New development hub for emerging writers of colour launched

News

We are delighted to announce that we are working in partnership with University College London and Words of Colour on Take Flight Hub – a new professional and creative development programme for published and unpublished writers of colour. Launching on Tuesday 30 June and working with some of the country’s leading novelists, poets, playwrights, literary agents and publishers of colour, the programme aims to inspire the next generation of new voices in UK publishing.

The virtual hub will provide free talks, masterclasses, workshops, panel discussions and presentations over five weeks, made possible by a grant from the UCL Knowledge and Innovation Rapid Response fund.

Alongside masterclasses by journalist and writer Gary Younge on polemical writing and Inua Ellams on the fundamentals of dialogue and location in playwriting, Mary Jean Chan will offer advice on sustaining your career as a poet, whilst author Patrice Lawrence will shed light on writing convincing multicultural characters for YA fiction.

Writers will have the chance to meet literary agents, such as Emma Paterson and Elise Dillsworth, hear from inclusive publishers including Valerie Brandes (Jacaranda Books) and Sharmaine Lovegrove (Dialogue Books) and understand the power of non-fiction to transform society with Jhalak Prize 2020 winner Johny Pitts, #Merky Books inaugural signing Derek Owusu and writer and academic Darren Chetty, as well as other dynamic presenters.

Spread the Word will be running a ‘How to take your writing forward’ masterclass with some of our London Writers Awards writers – Alexis Keir, Natasha Brown, Denise Rawls and Mark Mukasa.

The Take Flight Hub was inspired by BookTrust Represents research conducted by Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, Associate Professor in Publishing and Book Cultures at UCL which found that emerging writers of colour needed support, advice and access as part of an industry-focused network to help sustain their careers.

Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold said: “The Take Flight Hub, based on the recommendations from my research, is a direct intervention for the next generation of writers of colour and will offer support to access, navigate and thrive in the publishing process. Not only will it help emerging writers of colour develop their craft from established writers and publishing professionals, but it will also assist them to build networks that are important for their careers. The fact that this programme is by and for people of colour – talking about, and teaching, their craft rather than ‘diversity’ – is really powerful.”

Ruth Harrison, Director, Spread the Word, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for writers of colour not only to find out more about the industry and how they can progress their writing careers, but also to develop their craft through masterclasses and workshops led by some of the UK’s leading writers, poets and playwrights. With the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Black and Asian communities showing the longstanding inequalities and racism in the UK, it is vital to be creating spaces for writers of colour that have development, community and wellbeing at their heart.”

Joy Frances, Executive Director, Words of Colour Productions, said: “Various studies have highlighted publishing’s slow progress on inclusion and diversity over the past 16 years. This failure is creating unwitting casualties among Black and Asian writers. We are losing many of them to other industries as they are convinced their stories will never be published, marketed or read, as they should be. The Take Flight Hub is just one example of what can be created through collaboration and vision, at a challenging time, by providing opportunities for emerging writers of colour to not only understand the publishing landscape, but how to navigate it while being inspired by those who are paving the way for them to follow.”

The Hub’s launch is timely amid #PublishingPaidMe on the lack of pay parity between Black and non-Black writers, followed by the recent open letter form the Black Writers’ Guild calling for more diverse narratives in mainstream publishing as publishers aren’t addressing their own “racial inequality.”

Valerie Brandes, founder of award-winning Jacaranda Books, said: “Writers need to be able to write. They need to be able to develop their craft and grow in their process. And they have to know and believe that when they have done the hard work, that there are real and viable opportunities for them to be published and have sustained careers, not as the one superstar, or the two or three stars, but as a constellation of great Black British writing, existing to represent who we are now and for centuries to come.”

Award-winning poet Mary Jean Chan said” “There has been significant progress made in terms of programmes such as The Complete Works in poetry and Creative Access which seeks to improve diversity and inclusion in British creative organisations, but we still have a long way to go. That being said, I do hope merging writers of colour can see that writers, critics, agents, editors and publishers of colour (and their allies) are all working hard to ensure that the literary industry becomes a more equitable place for them.”

In addition to the hub’s main programme, there will be a series of podcasts featuring advice and tips from leading writers of colour, based in the UK and abroad, which will be produced and launched a the end of the programme and made available to the wider public.

Official hashtag: #TakeFlightHub

Eligibility

The Take Flight Hub‘s (see full programme listing below) workshops and masterclasses are primarily for unpublished writers of colour (Black, Asian, Arabic, Mixed-Race and Non-white Latinx) but we will also consider writers who have had no more than two books published. You must be based in the UK.

To book onto these events, please head over to Words of Colour’s website: https://wordsofcolour.co.uk/new-development-hub-for-emerging-writers-of-colour-launched/

Take Flight 2020 full programme (to be delivered on the Zoom platform)

30th June 2020 

Masterclass (10am-1pm)

Finding your voice: Polemical writing with award-winning writer and journalist Gary Younge

2nd July 2020 

Masterclass (10am-1.30pm)

Volatile Space: The fundamentals of dialogue and location in playwriting with Inua Ellams

Panel discussion/Q&A (10am-1pm)

The power of non-fiction to transform society with authors Johny Pitts, Derek Owusu and Darren Chetty

9th July 2020 (7pm-8pm)

In Conversation

How to sustain a poetry career with award-winning poet Mary Jean Chan

14th July 2020 (10am-1.30pm)

Workshop (only 20 places )

Writing convincing multicultural characters for YA fiction with award-winning novelist Patrice Lawrence

16th July 2020 (12pm-1.30pm)

Presentation

Demystifying children’s publishing: An author’s perspective with award-winning writer Chitra Soundar

21st July 2020 (2pm-4pm)

Development Surgery (Hosted by Spread the Word)

Taking your writing forward, featuring Spread the Word’s London Writers’ Award recipients – Alexis Keir, Denise Rawls, Mark Mukasa and Natasha Brown. Book via Spread the Word’s Eventbrite to participate.

23rd July 2020 (7pm-8pm)

Panel Debate/Q&A

Meet the agents with Davina Andrew-Lynch (Andlyn Literary Agency), Elise Dillsworth (Elise Dillsworth Agency) and Emma Paterson (Aitken Alexander Associates)

28th July 2020 (10am-1.30pm)

Masterclass

Memoir writing: Telling your story your way with poet, writers and literary activist Salena Godden

30th July 2020 (7pm-8pm)

Panel Debate/Q&A

Publishing inclusively with Aimée Felone (Knights Of), Valerie Brandes (Jacaranda Books), Sharmaine Lovegrove (Dialogue Books) and Crystal Mahey-Morgan (OWN IT! Publishing)

Published 19 June 2020

Updated 1 July 2020