Each writer will be mentored for six months. They will also be invited to webinars on voice, effective characterisation, pitching their manuscript and accessing the industry as an underrepresented writer, and will receive a year’s membership to the Societ of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Coe works as a freelance editor for publishing houses, agencies and with début authors, and thus has seen how the industry is being “skewed” by writers who can afford to pay for MAs, mentoring or manuscript reviews. “I’m really passionate about trying to address privilege in that way,” she said.

She first received funding from ALCS and later from Arts Council England (ACE). “ACE said they were keen

to see this kind of initiative for people who can’t afford to access help,” she said. “They are seeing funding requests for specific underrepresented groups across the board, and not many for creators who can’t afford access.” To reach out to applicants, Coe approached all the regional writing agencies as well as libraries and library groups. She is, for example, working with Pen to Print, a creative writing programme set up by Barking & Dagenham Libraries.

Coe received 70 applications

in total. An editorial commitee— made up of All Stories patron and author Patrice Lawrence, some of the editors and Coe herself—took a first look at the manuscripts, then the editors chose who they wanted to work with.

Coe said she was not being

“too dictatorial” about how the mentoring process should work because the applicants were all at different stages with their stories. But she added that she would keep an eye on how the relationships developed. “I am both thrilled and honoured that we will soon be helping these writers and their voices to rise up, and I can’t wait for the world to see just how talented they are,” she said.

Five questions for... Jacqueline Wilson Author

irritated with Perry and Becks. I wanted to show the joy and freedom of being in the country, and I wanted to show the joy of a vintage railway and how exciting it can be. I’m still a novice when it comes to trains but I tried hard to check everything. The book that helped the most was an old I Spy book of railways I found that had been diligently filled in by a child!

01 Why did you decide to reimagine E Nesbit’s

classic children’s novel The Railway Children? I love The Railway Children but when I re-read it for the umpteenth time I thought, wonderful though it is, it’s sort of a fairytale, because whenever there is a problem the old gentleman pops up and sorts it out. The mother, in particular, is a jolly good sport but almost too much so. Also I felt sorry for Phyllis. It’s clear that Bobby is the favourite. So I thought I would do a modern version and I don’t think Nesbit would mind me taking the bones of the plot. She took ideas from other authors and didn’t mind if people borrowed hers.

02 What happens in your version of the story?

Phoebe is the youngest child who adores her dad. She has an older sister and a brother who is on the autistic spectrum, so she can’t help feeling it’s not fair. She doesn’t get her full share of attention. When they have to move to the countryside, she convinces herself that her dad is on a desert island,

while in reality her dad is a weak man who made a bad decision while working for a ghastly children’s writer.

03 Why did you want to show a father who

commits a crime, rather than being falsely imprisoned, like in the original story? I wanted to show that people end up in prison for all sorts of reasons—there is a mix of people there. But whatever they have done, it’s not just them who suffer, it’s the children as well. It’s horrible for the children [in the book] when they find out but when they go and visit, he’s still Dad. I do think that it’s important to show that these things happen and if we pretend that only very, very bad people end up in prison, it’s not realistic. Children are quite tough individuals.

04 What did you keep from the original book?

Nesbit was so wonderful in her realistic portrayal of siblings. You know they love each other to bits but there is squabbling and irritation. I wanted Phoebe to be

05 What was it like working with illustrator

Rachael Dean? Nick Sharratt and I had a lovely artistic partnership for 30 years and I was sad when Nick decided to concentrate on his own work, but why wouldn’t he? I didn’t want to have someone who was a lookalike Nick and I thought long and hard. I was shown a lot of different artwork and Penguin Random House and I agreed that Rachael’s work is so fresh. She’s great with colour and the illustrations for the book [above] are fantastic. I don’t know whether she was being kind but the icing on the cake was when she said she read my books when she was little and dreamed of illustrating them.

Jacqueline Wilson’s The Primrose Railway Children is published in hardback by Puffin on 16th September (£12.99, 9780241517765). E-book and audio

editions will also be available. 35

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