Megaphone Community is opening up! Come and join us!

Megaphone Online Community group is accepting new members, during the month of May only.

If you want to meet other people of colour who love writing for children, and connect with agents, editors and published authors, send us an email between 01/05/21 and 31/05/21 to applytomegaphone@gmail.com  and let us know. Read on for details!

You must:

–        identify as a person of colour, currently based in England and aged 18+

–        be interested in writing for children or teenagers and becoming a better writer

–        be keen to join a warm, supportive community of people of colour who love writing for children or teenagers

–        be willing to comply with our equality policy, please see here: https://megaphonewrite.com/privacy-equality/

You need to send us: (in the body of the email is fine – applytomegaphone@gmail.com ) the following:

1) a paragraph about you and your writing/ interest in children’s literature

2) between 200 and 500 words of something you have written with an audience of children or teenagers in mind. This is not a competition – we just want to get a sense of your writing and interests. We are capping the number of new members at 50, and it will be first-come first-served during May only.

3) any accessibility or privacy requirements you already know you need us to meet

Arts Council England logo

Why Community?

As a writer I’ve always known how important it is to be in groups with other writers, whether that’s a critique group, one where you talk about reading and writing, or a social one.  Only another writer really understands the creative process, or how painful it is to get rejections, or how much it means to get published. Having a supportive peer group is really important.

Megaphone online community group is for people of colour who write for children or teenagers. We host regular private events on Zoom, where authors, editors and experts from all over the publishing industry share their knowledge and experience.  Alongside the regular Open Door chats offered on Friday afternoons by Usborne Comissioning editor, Stephanie King, who runs Community, we’ve hosted Serena Patel (best-selling children’s author), Becky Walker (super star editor, Usborne ) and Catherine Coe (founder of the All Stories mentoring scheme for under-represented children’s writers). In May, we’ve got webinars on finding funding for your writing, interviews with Alice Sutherland-Hawes (literary agent), Kesia Lupo (senior editor, Chicken House) and Tola Okogwu (debut author). We want to hear your suggestions for what you want the group to do and be, and hope you will use the space to connect with other writers, whether that is finding critique partners (someone who’ll read your writing and give you a reader’s point of view) or discussing issues in writing craft, children’s literature, publishing or sharing opportunites you’ve found.

About Megaphone:

Megaphone is an Arts Council England funded project, which mentors emerging writers of colour as they write their first book for children or teenagers. We currently have seven mentees on the main scheme, which is a year of 1-1 mentoring and masterclasses while they write their first books. Building a sustainable and supportive community of writers is very important to us. We are proud that our published ‘graduates’ from previous mentoring scheme, Danielle Jawando (And The Stars were Burning Brightly, shortlisted for the Branford Boase award) and Maisie Chan (Danny Chung does not do Maths) have come back as mentors.

When we started Community the numbers were capped at 50 because Community is a pilot project. We had to see how many people we could cope with supporting, and learn how to run the group. We now feel we have the capacity to welcome more members and as the poll we posted in the group was overwhelmingly in favour of accepting more, we’re excited and happy to do so! We will still keep the numbers to under 100 and open up just during May, because we are a small project (1 volunteer (Stephanie), 1 day per week, 1 paid project manager (Leila), aprox. 1.5 day per week for the duration of the project) and want to ensure we can give everyone a quality experience.

Megaphone supports Inclusion Labs Decade of Diversity

I am delighted to pledge Megaphone’s support to Inclusion Labs’ DECADE OF DIVERSITY initiative. We will share our learning from working with writers of colour- who all love children’s and YA books, and who were all reading children once – to support the initiative for more diverse literature in schools. Where we can- our capacity as a small Arts Council England National Lottery funded project allowing – we will be delighted to support schools that are committed to change, to understand more about how readers and writers of colour grow, and about the importance of diverse books.
What I love about the initative is the understanding that we need to take strategic action to make a fairer world, and also the acknowledgement of the enormous influence that schools, and children’s books, have on children’s developing mental health. The books schools put in front of their children, and the ways in which they are used, matter so much. I read pasionately as a child, but never found myself in stories. Research repeatedly shows that reading for pleasure in childhood correlates with later success and happiness in all areas of life. We need to make it as easy as possible for all children to develop that love of literature and the confidence that comes from seeing yourself honoured as the centre of a story. I encourage all schools and all teachers to audit their libraries, look at the messages that their book stock is giving out, and pledge 25% diverse literature in schools by 2030. Governing boards too should work towards diversity so that they can truly represent every child in their school. You can read more here: https://www.inclusionlabs.org/partnerwithus

“In 2019 33.5% of the school population were of minority ethnic origins, in stark contrast only 5% of children’s books had an ethnic minority main character.”

– Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, read more: https://clpe.org.uk/publications-and-bookpacks/reflecting-realities

A few suggestions to get you started!

Seventh mentee added!

We’re really happy to say that after discussions with mentors and consulting with our funders, Arts Council England, we have decide we have the capacity to add a further mentoring place for a shortlisted writer. Abimbola Fashola is our seventh mentee and we’re so excited to be working on her wonderful book with her!
We will also be continuing to support all the applicants who joined our free Community programme – so if you applied and haven’t taken up your place yet, please do – there’s a Zoom meet-up this Friday and our first event, an Open Door chat about publishing with commissioning editor Stephanie King, is coming up soon after.

Nearly there!

So, the past week may have been the busiest so far in this round of Megaphone delivery. Actually a lot (LOT – I’m going to do a free webinar on this topic) of the work takes place before the project even starts, in making the funding application – but aside from that, these days of reading all the applications, agonising over which to shortlist, are intense. This is the first time we’ve also tried to give every eligible applicant a little feedback, and that too has been demanding, with 60 eligible applicants. The emails inviting people to the Community strand are going out today, and the editors have all made their rankings, so on Monday I look forward to contacting and announcing the mentees! If you were not successful this time, please don’t be discouraged – I can’t stress enough how subjective writing competitions always are, which is exactly why this time round we created Community. See you there!
– Leila

The shortlist has been chosen!

Quick update to let you all know that we have, with great difficulty, selected 10 of the 60 wonderful applications we received to send on to the editors. The shortlisted writers have been informed this morning via email. CONGRATULATIONS YOU STARS!

We will also send an email out to those who didn’t make it on this occasion. If that is you, please don’t be disheartened. We always get more good applications than we have space to mentor, and it doesn’t mean your writing isn’t good or won’t succeed elsewhere. With that in mind, I wanted to share a little about the process:

We look first and foremost at the quality of the writing sample. But what does quality mean? For me, I look for a voice that’s so much fun to read that I forget I’m reading it ‘for work’. Story-telling ability; something that makes me believe I’m there, with those people. A sense of tension and the drama in all kinds of moments.

The paragraph of ideas matters because it shows the reader whether you have a sense of where the book is going. Are there any surprises? Good surprises or just surprising surprises? We look at this second, to get more context on the whole book you want to write, and whether it seems as if you’ll be able to complete it to a publishable standard in a year (the aim of the mentoring). We also think about whether the story might work differently – whether certain editorial suggestions might make sense, for example, pitching it at a different age range.

The letter of application gives us more of a sense of where you’re coming from and where you want to get to – and we might find out from it that an applicant isn’t eligible (for example, being under 18 – please see the FAQs on this website). We don’t get many ineligible applications.

Finally, on a personal note, I just loved reading all your samples, and also all your letters of application. It was moving and empowering for me to realise that there are people out there, who I don’t know at all, who agree with me about the kind of stories and perspectives that are missing from our bookshelves – and how important it is to tell those stories, and how much we want to read them and have them to pass on to the next generation. I couldn’t put every sample I loved on the shortlist, but I do hope to keep connecting with you all via the Community strand. Keep writing!

– Leila Rasheed

A picture of the person who is writing this blog
Leila Rasheed

#DannyChung is Here!

Look what came through the post – a proof copy of DANNY CHUNG DOES NOT DO MATHS by Maisie Chan! I can’t wait to read this! Maisie’s voice is full of humour and warmth and I always loved her work when I mentored her. After setting up her own mentoring group, Bubble Tea, Maisie is returning as a mentor for Megaphone, and will be mentoring one BESEA writer in 2021. #DannyChung @PiccadillyPress @MaisieWrites https://www.maisiechan.com/
Pre-order now! Out 10th June 2021.

News! Golden Egg Academy supporting Megaphone

Golden Egg Academy are supporting Megaphone writers with an offer of one free place on their September 2021, 12-week course to an unsuccessful applicant.

We’re thrilled that GEA, led by Imogen Cooper, have just donated a free place on their September 12 week course to one applicant to Megaphone.

We already know we will get more excellent and deserving applications that we have space to mentor. Our Community strand helps us go on supporting people even if we can’t mentor them this year, and this 12-week course will be an extra offer to one applicant who is not on our 1-1 Mentoring scheme. Many thanks to GEA for supporting children’s writers of colour – and if you want to know more, there is still time to sign up for the Honkference this weekend!

Want to work in children’s publishing? Children’s Books North are mentoring.

Children’s Books North offer mentoring for anyone who wants to break into the children’s publishing industry and lives in the NE, NW, Yorkshire or Scotland. Deadline is 29th January 2021. Find out more here: https://childrensbooksnorth.blogspot.com/2020/11/mentor-scheme.html

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