There’s been lots of coverage of the Megaphone seminar at the London Book Fair – but I’ll be honest, this is my favourite. Not just because Stephanie King totally gets it, but because she’s Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne, my publisher, and was instrumental in bringing my own books (Chips, Beans and Limousines and sequels) to publication. I personally can echo everything she says about coming from a ‘complicated’ background and the result if you don’t see all sides of you equally valued. Thank you Stephanie!

Want to be a book publicist?

Penguin Random House’s entry-level recruitment programme, The Scheme, is back for 2017.

This year they are looking for the publicists of the future, with four successful candidates joining Penguin Random House in September 2017 to embark on a fully-paid traineeship lasting 13 months.

Applications are open to all, regardless of professional experience or qualifications, and candidates will not be asked to provide CVs. Instead, applicants will be asked to answer three questions designed to test seven core qualities required by publicists today, including ambition, curiosity and a passion for our purpose.

Find out more and apply here:

#LBF17 full house – thank you!

The audience for the Megaphone seminar at the London Book Fair 2017

The picture says it all. It was standing room only! Thank you to the many people who turned up to hear the Megaphone writers read and to help celebrate their achievements. And thank you to the Megaphone writers themselves, who all gave excellent readings despite nerves. You were all superb and I hope you enjoyed the rest of #LBF17!

Megaphone writer to appear in Scoop

Delighted to say that Nafisa Muhtadi, currently on the Megaphone scheme, has impressed the editor at Scoop Magazine and will be published alongside names such as Neil Gaiman, Tom Stoppard and Jacqueline Wilson! This will be her first print publication credit.

Scoop is an exciting newspaper for children aged 8 – 12, with experienced and passionate publishing professionals at the helm. Check out the current issue here:

Meet Megaphone at the London Book Fair

Unbelievable as it may seem, Megaphone is coming to the end of its scheduled one-year run. This is the time to show off everything that the talented and hard-working writers on the programme – in no particular order, Danielle Jawando, Joyce Efia Harmer, Nafisa Muhtadi, Tina Freeth (Maisie Chan) and Avantika Taneja – have  achieved over the past year. It’s also the moment to evaluate the programme itself. What did Megaphone get right? What could we have done better? How can we improve for next time?
I’m very excited to announce that, as part of this celebration and evaluation, we’re going to be presenting a seminar at the London Book Fair 2017 on March 14th 2017

This is an opportunity to
– hear more about the scheme and how it has run in its first year
– hear the five writers read from the novels they have written during the scheme
– ask questions of myself (Leila Rasheed) and the five writers about any aspect of the scheme
– make your voice heard on the important topic of inclusion and diversity in British children’s literature

The full venue details are on the London Book Fair site:

Please note that (unless you already have one) you’ll have to buy a visitor ticket to the London Book Fair 2017 to access the seminar. It is, however, excellent value and highly recommended! For tickets, please see this link:

If you cannot get to the seminar, but still would like to comment on any aspect of Megaphone, or to contact me at all, I’d be delighted to hear from you on: .

– Leila

Finding The Story: Tina Freeth

A guest post by Megaphone participant Tina Freeth, on the amazing milestone that is completing the first draft of your first novel! 


As 2017 started, like previous years before I had half-heartedly declared some resolutions…the same old ones…lose some weight, see friends more, learn a language, learn to play a guitar, write a novel, etc. There is one resolution that I can happily say I have achieved (yes, it’s only week two of the new year!) and that has been to finish the FIRST draft of a novel. Notice I’ve CAPITALISED the word FIRST.

Tina Freeth
Tina Freeth: excited about what’s to come!

This has been a goal for many years. Alas, it’s only a first draft and my first drafts are not as good as other people’s first drafts. I’m not being modest or self-deprecating, it’s true. It’s not polished, it’s riddled with gaps, spelling mistakes and most likely many inconsistencies of character, plot, and description. I think I’ve called the character’s grandma something totally different at the end. And in my final scene I decided to give my character a slight quirk that hasn’t been present in the rest of the novel. But I’m going to write it in later!

I’m looking forward to rewriting it and rewriting it again.

It’s like the badly crocheted blanket that I started to make for my first child that I stopped making when it was the size of a tea towel. And like that first blanket it’s much smaller than I expected it would be at 40,000 words. When I began writing this novel back in April 2016, I was aiming for around 70-80,000 words. I thought I was writing a Young Adult novel. But getting to know more about the publishing industry for children and teens, I realised that I’m writing a ‘young’ Young Adult novel or ‘High end’ Middle Grade novel for 13 – 15 year olds and perhaps 40,000 words isn’t so bad after all, I can always add another twenty thousand when rewriting it. And I’m sure I am going to change things and delete a lot of it. Unlike that half-finished blanket, I have got to the end of the first draft and I’m looking forward to rewriting it and rewriting it again.

This year was about finding out how I worked when writing a novel.

All writers know that writing is in the rewriting. It is a work in progress and as I know from previous experience, my process for writing short stories works just like this. I’ll have a vague idea and probably a couple of main characters but I won’t know exactly where they want to go or what they want to do; instead I will know a theme I want to write about. It hasn’t been easy. There have been times when I’ve enjoyed writing the novel such as the time I decided that one of my character’s mum who can’t cook uses a system like BUILD-A BEAR where you chose what you want to eat from the stuff presented to you and you put it all together yourself. But then there have been times I’ve sat down to write and everything that I’ve typed is drivel and makes no sense or does nothing for the story. This year was about finding out how I worked when writing a novel. It’s not pretty and it’s not that organised, but it’s the first time I’m doing it so I’m going to stop beating myself up with a stick.

The group itself has been one of constant comradery and mutual support.

I’ve not written every day, or even every week, or even every month. It’s been sporadic and often tempered with moments of guilt (‘I didn’t hit my 10,000-word target for the month and binge-watched Netflix instead’), self-denial (‘I’ll do some tomorrow morning at 9am sharp when the kids are at school’) and the worst one of all self-doubt (‘I’m a useless writer, I can’t write a good sentence let alone a novel…blah blah woe is me.’). Yet, these moment have been interspersed with great days when you get to attend a Megaphone masterclass with published award winning authors who have been there been and not given up, and whose advice rings in your ears when you feel like you can’t go on. Some of the best advice was ‘allow yourself to write rubbish’ (Lee Weatherly) and Candy Gourlay recently wrote about the first draft being the one where you ‘find the story’ which all helps mightily. It’s not only been the Megaphone masterclasses but the constant support from our mentor Leila who tells people how good we are and props us up when we’re wilting from self-doubt and niggling fears. The group itself has been one of constant comradery and mutual support.  I feel happy to have a body of work to edit and it’s taken a while but I’ve found the story. I’ve written down the bones and now to flesh it out and add the flourishing touches. Megaphone thus far has been brilliant and I’m excited for what’s to come next.

So am I – thank you Tina! 🙂

Megaphone participant speaks up for libraries

Read Tina’s powerful piece in defence of her local library here.

Libraries are factories for producing writers – anyone who values reading should stand up for them!




Exciting BAME writing opportunity from Stripes publisher

I’ve often wished that the children’s and YA world had the strong  short fiction scene that adult fiction has. It can be tough writing novel after novel with no agent or publisher on board – short fiction, aside from its own real value as a distinct art form, provides a chance to gain publication credits and writing experience for new writers. Now Stripes is helping to develop that scene, with a focus on BAME voices:

“The theme of the book is ‘change’ and the purpose of the book is to represent and celebrate diverse voices. However, the authors have been given the freedom to “interpret the theme however they are inspired to do so”, according to Stripes.

Contributors will also include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Ayisha Malik and Irfan Master, as well as unpublished and un-agented writers who can submit their stories via the website. Any BAME writers who want to submit must send a 2,000-5,000 word story to by 28th February. More details can be found on the Stripes website. “

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