Apply for Escalator 2021

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

What is Escalator?

National Centre for Writing has been running the Escalator talent development programme since 2004. The programme has developed over the years to become what it is today: eight months of mentoring, training, guidance and networking for writers based in the East of England who are at the beginning of their careers. 

To date Escalator has supported over 100 writers, many of whom have gone on to sign with agents, publish and win awards and critical recognition for their writing. Find out more about our alumni here.

We’re delighted that in 2021-22 we are able to run Escalator with a full cohort of ten writers, following a successful fundraising campaign and generous donations from the Amazon Literary Partnership, The Lady Hind Trust and the general public. This will also be the second year that we have run the programme in a ‘hybrid’ format, making the most of both online platforms and opportunities to meet up in person*. 

The Escalator mentors for this year are: Megan Bradbury, Michael Donkor, Yvvette Edwards, Owen Nicholls and Kate Worsley. Find out more about the mentors and their work here.

Applications to the scheme open on 22 July 2021 and the deadline for applications is 10:00 BST on Monday 30 August 2021. The selected writers will need to be available to take part in the scheme between late November 2021 and July 2022.

*subject to Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. 

Who is it for?

Escalator is open to unpublished, early careers writers of fiction based in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk).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. 

You are eligible to apply to Escalator if you write fiction, live in the East of England, and meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • self-identify as Black, brown or ethnically diverse, LGBTQI+, and/or working class; 
  • have a disability, chronic illness, or caring responsibilities; 
  • are in receipt of a state pension, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Disability Benefits, Income Support, Universal Credit or Working Tax Credits, or face other economic barriers;
  • have not undertaken any formal creative writing qualifications.

Please note: you do not have to meet all of the criteria above to apply.

If you’re not sure whether you meet these criteria, we invite you to contact us on the email address and telephone number below for a confidential discussion before making your application. 

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 under-represented 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 ten selected writers will also take part in a day retreat and a final showcase event at which they will have an opportunity to present their work to agents, editors and other publishing industry professionals.

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;
  • receive a film and printed materials to help them showcase and promote their writing in future;
  • paid travel expenses for all standard in-person elements of the programme.

How can I apply?

Applications for Escalator 21/22 have now closed.

Applications that are incomplete and/or reach us after 10:00 BST on Monday 30 August 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. 

We also kindly invite applicants to fill in this optional monitoring form to help us evaluate the Escalator programme and ensure it is reaching a wide and diverse range of writers in the East of England. The form is anonymous and there is a ‘Prefer not to say’ option for every question. It will only be used by NCW and Arts Council England in aggregate for monitoring and evaluative purposes. 

If you have any questions about the Escalator programme please contact Flo Reynolds, Programme Manager, by email or telephone (01603 877177, Mon-Fri 09:30 – 17:00). All queries and discussions will be treated confidentially. 


Terms and conditions of entry

  1. The National Centre for Writing (NCW) Escalator programme is for under-represented writers of fiction, based in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk or Suffolk), 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.