Megaphone Community are thrilled to present our confirmed In Conversation Interviews with authors and publishing professionals, available exclusively to all writers in the Megaphone Community.
Award-winning author of the Anisha, Accidental Detective series.
Serena Patel is the author of Anisha, Accidental Detective which won the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Award for Fiction, and School’s Cancelled, shortlisted for a Blue Peter Book Award. She lives in the West Midlands with her family and has worked as an events co-ordinator for a number of years. Serena believes all children deserve to feel seen in the stories they read and that books are an important tool for empathy. When she’s not writing Serena enjoys watching movies, reading and eating cake. Chocolate cake preferred.
Debut YA novelist, whose fantasy The Upper World, sold to Penguin UK in a 15-way auction for British Commonwealth rights, and is currently in the works at Netflix, with Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya on board to star and produce.
The Upper World is the debut novel of Togo-born British-Nigerian, Femi Fadugba. Femi has a Master’s from Oxford where he published in Quantum Physics before continuing his studies in the US. He previously worked in consulting and in solar energy and has written for the Financial Times and Huffington Post. He currently lives between Peckham and Baltimore.
Emma Jones, senior commissioning editor at Penguin Random House Children’s, will be interviewing Femi. She publishes a wide range of fiction and non-fiction for children aged 6+ and young adults, from established authors like Lucy and Stephen Hawking and Zoe Sugg to exciting debut voices like Jen Carney and Femi Fadugba. Before joining PRH she was a bookseller at an independent children’s bookshop.
Journalist, author and Hair Care Educator. Born in Lagos, Nigeria but raised in London, England, Tola now lives in Kent and writes children’s books, including the Daddy Do My Hair series and, under the pen name Lola Morayo, the Aziza’s Secret Fairy Door series. Through her books and wider writing, Tola constantly seeks to create ‘mirrors and windows’, allowing everyone the opportunity to read books that are reflective of their own experiences, backgrounds and cultures. An avid reader and music lover, Tola enjoys spending time with her husband and daughters, who greatly inspire her work.
“A big part of my writing journey has been the amazing mentoring and learning opportunities I’ve been privileged to take part in. They greatly helped improve both my work and my confidence as a writer. They also gave me access to an industry I’d previously thought impenetrable. As a Black writer, I know first hand how important organisations like Megaphone are for writers of colour and I’m honoured to be able to share my journey and processes.”
Editor, Melissa Gitari will be interviewing Tola. Melissa started her publishing career at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, where she is now an assistant editor, working across the growing picture books and fiction lists. She is seeking out warm, funny children’s fiction from underrepresented authors. Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun by Tola Okogwu is her first acquisition.
Zanib Mian is an award-winning author of the Planet Omar series and other children’s books. Her books have featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories and The Guardian for their contribution to diversity in children’s literature. Zanib studied Molecular Cell Biology at University College London and went on to teach science in secondary schools before she made the decision to give up the career to create change within children’s publishing. She felt that diverse characters from all minorities and backgrounds weren’t being fully represented in books for young children. She launched Sweet Apple Publishers with a clear commitment to publishing inclusive books, many of which she has authored herself. Planet Omar has won the Little Rebels Award, and IBBY award for its Dutch edition. Zanib was also commissioned to write a Snappy Opera for The Mahogany Opera Group, and is also on the panel of judges for the Northern Writers Awards.
“I’m very excited to join Megaphone and share my experiences and tips with those contributing to the own voices space!”
Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is a writer from South London who has dreamed of writing books about Black kids saving (or destroying) the world all her life. She is an avid tea drinker, and a collector of strange mugs. Faridah has written for NME, The Bookseller, Reader’s Digest and gal-dem and currently studies English Literature at a university in the Scottish Highlands. Her debut novel ACE OF SPADES will be published by Usborne in the UK and Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan in the US.
Photo © Joy Olugboyega
Becky Walker began her career working as a children’s bookseller in the much-loved children’s indie bookshop, The Lion and the Unicorn, before joining Usborne in 2011, where she is now a commissioning fiction editor. Becky feels incredibly lucky that she is able to work with such a talented array of authors and illustrators, including Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé, Namina Forna, Sophie Anderson, Peter Bunzl and Zillah Bethell.
Becky will be interviewing Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.
Kereen Getten grew up in Jamaica but now lives in Birmingham with her family. She has previously written short stories for multiple publications including Notts Review and Adhoc Fiction. She was nominated for Best Short Fiction 2018 and highly commended for the FAB prize. When Life Gives You Mangoes is her debut novel, published with Pushkin Press (UK) and Delacorte (US) in 2020. It has also been translated into Czech and Italian.
Kereen Getten will be interviewed alongside her editor of When Life Gives You Mangoes, Sarah Odedina. She has worked in publishing for nearly three decades and most of that time in the area of children’s books. She has worked across all age ranges from pre-school to YA and enjoyed all of them. She was Publisher of Bloomsbury Children’s Books for 14 years where she edited, amongst others, Neil Gaiman, Louis Sachar and Celia Rees. Sarah started Hot Key Books for Bonnier where she published the multi-award winning title Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner and has been Editor-at-Large for Pushkin Press for the past five years.
Manjeet is an actress, author, playwright and screenwriter. Her debut YA verse novel Run, Rebel was published by Penguin in March 2020 and was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Branford Boase and Sheffield Children’s Book Awards, and won the UKLA. It was also a Guardian best book of 2020. Her second YA verse Novel The Crossing (Penguin) was published in June 2021.
Carmen McCullough, Editorial Director at Penguin Random House Children’s
Carmen is an editorial director at Penguin Random House Children’s working on fiction and non-fiction for the 6+ list. She works on a wide variety of titles including hilarious accessible middle grade such as The Great Dream Robbery by Greg James and Chris Smith and The Extremely Embarrassing Life of Lottie Brooks by Katie Kirby – the force behind hilarious blog and bestselling book Hurrah for Gin. She is also proud to publish award-winning YA authors such as Ruta Sepetys whose stunning book Salt to the Sea won the Carnegie medal in 2017 and compulsive thrillers from bestselling phenomenon Karen McManus. She has a particular passion for publishing LGBTQ+ books, such as the powerful queer coming-of-age story The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth and a rainbow-filled journal celebrating sexuality and identity – Free to be Me – by superstar illustrator and influencer Dom & Ink.
Polly used to be a primary school teacher in London and while she was teaching there she used to get up very early in the morning to write stories. The first of those stories is BOY IN THE TOWER. Her books have been shortlisted for, among others awards, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Blue Peter Book Award. She’s still writing stories and though she doesn’t teach now, she still visit schools…only now they’re all over the country.
Polly is joined by her agent and former OPEN DOOR guest, Clare Wallace from Darley Anderson Literary Agency