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THIS WEEK


A number of authors who contributed to an anthology of BAME writing, or participated in programmes aimed at tackling under- representation, have struck book deals— but most insist more needs to be done


Children's News Diversity initiatives


Diversity initiatives and anthologies prove fruitful for writers of colour


Charlotte Eyre @charlotteleyre


W


riters who have partici- pated in initiatives for BAME authors, such


as Megaphone and WriteNow, which help authors find their feet in publishing, are starting to get book deals and have praised the value of the schemes. However, the writers say more needs to be done to make sure people of colour are truly represented in the writing communit.


Megaphone was set up by author and teacher Leila Rasheed, who over the course of a year worked with five authors— Danielle Jawando, Tina Freeth, Nafisa Muhtadi, Avantika Taneja and Joyce Efia Harmer—to help them develop their work and introduce them to the publishing industry. Of the five, four are now agented and one (Jawando) has a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster.


Megaphone helped the writers develop their novels to a publish- able standard and boost their


10 26th October 2018


knowledge of how publishing works, and the mix of mentoring sessions and masterclasses—with authors such as Candy Gourlay— was “completely invaluable”, according to Jawando, whose novel And the Stars Were Burning Brightly will be published in 2020. She said: “Megaphone was the perfect mix of learning about the craſt when writing for this reader- ship, gaining industry insight and actually going away to write. Things like geting an agent and writing a synopsis were demysti- fied, which was a big help.” She also gained a support network. “I met one of my closest friends through the scheme. I was introduced to wonderful authors, who have since kept in contact and offered advice and help, and I was introduced to important networks in my own cit [Manchester], such as [writing development agency] Cultureword.”


Emma Smith-Barton took part


CONTRIBUTORS FROM LEFT MARY BELLO, PHOEBE ROY, YASMIN RAHMAN AND AISHA BUSHBY


A CHANGE IS GONNA COME


To have such a positive reaction to my story encouraged me to continue writing the stories I thought were important


Danielle Jawando, author


in Penguin Random House’s WriteNow scheme, and signed with agent Jo Unwin six months in. Her YA novel The Million Pieces of Neena Gill is about a British- Pakistani girl struggling with her identit and mental health aſter her brother goes missing, and it will be released by Penguin Random House in July 2019. Like Jawando, Smith-Barton said the network and access to agents and publishers that came from WriteNow was invaluable, and believes “wholeheartedly” that these initiatives are neces- sary to break down the barriers that exist in publishing. “The very fact the initiative even exists is giving BAME writers the message that publishers want diverse voices, and that’s encouraging in itself. When a publisher says, ‘We want to hear your voice, your story’, it gives you the message you might be able to belong.” Yasmin Rahman penned a


story for 2017 Stripes-published


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