The Literary Consultancy (TLC) and A M Heath Literary Agency toasted the publication of the first Free Reads Anthology at an event at London's Free Word last night (Thursday 5th September).
The Free Reads Anthology showcases the work of low-income and otherwise marginalised writers who have received TLC bursaries through the TLC's Arts Council-funded Free Reads Scheme.
Twenty writers were selected from 118 submissions received by TLC for inclusion in the anthology, with chosen entries including Scrounger of Ambit Edge by Jay Gee - a YA crime following the drowning of a man on a Yorkshire council estate; literary reimagining of Boko Haram abductions set in a fictional African country Four Storeys by Maeve Clark; poetic reflections on climate change Dusk, Night, Dawn by Alexi Francis, and middle grade adventure about magic and loss, The Chartered Institute of Awesomeness by Benjamin Webster.
It has been guest edited by acclaimed Grenadian novelist Jacob Ross and features cover artwork by Hong Dam, a Vietnamese visual artist. A number of authors were also Highly Commended after narrowly missing out on a place in the anthology.
Aki Schilz, TLC director, said: “These writers deserve to be heard. Not because they are ‘marginalised’, but because they are brilliant, and deserve recognition for their literary skill, their range, their ambition, and the sheer energy of their storytelling. The Free Reads scheme has always supported these writers, recognising for years that in a sector still rooted in power systems that favour certain voices, styles, and demographics, there was a need to provide opportunity to those who weren’t always able to gain access – to professional feedback, to networks, or resources. We are grateful to Arts Council England for continuing to support the scheme, and delighted that thanks to AM Heath we are finally able to celebrate these writers in print. We hope this marks the start of a new tradition of trade partnerships that make this kind of invaluable platforming possible.”
Running since 2001, the initiative supports marginalised writers by offering free access to TLC's professional feedback service, manuscript assessment. In 2015, TLC was granted a small uplift in funding to develop the scheme further, widening access, introducing new bursaried mentoring placements, and launching the Quality Writing for All Campaign which includes travel and access bursaries, as well as a series of offers geared towards writers and aspiring editors facing barriers.
Thanks to sponsorship from A M Heath, as part of the agency's centenary celebrations, this is the first time the TLC has printed a book of bursary recipients’ new writing.
The scheme and campaign are run in partnership with twelve literature development organisations across England including Arvon, New Writing North and Spread the Word, and five partners working specifically with BAME and disabled writers (Shape Arts, SABLE Lit Mag, Creative Future, Wasafiri, and Exiled Writers).
Notable alumni of TLC’s Free Reads scheme include Winnie M Li, Sarah Butler, and recently Not the Booker-shortlisted Liam Brown.