The Blog

I Never Thought My Voice Had A Place On The Bookshelf, Now I'm Determined To Get Published

I've dabbled in writing before. I have a parenting blog and I've done a couple of creative writing courses. But for a long time I never entertained the thought of writing novels.

I had read the biographies of novelists on the inside covers of books, and they always seemed to say, 'such and such lives with their white middle class partner, in their white middle class town, with their white middle class children and white middle class cat'.

And even when they didn't say that, that's what I saw because sometimes I think you see what you want to see - especially when things seem difficult. As a woman of colour and a recently single mother, I didn't feel as though people like me often made it onto the bookshelf.

But that all changed when in October last year I jumped straight on the train after an overnight shift at my job and followed the little dot on my phone to Penguin Random House's London office. Looking up at the office of one of the world's largest publishing houses, I couldn't help but think: 'Girl, you do not belong here'.

A couple of months before arriving at the publisher's office, I had apprehensively submitted the first chapter of my novel to their WriteNow programme: a new initiative designed to find, mentor and publish aspiring writers from under-represented communities. As I stood on the Strand, I was still pinching myself that I had been selected as one of the finalists and was now about to attend a mentoring workshop to meet with editors and literary agents. It just didn't feel real.

At the workshop, I spoke to some of the other writers that had been selected. During every single one of those conversations I asked the person, "Why are you here?" What I meant by that was, 'What makes you identify yourself as under-represented?'

I honestly believed that was the only reason we were there. I sat at the back of the last table, in the corner of the room, and I said to the woman next to me, "I feel like we're in one of those big holding rooms on the X Factor". I was genuinely worried that I wouldn't have a good enough sob story.

Then, as we were greeted as finalists, I had one of those moments of realisation. I wasn't being addressed as one of the under-represented or the lucky ones. I was sat at that table because I was being offered a seat at the table.

For me, the workshop helped me realise that there are things you do when you think you have a right to be somewhere. When you think you have a right to be somewhere, you don't just ask questions, you offer your opinions because you understand that they're just as worthy as anyone else's.

Our experiences are important and unique to our position, we shouldn't be afraid to share them. When you know you have a right to be somewhere, you build real connections. I have made many relationships throughout this process, but the most significant have been with fellow writers.

It's a truth that there's strength in numbers. And from all the people I have encountered since I pressed send on the first chapter of my novel, I have gained strength.

So, finally, I just want to say to everyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a writer but felt as though their story doesn't have a place on the bookshelf: you have something to say and your voice needs to be heard. Get your feet under that table.