Weidenfeld & Nicolson has revealed the first four books in its Hometown Tales series, which aims to promote regional diversity by publishing voices from across the UK. Launching the series will be writings from and about Glasgow, Yorkshire, the Midlands and Highlands and Hebrides.
Each book will feature work from two writers – one established and one previously unpublished, found through open submissions. Both authors will write about the places they think of as home.
Hometown Tales: Glasgow will include a "moving" account of growing up in the shadow of Woodilee Hospital by short story writer and author of The Gracekeepers (Harvill Secker) Kirsty Logan, and "a deeply personal portrait of the city" by new voice Paul McQuade.
Hometown Tales: Yorkshire will feature Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love and A Manual for Heartache (Picador), writing about her childhood home in Snaith, and new voice Victoria Hennison on village life in Holme-on-Spalding-Moor.
Hometown Tales: Midlands will pair a story about a Jamaican girl adopted by a couple living in Fleckney, Leicestershire, by Kerry Young, author of the Costa First Novel-shortlisted Pao (Bloomsbury), with new voice Carolyn Sanderson’s tale of young love in Milton Keynes.
And, last in the four-strong tranche, Hometown Tales: Highlands and Hebrides will include an account of growing up on the Isle of Mull by Colin MacIntyre, author of The Letters of Ivor Punch (W&N) which won the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award in 2015. MacIntyre's piece will appear alongside a "bold and inspiring" coming-of-age story set in Inverness by new voice Ellen MacAskill.
Driving the initiative is the desire to "open up the publishing industry" by providing a platform for new writers from "underrepresented" regions in the publishing landscape, the publisher said. The new writers, who were invited to submit 15,000 words based on the idea of 'hometown' last year, will be edited and mentored by the W&N team, with the books due for publication in paperback and e-book in June 2018.
W&N will be extending the Hometown Tales series to include four more titles, and is now looking for writers to feature in: Hometown Tales: Birmingham, Hometown Tales: Wales, Hometown Tales: Lancashire, and Hometown Tales: South East.
Hometown Tales: Birmingham will feature both a new writer and BAFTA award-winning comedian, writer and author Stewart Lee, who will write about the post-punk scene in Birmingham and how music has shaped his memories of the city.
Hometown Tales: Wales will be contributed to by Tyler Keevil, a writer originally from Canada, now living in Wales, who will explore the idea of migration. Keevil won the Journey Prize and the Wales Book of the Year People’s Prize, and is is one of the judges for the Wales Book of the Year 2017, while his new novel, No Good Brother, is due to publish with The Borough Press in February.
Hometown Tales: Lancashire will see a new voice juxtaposed by novelist Jenn Ashworth's story set over a pub crawl one night in Preston. Ashworth, who has previously written about what it's like growing up in a Northern working-class Mormon community and how it influenced her novel The Friday Gospels (Sceptre) for The Bookseller, last year published Fell (Sceptre), and lectures in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.
And Hometown Tales: South East will welcome a new writer in the company of award-winning BBC broadcaster and founder of Boom Shakalaka Productions Gemma Cairney, writing about her home town of Margate.
Jennifer Kerslake, editor for the project, said it was "more important than ever" to look beyond London. Figures including Faber's Stephen Page have openly criticised the industry for being too "London-centric", as well as “toe curlingly” white and middle class. Two weeks ago, New Writing North's chief executive Claire Malcolm, suggested large publishers move their offices to bridge the regional divide, saying the organisation had been “overwhelmed” by requests for help while publishers "struggled" to get to grips with the issue.
Kerslake commented: "We had a brilliant response to the call for open submissions and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to publish four compelling new voices alongside authors whose work I have long admired. The level of enthusiasm and support we’ve received from the eight published authors contributing to the project has been fantastic and I can’t wait to share their tales of home with readers."
She added: "It’s more important than ever to look beyond London and we are excited to be opening submissions again, particularly looking for regional voices from Birmingham, the South East, Lancashire and Wales."