Today Penguin Random House UK has announced the nine writers joining the sixth WriteNow cohort. Selected from an initial 1,300 applicants, the writers are working on books spanning romcom, thriller, cosy crime, and family drama – from fresh and vibrant love stories to laugh-out-loud detective mysteries.
Set up in 2016 to seek out, nurture and publish new writers from under-represented communities and backgrounds in publishing, WriteNow is designed to give participants the tools, information, and access needed to navigate the publishing industry and launch their career as an author.
Chosen for their exceptional writing and exciting commercial fiction pitches, the writers hail from a range of communities and backgrounds historically under-represented on the UK and Ireland’s bookshelves. Over the next twelve months each writer will receive:
- One-to-one support to develop their manuscript from a Penguin Random House editor
- A £1,000 writing development grant
- Insight and access to the wider publishing industry through tailored information sessions, workshops, and networking opportunities
- A year’s free membership to the Society of Authors
This year’s partnership with BBC Studios will also offer writers the chance to meet with producers within the BBC Studios network of world-class production companies. If a writer’s book is acquired by Penguin Random House, BBC Studios will have an exclusive first look for TV and film adaptations; offering the potential for the work to be developed for major international broadcasters and streaming platforms.
21 WriteNow writers have been acquired by Penguin Random House imprints since the programme first launched in 2016, including:
A number of WriteNow alumni have also gone on to be published elsewhere, including Kirsty Capes, author of Careless which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2022.
A further 850 writers from under-represented backgrounds in publishing have received direct one-to-one editorial feedback on their work. 1,500 writers have attended ten regional and online workshops demystifying the publishing process, and 54 writers have been paired with Penguin Random House editors to work on their novel as part of the editorial programme.
Siena Parker, Social Impact Director at Penguin Random House UK, said:
“I couldn’t be more excited to welcome the sixth cohort of writers onto our WriteNow programme. Our new partnership with BBC Studios means that these writers will have more opportunities than ever before to explore different ways to develop their writing. WriteNow remains a key part of our work to ensure that the creators of our books represent and reflect UK society."
Mark Linsey, President of Scripted, BBC Studios Productions said:
“We’re thrilled to congratulate this year’s finalists as they begin the 2023 WriteNow programme. Writers are at the heart of our industry, and this partnership continues our commitment to championing new writing talent. We look forward to working with Penguin Random House and the final nine as their incredible mix of stories take shape during the next year. Alongside our portfolio of BBC Studios producers, we can’t wait to explore the potential for their books to live beyond the page.”
Meet the writers joining the 2023 WriteNow editorial programme
Abi McIntosh is a writer and producer from London. She has covered everything from pop culture to the LGBT+ community for publications including the Guardian, Stylist and Gay Times. Abi has a passion for sharing stories in all mediums from communities that have often gone unheard. Her recent work includes the Channel 4 documentary 'Where Have All The Lesbians Gone?' and the podcast ‘Black and Gay, Back in the Day’.
Her novel is about Leah, who while drowning her sorrows for being overlooked for a promotion at a job she doesn’t even like, posts something on social media she can’t take back. Fired from her job, she is forced to leave her queer life in East London and move back in with her religious Jamaican parents and her perfect sister in their cramped West London council flat.
“I am already so much more confident in my writing thanks to the feedback I’ve received so far. I think programmes like WriteNow are important because sometimes it can be hard to see where you fit in in an industry as big as publishing when you don’t see people who look like you. The world we live in isn’t always reflected in the books on offer. I think programmes like WriteNow remind people that their stories matter and that there are people who want to read those stories.”
Amber Green is an author and poet. Originally from North London, she now lives by the sea in Kent with her two children. Books have always been her passion and in the last couple of years she has begun nurturing a writing career alongside her day job as a Personal Assistant. Amber writes on the topics of class, family, desire and memory. Rebirth is her first novel.
Rebirth is the story of Isabella, a woman who leaves her husband, as planned, when her daughter turns eighteen. She soon discovers though that the best laid plans of wives, men and teenage daughters often go awry.
“Unless you know someone in the industry you need a full book to even start the process but I think most people need some sort of support and direction before completing said book. It’s a huge act of faith to write 90,000 words when no one asked you to. I really needed some help and there are not many places to turn to like WriteNow which read your work and give you feedback from the shortlisting stage. I am hugely grateful for the opportunity.”
Catherine Brinkworth and Jo Dinkin
Catherine Brinkworth and Jo Dinkin are a writing duo. Catherine is a comedy writer for radio and TV and was awarded the BBC Comedy Writing Bursary in 2019. Jo works in an innovation lab and won the Green Stories writing prize back in 2020. Before their novel, they were nominated for ‘best screenplay’ by the British Horror Film Festival for their story ‘The Psycho Path’. They spend most of their time writing, playing video games or contemplating how they’d hide a dead body.
Their book is called Pie and Mash: Detectives in Training. A millennial couple enrol in a Private Detecting course, but as they dig into a missing persons case for their coursework, they realise they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.
“The WriteNow process acted as an unparalleled accelerator for getting our book finished. In particular, the feedback we got from our editor (shoutout to Finn) was of a calibre we’ve never received before and is undoubtedly going to help us take our novel to the next level.”
Coggin Galbreath (they/them) is a writer, barista, and occasional drag queen. Born in Texas, they moved to the UK six years ago and are now based in Newcastle. Coggin is passionate about improving practices around neurodiversity and gender-nonconformity in musical theatre; to that end, they are currently developing a new musical for young audiences about a group of magic children hiding out in a launderette.
In Bluebonnet Lane, nineteen-year-old Seb Perez falls for the worst person imaginable: the hot, nonbinary, twenty-four-year-old child of the lesbian gentrifiers across the street. This is a sweaty summer romance about two families thrown together and torn apart as their children share a sexual and spiritual awakening.
“Not only are programmes like WriteNow a massive confidence boost for emerging novelists, they demystify the publishing industry by giving writers direct insight into its inner workings. Feeling like an integral part of something, instead of an outsider trying to break in, totally changes your sense of your own worth and agency, both as a creative and a professional.”
Corinne Anyika is Nigerian and English and was born in London but spent her early years in Nigeria. She now lives just outside Bristol and works in higher education. When she’s not working, she gets inspiration for her writing on walks in the countryside with her dog. Her novel, Bitter Pear is a family drama about twins born in an Igbo village in Nigeria. It’s a coming-of-age novel that explores themes of identity, friendship, revenge and survival.
“Being shortlisted has given me confidence to progress in my writing. It’s been amazing to receive feedback on my novel and have a Penguin editor read it and take it seriously. There’s been great advice in the webinars and it was wonderful to see so many aspiring authors there.”
Grace Murray is a student, occasional playwright, and Edinburgh-based writer. They enjoy James Baldwin novels, terribly sad music, and equally terrible reality TV. Grace has the pleasure of tutoring English Literature; she also works in student accommodation.
Sweet Tales follows its unnamed protagonist, a pathological liar, as she tells everyone that her father has died. When he arrives on her doorstep a year later, her new life begins to unravel.
“I found the WriteNow page at random, and, after reading what it offered to potential writers, I thought it was unbelievably generous. The sheer support the program provided, paired with the free tips the page had already recommended, meant that I had to try – even if I wasn’t selected. The process has given me such confidence already. Having a Penguin editor read over (what I thought was) a very imperfect draft, and not only deem it worth reading, but worth selecting further, has done wonders for my self-esteem.”
Shabeena Khan is a part-time English teacher and a full-time mum of Indian/Pakistani heritage. When she gets time to herself she enjoys painting, clay sculpting and reading historical fiction.
The Knock is about a woman surviving a manipulative, abusive relationship. She can't see a way out until an unexpected messenger sends her what looks like a lifeline. But she'll have to cross some moral lines to get herself and her child to safety. It’s a domestic thriller with elements of psychological suspense and mystery.
“Programmes like WriteNow give you permission to be yourself as a writer. You know your name and ethnic background won’t be a barrier. You are free to write characters and storylines that reflect the cultures and communities you grew up in – and you have the opportunity to challenge the stereotypes that plague many marginalised groups.”
Stacey Taylor was born in Wales and lives in Cardiff. She loves creating stories and reading her way through piles of books -always willing to add more books to the pile. Stacey was recently longlisted in the Penguin Michael Joseph Undiscovered Writers’ competition.
Take Two is about Cat Harper who starred in a surprise hit film when she was a teenager. Fifteen years later she gets the chance to appear in the sequel – and has a second chance at life and love.
“WriteNow has been an amazing opportunity to get insight into the publishing industry and to learn more about the TV industry via BBC studios. Getting feedback from editor one-to-ones has also been invaluable.”
Louisa Burden Garabedian, Penguin Random House UK