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Top black authors lead search for new literary talent

LEADING WRITERS such as Irenosen Okojie, Bidisha, Courttia Newland and Alex Wheatle MBE are collaborating with twenty London libraries and an influential writers’ agency to inspire Londoners to reveal their stories as part of a two-year literary initiative.

City of Stories is an Arts Council England-funded celebration of writing, reading and stories, managed by Spread the Word and commissioned by the Association of London Chief Librarians.

The project, which will run from 2017 to 2018, will see the writers take up residencies in London libraries.

As well as producing original short stories themselves, they will hear Londoners’ tales and encourage them to take part in short story writing workshops with an eye on spotting emerging talent.

ON-HAND: Alex Wheatle MBE will be lending his expertise at the festival (photo credit: Walter White)

The writers will lead 40 free short story writing workshops which begin in June this year for adult learners and those with English as a Second Language.

Four of the twenty libraries taking part will have writers in residence who will commission original short stories based on their borough, which will eventually be made into films.

There will also be a City of Stories Short Story Competition for participants who have attended the workshops, with a judging panel comprised of the writers in residence.

Novelist and playwright Courttia Newland said:

GIVING BACK: Writer Courttia Newland

“Libraries are the lifeblood of literature. Without them, many of our well-loved authors might have struggled to become writers at all, or at least found things a great deal tougher. They're our beacons in a misty world, particularly in cities where stories are plentiful, but distractions equally numerous.

The Gospel According to Cane author added:

“With Spread the Word we can continue to find the meaningful, necessary stories that beg to be told, and work with the many talented writers who are determined to tell them. This will be a very exciting residency for all involved.”

There will also be a City of Stories booklet containing 20 winning entries from each London borough, which will appear alongside the writers in residence short stories. The booklet will be launched at celebration events at local libraries and made available to readers across London.

EXPLORING: Author and journalist Bidisha

Bidisha, author of the book Asylum and Exile: The Hidden Voices of London added:

“I'm delighted and excited to be a part of this new initiative. My mission will be to explore a new part of the city I was born and brought up in, make new connections, discover exciting new voices and develop new ways of seeing and writing. It's time for writers and readers in one of the most diverse and international cities on earth to put pen to paper and let loose a creativity without borders.”

Anthony Hopkins, President of the Association of London Chief Librarians, said:

“The City of Stories project gives London’s libraries an opportunity to enhance their engagement with aspiring writers and authors. Libraries historically have been an important part of a writer’s development and this project gives them even greater access and tools to improve their craft. Through a series of workshops, aspiring writers will be given access to experts and the tools to further develop their work.”

INVOLVED: Author Irenosen Okojie

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