By Avantika Taneja, Megaphone alumni.
2:55 PM, Friday 1 September 2017.
Megaphone is a writer development scheme, giving support to BAME (Black, Asian or other Minority Ethnic) writers as they write their first novel for children or teenagers.
It’s been about three months since I ‘graduated’ from Megaphone, a Publishers Association and Arts Council-funded writer development scheme for emerging BAME children’s/YA writers, pioneered by author and inclusion champion, Leila Rasheed.
In our panel at the London Book Fair, ‘Introducing new voices of colour in children and teen’s literature’ (pictured right), Leila christened herself ‘Megaphone single mum,’ an analogy that crystallises how I feel after being a year under the Megaphone wing.
It takes a village to raise a writer: Megaphone was designed to nurture in a holistic way with multiple interventions. I have collected nuggets of wisdom and nourishment from eight masterclasses delivered by wonderful and seasoned authors, an agent and an editor. I’ve come into my own with the six one-to-one mentoring sessions with Leila, who has pored over my words and diagnosed them with exactitude to bring them to life, all the while protecting the essence of my story, and my fragile emerging writer’s spirit. And when this fragile spirit has needed fortifying, I’ve turned to my fellow Megaphone participants, who’ve provided endless amounts of familial Facebook therapy.
The cumulative impact of all these support elements has been that the sum is greater than its parts: I’ve made the leap from merely writing towards building a story, from summarising to dramatising scenes, from caring about my character’s context to inhabiting the world through her lens, and, perhaps most significantly, from feeling like an imposter to feeling like a writer in my very being.
Alas, now I’ve had to stretch my creaky wings and fly the Megaphone nest.
The world is slowly starting to respond, with my first short story publication in AQUILA children’s magazine, the honour of being ‘highly commended’ for Faber and Faber’s BAME FAB Prize 2017 and some budding interest from agents. Though I am still very much learning to foster my manuscript, to nurture it to completion, I feel the tender accountability of the parent/ village that raised me spurring me on.
In the spirit of inclusion, I wish for every emerging writer to have a village, especially when they’re still in infancy of their writing life, as I was just one year ago.