class="post-7190 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview category-network-knowledge"Interview with Killer Women

Killer Women are a group of London-based crime writers who curate innovative events, debates, talks, interviews and workshops. Last October, they launched the first ever female-led Crime Writing Festival, spearheaded by award-winning writers and journalists Melanie McGrath and Louise Millar. It featured an exciting range of guest speakers and was a huge success, raising the profile of women who write crime.

Inspired by this initiative, Aliya sought an interview with Melanie to find out more…

I’ve heard so much about Killer Women and am really intrigued by this organisation. To begin with, could you tell me where the inspiration to create such a unique writing collective came from?

Originally it was just me and Louise Millar and a handful of other women crime writers who lived nearby. We would get around my dining room table four times a year and find ways to support one another and to amplify the voices of women writing crime fiction more generally.

The collective itself is made up of a broad selection of female writers working in this genre – how did you all as writers find each other and create Killer Women?

We’ve expanded very slowly and carefully, adding in new members whose writing we really admire and whose skill sets will contribute to the group. We’re keeping the main membership small for administrative reasons and also because we want to retain the unique feel of the group. In the two years we’ve been established we’ve become a ‘brand’ recognised by libraries, bookshops and in the trade as well as among readers.

I imagine that for many people, there is an assumption that crime-writing is a very ‘male’ genre, which surely must influence initial reactions to Killer Women?

Crime writing is surprisingly female, both in terms of writers and even more so in terms of readers. About 70% of all crime fiction is read by women. We are lucky to have had really positive reactions to the group, from publishers and the book trade as well as from writers like Martina Cole, Ann Cleeves, Val McDermid and Mark Billingham and most of all from readers. We’re really lucky to have some wonderfully supportive readers.

Killer Women launched London’s first ever female-led crime festival last year. Can you tell me a bit more about this event and what’s coming up this year? 

Last year we launched the first ever Killer Women crime festival in London. We had an amazing line up of speakers including Martina Cole, Louise Doughty, Paula Hawkins, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves and Mark Billingham and over 400 attendees. We even got on telly – the festival was featured on BBC 1 in Alan Yentob’s Imagine series on women crime writers.

Instead of a festival this year, we are planning an exciting Killer Weekend of workshops, pitch sessions and masterclasses in London in October. To find out more you’ll need to go to our website and join the Killer Women Club

You mentioned Alan Yentob’s programme on women who write crime fiction for BBC One Imagine (Serial Killers – The Women Who Write Crime Fiction), and of course crime fiction is having great success in the film circuit. What do you think is it about the psychology of this genre that makes it so popular?

That’s a huge question, and one we debate all the time at Killer Women, both in public and among ourselves. Sarah Hilary, Erin Kelly, Laura Wilson and myself will be talking about misogyny in crime fiction at the Bath Literature Festival in May. I’d advise anyone reading this who fancies getting stuck into the debate to visit our website, take look at our events list and come along.

And finally, are there any tips that you’ve learnt as a writer whilst working so closely with other female writers within this genre that you’d like to share with aspiring authors?

Every writer is on a different journey. Avoid the temptation to compare yourself and your writing to anyone else. I think it was E.L. Doctorow who said that writing is like driving in a thick fog; at any one time you can only see a few metres ahead but so long as you keep going you’ll reach your destination eventually.

You can join the Killer Women bookclub at Follow them on Twitter and Facebook @killerwomenorg. 

Melanie McGrath’s debut psychological thriller Give Me The Child is out in July. You can find out more at or by following Melanie on twitter @mcgrathmj

class="post-7147 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-opportunities"Spread the Word literature project development 1-2-1 surgeries

Do you have a literature project idea? Want to talk to someone about how to take it forward? Spread the Word now offers free 1-2-1 project development sessions for London-based writers, literature producers and makers. These sessions will occur every month, and are part of Spread the Word’s commitment to supporting London writers and the literature scene to be as vibrant, engaging, skilled and representative as possible.

The content of 1-2-1s is writer-led and driven by the questions each writer brings. Topics often include:

By the end of the session

You will have:

Please note that these sessions are not feedback sessions for your writing.

When & where 

There will be six 1-2-1 sessions a month, and each session will run for 45 minutes. You will be allocated a member of the team most suitable to your project and what you’d like to discuss.

Thursday 11 May 4pm – 7pm (fully booked)

Thursday 15 June 4pm – 7pm (fully booked)

Additional upcoming monthly dates will be updated on this web page, will be advertised on our social media channels and in our monthly e-newsletter.

Sessions will be run at our offices at The Albany, Douglas Way, London, SE8 4AG.

How to book

Book your free place on Eventbrite.

You will be asked to complete a few questions about you and your project and asked to email through up to 250 words about what you would like to discuss no later than one week in advance of your 1-2-1. If Spread the Word team members do not feel best placed to support you, we will let you know in advance and signpost you to relevant organisations who may be better suited to support you. You can only book for one session once every six months.

Sessions are led by: 

Ruth Harrison, Director of Spread the Word 

Ruth Harrison joined Spread the Word in 2015. Her working life has been in the field of the arts and particularly in literature. She has been Director of Apples and Snakes, a literature development officer and programme manager at The Reading Agency. She is passionate about not only widening people’s engagement with writers and writing but also in developing writing talent. Widening participation and engagement alongside developing and building awareness of new voices has been core to her work.

Ruth has previously been a trustee of Little Green Pig – a charity working to inspire children and young people to get creative with writing, sits on the steering committee for The Literary Platform’s Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize and is part of the team developing EmpathyLab – a start-up using words and stories to build young people’s empathy skills.

At Spread the Word, Ruth is responsible for leading the company artistically and strategically and working with our highly skilled and dedicated team to make a difference to and for writers and their audiences in London.

Laura Kenwright, Communications and Projects Manager at Spread the Word 

Laura joined Spread the Word in 2013. At the organisation, Laura manages the organisation’s communications and oversees a variety of mutli-partner projects, including the London Short Story Prize, City of Stories, Life Writing Prize and Flight 1000.

Laura has worked with a diverse range of audiences within the arts. After studying English Literature at Cardiff University, she gained an MA in Writing for Stage and Broadcast Media at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She has produced live art, comedy and theatre shows in London, the London Short Story Festival in 2015 and numerous shows at the Edinburgh Festival.

She has also worked for Arts Award and Artsmark, The National Literacy Trust, as a local authority arts officer, a social care worker working with young asylum seekers and as a youth worker.

She is passionate about enabling access to high quality writing opportunities and nurturing writing and creative talent.

She has judged writing prizes including the UCL Publishers’ Prize and Warwick University young people’s Shakespeare writing competition, written forewords and edited poetry and short story anthologies. In her spare time she pursues her own fiction, script and poetry writing and loves alternative comedy.


class="post-7023 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-interview category-network-knowledge"In conversation with
Kit Caless from Influx Press

As London-based publisher Influx Press launch a Kickstarter to support them to grow and profile new, exciting writing talent, Spread the Word caught up with co-founder Kit Caless to chat about the state of publishing in the UK, how Influx Press celebrate and showcase extraordinary writing, and how their plans for the future will enable them to find and profile more unique additions to our bookshelves.

Tell us about the history of Influx…

Influx was born in 2012 with our first book, Acquired For Development By – an anthology of stories about the rapid changes taking place in Hackney, east London. It was supposed to be a one off book, but it did well so it we were encouraged to continue. Since then we’ve published 18 books, with more to come. We publish around 4 books a year and do Influx in our spare time, but we’d like to expand that.

Which Influx publication/s are you most proud of and why?

We are proud of all our books of course! But we are really proud of Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson, which has been critically acclaimed left right and centre, as well as reaching lots of readers. We also love Chimene Suleyman’s Outside Looking On. Coming up I’m personally very excited about our book on Grime, Hold Tight by Jeffrey Boakye.

If someone hasn’t read an Influx title, where should they start?

Attrib by Eley Williams

Good question! I’d start with two. Firstly: Attrib by Eley Williams, an astonishing short story collection that’s just been released. Eley is a genius and literary star in the making. Secondly, our anthology An Unreliable Guide to London which features the likes of M John Harrison, Irenosen Okojie, Nikesh Shukla, Chloe Aridjis, Sunny Singh, Courttia Newland, Will Wiles and Noo Saro-Wiwa. It’s a perfect collation of weird and wonderful stories all set in parts of London nobody writes about.


Tell us about the team – who are you and why you do what you do?

Gary and I (Kit) went to school together and bicker like a married couple. Gary is an editor at Titan Books as his day job, he also has a collection of short stories Hollow Shore coming out in October with Dead Ink Books. I’m a writer of sorts, mostly for Vice but occasionally for Guardian, New Statesman and other places. I also ‘wrote’ a book called Spoon’s Carpets: An Appreciation last year, where Penguin Random House paid me to go round the UK drinking and writing about pub carpets. Quite how I pulled off that coup, I still don’t know. Sanya Semakula, our editorial assistant came on board last year, she was on the Flight 1000 programme at Spread the Word. She also writes wonderful short stories.

What opportunities exist for writers to be considered for publication by Influx? 

We do things three ways. One, we commission writers directly, asking them if they would like to write a book for us. This is a very collaborative approach and takes quite a while to complete, examples would be Chimene Suleyman’s Outside Looking On or Eley Williams’ Attrib. and Other Stories. Two, we also open for submission once a year, where writers can send in their work to us for consideration – this is how we got Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson and Linda Mannheim’s Above Sugar Hill. Third, our anthologies are invite only, but we often work with mentors and organisations like Spread the Word to source a few new writers to introduce in each anthology.

From your perspective, what’s the state of publishing in the UK at the moment?

Healthy, up to a point. The big guys seem to be doing well. At least with books like Joe Wick’s Lean in 15. I jest, but it was great last year to see a writer like Sarah Perry sell big, that was cool. From our perspective publishing is about producing books we want to see in the world, not necessarily ones that will sell thousands of copies, so in that respect things are more difficult. It’s a challenge to compete with bigger publishers, particularly in terms of shelf space in bookshops and column inches in newspapers. The industry also seems to be making an effort to normalise its output and actually employ or publish people of colour. We’ll see if this is a flash in the pan, but it appears to be genuine.

What are the current challenges and opportunities for indie publishers in the UK?

Opportunities are everywhere, there are so many great writers out there for publishers to find. The issue for a publisher like us is time, and money. It takes a lot to commission books, finding new writers takes time and energy, editing takes ages, then once the book’s done you’ve still got to market and publicise it. One challenge is that bigger publishers will often swoop in after you’ve broken a new author successfully and sign that author up for new books. Of course we are always happy for the author in question as it is great for their career, but sometimes you feel like saying, ‘hey big publisher, do your own ground work!’

What makes Influx unique?

I think novelist Lee Rourke summed us up best:”Influx Press explore the territories other publishers simply aren’t aware exist. They are a vital, thoroughly modern publisher forging new ways at looking at the world around us. Long may they continue to seek out new horizons.”

What can we expect from Influx in the near and distant future?

Jeffrey Boakye, author of Hold Tight

We are pushing this Kickstarter campaign in order to help us put as much effort into promoting our new books and finding new writers as we can. Our 2017 titles are brilliant: the already mentioned Attrib by Eley Williams, Signal Failure by Tom Jeffreys – a book about a walk along the HS2 route from London to Birmingham, Ghost on the Shore by Paul Scraton which explores the German Baltic coast including Nazi summer camps (!) and Hold Tight by Jeffrey Boakye, the definitive book on grime and modern black British music culture. In 2018 we’re looking to publish two more books which we haven’t found yet, along with The Stone Tide by Gareth E Rees and How The Light Gets In by Clare Sita Fisher. All very exciting and you never know what might happen.

The Influx Press Kickstarter is open for backing until 24 April 2017. Find out more and support the campaign here.

class="post-6825 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-opportunities"Young People’s Laureate for London
Poetry Award

Spread the Word is pleased to open a brand new Award that will discover and profile talented young poets in the capital.

Judged by the Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi, the Awards will celebrate talented young poets aged 13 – 25 living in London. We’re asking poets to create written or performed poems on the theme of ‘Tomorrow’.

Caleb Femi introduces the award and talks about why he chose the theme of ‘tomorrow’ in this short video:

The Lowdown 

Here’s the important stuff:


Top Tips

Award Judge and Young People’s Laureate for London shares his top tips for your entries on:

Caleb’s Top Tips for Page Poetry Entries

Caleb’s Top Tips for Performance Poetry Entries

Enter now 

Enter Online
Online entry for 13 – 17 year olds

Online entry for 18 – 25 year olds

Enter by Post
Download a postal entry form for 13 – 17 year olds

Download a postal entry form for 18 – 25 year olds

About the Award Judge, Caleb Femi

Caleb Femi is the Young People’s Laureate for London. He is also an English teacher, filmmaker and photographer. As a poet, Caleb’s commissions include the Tate Modern, The Royal Society for Literature and the Guardian. Caleb has graced major stages such as the Roundhouse mainstage, Barbican, British Library, Royal Festival Hall. He has also opened up for Lianne La Havas and has performed at many festivals including Latitude, Ed Fringe, Boomtown, Lovebox and Greenbelt to name a few. Caleb has also won the Roundhouse Poetry Slam and Genesis Poetry Slam and is currently working on a debut pamphlet. Caleb leads poetry workshops in schools around the UK. As a filmmaker, Caleb has released two documentaries ‘What Did Love Taste Like In The 70s?’ and ‘Heartbreak & Grime’, to good international reception, which has led him to give talks and panel discussions on the topic of Grime music, Roadman culture and masculinity.

Don’t live in London? 

The Young People’s Laureate for London Poetry Award is only open to London-based young poets. This is because Caleb Femi’s Laureate role is about supporting young people’s poetry in London to thrive.

Maybe you’re a young poet and don’t live in London. Take a look at:

Do you have a question that isn’t answered here?

Email us on or call us 020 8692 0231 ext 249. We’re around Monday – Fridays 10am – 5pm.

class="post-6870 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-news category-news-opportunities"Life Writing Prize Longlist

Here it is, folks, the inaugural Life Writing Prize longlist…

Our final twelve showcase a remarkable range of subject matter, from growing up in a mining community during the strikes, to coming out, to experiencing grief and mourning, to growing up in a children’s home, to a teenage love of Thin Lizzy and all of them are excellent. Huge congratulations to all writers on the longlist – for now, they’ll remain anonymous as the judging process is still happening.

About the process

This is the first time we’ve run the Prize.  We were pretty overwhelmed with the number of submissions (almost 700) as we had no idea how many to expect. We’re really, truly grateful to everyone who entered and spent time crafting their personal stories to enter. It’s not easy sending personal writing out into the world, we know. Deciding which pieces go through to the longlist has been very difficult. If you aren’t on our lists, don’t despair. There were many fine pieces that almost made it. But thank you to those of you who submitted. As the Prize is for emerging life writers, we will be working hard to showcase the huge talent on the long and shortlists.

The Longlist

1. The Missing Sixth
2. Attack of the White Van Woman
3. 9 Days – Modes of Distraction
4. 1955 – 2012
5. Singing to Seals
6. Scab
7. Mudlarking
8. The Knob Head Question
9. Nomad
10. Battyman
11. The Year Dot
12. Thin Lizzy

What happens next

Our Judges Blake Morrison, Dr Katy Massey and Margaret Stead have the unenviable task of deciding from the longlist which piece of Life Writing will win, which two will be highly commended, and which three will be shortlisted.

The results will be announced at a special event at Goldsmiths University on the evening of Thursday 18 May, and we’ll announce the news online at the same time too. We’ll publish the winning and highly commended pieces on our website and we’ll also give some special mentions to some great pieces that almost made it. After that, we will be finessing things ready to open the Prize for its second year later in the year.

class="post-6703 post type-post status-publish format-standard has-post-thumbnail hentry category-network-knowledge"International Women’s Day 2017

Happy International Women’s Day 2017!

Every year on March 8, International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is ‘Be Bold For Change‘ – a call for action to give women across the world better opportunities, to accelerate gender parity and to push for the advancement of women. To mark today, the team here at Spread the Word share the women writers that inspire us and why:


“I am inspired by Toni Morrison – Beloved –  for the powerful, unforgettable and heart wrenching exploration of family and trauma and giving voice to the impact of the slave trade; Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze Riddym Ravings – for the warmth, humour and vitality of her poems alongside the dub and experimentation; Lauren BeukesAnn LeckieUrsula Le GuinMargaret Atwood – for the ideas and for taking me somewhere else!

The books that have inspired me are The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy for its originality and vision; Middlemarch by George Eliot because there are few things better than immersing yourself in 19th Century provincial life; and Coagulations: New and Selected Poems by Jayne Cortez for her hard-hitting, outspoken and honest poetry – the one true Firespitter.”


“I am inspired by Toni Morrison. Song of Solomon is complex, biblical, relevant and alarming. I was astounded to read a book about black experiences so layered and compelling.

I am inspired by Malorie Blackman. A lesson in resilience, humour and compelling storytelling. Without her, I would still believe that all characters in UK young adult books must be white.

I am inspired by debbie tucker green, the playwright. Stories of pain and anger shaped by lyrical dialogue.

I am inspired by Catherine Johnson who through historical fiction reinserts the stories of people of colour that have been made invisible and erased.”


“I am inspired by the women writers I have listed below – they are the ones whose work burned itself on my mind as I read them – and they don’t compromise in their scalpel investigation of gender, cultural identity and power and where fiction can go:

A Room of One’s Own – was the first work I read by Virginia Woolf, a hot day on a rattling train to London when I was 19. The combination of the profusion and lyricism of her language the fiereceness of her argument.

Jumpha LahiriThe Interpreter of Maladies – astute and something glasslike (in a good way) about her prose; the more I read her the more I find.

Jeanette Winterson – acute, passionate and direct. I read her her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal during a personally very difficult time, it was like a hand held out in the dark.

Alice Munro – because she writes lucid and fascinatingly structured short stories (and memoir) Has never stopped -despite saying she will – and she started out as a writer in the 1950s with all the odds of social class, entrenched sexism and cultural expectation against her, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013.

Andrea Levy – a generous, astute, assiduous chronicler of contemporary Britain and the Caribbean migrations to Britain, especially London.

Charlotte Brontë, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou too of course!”


“I am inspired by many wonderful women writers, including:


“I am inspired by Rachel Long, an immensely talented poet who is also the leader of Octavia and creative facilitator behind ‘Telling Her Story‘ – a series of poetry writing workshops for Women of Colour, giving them an exclusive space to have their voices heard.

I am also inspired by Claudia RankineMalika Booker, Eimear McBride and Roxane Gay for their boldness in their writings.”