Interview with WriteNow participant Nels Abbey


WriteNow, Penguin Random House UK’s programme to find, mentor and publish new writers currently under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves, is back for 2017.

The world’s number-one publisher is looking for new writers from a socio-economically marginalised background, LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer) and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) writers, or writers with a disability, to make books and publishing more representative of the society we live in. Find out more and apply at Applications close on 16 July 2017. Join the conversation using #WriteNowLive @PenguinRHUK. 

Here, Norah Myers interviews participant Nels Abbey about his experience with the programme.

1) What motivated you to apply for WriteNow?

Unless you’re part of the small army that writes for Beyonce writing is a very lonely craft. Striving for success as a first-time author is even worse: it can often feel like you’re wandering alone through the Sahara with a blind fold on. WriteNow presented an opportunity to learn from the very best in the business about how the industry really works, how to become the best professional writer I could and how to get my current writing into shape and on the shelf. WriteNow was far too good an opportunity to let pass by. A no-brainer really.

2) Please tell us three of the most valuable things you have gained from the programme so far.

Honest feedback, guidance and encouragement are to writers what food, water and clothing are to man: the essentials to surviving and the building blocks to thriving. In addition to my excellent mentor, the most valuable thing WriteNow has provided me with is an excellent network that helps with those three things: honest feedback, guidance and encouragement.

3) How do you think WriteNow helps to broaden diversity and inclusion in publishing?

Diversity breeds difference – which in my utopian view is a great thing. Outside of my utopia however, difference, sadly, is often met with fear, which in turn leads to ‘risk’ aversion mechanisms. WriteNow gives ‘diverse’ writers a clear shot at success by removing layers of gatekeepers and therefore, layers of risk aversion. It is a rare chance to place your manuscript directly in front of some of the foremost experts in the publishing industry. It also gives the industry the chance to learn more about the opportunities that are out there for them.

4) How has the mentorship influenced the new writing you’ve been working on?

My book is rather ‘out there’. It is quite unconventional. Almost as beautifully unconventional as having a name that rhymes with ‘Osama’, looking in the mirror and seeing a brown face and thinking “you know what? I’m going to be the President of the United States”. Every last sensible iota within me thought that it just wouldn’t go anywhere, even as it advanced through the qualifying stages of the WriteNow programme. The mentorship till date has really helped build me up in confidence and continue down the path I was originally on. It also helps me understand and appreciate that being unconventional can be an advantage.

5) What three pieces of advice would you give to prospective WriteNow applicants?

Embrace and demonstrate what makes you special as a writer (especially your flaws and fears). Dare to be very different – originality is a refreshingly undervalued asset. Feel free to be free and, above all, don’t for one second doubt yourself.

Find out more and apply at Applications close on 16 July 2017.

Join the conversation using #WriteNowLive @PenguinRHUK


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