Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my writing is right for Escalator?

We are looking for great writing, affecting stories and creative potential. Escalator is a creative commitment and is best suited to writers who are ready to receive constructive feedback on their work. We are not looking for a particular style, genre or approach; only well-considered, technically able, affecting stories.

I don’t live in the East of England. Can I still apply?

Escalator is only open to writers living in the East of England, which for the purposes of the programme is defined as Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. If you live in a different region you may be eligible for a similar scheme elsewhere. We recommend finding your nearest literature development organisation who will be able to advise on opportunities in your area:

Literature Works (South West)

New Writing North

New Writing South (South East)

Spread the Word (London)

Writing East Midlands

Writing West Midlands

I live in the East of England some of the time, but not all of the time. Can I still apply?

Yes, provided that 50% or more of your time is spent in the East of England (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk). If less than 50% of your time is spent in the region, you are not eligible to apply for Escalator.

I write short stories, flash fiction, and/or novellas. Am I still eligible to apply to Escalator?

Yes, Escalator is open to writers of fiction, including short stories, flash fiction, novellas and novels. We have no preference between these forms; if you write short fiction, you have as good a chance as someone who writes novels.

I write poetry and/or non-fiction. Am I eligible to apply to Escalator?

No, the Escalator programme currently supports writers of fiction only.

I write for children and/or young people. Am I eligible to apply to Escalator?

Yes! Several Escalator alumni have successfully published YA fiction following their participation in the scheme. As long as you meet our other entry requirements, we welcome applications from those who write fiction for children and young people.

I’m not sure whether I would count as an ‘unpublished, early career writer’. Can I still apply?

We define an ‘unpublished, early career writer’ as someone who has not yet published a full length work of fiction (novel, novella or short story collection) in the UK via a publishing house. If you have published individual shorter pieces in magazines, online or elsewhere, you are still eligible to apply to Escalator. 

If you have had a full-length work of non-fiction or poetry published in the UK, either self-published or via a publishing house, you are eligible to apply to Escalator. 

If you have self-published a full-length novel, novella or short story collection in the UK, you are eligible to apply to Escalator. 

If you have already published a full-length novel, novella or short story collection in the UK via a publishing house, including mainstream and small presses, then you are not eligible to apply to Escalator.

I’ve done an MA or BA Creative Writing. Does that mean I can’t apply?

No, you can still apply, providing you meet our other eligibility criteria and are not currently studying full-time or for any accredited course in creative writing. And of course, you don’t have to have studied creative writing at all to apply!

I’m not sure whether I would count as an ‘under-represented writer’. Can I still apply?

The Escalator programme is for writers who are under-represented in mainstream UK publishing. We particularly welcome applications from writers who meet one or more of the criteria listed above, though we also recognise that individual circumstances are complex and cannot be reduced to a tickbox. If you’re not sure whether this opportunity is right for you, we invite you to contact us on the email address or telephone number above for a confidential discussion before making your application. Our application form also allows you to tell us how you meet our criteria or outline your circumstances in your own words if you would like to, although there is no obligation to do so.

Can I choose the mentor I would like to work with?

No, the mentors will judge the applications and choose the two writers they each would like to work with based on the submitted writing samples. The writing samples will be judged anonymously by the mentors. When the winning writers are notified they will be informed which mentor has selected them; accepting a place on the Escalator programme means that you accept the mentor who has chosen to work with you.

Why do I have to specify a project I will work on during the Escalator programme?

Escalator is for writers who want to take their writing and writing career to the next level, often by completing a substantial piece of work. This would usually be a draft of a full-length novel, novella or short story collection. Throughout the programme the winning writers will receive feedback on work in progress and help with setting writing goals; opportunities to learn more about how to submit their manuscripts to agents and editors; and to showcase a polished piece of work to publishing industry professionals. To get the most out of the programme, it helps to have a clear project in mind that you will work on throughout this process.

I haven’t yet written 2,000 words of the project I want to write. What shall I submit as my writing sample?

If you haven’t got an extract of up to 2,000 words of the project you would like to work on during the scheme, you can send us an example of your previous fiction work instead. Make sure you are clear about the project you intend to work on in your 200-word proposal.

Can you give me feedback on my writing sample, even if I don’t win one of the places on Escalator this year?

Each year we receive large numbers of applications to Escalator, and so unfortunately we are unable to offer individual feedback on applications. We do however always endeavour to signpost applicants to other opportunities that may be of use and interest. t.

I write under a pseudonym. Which name should I make my application under?

If you write under a pseudonym, we would like to know both of the names you use. There is space in the application form for you to let us know both your legal name and the name you write under.

Can I submit more than one application?

No, applications are limited to one per person, and we cannot consider multiple applications.

Will I receive acknowledgement of my application?

Yes, you will receive email acknowledgement of your application once you have submitted both parts of the application. We will do our best to notify you of any problems with your application at this stage. In case of any problems with your application that may need action by you, we recommend submitting as early as you can before the deadline of 10:00 BST on Monday 30 August 2021.

I’ve submitted the first part of my application. Can I submit the second part later?

Yes, you can submit the second part of the application later, as long as you do so before the deadline of 10:00 BST on Monday 30 August 2021. Applications that have not been completed by this time cannot be considered.

Why do you recommend preparing some of the application questions in advance?

For the first time this year we will be using an online application form. While we have done our best to ensure that you can edit your responses at your convenience, we recommend preparing your answers in advance to make the process smoother, safer and to ensure you have a copy of your application for your records. 

I’ve missed the deadline by accident. Will you still accept my application?

No, applications that arrive after our deadline of 10:00 BST on Monday 30th August cannot be considered.

How will my application be judged?

Once National Centre for Writing has identified eligibility, applicants are judged anonymously and by their work alone. Ten winning writers are selected from a shortlist of up to 25 applicants by the panel of mentors chaired by NCW. Each mentor will choose the two applicants they would most like to work with during the Escalator programme. NCW staff then match the chosen samples to their corresponding application forms, and will notify the winners in October 2021.

When will I find out if my application has been successful?

Applicants will be notified by email in October 2021.

What are the key dates of the programme?

Escalator opens for applications on 22 July 2021. The deadline for applications is 10:00 BST on Monday 30 August.

The Escalator winners will be publicly announced in November 2021. They will participate in the scheme between November 2021 and July 2022.

How does mentoring work?

Your first mentoring session will be face-to-face at the welcome day in November, which will take place at the National Centre for Writing, Dragon Hall. All other mentoring sessions may take place face-to-face or via email, telephone or video call. Mentor and writer are liable for any expenses incurred for face-to-face meetings, though NCW will cover travel expenses for the welcome day, day retreat, and any other mandatory in-person elements of the programme.

If I’m unsuccessful this year, can I apply again in future?

Yes. We hope to continue to offer the Escalator programme each year, subject to funding. You are welcome to apply in future years if you meet the eligibility criteria.

How else can you support me?

Please visit our ‘Support for Writers’ section to read about our other opportunities.