debate. For those reasons, it is hugely important and I support it wholeheartedly."
Jonathan Davidson, c.e.o. Writing West Midlands said: “This opportunity for marginalised writers in the West Midlands is of enormous importance. We have some wonderful local writers and the challenge has always been to give them the skills and confidence to present themselves to a largely London-based publishing industry. WriteNow effectively brings that industry to Birmingham and the West Midlands. The long-term benefits will be very significant.”
Pete Kalu, artistic director, Commonword in Manchester and conveyor for the UK National Black Writers Conference, added: “The excitement of this initiative is that we’re hearing from the very top of the publishing world an acknowledgement that some radical reimagining work needs doing by publishers, and that an intrinsic part of that is reaching out to previously excluded writers. The new thinking and creativity this may draw forth – from publishers, agents, writers and readers – has the potential to bring into being some wonderful new works."
A first WriteNow event hosting 50 writers took place on 1st October in London, in partnership with Spread the Word, after attracting more than 1,000 applications. At the event were 14 PRH publishers and editors, along with representatives from each publishing department, for example rights, sales and marketing, plus authors like de Waal, and agent Charlotte Seymour from Andrew Nurnberg Associates.
Rebecca Smart, m.d. Ebury Publishing, said: “WriteNow London allowed us to have deeper conversations with writers and hear directly from them about the barriers they see to getting published. The 50 writers brought such a rich variety of stories and ideas for a wide range of audiences. Our editors are incredibly excited to work with some of them over the next year – and to find new writing talent in Birmingham and Manchester too.”