Megaphone 2015-2017

Megaphone 2015-2017: who was involved?

Who funded Megaphone 2015-7?

Who provided the one-to-one writing support?

Which editors read the final manuscripts?

Which authors ran the masterclasses?

Megaphone 2015-2017 was funded by
The Arts Council


and The Publishers Association
Publishers Association Logo

and kindly supported by Writing West Midlands

Melissa Cox generously donated £300 to cover the fees of one participant who may be in financial need.

The one-to-one writing support was provided by

Leila Rasheed, author of Chips Beans and Limousines (a Red House Read of the Year) and sequels, also the Witch of Turlingham series as Ellie Boswell, and the Somerton trilogy for Disney-Hyperion USA. Leila designed and teaches a module in Writing for Children and Young People on the MA in Writing at the University of Warwick, and over the past years has worked with many students individually to bring their writing to the best possible level. She has an MA in Children’s Literature from Roehampton (Surrey) and a distinction in an MA in Writing from the University of Warwick. She also teaches short courses in Writing for Children for Writing West Midlands and was an editor for The Writers’ Workshop. She was children’s bookseller at Waterstone’s Brussels for five years. As well as providing consistent writing support to the participants through one to one meetings, she is Megaphone’s project leader, manager, tea girl, envelope stuffer… She tweets @MegaphoneWrite and @LeilaR and her own website is

The following editors volunteered their time to help select the participants and to read the full manuscripts.

Venetia Gosling, Publisher, Pan MacMillan UK

Venetia says: “I have worked in publishing for over twenty years, first at Hodder (now Hachette), where I edited Cressida Cowell’s debut novel, How to Train Your Dragon, and acquired Robert Muchamore’s C.H.E.R.U.B series.  I then moved to Simon & Schuster, where I was Editorial Director for Fiction, acquiring both the Dork Diaries series and Sophie McKenzie, as well as editing Darren Shan’s Zom-Bseries.  I am currently the Publisher of the 6+ children’s division at Pan Macmillan UK where I am responsible for a list which includes bestsellers such as Rainbow Rowell, Judy Blume, Chris Riddell, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Moone Boy, amongst many others, but am always looking for the next big thing!”

An interview with Venetia:

Jane Griffiths, Children’s Fiction Commissioning Editor, Simon and Schuster UK

I have worked in publishing for over ten years and am currently Senior Commissioning Editor at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books UK, having previously been at HarperCollins Children’s Books. One of the things I love about Children’s Books is the fact that every day is different and in my career I’ve worked with a wide variety of authors including Danny Wallace, Jo Nesbo, Cassandra Clare and Michael Morpurgo and on brands such as Dork Diaries, Magic Ballerina and The Spiderwick Chronicles. I’m especially proud of my recent double shortlisting for the Branford Boase Award which recognises the essential partnership of editors and authors. You can follow me on Twitter @janey_tweets.
Of the Megaphone project, Jane says:  “Diversity in books is often discussed at length in various forums and arenas, but it’s only initiatives like Megaphone that will move us from discussion to action. I couldn’t be more pleased to be involved.”

Rachel Mann, Children’s Fiction Editor, Simon and Schuster UK

Rachel is currently a Children’s Fiction Editor for Simon & Schuster UK, having previously been at both Random House and Penguin Children’s. She has worked with authors such as Michael Morpurgo, Darren Shan, Melvin Burgess, C. J. Flood and Gayle Forman, as well as a host of debut authors from the UK and elsewhere in the world. She is (very slowly) completing an MA in Children’s Literature at the University of Roehampton, and is also Founding Director of literacy and education charity The Saltpond Education Project, based in Ghana, West Africa. You can follow her on Twitter @rachelphilippa 

About Megaphone, Rachel says: “To increase diversity in the publishing industry, both in terms of published output and, by extension, workforce, is now an imperative. The lack of cultural, sexual, gendered and anti-ableist variety in children’s literature has shocked me since my book-selling days, and I couldn’t be more supportive of the Megaphone project to redress this imbalance.”

Shannon Cullen, Fiction Publisher, Penguin Random House

Shannon Cullen is the fiction publisher for Penguin Random House UK Children’s, commissioning books for 5+ to teen and managing the Puffin Classics list. She previously worked on the Primary Literacy list at Collins Education and in 2008 was co-chair of the Children’s Book Circle. Shannon has twice chaired the Muslim Writers Award for an Unpublished Children’s Story, judged the inaugural Undiscovered Voices competition, and helped to establish the Commonword Diversity Writing for Children Prize in 2012. She has published a wide range of authors, including John Green, Jeremy Strong, Zoe Sugg, Anna Perera, Lucy and Stephen Hawking, Sufiya Ahmed and Anthony McGowan. You can follow her on Twitter @srtcullen1

Karen Ball, Publisher, Hachette (Little Brown Young Readers)

Karen Ball is Publisher at Little, Brown Books For Young Readers and co-organiser of the Book Bound writers’ retreat. She has worked in children’s publishing for over 23 years, commissioning projects as diverse as Horrible Science, Beast Quest, Jenny Colgan’s Polly and the Puffin and Frank Lampard’s Frankie’s Magic Football. She is known for her engagement with creative thinking and brainstorming and has extensive experience of developing Intellectual Property after working as Head of Editorial at Working Partners. She is an author of over 20 children’s books and her passion is for team-based publishing that is imaginative, inclusive and innovative. You can follow her on Twitter @karenball.

Katherine Agar, Commissioning Editor, Hachette (Little Brown Young Readers)

Katherine says: “I currently commission for the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers imprint at Hachette Children’s Group.I work on a wide variety of books for ages four and up; from Jenny Colgan’s Polly and the Puffin, to licensed projects such as Mattel’s Ever After High and the Carnegie longlisted Us Minus Mum by Heather Butler. I’m busy building up our YA offering at the moment, which is really exciting.Within our imprint, we also work with non-traditional authors (Frank Lampard, for example!) and enjoy helping to bring ideas to life. A new strand for our publishing is the development of a small number of projects from our own ideas – a creative process I absolutely love.”

About Megaphone, she says: “There is a real feeling from within the industry that we are failing young readers by not ensuring that the books we publish accurately reflect the diversity of our wonderful, multi-cultural country. One of our biggest problems is access to writers who don’t come from a white, middle-class background and this project is a fantastic opportunity to support new writers to bring their stories to life. “

Kirsten Armstrong, Fiction Editor, Penguin Random House

Kirsten began her career in educational publishing and moved to Random House Children’s Publishers in 2011, working on the David Fickling Books imprint and then across the list more generally. During this time she has also had special responsibility for managing the Tamarind fiction list, an imprint which aims to redress the balance of diversity in children’s publishing. She now works across multiple genres and age groups, and was privileged to work with the late great Sir Terry Pratchett, acquiring and publishing his final Discworld novel The Shepherd’s Crown. Other authors Kirsten has worked with include Andy McNab, Jamila Gavin, Dave Shelton, Philip Pullman and exciting debut novelists Sarah Benwell and Crystal Chan. You can follow her on Twitter @K_L_Armstrong

The following children’s writers (and agent) ran masterclasses.

Julia Churchill, literary agent at AM Heath, will run a masterclass focusing on working with agents. Julia represents, among very many others, award-winning authors such as Sarah Crossan, Michelle Harrison and the estate of Joan Aiken.

Her website is You can follow her on twitter @JuliaChurchill 

Patrice Lawrence, author of Orangeboy, recently published by Hodder. Patrice is an experienced writer who has written books for younger readers – Orangeboy is her first YA novel. She blogs at: 

Candy Gourlay, author of Tall Story and Shine, both widely prize nominated in the UK. She is the winner of the National Children’s Book Award of the Philippines and the SCBWI Crystal Kite Prize for Europe. Candy has exceptional expertise in social media, networking and delivering school visits.


Catherine Johnson.

Catherine Johnson has been a published writer for over twenty years. She has written loads of books for young readers including Sawbones, which won the Young Quills Best historical fiction prize in 2013 and her latest; The Curious Tale of The Lady Caraboo.
She also writes for film and TV including Bullet Boy and Holby City. Her radio play has been shortlisted for The Prix italia and The Imison award.
She is a Londoner who lives by the sea.

About Megaphone, Catherine says:“I believe the Megaphone project is one that’s needed now more than ever. As a BAME author who has been published for the last twenty years I have seen numbers of non white UK children’s authors stay resolutely low. Young readers need to see modern Britain reflected back at them in their books. New authors need support – support that is no longer available in publishing today.”

Lee Weatherley
Lee Weatherley

 Lee Weatherly is an award-winning author of over 50 books for children and young adults, including the bestselling YA trilogy Angel. Her acclaimed middle-grade novels include Child X and Missing Abby; she’s also written numerous series titles for younger readers. Her work has been translated into over 10 different languages. Lee’s new YA trilogy, the Broken series, will be published by Usborne and is ‘an exhilarating epic of deception, heartbreak and rebellion, set in a daring and distorted echo of 1940s America’. Book one, Broken Sky, comes out in March 2016. Lee greatly enjoys working with new writers and helping them make the most of their talent. She’s an experienced teacher and mentor, and the co-author of How to Write a Blockbuster. She also spends entire days in her pyjamas while writing and drinking coffee.

Lee says: “As an author, I’m thrilled to be involved with Megaphone — because diversity in children’s fiction matters. When kids read, they should both experience other realities and see their own reflected. They need to know that anything is possible, that the world isn’t closed to them. We’re all cheated when this isn’t the case, no matter what our skin colour.”

Alex Wheatle MBE, playwright and author of Brixton Rock and many other novels for adults; his first novel for teenagers, Liccle Bit, was published in March 2015. He is widely experienced in leading creative writing workshops and as a speaker.

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