Penguin Random House UK has opened applications for its year-long WriteNow mentoring programme in a bid to discover and develop new writing talent from communities under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves.
WriteNow was created in 2016 to help ensure books and publishing better reflect UK society. It aims to find unpublished voices that are currently under-represented in books across all genres, including Fiction, Non-Fiction and Children’s. This includes writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) or BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) writers, or writers with a disability.
The programme offers 150 aspiring writers access to free regional events in London, Bristol and Newcastle where they will get one-to-one time with editors to receive expert, personalised feedback on their book, alongside access to literary agents and published authors, including Elif Shafak, Kit de Waal, Afua Hirsch and Fox Fisher.
Penguin Random House editors will work with 10 of the most promising writers over 12 months to make their manuscripts the best they can be, with the ultimate ambition of publishing these new writers.
Tom Weldon, CEO, Penguin Random House UK, commented: "We are determined to publish a wider range of voices and books to more fully reflect the diverse society we live in.
“Books and reading can make an enormous difference to people’s lives, expanding our imaginations and empathy and helping us make sense of different perspectives.
“As the UK’s number one publisher, our job is to tell the stories which aren’t often told. That’s why with WriteNow we are taking our teams outside of London and into communities to meet and mentor aspiring authors. We want to find and bring to life writing that connects with all readers, bringing the best new under-represented voices to bookshelves.”
Over 2,000 writers applied for WriteNow last year, with 150 invited to attend regional events. 98% of writers attending said that being part of WriteNow had increased their confidence as a writer. Charlene Allcott from Brighton was one of the twelve writers selected to take part in the first mentoring programme. She shares her experience of WriteNow:
“The opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry was like being able to step behind a velvet rope at a nightclub that that you’ve been desperate to get into for years and years. And actually, when you get there, you see that everyone is like you and has the same hopes and dreams and ambitions. To any writers thinking about applying for WriteNow, I would say stop thinking and start writing.”
Nikesh Shukla, author of The Good Immigrant said: “WriteNow Live was a great opportunity for marginalised writers to be in a room with their peers, writers they respect and editors willing to offer them feedback. Sometimes this is all you need to show you that you can be a writer and you deserve success... being in the room. Well done WriteNow for inviting people into the room. To quote Hamilton, this is the room where it happens.”
Claire Malcolm, Chief Executive, New Writing North, added: "New Writing North is delighted to be working on WriteNow and that this pioneering and important project is coming to the North East. With Penguin Random House we share a mission to ensure that British writing is representative, inclusive and diverse.”
Alongside launching WriteNow 2017, Penguin Random House has set itself a company-wide goal to ensure its new hires and the books it acquires reflect UK society by 2025, in terms of social mobility, ethnicity, gender, disability, and sexuality. The publisher wants to see a positive shift towards this goal every year through to 2025.
To measure progress towards this goal, Penguin Random House will ask newly acquired authors and new employees to complete a voluntary Inclusion Tracker. Penguin Random House will voluntarily publish this data on this website each year.
Applications for WriteNow 2017 open on 13th June at here, closing on 16th July.