WriteNow is a Penguin Random House (PRH) mentoring programme focused on discovering and nurturing underrepresented voices in publishing. I'm very fortunate to have been selected as one of 11 writers in this year's cohort. You can read about the others here - fantastic people working on some amazing and important stories. This post is a long overdue snapshot into my journey so far.
Where it all started
I've been in love with writing all my life but took the scenic route to get here (law, the MBA, two babies and a business). Things got serious when I took a Writers' Workshop (now Jericho Writers) picture book course with the lovely Pippa Goodhart in Spring 2017 and went to the Winchester Writers' Festival for a jaw-droppingly brilliant workshop with my picture book hero Tracey Corderoy and Louise Bolongaro, Head of Picture Books at Nosy Crow. Story ideas were forming but the confidence was missing. When I saw WriteNow advertised on Twitter, I almost didn't apply. I didn't think I was good enough. Thankfully, in a moment of madness, I hit SEND on the application form.
When I got through to the Insight Day, I had to submit a second picture book. I wrote it on the evening of the deadline in one sitting. Crazy wave of inspiration. This isn't my usual style but it resulted in my very best work to date and this is the book I'm now working on as part of the WriteNow programme.
The Insight Day - Newcastle 2017
The Insight Day was a trek and a half to get to but it was an incredible experience. This is going to sound ridiculously cheesy but it was all about the vibe for me. Being in a room with all these writers from all kinds of backgrounds. Knowing that PRH believes in us and believes in our stories was just WOW. There was useful practical information about writing, editing and finding an agent and a really insightful 1:1 with an amazing editor who ended up being my mentor but what stood out for me was the energy and the hope in that room. It sent a shiver down my spine.
Getting through to the programme
My knees were shaking during the Round 2 call but it was the same editor again and we had a really useful discussion around my manuscript. In fact, one single edit from that call has completely transformed the story (blog post to follow on the magic that editors bring to the table!). When I found out I had made it through to the final list, I almost cried into my Lemsip. I had a yucky cold at the time and was generally feeling sorry for myself so thank goodness the news came by email or I would have cried on the phone. I'm a great big softie, really.
This deserves a post of its own but for now what I will say is MY GOODNESS, what a difference this has made to my writing. My editor-mentor, Anna Barnes, is an absolute legend. She gets what I'm trying to do, she believes in me 100% and I'm learning SO much from her. She's my champion at PRH and I'm very lucky to have had her look at my work right from the Insight Day. She's a great editor and she's all about shaping the programme to my needs. I couldn't have wished for a better mentor.
Confession: I DID feel like the token brown picture book person on the list of mentees. Have you SEEN the other mentees? They are amazing! And then there's me. But WriteNow has been a huge confidence boost. PRH is not a charity. It's a business. This isn't some box-ticking exercise for the Annual Report. They've bought a number of WriteNow books already. The programme is about breaking through some of the barriers to discovering underrepresented writers. The mentors and Siena Parker who heads up the project are so passionate about this. My mentor has given up so much of her time because she believes in me. Now, when I look in the mirror, I see a writer. Not an aspiring writer. A writer. That subtle shift has been a gamechanger.
Well, that'd be telling.
Watch this space.