Very excited – I’ve just received the Megaphone film from Mindriot Productions. Looks great! It’ll be coming to this blog soon…
Last year, Write Now was a welcome new opportunity for writers from groups under-represented in publishing and authorship. Joyce Efia Harmer, who was one of the Megaphone participants, was also successful on that scheme, so they clearly have great taste! I’m glad to hear it is back again. Here’s the info. :
WriteNow, Penguin Random House UK’s programme to find, mentor and publish new writers currently under-represented on the UK’s bookshelves, opens for applications today.
Through WriteNow we’re looking for new writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) writers, or writers with a disability, to help make books and publishing more representative of the society we live in.
At the heart of the campaign are three insight days in London (9 September), Bristol (16 September) and Newcastle (23 September) where 150 writers will have the opportunity to get one-to-one feedback on their work from an editor, and meet literary agents and published authors.
10 of those writers will then be invited to join our year-long mentoring programme, working with a Penguin Random House editor to develop their manuscript. Ultimately, we hope to publish these 10 writers.
Find out more and apply before 16 July at: http://www.write-now.live/
So, it’s hard to believe, but Megaphone has come to an end. The year is completed and I will now be taking stock, evaluating and planning for the future. We have filmed footage of the writers for a short film which is in the editing process at the moment. The only element of the programme left outstanding is sending samples out to the editors, which will be done this week. The masterclasses and one-to-ones, the spine of the programme, are completed.
Megaphone can already point to material successes: two of the writers have secured representation by major agents with their completed novels – Danielle Jawando is now represented by Madeleine Milburn and Joyce Efia Harmer by Jo Unwin. The other writers have had keen interest from agents and publishers also, and short stories – in some cases their first publications – have been commissioned from the writers by the BBC, Aquila and Scoop. Megaphone had an incredibly well-attended final event at the London Book Fair, with plenty of positive attention and support, both for the Megaphone writers and for the programme itself, in the wake of it.
In the coming weeks, I will be evaluating the programme and asking the writers to tell me about the benefits to them, what they have learned and what they would have liked to be different. But in the mean-time I thought it would be good to reflect on my own feelings!
What have the benefits been to me?
Certainly, setting up a project like this without any previous experience has been a challenge, but it is one I have benefitted from enormously – I’ve learned about the process of setting up and managing a project from start to finish, and have come to feel it’s not too different from writing a novel!
Most importantly, I’ve had the pleasure and honour to be around as five unique and dazzling works of literature come into the world. I’ve met five incredible people – Danielle, Nafisa, Tina, Joyce and Avanti – whose stories deserve to be read, and I’ve seen them grow and flourish in confidence and skill to tell those stories. I admire the energy and the commitment that all these writers have brought to this year –in the face of many different challenges, they have never given up. It really feels as if all five writers have grown, and that development is exactly what I hoped to achieve with Megaphone: five writers who are more publishable and more likely to sustain a career in publishing after the programme than before – because they have more knowledge, improved skills and a better sense of the mental and emotional resilience needed to persist in the industry. Which is not to say that these writers couldn’t have got to this stage without Megaphone. But it’s a difficult and discouraging world out there for authors. Anyone who’s ever tried to describe the writing life to a new writer eager to embark on it, will know how hard it is to strike the right balance between being realistic and being discouraging. Sustained support and guidance is, I feel, the thing that can make the real difference. This year, the Megaphone writers have discovered that they can do it, they can write a novel, and they’ve developed a support network in each other that I hope will last their lifetimes, through all the ups and downs of a writing life. Writing in a community is something children’s literature does very well, and Megaphone continues that tradition.
Over the next few months, I will be evaluating Megaphone, and looking at ways in which the project can be honed and improved and potentially extended, without losing its core strength and focus. I will also need to identify future sources of funding (this year’s funding came from Arts Council England, The Publishers Association and a kind donation from Melissa Cox).
I will of course be following the progress of the Megaphone writers and hope to be able to share news of publication deals over the next few months. It’s a long game with no certainties, but I’m hopeful!
Writing West Midlands have been a constant support and we are planning an event with them as part of the Birmingham Book Festival this year, so keep an eye out for that in October. It has meant a lot to me that this has taken place in Birmingham. As a city, we have a lot in common with children’s literature in that we’re constantly looked down on by those who know little about us. We’re low on bookshops, hit by cuts, our libraries are disappearing; yet we are simultaneously a youthful, hopeful, exciting, entrepreneurial and ethnically diverse city –with a long history of world-changing invention. Megaphone is in the right place.
Long term, I hope that Megaphone can come to be seen as a place for agents and publishers to look when they want to find the best and most exciting new writing for children. It has been a fantastic year for BAME children’s authorship – with success in most of the major prizes and attention paid to glaring absences for the first year ever.. What I hope is that this year won’t be a one-off but a real sea-change in how the non-white experience in children’s literature is valued, understood and respected. And that Megaphone will be part of that sea-change.
– Leila Rasheed
Belated but very sincere congratulations to the winners: Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Patrice Lawrence and Lizzy Stewart. Especially pleased to see Patrice Lawrence recognised – she led a fantastic masterclass for Megaphone, and the writers are thrilled to have worked with yet another prize-winning author.
This short course isn’t a Megaphone event, but it is being taught by Leila Rasheed (me) and organised by Writing West Midlands, one of Megaphone’s key supporters. It begins on May 3rd and runs for six weeks. If you are curious about writing for children, or don’t feel ready yet to apply to Megaphone but would like to improve your skills and increase your knowledge in this area, this short course could be for you. It takes place in central Birmingham, and the venue is easily accessible by train, tram and bus. Click the link below for full details:
This may be the most talked-about YA book of the year, and the author is coming to Birmingham in advance of publication. See you there?
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!
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: http://www.the-scheme.co.uk/.
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!