Hometown Tales diversity initiative seeks submissions

Hometown Tales

Weidenfeld & Nicolson (part of Orion Books) is opening submissions in a bid to find new voices from across the UK. Jennifer Kerslake, editor at W&N, tells Norah Myers more about Hometown Tales.

1) What exactly is Hometown Tales?

Hometown Tales is a series of short books that we’re launching as part of a diversity initiative. Each book will feature work by two writers – one established writer and one new voice found through open submissions – both writing about a place in the UK, the place they think of as home.

The idea for the series arose from conversations about the book industry being so very London-centric; the majority of publishers and agents operate from offices in London and it can be difficult for writers outside of London to tap into the network. When the brilliantly passionate Simon Savidge (of Savidge Reads) got in touch and expressed similar concerns, we signed him up as our editorial consultant and Hometown Tales was born. We’re passionate about finding new voices and are hoping to reach those people who might previously have felt discouraged from telling their stories but who have incredible stories to tell!

2) Diversity seems to be a major concern in the publishing industry at the moment. Do you think enough is being done?

Absolutely more can be done, but there’s a real willingness to improve diversity within the industry. And it’s so encouraging to see that conversations are turning into action, for example the Guardian and 4th Estate’s BAME Short Story Prize, Penguin Random House’s mentoring scheme WriteNow, and the Spare Room Project, which aims to promote regional diversity by offering accommodation to those who live outside of London so they can undertake internships.

In order to thrive, to be relevant and profitable, we need to publish books that reflect the complexity of cultures that make up our society. There are stories out there that we haven’t heard yet, stories that will allow us a glimpse into new worlds and experiences, stories from people we pass on the street every day but don’t stop to talk to. That’s what makes Hometown Tales so exciting – the thrill of looking beneath the surface and discovering new insights into places and people who might have been overlooked.

3) It sounds very exciting. What more can you tell us about the books in the series? Which authors have signed up?

We have several established writers on board but we’re keeping the names under wraps for the moment. I can tell you that we’re planning to launch the series with five books in August 2017. There will be a mix of fiction and non-fiction inspired by places across the UK.

4) What are you looking for?

When I think about a novel or memoir, the setting often appears first in my mind: the wild moors of Wuthering Heights; the suburban sprawl of The Girl on the Train; the vital, multicultural London of Zadie Smith’s NW; the choking dirt and smog of Bleak House…

Place is integral to meaning and should persist in the memory. I’d love to find stories that illuminate familiar landscapes, inspiring readers to view them with fresh eyes, imbuing them with fresh insight.

5) So, how does one apply?

Quite simply, send us your work! We’re looking for fiction and non-fiction, of around 15,000 words, based on the idea of ‘hometown’. The deadline is 31 January 2017 and our email address is: hometown@orionbooks.co.uk

For further details on Hometown Tales: www.wnblog.co.uk/2016/08/hometown-tales


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