PRH is opening its WriteNow scheme up to picture book illustrators to better serve and represent its youngest readers.
Events for the scheme will be held in London, Liverpool and Nottingham in September 2018 as part of the publisher's efforts to champion the discovery and development of new writing talent from "communities under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves".
The mentoring programme has been devised with support from Spread the Word in London, New Writing North in Liverpool, Writing East Midlands and UNESCO City of Literature in Nottingham and in partnership with national charity Book Trust. It provides the opportunity for aspiring authors and illustrators from across the country to learn more about how to get their book published, receive personalised one-on-one feedback from an editor or designer, and have the chance to join PRH's year-long WriteNow scheme.
As a point of difference to previous years, 2018's WriteNow programme will be the first to issue a call for entries from British-based picture book illustrators: an area of publishing PRH said has "historically seen less representation". By opening up the programme to illustrators, Penguin Random House said it hopes not only to seek out, inspire and support new talent in this space but also to ensure the picture books it publishes "represent the lives, cultures and communities of all children in the UK".
Of the 150 WriteNow participants invited to the three insight days, around 10 will be picked to take part in the third WriteNow mentoring programme. They will be paired with an editor or designer from Penguin Random House with experience and expertise in their genre to develop their manuscript or illustrations further.
Since the programme’s launch, five WriteNow mentees have been offered publishing contracts with PRH, with more acquisitions "expected to follow". The first book by a WriteNow mentee – The Reinvention of Martha Ross by Charlene Allcott – will be published by Transworld at the end of July.
Applications for entering this year’s programme will open in May, with all information on the events and how to apply available at www.write-now.live.
Tom Weldon, c.e.o. of Penguin Random House, commented: “When launching WriteNow in 2016, our aim was to seek out talented new writers and different stories that represent everyone in our society. Two years on, the programme is already achieving real change: reaching communities of writers we haven’t before and adding new and exciting voices to our lists. We hope that by also inviting illustrators of children’s picture books to apply we are further breaking down barriers to publication. Seeing yourself in books is important at any age, but especially for our youngest readers.”
Illustrator Nadia Shireen, BookTrust's new online Writer-Illustrator in Residence, said she was "massively excited" about this year’s focus on children's books and illustration. "Books help children navigate the world around them; and a well-rendered picture book holds a certain type of mystery and magic," she said. "But we need more picture book makers from all walks of life. Sadly, opportunities to break into the publishing world are tricky, so proactive schemes like this are needed more than ever.”
This is the third year that Penguin Random House has run its flagship WriteNow programme, launched in 2016. To date the programme has welcomed 300 writers to six regional events across the UK, receiving nearly 5,000 applications from writers around the country. Altogether 22 writers are currently part of the mentoring programme.