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Penguin in Nottingham: Under-represented Writers Needed WriteNow

6 June 18 words: LeftLion
photos: Georgi Scurfield

World-famous publishers Penguin Random House are launching a new campaign – WriteNow – that seeks to engage writers you wouldn’t normally see on the bookshelves. They’re spreading the programme over three different cities in the UK, and thanks to UNESCO City of Literature, Writing East Midlands and NTU, Nottingham has been chosen as one part of the trinity. Last week saw a launch event on Broad Street with plenty of local talent kicking things off in style, all expertly hosted by Ben Welch…

On a sunny Friday in June, Broad Street was hit with a plethora of creative types and flappy-footed fellows adorning roller banners. The spirit-lifting street party was all in aid of Penguin Random House’s new programme WriteNow, which offers under-represented writers a free one-day workshop in Nottingham in September, as well as the chance to get involved in Penguin’s mentoring programme. The publishing house is looking to engage people from working-class backgrounds, writers from the BME and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as writers with disabilities or mental health issues.

As people began gathering together on Broad Street, many a tab was pricked at the sound of local singer-songwriter Adam Peter Smith tinkling away on his guitar. We grabbed a couple of dough-based discs from Secret Pizza and kicked back with happy attendees as a couple of local illustrators scribbled away in the distance.

Local people had been busy donating their favourite first lines from books for our mates – Emily Catherine, and Hawk and Mouse’s Rikki Marr – to get creative with on huge canvasses. The end results were summat special, and have been donated to Notts libraries to brighten the gaffs up.

As well as some proper Notts poetry from LeftLion Editor Bridie Squires and our first Young Poet Laureate Georgina Wilding, we saw music performances from conscious rapper Ty Healy, the hypnotically gentle Alex Milne, and the politically-inclined folk don Stacey McMullen. A standout performance was Nat Semple, who used a sampler to create a mad mashup of spoken word-style rap impossible to define by genre. His performance was incredibly weird and enchanting.

The WriteNow launch was a fantastic display of how our city engages with the written word. With music, art, and poetry buzzing around our bonces, we left proud to be a part of it all. Hopefully Penguin’s new programme will give our under-represented writers the much-needed boost they need to get on UK bookshelves and further spread the inclusivity that felt so crucial to the glowing launch.

It all starts here, ducky.

The WriteNow application deadline is Monday 9 July

The programme offers a free one-day workshop in Nottingham which involves learning more about the publishing process and gaining one-to-one feedback on work. There’s also a mentoring programme on offer, which matches candidates with an editor for a year to develop writing.

Applications are open to new writers from under-represented communities.

Apply now by visiting the Penguin website

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