London-based writers' agency Spread the Word has today announced the names of 30 writers who have been selected for its 2021 London Writers Awards development programme.
The writers come from communities currently underrepresented in UK publishing, including writers of colour, and disabled, working class and LGBTQIA+ writers. The cohort will be supported through a 10-month development programme in preparation for meeting with agents and publishers in order to pursue their writing careers.
"Spread the Word has been making real and concrete change in an industry that is often reluctant to see the structural inequality at its heart. The London Writers Awards is a forward-thinking, long-term initiative that offers not just encouragement and advice, but also support, knowledge and insight to underrepresented and marginalised voices," said Angelique Tran Van Sang, a judge for the 2021 awards.
The 2021 cohort comprises Anne Elicaño-Shields, Ashani Lewis, Cecile Pin, Eleanor Penny, Gabrielle Johnson, Santanu Bhattacharya, Sharanya Murali, Shereen Akhtar, Sukh Brar, Thomas Newlands, Tommy Rowlands, and Victoria Cano, working on literary fiction. Writing commercial fiction are Emma Lowther, Megan Preston Elliott, Nilesha Chauvet, Rebecca Lewis, Rosemary Amadi and Tracey Weller. Working across narrative non-fiction are Carla Montemayor, Elizabeth Chan, Joyia Fitch, Lavendhri Arumugam, Sabrina Mahtania and Sadie Nott. While Ahmed Wobi, Deshani Shan, Laura Leung-How, Paige Cowan-Hall, Remi Oshibanjo, and Serena deCordova will be developing YA and children’s fiction.
The writers will begin their programme of development at the Writers’ Lab on Saturday 23rd January. Over the course of 10 months, the award recipients will attend fortnightly feedback groups to grow and develop their work, participate in nine masterclasses led by writers and industry professionals including authors Jarred McGinnis, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and agent Felicity Trew, and receive development opportunities with editors, agents and the Spread the Word team. The programme will culminate with an industry networking day, where the participants will be introduced to agents, editors and Spread the Word partners.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic and feedback from previous awardees, the third year of the programme will also include a series of workshops on mental health and self-care led by Dr Su Yin Yap, a clinical psychologist. Writers most in need will also have access to bursary and access support, and 20% of awardees have been supported financially.
The 30 writers were selected from over 257 submissions by a panel of judges that included authors Michael Donkor, Season Butler, Ayisha Malik, Samantha Baines and Luke Turner. They were joined by industry judges: Ellah Wakatama (Canongate); Ludo Cinelli (literary agent, Eve White), Katherine Armstrong (editorial director for Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK), Lauren Gardner (literary agent, Bell Lomax Moreton) and Angelique Tran Van Sang (editor at Bloomsbury). The Awards are supported by Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation with sponsorship from the Authors’ Licencing & Collecting Society (ALCS)
Rishi Dastidar, chair of Spread the Word Trustees, said: “I’m delighted that, once again, The London Writers Awards are able to showcase a new group of wonderfully talented writers from diverse backgrounds previously underrepresented in traditional publishing. The programme remains unique in giving these individuals the chance to develop their skills so they are then ready to launch their professional writing careers. In both fiction and non-fiction genres, it’s a privilege to work with these writers so their stories can be told on the biggest possible stages.”
Spread the Word has also set up an alumni network for the 58 previous recipients of an award. This includes ongoing craft, career and networking opportunities. Nineteen of the writers who have completed the programme now have agents, with eight book deals confirmed including Natasha Brown’s Assembly, which was pre-empted by Hamish Hamilton at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Director Ruth Harrison added: “Equity and access are at the core of the London Writers Awards programme design. Being free does not make a programme equitable. The awards are not only free at point of entry but also provide bursaries and an access fund to pay for, for example, travel expenses, a laptop, data, and a scribe or interpreter. This combined with the mental health and self-care offer, one to one support and the alumni network gives each participant a holistic package of support and community to achieve their creative goals, making the awards unique amongst the many diversity and inclusion initiatives currently taking place.”
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