Apply for Escalator 2022

Escalator seeks ambitious new voices in fiction (novel or short story). If you feel your voice is under-represented on UK bookshelves and would benefit from a structured period of support, then we want to hear from you!

Who is it for?

Escalator is open to writers of fiction at the beginning of their careers, who are based in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk). The region is made up of a diverse society of many voices, and supporting writers who are under-represented on UK bookshelves has become a core objective of the project. 

“I applied for Escalator believing I had some ability, but not really knowing what to do with it. Through the workshops, networking, mentoring and opportunities to share my writing, I have grown into someone who feels so much more confident. I have felt part of a community of wonderfully creative people. And I feel happy, finally, to call myself a writer.” – Escalator winner, 2021-22

This year we particularly welcome applications from writers who identify as LGBTQI+ and/or whose ethnicity is under-represented on UK bookshelves. We intend to offer at least 50% of places to writers who identify as such.

To be eligible for Escalator, you must:

  • live more than 50% of the time in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk);
  • be unagented and unpublished at the start of the programme in November 2022;
  • self-identify as one or more of the following:
    • LGBTQI+;
    • Of an ethnicity that is under-represented on UK bookshelves
    • working class; 
    • disabled, neurodivergent, or living with a disability or chronic illness; 
    • having caring responsibilities; 
    • being in receipt of a state pension, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Disability Benefits, Income Support, Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits, or facing other economic barriers.

If you’re not sure whether you meet these criteria, we invite you to contact us for a confidential discussion before making your application. You can do so on or 01603 877177 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm). 

If you don’t fit these entry requirements, we kindly request that you take a look at our other opportunities and resources for writers, as Escalator is specifically for writers of fiction in the East of England. 

What do the winning writers receive?

At the heart of the Escalator programme is a period of mentoring; a one-to-one exchange between writer and mentor, who interact regularly to review work, discuss challenges and set goals. The six selected writers will also take part in a variety of development opportunities, and a final showcase event at which they will have an opportunity to present their work to agents, editors and other publishing industry professionals.

Having the forum and opportunity to talk to someone about my writing and writing intentions was invaluable. I felt I could draw on the insight and experience of my mentor whilst maintaining ownership of my writing; to build on self belief and strengthen my own judgement.” – Escalator winner, 2021-22

Throughout the Escalator programme, the winning writers will also:

  • have regular contact with and support from the NCW team and their fellow Escalator writers;
  • be offered subsidised places on NCW workshops, courses and masterclasses;
  • have a chance to showcase their work to agents, publishers and industry professionals;
  • receive a film and other materials to help them showcase and promote their writing in future;
  • receive paid travel expenses for the in-person Welcome Day and Showcase events.

How can I apply?

Applications to the scheme open on Thursday 14 July 2022 and the deadline for applications is 10am BST on Monday 19 September 2022. Applications are read and judged anonymously by a panel comprising the National Centre for Writing and mentors for the scheme.

There are two steps to making your application:

  1. Fill in this online application form. Here we ask you a little about yourself, your writing practice to date, and why you would like to be part of Escalator. 

We recommend preparing your answers in advance of filling in the form; the questions can be found below.

  1. Send a sample of your writing as an email attachment to The sample can be of up to 2,000 words from the project you would like to work on during the scheme (or an example of previous fiction work).

Please ensure that the file name is the title of your sample as noted in the online application form. The sample can be sent as a .doc, .docx, .pdf or other commonly used text file format. Please note that we cannot open or read .pages files. The sample will be read anonymously; please do not include your name in either the document itself or its file name

Applications that are incomplete and/or reach us after 10am on Monday 19 September 2022 cannot be considered. If you require the application form in a different format (e.g. audio, large print, etc.) please don’t hesitate to contact us before the deadline.

Application form questions

The online application form will ask you the following questions:

  • Your details. We will ask you to confirm:
    • Your name and contact details;
    • The title of your submitted extract (or ‘Untitled’);
    • How you meet the Escalator entry criteria;
    • How you heard about the Escalator programme.
  • Your writer’s biography. Please provide us with a short biography (up to 200 words) outlining your work to date; this may include any creative writing experience, projects, prizes you have undertaken or achieved or publications you have been included in.
  • Your proposal. Please provide a proposal (up to 200 words) outlining the project you will work on as part of the Escalator programme.
  • Why Escalator? Please tell us how the scheme would be of benefit to you and your writing (up to 200 words).

Escalator Roadshow

Writers who are considering applying to the programme are invited to join us at one of our free Roadshow events. These are a chance to meet the mentors, try a writing exercise, and ask your questions about the programme.

There are three stops on the Escalator roadshow! Please book your place for one event.

Escalator Roadshow: online with Michael Donkor, Saturday 30 July, 10am – 12noon

Escalator Roadshow: Great Yarmouth with Kate Worsley, Saturday 13 August, 2 – 4pm

Escalator Roadshow: Peterborough with Yvvette Edwards, Saturday 3 September, 1 – 3pm

Terms and conditions of entry

  1. The National Centre for Writing (NCW) Escalator programme is for writers of fiction based in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk or Suffolk), whose voice is under-represented on UK bookshelves, in accordance with the eligibility criteria above. 
  2. Applications are to be made via the online application form and email submission of a sample of writing. The application can be made available in alternative formats upon request, e.g. for accessibility purposes.
  3. The deadline for applications is 10:00 BST on Monday 30 August 2021. Incomplete applications or applications received after this time cannot be considered.
  4. Only one application may be made per applicant. Multiple applications cannot be considered. 
  5. By completing the application process, entrants confirm that they meet the eligibility criteria, that their application is true and correct at the time of submission, and that they agree to these terms and conditions.
  6. Entries will be checked for eligibility, and thereafter judged anonymously on the basis of the sample of writing. A shortlist of 25 eligible samples of writing will be selected by a panel of sifters. These will then be judged by a panel of Escalator mentors, chaired by NCW staff. Each mentor will choose the two applicants they would most like to work with during the Escalator programme. NCW will then match the anonymous samples of writing to their corresponding entries and notify the winning writers.
  7. A maximum of ten places will be awarded in the Escalator 2021-22 programme. 
  8. The judge’s decisions are final and cannot be appealed.
  9. We regret that we are unable to enter into individual correspondence with or provide individualised feedback to unsuccessful applicants.
  10. Winning writers will be notified by email or phone in October 2021 and asked to confirm that they still wish to participate in the programme.
  11. Winning writers will agree to be available to take part in the programme between November 2021 and July 2022. 
  12. Escalator will be delivered in a hybrid format during 2021-2022 and winning writers will agree to participate on this basis. 
  13. NCW will deliver the programme in a Covid-secure manner and in line with its privacy, equality and safeguarding policies. Winning writers will agree to participate on the basis of these policies. 
  14. All winning applicants will be asked to sign an agreement confirming their participation in the Escalator programme and that they agree to the Escalator mentoring model. 
  15. NCW will fund and provide mentoring sessions, a welcome day, a day retreat, a showcase event, showcase materials, regular peer meetings and subsidised workshop places for the ten winning writers. Travel expenses will be paid for the mandatory, in-person elements of the programme. All optional travel expenses will be covered by the writer, except in cases of financial hardship, at the discretion and with prior agreement of NCW. 
  16. NCW reserves the right to review the Escalator programme in whole or in part at any time.
  17. If you are offered a space on the Escalator programme, you cannot exchange it in whole or in part for any cash equivalent, nor transferred to another person.
  18. NCW reserves the right to withdraw any offer of a place on the Escalator programme if the conditions of the programme are not met.
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