Being a working-class and queer writer comes with unique challenges. Access and opportunities can be fewer and further between. Such were the challenges that faced Jon Ransom.
Jon – who “initially started writing stories on my mobile phone while my parents where terminally ill in hospital” – has seen his short fiction published in SAND Journal, Foglifter Press (Lambda Literary finalist for LGBTQ Anthology), Five:2:One but was finding the revision and completion of his debut novel (The Whale Tattoo) a challenge.
Jon joined Escalator, our annual talent development scheme open to unpublished early career fiction writers living in the Eastern Region – and in particular, writers who are under-represented on UK bookshelves.
“I’m working-class and don’t have an MA in Creative Writing,” he says. “But with Escalator, things are structured so that every six weeks I send Anjali [Joseph, mentor] a bunch of chapters and we talk about how my novel is progressing.”
“It’s clear to see how a mentoring programme creates a unique and supportive space to explore my writing without any pressure. Our discussions help me believe that what I’m writing has value. Outside of a programme like Escalator, especially coming from a working-class background, it’s hard to measure your progress in any real way.”
The Whale Tattoo was published in February 2022 to great praise, one reviewer describing it as “Raw, uncompromising, and authentic, a remarkable debut from an astonishingly gifted writer”.
Escalator and NCW is all about saying ‘yes’
Escalator launched in 2004. Since then it has supported more than 100 writers at the beginning of their careers, many of whom have gone on to sign with agents, publish and win awards and critical recognition for their writing.
“Queer and working-class I hear ‘no’ a lot,” he says. “Escalator and NCW is all about saying ‘yes’, to diversity, inclusivity, to championing every kind of writer at all stages of their career. The greatest thing I walked away from Escalator with was the belief that what I have to say has value. It would be a tremendous loss to limit access to the arts for under-represented voices who ache to be heard.”