Penguin Random House UK’s mentoring scheme for authors, WriteNow, is returning with a focus on children’s books for 2021 and a free online seminar for all applicants.
The award-winning programme campaign aims to discover, nurture and publish new and underrepresented voices. This year it is looking exclusively for underrepresented writers working on middle grade, chapter and picture books, using the expertise of the Ladybird and Puffin publishing teams to create a programme that offers tailored support on picture book texts, fiction and non-fiction for children aged 12 and under. Applications will open for adult and young adult fiction and non-fiction entries in 2022.
As part of the tailored support, for the first time in WriteNow’s history all applicants will be invited to a free online workshop on demystifying the children’s publishing industry. Attendees will discuss questions with industry experts including editors, agents, and authors.
Fifty shortlisted writers will go on to receive one-on-one, tailored feedback on their manuscript from Ladybird and Puffin editors. A final five writers will then be invited to take part in the year-long WriteNow editorial programme when they will be paired with an editor to develop their manuscript further, with the ultimate goal of securing a literary agent and being published by Puffin or Ladybird.
WriteNow will also work closely with the National Literacy Trust in its Bradford and Birmingham literacy hubs to share details of the opportunity.
Shannon Cullen, publishing director at Ladybird, said: “Historically in the children’s publishing industry we haven’t done enough to open our doors to talented writers from underrepresented backgrounds, or to nurture and build that talent. We hope that by making changes to our day-to-day practices, as well as investing in broadening programmes like WriteNow and our support of other initiatives like the inaugural Jericho Prize, we are making firm progress towards ensuring every child can see themselves, their experiences and their community reflected in stories."
Amanda Punter, publishing director at Puffin, said: “Over the past four years Puffin has successfully published a number of exciting authors discovered through the WriteNow programme, among them Carnegie-shortlisted Manjeet Mann, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Burhana Islam and forthcoming titles from Gareth Peter. We wanted to increase the scheme’s reach and impact, both on our lists and within the children’s market as a whole, by specifically tailoring this year’s programme to aspiring children’s writers."
To date, 10 writers discovered through WriteNow have been published by Penguin Random House UK, with a further four recently acquired. Titles include The Million Pieces of Neena Gill by Emma Smith-Barton, Islam's Amazing Muslims Who Changed the World and Emma Morgan’s A Love Story for Bewildered Girls. Six writers have gone on to be published or acquired by other publishers.
Since launching in 2016, the programme has welcomed 750 writers to 10 publishing workshops and received more than 8,000 applications from writers across the United Kingdom and Ireland.
PRH UK also recently launched a hub for writers and illustrators to help offer insight and information on how to get published, which can be accessed online.