The writing programme that helped launch the careers of Megan Bradbury (Picador), Michael Donkor (4th Estate), Miranda Doyle (Faber), Guinevere Glasfurd-Brown (Hodder) and Kate Worsley (Bloomsbury) last night showcased its 2017/18 cohort of emerging writers.

Guests, including Ellah Wakatama Allfrey OBE, Nikesh Shukla and reps from Harper Collins, Blake Friedmann and Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd, gathered at the Free Word Centre in London for the annual Escalator showcase, which introduces ten of the most promising writers from the East of England to the literary world.

The prestigious event is the culmination of ten months’ work on the Escalator talent development programme, by Writers’ Centre Norwich (now the National Centre for Writing) which sees selected writers undergo writing workshops, a bespoke writing retreat and mentoring with a professional, published author.

The 2017/18 Escalator writers are: Terri Armstrong, Dane Buckley, Sarah Courtauld, Sally Craythorne, Alex Ivey, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Ellie Khojinian, Owen Nicholls, Rebecca Sollom and Sunitha Webster.

Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant and mentor to Alex Ivey and Sunitha Webster, said:

‘I would be nowhere without mentors. My entire career is built on the nurturing, time and expertise given to me for free by mentors like Niven Govinden, Salena Godden and Nii Ayikwei Parkes. I can’t pay them back so I pay it forward through mentoring writers.

‘The Escalator scheme has produced some of the UK’s most exciting novelists and, working with Alex and Sunitha, their talent and resilience have shown through. I’m proud to be a small part of their journey.’

The Escalator scheme has produced some of the UK’s most exciting novelists

(Image: Nikesh Shukla, Alex Ivey, Sunitha Webster and Laura Stimson)

Nikesh was joined at the event by fellow Escalator mentors Tahmima Anam, Yvvette Edwards, Benjamin Johncock and Cathy Rentzenbrink.

Sunitha Webster read an extract from her novel Faders at the event. She said:

‘I feel so focused after this process. My mentor Nikesh asked so many questions about my work that made me think very deeply about my motivation and the form I wanted to tell the story in. It’s been amazing.’

Alex Ivey also received mentoring from Nikesh for her young adult novel The Glass Hotel. She said:

‘It’s been an incredible experience. The process of writing can feel a bit like you are living in a vacuum, so working alongside other emerging writers has been really beneficial. We are all at different stages on our writing journey so we have been able to learn from each other.

‘The showcase tonight has made each of us feel validated, and has reassured us that what we are doing is really working.’

Laura Stimson, WCN Programme Manager and lead on the Escalator programme, said:

‘This year’s writers are each writing very different stories; what they have in common is their talent. We have stories from the Mid-West and the Oregon woods, from Iran to Syria, and stories born under the big skies of our very own region. Stories exploring homelessness, death, science, emigration, love and memory. Stories that we hope will go on to be published and loved by readers.’

The Escalator talent development scheme is supported by Arts Council England and the Leverhulme Trust.

Read more about our writers, and their extracts, here >>