It never rains but it pours GOOD news, apparently! I’m thrilled to hear that Danielle Jawando – whose first novel was also widely celebrated – has gone on to win the Jhalak Prize Children’s and YA section with her wonderful second novel for teenagers, When Our Worlds Collided. Amazingly, last year the Jhalak Prize was also won by one of our former mentees: Maisie Chan! Both were on the very first Megaphone back in 2016 and it’s been amazing to see their careers hit the ground running and just keep going!
This feels like a great moment to shout out to our funders and core supporters who have made the Megaphone Writer Development scheme possible over the past few years: Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants, The Publishers’ Association, Usborne Publishing, Writing West Midlands, and in 2023/4, the Authors Licencing and Collecting Society. Not to mention the individual authors, editors, agents and other who have donated either money or time to make it all happen. THANK YOU! https://www.jhalakprize.com/childrens-ya
What an amazing sight this is for a sunny morning – How Far We’ve Come, the debut novel from the third Megaphone mentee to be published, just arrived through my letterbox! I’m so excited to read it and see how it has evolved from the first draft I read back in 2016. Joyce’s voice stood out back then and clearly nothing’s changed there – it’s still written in a powerfully distinctive first person voice, telling an original time-slip story that holds not just the past but the present up to scrutiny. Congratulations Joyce – and thanks for the shout-out in the acknowledgements!
We are delighted to be partnering with Spread the Word, RCW Literary Agency, and Dialogue Books to support a free 90 minute publishing workshop and feedback opportunity for aspiring authors of colour of adult commercial fiction or children’s and YA fiction. Megaphone will be offering membership of its Community group and all the writer development activities and opportunities available in it, to any attendees who are people of colour writing for children or teenagers. To apply, head to: https://www.rcwlitagency.com/workshops/ by 29th May, 6pm. The workshop itself is on July 5th at 1 pm.
Joanne Harris, Charlotte Vassell and Tanya Byrne are among the speakers confirmed to attend, and they will be joined by editors and agents from across commercial adult fiction and young adult fiction publishing for a panel covering a range of topics: including the submissions process, the role of agents and editors, and building an author profile.After the workshop, the authors will receive one-to-one feedback sessions with an editor or agent to discuss their manuscriptsA summary of the workshop and a series of resources will be made available online after the event. Applicants must be UK based.
So exicted to see the announcement of this news in The Bookseller! Joyce was one of our first mentees and is represented by Lydia Silver at Darley Anderson. Her YA novel, How Far We’ve Come , which explores the legacy of slavery in a truly beautiful narrative voice, has been bought by Amina Youssef at Simon and Schuster. Huge congratulations to Joyce and her team!
Happy new year! We’re delighted to start the year with the great news that ALCS, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, has awarded us funding to help support the next Megaphone Writer Development Scheme. We are enormously grateful for this, and we’ll post more news about the next scheme as soon as we have it!
The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a not-for-profit organisation started by writers for the benefit of all types of writers. Owned by its members, ALCS collects money due for secondary uses of writers’ work. It is designed to support authors and their creativity; ensure they receive fair payment and see their rights are respected. It promotes and teaches the principles of copyright and campaigns for a fair deal. It represents over 117,000 members, and since 1977 has paid over £600million to writers.
We are absolutely delighted that another of our 2020 intake of mentees, Abimbola Fashola, has signed with Saffron Dodd at ASH literary agency to represent her writing for children. Congratulations Abimbola, we’re so happy for you!
“I want to say a huge thank you to both of you as without Megaphone I would have not have got to this point! The scheme helped me so much with my writing and also having access to agents via the scheme and the open door session in the Community helped me to make this decision with some prior knowledge on what to look out for in an agent. “
The most recent Book Trust Represents report has been published. This research collects statistics on the number of people of colour who are creating published children’s literature in the UK.
A few quick thoughts on the findings:
– The comments and insights given by so many writers reinforce facts we already knew, both good and bad. It’s clear that publishers are taking active steps to make sure they publish a greater diversity of voices. It’s also clear that there’s anxiety around how deep the change goes. The graph below, taken from the report, shows a sharp increase since 2016. It also shows that when my first book came out in 2008, I was one of just FOUR people of colour to have a first book for children published that year. There is really only one way: up!
– There are still very few British children’s book creators of colour. According to the report, in 2021, 11.7% of children’s book creators were people of colour. Only 4.5% were British. The Book Trust target of 13% of children’s books to be created by authors and illustrators of colour by 2022 looks a lot harder to reach if you consider only British writers.
I just don’t understand why this is the case. We have talented creators right here, who are both British and people of colour. Not choosing to publish them only reinforces the idea that, both at home and abroad, people of colour somehow can never be ‘really’ British. Yes, but… where are you really from? I would like to know if the majority of white creators of children’s books in the UK are also non-British. We need tovalue the voices and stories of British people of colour who create children’s literature. The fact that 34.5% of pupils of school age in England are from a minority ethnic background makes this even more imperative.
My warm thanks to everyone who contributed to this important research, especially Book Trust, Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, Arts Council England and all the children’s literature creators who expressed their honest thoughts.
Huge congratulations to our 2021 mentee Nazima Pathan, who has signed with Chloe Seager at Madeleine Milburn Agency! This puts her in the same agency as her mentor, Maisie Chan (a mentee on the first Megaphone Writer Development scheme, and now the winner of the Branford Boase award, among other accolades).
We’re a little late with this one (blame August) but very excited to hear that one of our Megaphone mentees in 2021 – 2022, Zareena Subhani, has secured agent representation from Kemi Ogunsanwo at The Good Agency. Congratulations to both parties! https://www.thegoodliteraryagency.org/about/kemi/
Carnival! It’s a familiar word and many children will have been to one, but how did it all begin? Author and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max brings to life the roots and the meaning of this celebration of freedom, which stretches all the way back through the memories and traditions of enslaved people, to Africa.
Jump Up! starts with a fiction story told through a little girl’s eyes, about the first carnival. At the end there is a non-fiction section which gives more information on the topic. It includes a useful vocabulary list with the meaning and origins of common Carnival words. I learned lots of new things – the steel pan drums are very familiar to me from Birmingham streets, but I didn’t know that their origins were from when enslaved people were forbidden to use drums and instead created rhythms on pans and other things.
That’s another important element of this book: it celebrates creativity. Jump Up! is a story of resourcefulness, hope and inspiration, which tells us how people living in the most dehumanising circumstances were able to create a new and enduring human celebration.
This picture book will inspire curiosity and interest in children about the world around them, whether they have a carnival tradition in their area or not. It would be a fantastic book for schools and teachers in particular to use with KS1 children to bring added value and understanding to the carnival period, perhaps to coincide with a class trip. The illustrations are richly-coloured, affectionate and warm. Ken Wilson-Max says: “This book, in a small way, connects the past with the present and hopefully helps readers consider a more inclusive future.” I’m sure it will do that, and in no small way.
Jump Up! is part of a range of black history books for children in the same format, called Reaching New Generations. It is published by The George Padmore Institute, drawing on their wealth of archives. You can find more information at their website: https://www.georgepadmoreinstitute.org/discover . Publication was supported by a grant from Arts Council England.
Review by Leila Rasheed
Age range: 3 – 7 (but could be used with older children too)