Today, Penguin Random House UK has announced the 14 unpublished new writers invited to join this year's WriteNow editorial programme. Chosen for the exceptional quality of their writing and pitches, all 14 writers hail from a range of communities under-represented on the UK and Ireland’s bookshelves.
From tales of mistaken identities and middle grade adventures, essay collections and coming of age novels, this year’s list spans the length and breadth of Penguin Random House’s publishing.
Over the next year the writers will work closely with a Penguin Random House editor to develop their manuscript and get it ready for publication. We intend for every one of the writers to ‘graduate’ from the programme with either a literary agent or publishing deal, from us or another publisher.
Since WriteNow launched in 2016, 750 writers across the UK and Ireland have received direct one-on-one editorial feedback as part of 10 How to Get Published day-long workshops. Over 40 writers have joined the WriteNow editorial programme, 13 of which have already been published or acquired by Penguin Random House imprints.
Books published through WriteNow so far...
WriteNow talent incubator
For the first time, Penguin Random House will also be launching a ‘WriteNow incubator’ for the 50 writers on this year’s shortlist, to provide these writers with additional insight and information on the publishing process as they continue to develop their manuscripts individually. This will comprise a year-long series of exclusive, interactive sessions hosted by publishing experts from across Penguin Random House, covering topics requested by participants, to help them in their personal journey towards getting published.
WriteNow has also launched a dedicated newsletter for new writers, sharing practical information and inspiration about how to get published and navigate the industry.
The writers joining our 2020 editorial programme
Ali Isaac is 53 years old and lives in Co. Cavan, Ireland. She is writing a memoir.
Ali went straight into full-time work after leaving school in order to help support her family, but returned to education as a mature student, recently graduating from Maynooth University.
Ali’s book, which began as her university dissertation, is a memoir built around her experiences as a woman, a mature student, and the mother of a disabled daughter.
Charlie George is 32 years old and lives in London. She is writing autofiction.
After years of circus performing & running a dance company, Charlie now does stand-up and writes scripts for live performance and TV. She is a queer, mixed-race, working class, ex-Jehovah’s Witness.
Her book, Door to Door, is a story of two very different mixed-race sisters, coming of age in a stifling religious & racially different upbringing. An intimate portrayal of polarising and enduring love.
“If you’d told me a few years ago that I could end up doing this, I probably would have laughed in your face! But here I am. Writing a book based on these peculiar and transformative experiences. I can't wait to share it with you.”
Originally from Leicester and now living in London, Elizabeth Lovatt is 32 years old and writes creative non-fiction.
Her book, Thank You For Calling the Lesbian Line, tells the story of a 90s lesbian phone line service, its callers and volunteers, through a logbook found in Islington’s Pride archive. Woven through are Elizabeth’s own personal reflections on lesbian identity and cultural commentary on queer media and theory.
“I came out much later in life and discovered my community and identity through reading. With my book I hope to present a part of lesbian history that I am only just discovering for myself and others as it is today.”
Emma Jokinen is 21 years old and lives in Glasgow. She is writing commercial fiction.
Emma has been writing for as long as she’s been able to; it’s always been her biggest passion. Her book, Nothing Serious, focuses on two people searching desperately for a connection. It's about making bad decisions and friendship.
Gaar Adams is 32 years old and lives in London. He is writing literary non-fiction. Gaar is a queer American writer, London Library Emerging Writer, and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Glasgow.
His book, Guest Privileges, explores queerness and migration in the Arabian Peninsula, examining a decade-long journey of dislocation — not just in unlearning the misunderstood region, but in reckoning with our very ideas of sexuality, transience and how we define home itself. Before living in the UK, he was a theatre producer and journalist in the Gulf writing arts, culture and environmental features in the Middle East and South Asia.
Jackson P. Brown is 29 years old and lives in London. She is writing dystopian fiction. Jackson is a blogger of Jamaican descent. When not writing, she is an avid manga and anime reader and watcher, and loves to experiment with vegan cooking.
Her book, The World Began in 2019, is a dystopia set in Britain in 2050.
Jasmine Wigham is 24 years old and lives in County Durham. She is writing Young Adult fiction.
She wrote her first book when she was eight years old but has only recently started writing again after stopping as a teenager, when she was told that writing wasn’t a viable career. Her book is a young adult fantasy set in Victorian London.
“I’m determined to pursue that dream of telling stories to others, and I am hoping that the mentoring offered by the WriteNow scheme will improve my confidence and help me to realise that this dream is entirely possible.”
Jenny Ireland is a 34 year old who lives outside Belfast with her husband, two children and badly behaved dog. She is writing Young Adult fiction.
She has lived with inflammatory arthritis since she was 23. Following a brush with death and emergency brain surgery in May 2019, Jenny is now the proud owner of a shiny new brain shunt which keeps her arthritic joints company.
Her book, The Pieces Between Us, has an unexpected love story at its heart, exploring themes of disability, grief and coming of age.
“I would love to see more diversity in the publishing world, whether it be from underrepresented authors or underrepresented characters. I think this is particularly important in children’s fiction – every child deserves to see themselves in a story.”
Joanna Webley-Brown is a 26-year old South East Londoner of Jamaican descent. When she’s not marketing TV shows, she writes book reviews over on her Instagram @webleyreads and spends far too much money in her local bookshop.
Her book, Hope, is a dystopian fiction that explores a young Black woman trying to navigate colourism and oppression as she finds herself forced to act in a prison-reality TV show where rebellion is punished, and truth is hidden. Hope is about identity, love and carving your own path. For fans of Octavia Butler, Brit Bennett and Margaret Atwood.
Lottie Jackson is 28 years old and lives in Bristol.
She works as a freelance journalist, editor and activist. Lottie’s essay collection tackles the inequalities and false perceptions that beset disability. Using first-hand anecdotes, research and social criticism, she explores her personal experience of living with a rare muscle weakness disability.
From the trials of everyday accessibility and the career ladder to relationships and body image, her essays redefine what it really means to have a disability with nuance, humour and urgency.
“Literature has the power to amplify marginalised voices. But still, I believe there’s a shortage of narratives that communicate first-hand the challenges faced by people with disabilities.”
Nicola Cobham is 45 years old and lives in Liverpool. She is writing middle grade fiction.
Nicola’s book, Sycamore Winter, deals with issues of class and privilege, and also with the big transition from primary to secondary school.
“I applied for WriteNow because I passionately believe that working class voices are under-represented in literature. I want to hear our voices and see our lives and communities reflected back on bookshelves and in schools and libraries so that the next generation can read about themselves.”
Olive Ahmed is 30 years old and lives in London.
Secretly, Olive has always wanted to be a writer, but despite a lifelong fascination with the written word it has taken her a while to be confident in her ambition. When she was a teenager, there were very few young adult books which centered the experiences of black girls and even now, there still aren't enough. She wants to write books that reflect the absurd complexities of growing up and the challenges of navigating a world that wasn't designed for you.
This is How You Rule explores the hierarchies and rules of different cliques in the prestigious King High School and Sixth Form through the eyes of new girl Nkiru as she tries to navigate being part of the 'cool crowd'.
“I had actually already decided I wasn’t going to apply to WriteNow, because I didn’t have the time to do it properly and I had convinced myself that maybe I wasn’t quite ready. But then the deadline was extended, so I decided to stop making excuses and complete the form. What a decision that was! I'm so grateful that I get to work with Penguin to polish my manuscript and finish my book.”
Osob Dahir is a fiction writer and she lives in London.
She’s a member of REWRITE ACADEMY, a writing programme that’s designed to develop and support Black Women and Women of Colour. Osob studied Creative Writing at City Lit where she won the Malorie Blackman Scholarship for Unheard Voices.
Her book, Fragments of Xamar, is an intersectional coming-of-age novel exploring the power of secrets to erode family relationships, the tensions between individual choices and community expectations, and the hope that comes with searching for one’s own path.
“I’m delighted to join the WriteNow editorial programme! The selection process has been rigorous, rewarding and challenging – I’ve grown in both my craft and confidence during this period.”
Sarah Little is 23 years old and lives in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. She is writing YA fiction.
Sarah would love to see more racial diversity in characters and published authors. Her Eurasian ethnicity and love of books gives her a lived experience of the need to see reality reflected on the bookshelves.
Her book, The Painted Lives, has elements of fantasy and quiet horror, encompassing themes of identity, art and the artist, the mind and the ethical dilemmas around the nonstandard creation of life.
“I intend to write in a way that allows people to connect with my stories and experiences.”
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