Penguin Random House UK has launched a nationwide campaign to find, mentor and publish new writers from communities under-represented on the UK’s bookshelves.
The WriteNow scheme aims to find and publish new writers who are "under-represented in books and publishing”. Targeted groups are writers from 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.
PRH plans to offer under-represented authors one-to-one time with its editors, and access to literary agents, booksellers and published authors at regional events in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Participating authors include Kit de Waal, author of debut novel My Name is Leon, Bali Rai, and Sathnam Sanghera who is also board chair for Creative Access.
PRH has partnered with writer development charities Spread the Word, Writing West Midlands and Commonword to launch WriteNow.
De Waal said: “If you’re from a marginalised community, whatever you’re writing about, your writing will be informed by your experiences. Those experiences need to be out there. They need to be on the shelves so other people can read them. So other people can say: ‘Publishing is about my life. Publishing represents me. I have stake in this. And I have something to say’. That’s why I’m delighted to be involved with WriteNow.”
Tom Weldon, c.e.o. for PRH UK, said: “Books and publishing simply do not reflect the society we live in. Not only is that bad for the future of books, reading and culture, but it’s also a commercial imperative for us to change. If we don’t, we will become increasingly irrelevant.
“One of the many joys of reading is being able to make a personal connection with an author’s distinctive voice, but we know some voices aren’t yet being heard. Our job at Penguin Random House is to connect the world with the stories, ideas and writing that matter. So if you are sitting on a fantastic manuscript, we want to hear from you.”
Unpublished writers in the UK can apply to attend one of the WriteNow events by visiting www.write-now.live and submitting a sample of their work, after which 150 writers will then be invited to attend one of the events. Of these, 10 “exceptional" writers will benefit from a year of mentoring with the goal of having their book published.
Ruth Harrison, director of Spread the Word, said: “WriteNow is a timely and amazing opportunity for talented writers across the UK. Talent development and opening up opportunities for writers to connect with publishers and readers is central to the work and 21 year history of Spread the Word. Our collective ambition is to give writers access to the networks, knowledge and skills they need to pursue strong and fruitful writing careers.”
Jonathan Davidson, chief executive of Writing West Midlands, said: “The opportunity that WriteNow gives to marginalised writers in the West Midlands is of enormous importance. We have some wonderful writers in our region and the challenge has always been to give them the skills and confidence to present themselves to the publishing industry. WriteNow effectively brings that industry to Birmingham for a day and we believe the long-term benefits will be very significant.”
The campaign follows hot on the heels of initiatives to level out the lack of diversity in the industry, such as the Spare Room project setting out to tackle regional diversity, and the efforts of New Writing North in rallying publishers to do more to "discover and bring forth more writers of colour, more working class voices and more work that represents a diversity and range of experiences".
PRH also recently recruited four aspiring new editors as a result of The Scheme, its initiative to attract talented new staff regardless of qualifications, and launched Penguin Pride in June to celebrate LGBTQ writers, handing out hundreds of Penguin Pride bookmarks and temporary Penguin Pride tattoos to crowds during London Pride. A push for diversity is also part of the publisher's creative responsibility manifesto.