by Catherine Coe
I’ve been a children’s book editor for twenty years, and a freelancer for the last ten. As well as working for publishers and literary agents, I have many clients who are writers – usually those who are yet to be published and agented, helping them to develop their craft and evolve their manuscripts. But of course these are people who can afford to pay for help. I realised that many – if not most – debut authors today are those who have the means to pay for editorial support to develop their talent, such as MAs, writing courses and/or mentoring. I began to ask: what about those who can’t afford help to improve their craft? Will those stories ever get heard? Publishing has a long way to go to be truly inclusive, and I realised I could help to make the changes that are so badly needed.
All Stories is specifically for aspiring children’s book and young adult writers from underrepresented backgrounds (BAME, LGBTQ+, socio-economically marginalised and writers with a disability) who aren’t able to pay for editorial support to develop their talent.
Fourteen mentorships are on offer – each delivered by an expert freelance editor with significant experience of working in-house. The mentorships are six-months long, from September 2021 to February 2022, during which time seven in-house editors will give webinars to the mentees on a wide range of subjects covering both the craft of writing and the publishing industry.
The mentees will regularly send work to their mentors and meet once a month to discuss feedback and advice. They will also receive a year’s free membership to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, who offer a wide range of support and events. Plus there will be a private online All Stories community where the mentees can discuss their work, raise questions, support each other and share experiences.
Applicants should be unagented and unpublished. Writers do not have to have a complete manuscript (except picture book writers) but should be writing regularly and keen to benefit from honest, constructive feedback on their work. We’re looking for potential – not polished, perfect pieces. We’re not necessarily expecting writers to finish a manuscript ready to submit to agents and editors by the end of the mentorship – the idea is that we will help them to develop their skills and talent, whichever stage they’re at. We simply ask that applicants are serious enough about writing to commit to working hard during the mentorship.
What are your three top tips for making a strong application?
1) Make sure you’re writing something about which you’re passionate. We’ll be able to see that love for your story come across on the page – equally, if you’re writing something because of a trend, we’ll be able to see that too.
2) Know your main character(s) inside out so that you can convey them vividly and authentically on the page – creating compelling characters is crucial if you want to hook readers into your story. The All Stories patron Patrice Lawrence talks more about this in her fantastic submission tips video – I highly recommend checking it out: https://allstories.org.uk/how-to-apply.html
3) As well as submitting your writing and synopsis, we also ask you to tell us why you’re applying to All Stories. Take your time over this – this is our chance to get to know you and your writing history, goals and passion for children’s books/YA.
Making an application
Applications are open until midnight on 31st May. We ask applicants to submit the first 5000 words of their manuscript and a synopsis. If they’re writing picture books, they should submit at least one manuscript and up to three. Writers don’t apply to a specific editor but to the project as a whole. The applications will be assessed by an initial editorial committee and selected applications then sent to each mentor based on their genre and age-group preferences – from which they’ll choose their mentee.
There is an access fund for any mentees who might otherwise struggle to access the mentorship due to financial issues and/or a disability.
Led by Catherine Coe, a freelance children’s book editor and author, The All Stories mentorship programme is a unique and free opportunity to be mentored by an expert editor, with 14 mentorships on offer to underrepresented writers unable to pay for support. Applications are open until 31st May, with the mentorships running from September 2021 to February 2022. Find out more and apply at allstories.org.uk