The biggest question when I got up on Saturday morning for the Penguin Random House Write Now event was whether to wear my hat or take my umbrella. Everything else was organised the night before – from the printouts of my submission, an up to date synopsis (when I submitted back in August it was too early in my first draft to be completely sure of all the details) to the clothes I was going to wear. In the end, with rain coursing down the street, I took both.
Receiving the email to say I was one of the 50 who had been selected from over 1,100 applications was an emotional moment. My fiction writing is something I do quietly in the sidelines of my life and so to get an endorsement from a publisher is huge. Truly. And as the day of Write Now loomed, the excitement grew.
So, if you’re wondering what it’s all about and what happens – read on.
Penguin Random House, along with supporting charities, is trying to address the issue that the publishing industry does not reflect the society that we live in. The Write Now project aims to remove some of the barriers for underrepresented communities (Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups; people with disabilities or people from a socio-economically marginalised background).
It’s doing this through a series of insight days in London (which took place this weekend), Birmingham and Manchester to which 50 people will be invited to each one. From here, ten will be chosen for a year long mentoring programme. Heady stuff!
The insight day is amazing. It runs at a fast and frenetic pace with three set sessions, a one-to-one with an editor to discuss your work, lots of opportunity to network and of course a Penguin goody bag.
I met authors, a (very lovely) agent*, and a range of people from Penguin, from the Managing Director of Ebury Publishing, to the contracts negotiators, to the marketing and PR staff and so on and learnt about the life of a Penguin author. That bit might not help me to become a published author but it sure as hell made me want to be one, one day.
Next we broke out into two groups – one for adult and one for children’s publishing. This was more hands on finding out about the route to publication with the opportunity to ask lots of questions.
And then finally a brainstorming session discussing the barriers to publication and what can be done about it. Our table talked a lot about education – how expensive it is to learn the craft whether that’s going the university route or using one of the many courses that are available. And while my tongue in cheek suggestion to replace Great British Bake Off with a novel writing reality show won’t see light of day then a series of web based video masterclasses and insights and teaching would be great.
Finally, probably the most important bit of the day – the editorial one-to-one. This is a valuable opportunity to get some feedback on the work you submit – and hear a few compliments too (which is always nice).
I’ve come away with a few pointers to think about when I’m redrafting which I can already see will improve my story so I’m feeling inspired to finish the first draft over the next few weeks and then get stuck into the second one.
If you’re thinking of applying – do! Cast aside any doubts that you might not be good enough. If you don’t try, how will you know? The mentoring prize at the end is fantastic, but this day alone is a huge gift.
For further information see the Write Now website and follow #writenowlive on twitter. Good luck.
If you want to ask me any questions – drop me a note below or send me a tweet @journalistfran
* That’s not me being sycophantic. But an observation. I think agents get a bad press as being the people who reject nearly everything that is sent to them. And statistically they do. So I thought it was important to mention it. But it has to be said, everyone was lovely – it’s a really friendly day.