Today, Penguin Random House UK has announced the eight unpublished new writers invited to join this year’s WriteNow editorial programme. Chosen for the exceptional quality of their writing and book pitches, all eight writers hail from communities under-represented on the UK’s bookshelves.
This year the programme was focused on finding writers working on middle grade, chapter and picture books. From a powerful and uplifting picture book about a non-binary child starting at a new school, to a darkly magical Victorian adventure and funny middle-grade tales, the list of books from this year’s cohort reflects the breadth of Penguin Random House Children’s picture book and middle-grade publishing. Over the next twelve months, the writers will work closely with an editor who is an expert in their genre to develop their manuscript and get it ready for publication.
Taking advantage of the expertise of the Ladybird and Puffin publishing teams, this year’s WriteNow programme was designed to offer more tailored support to children’s writers. Alongside new articles on the Getting Published hub to support writers to prepare their applications, for the first time each of the 750 writers who applied for WriteNow had the chance to join a free, interactive workshop to gain insights into the children’s publishing industry and hear from authors, literary agents and other industry professionals.
Meet the writers...
Ben Williams is a queer, Mixed race writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. During the day Ben works at a North London art gallery, and by night can be discovered playing videogames, reading manga, or writing.
Ben is currently working on Grace Weaver and the Other Kingdom, which is inspired by the rich Celtic mythology at the heart of British history. The book explores not only an original fantasy world, but also the creeping political polarisation of our world today.
Chloe Lewis is 29 and from Birmingham. Surrounded by images of dragons and imagining mermaids in the sea while living in Wales, she started writing her own stories. Her book The Dragon, the Princess and the Prince is a middle grade adventure about a girl with dragon scales, an animal-loving autistic princess, and a prince with a terrible secret. Chloe is an autistic writer and passionate about seeing more disabled characters in all kinds of fiction.
“I think the publishing world can feel very intimidating and mechanical sometimes. Programmes like WriteNow show underrepresented voices that our stories are important and help them to be heard.”
Emma Hewitt is an actor and playwright whose stories are often about gender, power and personal relationships; sometimes with a dystopian or fantasy twist. She’s always loved escaping into a book – one of her favourite novels growing up was Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea. She also loves to cook, and thinks her vegan brownies are pretty good.
In her darkly magical Victorian adventure, titled The Theatre at Drury Lane, an orphan girl raised in a theatre discovers she has the power to enter the worlds of plays through acting.
Hannah Stephenson is a North West based writer who runs creative writing and poetry workshops for children in primary schools and arts settings. She was shortlisted for the Writing Magazine ‘Picture Book Prize’ in 2020 and won the Southport Writers’ Circle International Poetry Competition in 2019. Hannah’s book Sloth Sleeps On is a noisy, rhyming picture book about teamwork and not giving up.
“The guidance given in my one-to-one with an editor has really increased my confidence and given me a solid grasp of how to improve my book (as well as others going forward!)”
Lucy Tandon Copp has spent the past ten years writing for newspapers, magazines and newspapers. Born in Oxford, she is Malaysian-Chinese / English, and has two little girls and a mischievous mini schnauzer called Moose. Set deep in the Malaysian jungle, her picture book follows a talking orangutan and a very stinky durian in a funny tale of trickery and self-preservation.
“I applied for WriteNow to shine a light on the amazing culture, people, animals and environment of South East Asia. Growing up there were few stories on my childhood bookshelf that thoughtfully resonated with my own mixed heritage and experiences or celebrated the absolute treasure trove of natural beauty and wonder that South East Asia has to offer. If I can bring stories like these to life for children today, it would be a dream come true.”
Matthew Peter-Carter is a writer, actor-musician, and children’s educator. He is the Creative Director of Book Club Bunch, actor-led book clubs for children in schools or after school clubs with the aim of educating, entertaining, and inspiring a love of independent reading.
His book Arthur Saves Christmas (in August) is a funny seasonal middle-grade adventure for fans of The Christmasaurus and Matt Haig.
Truly Johnston currently works in the public sector supporting volunteering and civil society organisations. She loves playing music, creating stories, reading wonderful words and cooking. Truly is Sri-Lankan / English and is from South East London. Her book, Corrine and the Democonch, is a middle grade magical realism novel aimed at ages 9+.
“It feels wonderful to have had someone read my work and see potential in it. This has given me a much-needed confidence boost!”
Marley Conte is an Italian-British non-binary parent of one lively, little kid. They have a passion for copy and editing, freelance and features writing. Marley grew up in Italy and moved to London when they were 20. The idea was to stay for six months… 17 years later they are still living in London with their spouse and child.
Marley's picture book Them centres around a non-binary kid, Arlo’s, first day in a new school. It is a story about allyship and how we can do more to step in and stand up for others.