‘WriteNow allowed my voice to be heard’: Our writers talk about what the programme has changed for them

Some of our WriteNow writers talk about taking part in the programme, and how it's transformed their approach to writing, their confidence and even their career.

A WriteNow event

When we first came up with the idea behind WriteNow, back in 2016, we wanted to launch a programme to support our overall goal of making books and publishing more representative of the society in which we live. It was very important for us that this programme would truly move the dial – not just pay lip service to diversity – to find new writers who would become part of our family of authors and help us change the way we publish.

Almost four years later, we’re hugely excited by how much WriteNow has grown and how many brilliant writers we have discovered through the programme. Over this time we’ve hosted 450 writers at nine free workshops, from Newcastle to Bristol; bringing together writers from across the country to learn more about the publishing process and receive one on one feedback from our editors. 98% of writers attending our most recent workshops said that taking part had significantly increased their confidence as a writer.

In addition, 30 brilliant writers have taken part in our year-long programme, which has seen them paired with one of our editors with a specialism in their genre to develop their manuscript and get it ready for publication. So far, we’ve published eight books from WriteNow authors, with a further five due to be published in 2020; from children’s books to memoirs and literary fiction. One of our authors was even nominated for a Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in December last year. 

Four of the writers who have taken part in the programme so far gave us their thoughts on their experiences and what it had changed for them.

How the workshops shaped our writers’ confidence to get their voice heard

Charlene Allcott and Emmett de Monterey both reflect back on the very first stage in their WriteNow journey, and how the connections, advice and support they gained from attending the workshop changed their perception of what it is to be a writer.

When you know you have a right to be somewhere, you build real connections.

Photo of Charlene Allcott

Charlene Allcott was the very first writer to be published through WriteNow. Her first book, The Single Mum's Wish Listwas published in August 2018, and her second book, More Than a Mumwas published this March. In a piece for the Huffington Post about what the programme had changed for her, she wrote:

‘For me, the workshop helped me realise that there are things you do when you think you have a right to be somewhere. When you think you have a right to be somewhere, you don't just ask questions, you offer your opinions because you understand that they're just as worthy as anyone else's.

'Our experiences are important and unique to our position, we shouldn't be afraid to share them. When you know you have a right to be somewhere, you build real connections. I have made many relationships throughout this process, but the most significant have been with fellow writers. 

'It's a truth that there's strength in numbers. And from all the people I have encountered since I pressed send on the first chapter of my novel, I have gained strength.'


The Single Mum's Wish List
The Single Mum's Wish List
'One of the freshest, funniest, most exciting new voices I’ve read for a long time' JANE FALLON

'Fresh and funny and REAL ... Martha really spoke to me. She will steal everyone's heart!' VERONICA HENRY

'Beautifully written and emotionally intelligent. I rooted for Martha from the start.' Daily Mail

Meet Martha Ross. She dreams of being a singer, but she’s been working in a call centre for far too long. She’s separating from her husband, the father of her son. And she’s moving back home to her parents’ as a single mum, toddler in tow.

Life has thrown her a few lemons . . . but Martha intends to make a gin and tonic. It’s time to become the woman she’s always wanted to be. And at least her mum’s on hand to provide childcare – and ample motherly judgement, of course.

Soon Martha realises that in order to find lasting love and fulfilment, she needs to find herself first . . . But her attempts at reinvention – from writing a definitive wish list of everything she wants in a new man, to half-marathons, business plans and meditation retreats – tend to go awry in the most surprising of ways . . .

A warm, vibrant and painfully funny novel for fans of Why Mummy Drinks, Fiona Gibson and Lucy Vine.

*Also published as The Reinvention of Martha Ross*

More Than a Mum
More Than a Mum
Mother: a woman considered in relation to her child or children.

Wife: a woman considered in relation to her spouse.

Shouldn’t there be more?

Alison has built her life around her family. Every day she packs lunches, rushes to work, and breaks up her daughter’s squabbles. She’s bored, restless and hungry for some excitement.

Perhaps the charismatic Frank could be what she’s missing. But is Frank all he makes out to be? And what if a new, glamorous life isn’t quite what she needs?

Praise for Charlene Allcott:

'One of the freshest, funniest, most exciting new voices I've read for a long time.' Jane Fallon

'Fresh and funny and REAL...' Veronica Henry

'Very funny and delightfully relatable - this was a real treat.' Trisha Ashley

'It's no exaggeration to say that the event changed my life'.

A photo of Emmett de Monterey

Emmett de Monterey, a WriteNow alumnus working on a memoir about growing up gay and with a disability in London, also remembered the first stages in the process:

‘I applied for the first round of WriteNow in April 2018, never imagining I’d get selected. I still remember the excitement of getting the email, confirming I’d been put through to the London selection day. It’s no exaggeration to say that the event changed my life. I met some brilliant people; editors, other writers, and got a much better understanding of how publishing works. Perhaps most importantly, I left that day knowing that, whatever else happened, I could call myself a writer.

‘To be selected for final ten was extraordinary. WriteNow is unique in that it gives the mentees the invaluable experience of working with some of publishing’s most respected and creative editors. If you’re lucky enough to get selected, you really couldn’t ask for a better start to a writing career. It’s hard work, but one of the best things I’ve ever done.’

Becoming an author: Writers look back on getting published and how their careers - and lives - have been transformed

Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Geraldine Quigley, two of the authors who have been published so far through WriteNow, talked about how things had changed since becoming part of the programme and seeing their first book on sale in bookshops across the country.

‘I grew up thinking people like me didn’t belong in books or on the bookshelves'.

A photo of Rashmi Sirdeshpande
Photo by Charlotte Knee

Rashmi Sirdeshpande’s first book, How to be Extraordinary – a children’s picture book telling the tales of 15 extraordinary and inspiring people from history, was published by Penguin in August 2019. This year she has a further two books coming out: Never Show a T-rex a Book!, published in April, and How to Change the World, in May.

'I grew up thinking people like me didn’t belong in books or on the bookshelves. The WriteNow programme was the invitation I needed to believe that voices like mine matter. Having an editor and mentor champion me has made such a difference. I've grown so much as a writer and it's given me a confidence I never thought I'd have. That confidence is everything. Amazingly, today, thanks to WriteNow, I feel at home here in publishing and I'm excited about what the future holds.'


How To Be Extraordinary
How To Be Extraordinary
Could you be EXTRAORDINARY? This book will inspire you with the real-life stories of extraordinary people, showcasing a total variety of personalities and talents. Whoever you are, and whoever you want to be, read about the extraordinary stories of these 15 people, and decide how YOU will be extraordinary too!

From around the world and throughout history, discover unsung heroes - and some well-known faces - brought to life with astonishing story-telling and illustration.

Meet an artist, scientist, medic, environmentalist, musician, activist, writer, politician, and even a spy . . . above all, discover that there are MANY ways to be extraordinary and to make a real difference in the world.

Featuring the real-life stories of: Aeham Ahmad, David Attenborough, Mo Farah, Keiko Fukuda, Stephen Hawking, Frida Kahlo, Abdul Kalam, Judith Kerr, Wangari Maathai, Nelson Mandela, David Nott, Michelle Obama, Krystyna Skarbek, Alan Turing, Sau Lan Wu
Never Show A T-Rex A Book!
Never Show A T-Rex A Book!
What would happen if you showed a T-Rex a book?
Well, she wouldn't know what to do with it . . . would she?

A madcap, super silly adventure story rooted in the transformative power of books, created by incredible new picture-book duo Rashmi Sirdeshpande and Diane Ewen

'WriteNow allowed my voice to be heard'.

A photo of Geraldine Quigley

Geraldine Quigley’s first novel, Music, Love, Drugs, War, was published at the beginning of 2019. She said:

‘What to say about WriteNow? It's a writing family. And, although I was published last year and am officially a Penguin author, I still feel part of that WriteNow family. The network of friends gained as part of the scheme has sustained me over the past years.

'My husband once said that I am what WriteNow is all about: a middle-aged, working-class woman in a regional area, writing with no prospect of being published but with something to say. WriteNow allowed my voice to be heard.

'Each time I feel down-heartened or lose confidence in my own abilities, which is quite often, I remind myself that I was selected from 2000 writers as one of only 12 in that first WriteNow cohort, the class of 2016. It’s enough to get me back on track, putting words on a page again.

'The opportunities I have been given, such as sharing a stage with Markus Zusak at the London Palladium, and meeting other writers and realising that we are all the same, working to achieve the near impossible - a novel - is invaluable.

'I owe them everything and will always support them for that reason.’  

Music Love Drugs War
Music Love Drugs War
'A clever, compassionate and humorous look at teenage kicks and sectarian strife in early 80s Northern Ireland' Guardian

School is almost over - and for Paddy, Liz, Christy and Kevin it's time to figure out what's next. But before they start the rest of their lives, these teenagers have the 'Cave' - a place to drink, smoke, flirt and listen to punk music. Somewhere to fend off the spectre of the future.

Because this is Derry in 1981, and the streets outside are a war zone. So when a friend is killed, suddenly the choices of who to be and what side to be on are laid starkly before them. New loves and old loyalties are imperiled even as whole lives hinge on a single decision . . .

'Exhilarating' Roddy Doyle

'A sensitive and powerful coming-of-age novel'

'Worth checking out for its loving attention to how it feels to be young and in love in a time of turmoil' i

'Utterly convincing' Sunday Times

And some of the other books published so far through WriteNow

Applications close at midnight on Sunday 31 May 2020. Good luck!

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more