Future Bookshelf writers chosen

News - Books Thursday, 08 November 2018

Three authors found through open submissions process for Hachette's scheme to discover unpublished authors from underrepresented backgrounds

Chosen from a total of over 750 submissions, the three authors and their works went through the normal acquisition process before being offered contracts and signing with their respective publishers.

The three authors are: Eleni Kyriacou, Elizabeth Okoh, and Robert Hamberger, and their works were acquired by Cicely Aspinall (editor at Hodder & Stoughton), Francine Toon (commissioning editor at Hodder & Stoughton) and Kate Craigie (editor at John Murray) respectively. Eleni Kyriacou is represented by Niki Chang of The Good Agency. All authors were given one-on-one advice and information regarding agent representation.

Nick Davies, chair of The Future Bookshelf and md of John Murray, said: "We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to The Future Bookshelf from our colleagues, from the wider industry and, of course, from the 757 debut writers who submitted their work. It has been a privilege to read so many fresh and diverse new voices. Congratulations to Eleni, Elizabeth and Robert. This is just the start for The Future Bookshelf and these three writers embody what a more diverse, inclusive and exciting place publishing can be."

The three acquired projects, plus publisher's descriptions, are:

Five Days in December [working title] by Eleni Kyriacou

Set in the fog-bound streets of London in 1952, Five Days in December tells the story of Dina, a Greek Cypriot immigrant. Dina is working hard to build a better life, but when she meets the mysterious and alluring Bebba, Dina is forced on to a new and dangerous path. What follows is a dark and poignant tale about the adventures and dangers of life in a new country, and of friendship and family and what can happen when those bonds are tested to their limits.

Eleni Kyriacou is a freelance writer and editor who has written for The Guardian and Marie Claire and has completed a Curtis Brown Creative course. Her parents came over to England from Cyprus in 1949 and she grew up in London in the 1970s.

She said: "I’m thrilled that this tale of Cypriots trying to survive London in the 1950s is going to be published. When you’re caught between two cultures, you feel different – not quite one nationality, not quite the other, whether that’s in today’s Britain or the fog-filled streets of the 1950s. Where are the stories that reflect my life and the lives of my parents? And what about other immigrants and their children? We need all our experiences reflected in culture, otherwise we’re invisible, non-people, forever explaining our tricky surnames with brief potted histories before the questioner loses interest. I’ve never read a story about coming here as a young Cypriot woman, as my mother did, so I had to write it. When asked about my heritage, it would be wonderful to point to a book and say, ‘There. That’s me. That’s where I’m from and that’s what made me who I am.’ Future Bookshelf have made that possible."

Her editor, Cicely Aspinall said: "When I read the sample submitted to the Future Bookshelf, I was instantly impressed by how Eleni expertly brings the grit, glamour and grind of 1950s Soho to life with a gripping story inspired by her parents. I knew immediately that I wanted to publish this brilliant novel and I’m delighted to be working with Eleni and Niki to launch Eleni’s career as a novelist."

The Returnees by Elizabeth Okoh

The Returnees, a work of contemporary women’s fiction, tells the story of twenty-five-year-old Osayuki Idahosa, an adventurous British Nigerian woman who has not returned to the country of her birth for many years. When her parents encourage her to do so she is forced to confront the secret behind the paternity of her child. When her close friend, Cynthia Okoye confronts her about her sudden change in behaviour at the child’s naming ceremony, they both look back on the events of the preceding year to uncover who the father of the child is and revisit their shared experiences since relocating to their motherland of Nigeria.

Elizabeth Okoh is a London-based, Nigerian writer and photographer. She holds a joint honours degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Sussex and a certificate in Novel Writing and Longer Works from City University of London.

Elizabeth Okoh said: "The Returnees is a story that bolted into my life and I immediately knew it was a story I was called to tell. I was ecstatic when I found out that there was someone else who got the story and loves it as much as I do. It was fascinating to learn that Francine had pitched the book to her team and was championing it. I am so grateful for The Future Bookshelf initiative and can’t wait to work with Francine and the team at Hodder & Stoughton."

Her editor, Francine Toon said: “I have loved being part of The Future Bookshelf project and working with the rest of the team in our attempts to make the publishing process more accessible and less mysterious. It was exciting to receive our open submissions and read through so many interesting stories. Elizabeth Okoh’s voice and command of plot and characterisation really stood out to me. I love how she whisks the reader away to Lagos and examines the nuances of British Nigerian experience, bringing poignancy, humour and surprises along the way. I am really looking forward to working with her.”

A Length of Road by Robert Hamberger

In 1841 the ‘peasant poet’ John Clare escapes from an asylum in Epping Forest, where he had been kept for four years, and walks over eighty miles home to Northamptonshire. In 1995, with his life in crisis and his own mental health fragile, Robert decides to retrace Clare’s route along the Great North Road over a punishing four-day walk. Part memoir, part travel-writing, part literary criticism, A Length of Road is a deeply profound and poetic exploration of class, gender, grief and sexuality through the author’s own experiences and through the autobiographical writing of Clare.

Robert Hamberger is a published poet of six pamphlets and three collections, who works have been broadcast on Radio 4 and published in the Observer, New Statesman, The Spectator, Poetry Review and Gay Times.

Robert Hamberger said: "I'm proud to be the first non-fiction writer to be published through The Future Bookshelf. Nearly 200 years after John Clare's first book there shouldn't still be a class divide in publishing, but the obstacles remain. This book has taken me twenty-three years of drafting and redrafting through self-doubts and life changes. When I submitted my work to The Future Bookshelf it felt refreshing to imagine that an acknowledgement of the continued barriers facing underrepresented writers meant my words would be read sympathetically. It's liberating to work with my editor on A Length of Road."

His editor, Kate Craigie said: "I was delighted to discover Robert’s memoir among the small number of non-fiction submissions. Immediately the quality of the writing stood out, and reading revealed a timely, deeply moving, genre-bending memoir that I am extremely excited to be publishing onto the JM Originals list. Finding a writer like Robert highlights how important it is that the publishing industry reach out to more diverse writers and communities, and I’m proud to have been a part of The Future Bookshelf team."

Set up in 2016 as part of Hachette’s Changing the Story diversity scheme, The Future Bookshelf aimed to provide a year’s worth of tips and exercises on writing a book and to help demystify the business of publishing. Content was provided by a range of authors, literary agents, and staff. In December of 2017, The Future Bookshelf held an open submission for unagented and unpublished authors of fiction and non-fiction who felt they were underrepresented by the publishing industry. A personal statement as to why the author felt underrepresented was submitted along with a sample of the author’s work. The top 5 reasons why applicants felt they were underrepresented in the publishing industry were, in order: race, sexual orientation, age, disability, socio-economic status.

The open submission scheme saw 757 submissions and were read by 59 in-house readers from across Editorial, Marketing, Publicity, Sales, Audio, Rights, Contracts and Production who have worked throughout 2018 to select submissions that were deemed strong enough to go through the normal acquisition process.

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