Meet the writers

We are delighted to announce the eight writers selected for Escalator 2023/24.

Escalator provides a cohort of emerging writers from the East of England with bespoke mentoring, skills development masterclasses, industry connections and showcases.

Our writers this year will be mentored by Michael Donkor, Yvvette Edwards, Ashley Hickson-Lovence and Kate Worsley.

Two further writers were highly commended: Paul Donegan and Shereen Jackson.

Kizzy Barrow

Kizzy Barrow is a writer and visual artist living in Suffolk. They grew up within the New Traveller community and their work is informed by a radical queer understanding of the natural world, often concerned with themes of land justice, class, and environmental futurity. Kizzy’s work includes Bénévoles (2019), a photo essay and exhibition documenting displaced communities in Northern France, and they are co-founder of the queer art and life drawing collective Liminal Gaze (2020-23). Their short story ‘With Pans, Bowls and Even Their Hands’ was included in the UoS anthology Suffolk Reflections (2023). In Summer 2023 Kizzy co-hosted ‘Other Worlds: Writing the Commons’, a series of experimental creative writing workshops.

 Kizzy is currently working on a collection of contemporary folk stories that seeks to unite historical and present-day experiences of landscape, alterity and resistance.

Seema McArdle

Seema McArdle is a working-class ‘PunGeordie’, born in Newcastle Upon Tyne into a Punjabi family. After teaching in London, Brighton, and Spain, she now lives in Norwich.

Seema is interested in the stories of fascinating British People of Colour; many of whom are still excluded from our story and history books.

Her first book, a MG historical adventure, won Faber’s Mo Siewcharran Publisher’s Prize 2020 and was shortlisted for Penguin Random House’s WriteNow 2021 competition.

After being awarded an Arts Council England DYCP grant, she began researching and plotting her new book – a MG time-slip adventure, featuring a British Asian girl, a white working-class boy and Henry VIII’s famous Black Trumpeter. This was shortlisted in TLC’s Pen Factor 2022 competition and listed as a Readers Favourite by a child judge in WriteMentor’s Novel-in-Development 2023 competition.

Kelechi Njoku

Kelechi Njoku is a fiction writer and editor from Nigeria. He graduated this year from the creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia, on a Global Voices Scholarship. In 2022, he was an inaugural fellow of the Rajat Neogy Editorial Fellowship with A Long House magazine and mentored by the novelist Maaza Mengiste. In 2020, he was a writer-in-residence at Black Rock, a residency in Dakar, Senegal, established by American visual artist Kehinde Wiley. He has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, and previously won the Writivism Short Story Prize, West Africa region. His writing appears in adda, Litro, Brittle Paper, and This Is Africa. He lives in Norwich, and is completing a novel.

Janet Noland

Janet Noland is a writer based in Cambridgeshire, who is interested in poetic prose and the immersive experience of storytelling. She enjoys fiction both for adults and younger readers.

Janet has always worked creatively with language and literature, studying English at university, and going on to complete a TEFL qualification and PGCE as an English specialist. She has enjoyed a career in education and the privilege of time at home raising her four daughters. Janet completed the National Centre for Writing Beginning Fiction course with Ashley Hickson-Lovence in 2021 and Develop your Fiction with Megan Bradbury in 2022, where she was delighted to liaise with and learn alongside other writers.  She is keen to continue exploring and developing her skills.

Janet lives with her children and springer spaniel in a small market town with a wonderful sense of community. She loves running and exploring the fens, where she finds a great deal of inspiration for her work.

Chiara Sandes

Chiara Sandes is a young, Norwich-based writer whose work centres on richly woven characters and the pursuit of one’s identity, inspired by the writing of Jodi Picoult and Harper Lee.

As a teenager, she was longlisted for BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words competition. Aged 16, she won the regional round of ARTiculate for a talk that she wrote and gave on Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, subsequently speaking in the final at the University of Cambridge.

Also a landscape watercolourist and portrait painter, Chiara’s interdisciplinary creative practice brings her writing an inherently lyrical, visual quality, not least in her current project: Write My Name in Water. This debut literary fiction novel has been six years in the making and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to work on it with Yvette Edwards.

Linda Temienor-Vincent

Linda Temienor-Vincent is a writer who divides her time between Norwich and Lagos. In 2019, she received a diploma in Screenwriting from the New York Film Academy. In 2021, she won the Global Voices Scholarship for Prose Fiction and completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2022. Linda won the Longlist Prize of the Bath Novel Award and the Spotlight First Novel Award in 2023. Authors like Teju Cole, Ayobami Adebayo, Doris Lessing and Rachel Cusk inspire her. Linda’s writing captures the complexities of human relationships and valuable conversations, often overlooked and significantly impacting individuals, families, and society. She is honoured to be a part of the Escalator programme.

Laura Kinsella Foundation Mentorships

These two mentorships are chosen from our Escalator cohort to receive direct support for their mentorships from the Laura Kinsella Foundation in recognition of the strength of their writing.

Amanda Gibbons

Amanda Gibbons has just completed a Novel Writing Masters with Middlesex University, nineteen years after leaving their White Hart Lane campus with a BA in Writing and Media. In between, she worked in magazine publishing, marketing and PR before juggling motherhood with freelance copywriting for food businesses. She has previously been shortlisted for Escalator and has had poetry published in a British Council anthology and Lon-art’s Sheroes in Quarantine exhibition. She is now writing a novel that explores how narratives about gender and class shape the lives and identities of five women in rural Suffolk, where she grew up and lives.

Justine Railton

Justine Railton’s life has been an eclectic one, that has found her living across the United Kingdom and even in New Zealand, before settling in Norwich. She has worked as a Reiki Master Teacher, Doula, Breastfeeding Counsellor, Antenatal teacher, Tarot reader, Support Worker, Gardener and environmental activist. She has built an eco-house and restored a two-acre permaculture garden, all whilst raising four children.

 In 2017, at the age of 47, she finally completed her degree in English Literature with Creative Writing. In 2022 she joined the Public House Norwich Writers’ Workshop which gave her the confidence she needed to begin writing in earnest.

 She is currently working on a short story collection themed around motherhood and societal expectations of women. Her work has been published in Letters to the Earth: Writing to a Planet in Crisis and in Mono. In 2023 she was shortlisted for The Bridport Prize in the short story category.

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Discover the Campaign

Escalator is generously funded by Arts Council England, Amazon Literary Partnership, Authors Licensing & Collecting Society, Garrick Charitable Trust, The Golsoncott Foundation, Laura Kinsella Foundation and donors of NCW’s Escalator fundraising campaign.

I am so happy and excited to have been selected for Escalator and mentoring with Ashley Hickson-Lovence. Writing a novel is a pretty daunting task, and trying to do it alone in rural Suffolk feels even more so. I feel incredibly lucky to have been offered this opportunity and support.

Amanda Gibbons