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Mentors

13 writers will provide mentoring for the Representing Wales: Developing Writers of Colour programme cohort.

The Mentors, who are some of the most exciting and high-profile writers in their field, are Ishmahil Blagrove, Malika Booker, Zoë Brigley, Eric Ngalle Charles, Salma el Wardany, Inua Ellams, Mona Eltahawy, Jasleen Kaur, Daniel Morden, Abi Morgan, Alastair Reynolds, Manon Steffan Ros, and Michael Rosen.

The mentors are some of the most exciting and successful names in literature, and each one offers a wealth of accolades, genres, and experiences. From a Welsh Sci-Fi author to a BAFTA-winning screenwriter, to one of Britain’s best loved writers and performance poets for children, the Mentors’ input will have a direct impact on the individual writers’ trajectories and projects, and in turn, on the wider literary sector.

The Mentors were each selected in consultation with the cohort of writers on the programme. Over the course of the year, the Mentors and writers will discuss and develop literary specialisms and genres, as well as share personal experiences of their respective writing journeys. Each pair will meet several times during the year, with sessions covering a range of topics and themes, from editing creative work, to exploring professional opportunities. The sessions are designed to be as bespoke as possible, with each partnership working towards achieving the writers’ individual aims. You can find out more about the programme’s cohort of writers and their aims here.

 

 

Ishmahil Blagrove
Mentee: Carl Connikie
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Malika Booker
Mentee: Marvin Thompson
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Zoë Brigley
Mentee: Taz Rahman
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Eric Ngalle Charles
Mentee: Phil Okwedy
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Salma el Wardany
Mentee: Jaffrin Khan
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Inua Ellams
Mentee: Hanan Issa
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Mona Eltahawy
Mentee: Durre Shahwar
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Jasleen Kaur
Mentee: Um Mohamed
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Daniel Morden
Mentee: Phil Okwedy
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Abi Morgan
Mentee: Emily Burnett
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Alastair Reynolds
Mentee: Daniel Howell
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Manon Steffan Ros
Mentee: Nia Morais
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Michael Rosen
Mentee: Shara Atashi 
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Ishmahil Blagrove
Mentee: Carl Connikie

Ishmahil Blagrove is a writer and filmmaker and works for Rice N Peas, a social justice advocacy. He is the author of Carnival — A Photographic and Testimonial History of the Notting Hill Carnival (Rice N Peas, 2014). He describes the shift in his philosophy from “black power” to an internationalist perspective advocating solidarity within diverse groups.

"Mentoring provides step by step support for new writers and helps build confidence."

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Malika Booker
Mentee: Marvin Thompson

Malika Booker is an international writer whose work is steeped in anthropological research methodology and rooted in storytelling. Her writing spans poetry, theatre, monologue, installation, and education. Clients and organisations she has worked with include Arts Council England, BBC, British Council, Wellcome Trust, National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Arvon, and Hampton Court Palace.

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Zoë Brigley
Mentee: Taz Rahman

Zoë Brigley is a Welsh American writer who currently works as Assistant Lecturer at the Ohio State University. She is an award-winning writer, receiving an Eric Gregory Award for the best British poets under 30, and listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize. She has three Poetry Book Society recommended collections: The Secret (2007), Conquest (2012), and Hand & Skull (2019) all published by Bloodaxe. She also has a nonfiction essay collection Notes from a Swing State (2019), and she recently published a poetry chapbook Aubade After a French Movie (Broken Sleep, 2020). Alongside this, she also has a forthcoming non-fiction book from Broken Sleep, Otherworlds: Writing on Nature and Magic and as well as a poetry chapter book: Into Eros with Verve Publishing.

"One of my favourite writers who I first read as a girl is Maya Angelou and talking about mentoring, she emphasizes how the relationship of mentor and mentee can be a beautiful thing. I think that sense of care can be incredibly rewarding not just for the mentee but for the mentor too."

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Eric Ngalle Charles
Mentee: Phil Okwedy

Eric Ngalle Charles is a Cameroonian writer, poet, and playwright based in Wales. He was selected by Jackie Kay as one of UKs ten BAME writers and was also awarded the Creative Wales Award 2017/2018 by the Arts Council of Wales for his work on the topics of migration, trauma, and memory. In his autobiography I, Eric Ngalle: One Man's Journey Crossing Continents from Africa to Europe (Parthian Books, 2019), Eric recounts his journey to Europe, where he spent several years seeking refuge. He sits on the boards of Literature Wales and Aberystwyth Arts Centre Advisory Group and will begin his PhD at King's College London in October 2021. 

"Mentoring is an investment, ensuring that the stories we share and the books we read reflect the society we live in."

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Salma el Wardany
Mentee: Jaffrin Khan

Writer, poet, speaker and BBC radio presenter, Salma El-Wardany regularly performs internationally. She has given two TEDx Talks, has worked with Edinburgh University on the Dangerous Woman project, and has also partnered with The British Library and The Wellcome Collection. She’s half Egyptian, half Irish and part Desi, and regularly works with global brands to raise awareness through poetry and conversation. She’s part of the award-winning bestseller It’s Not About the Burqa (Picador, 2020) and is currently publishing her debut novel in 2022 with Trapeze.

"I'm really excited to be there for all the scary moments and the difficult parts, sometimes you just want to have a little freakout and be scared about what you're creating or trying to do. I'm really looking forward to being there for those moments. Being a shoulder to lean on, an ear to bend and someone to run ideas and random thoughts by."

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Inua Ellams
Mentee: Hanan Issa

Born in Nigeria, Inua Ellams is a poet, playwright, performer, graphic artist and designer. He is a Complete Works poet alumni and facilitates workshops in creative writing where he explores reoccurring themes in his work - identity, displacement, and destiny - in accessible and enjoyable ways for participants of all ages and backgrounds. His awards include: Edinburgh Fringe First Award 2009, The Liberty Human Rights Award, The Live Canon International Poetry Prize, The Kent & Sussex Poetry Competition, Magma Poetry Competition, Winchester Poetry Prize, A Black British Theatre Award and The Hay Festival Medal for Poetry. He’s published half a dozen poetry books and has been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre, Tate Modern, Louis Vuitton, BBC Radio & Television.

"This programme can build patterns of work and ways of thinking, in turn expanding and re-thinking what it is to write and belong to a community."

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Mona Eltahawy
Mentee: Durre Shahwar

Mona Eltahawy is a feminist author, commentator, and disruptor of patriarchy. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2105) targeted patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa and her second The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls (Tramp Press, 2019) took her disruption worldwide. Her commentary has appeared in media around the world, and she is the editor-in-chief and essayist for feministgiant.com.

"One of the biggest challenges to being a writer of colour is that you often feel you're the only one, with few examples of how to proceed in a white publishing industry. The mentoring scheme can help the mentee by pairing them with writers further along in their career who can offer advice and solidarity."

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Jasleen Kaur
Mentee: Um Mohamed

Jasleen Kaur is a Scottish artist currently based in London. Her work is an ongoing exploration into the malleability of culture and the layering of social histories within the material and immaterial things that surround us. Her practice examines diasporic identity and hierarchies of history, both colonial and personal. She works with sculpture, video, and writing. Recent and upcoming commissions include Wellcome Collection, UP Projects, Glasgow Women’s Library, Market Gallery, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Eastside Projects and Hollybush Gardens. Her work is part of the permanent collection of Touchstones Rochdale, Royal College of Art, and Crafts Council.

"This programme offers confidence, knowledge, friendship and support the writers to navigate future commissions, projects and practice."

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Daniel Morden
Mentee: Phil Okwedy

Daniel Morden is one of the UK’s leading tellers of traditional tales. He has told stories for a living for over thirty years; from palaces to prisons; from nurseries to universities; and from Australia to the Arctic. His repertoire ranges from awful jokes to poignant myths of love and loss. In 2017, he was awarded the Hay Festival medal for his storytelling. He is also an award-winning author, and his book Dark Tales from the Woods (Pont Books) won the Tir na n-Og Children's Book Prize in 2007. In 2020, he was awarded an Arts Council of Wales Grant to develop stories to help us respond to the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

"I hope the programme will broaden the range of voices that are heard in Welsh culture."

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Abi Morgan
Mentee: Emily Burnett

Abi Morgan is a playwright and screenwriter. Her plays include Skinned, Sleeping Around, Splendour (Paines Plough); Tiny Dynaminte (Traverse); Tender (Hampstead Theatre); Fugee (National Theatre); 27 (National Theatre of Scotland); Love Song (Frantic Assembly) and The Mistress Contract (Royal Court Theatre). Her television work includes My Fragile Heart, Murder, Sex Traffic, Tsunami- The Aftermath, White Girl, Royal Wedding, Birdsong, The Hour, River and The Split. She is currently working on her third and final series of The Split for the BBC. Her film writing credits include Brick Lane, Iron Lady, Shame, The Invisible Woman and Suffragette. She has a number of films currently in development. Abi has won several awards including a BAFTA and an Emmy for her film and TV work.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this exciting project reflecting Wales’s amazing literary heritage. What a lovely opportunity to connect with my Welsh roots and support the next generation of new Welsh voices. They inspire me as much as I inspire them.”

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Alastair Reynolds
Mentee: Daniel Howell

Alastair Reynolds was born in Barry in 1966 but spent his early years in Cornwall before returning to Wales. He started writing at a very early age (inspired by his dad taking him to see Goldfinger at the cinema) but eventually decided to pursue science as a career, working in astronomy and astrophysics, a career that took him to the Netherlands for nearly twenty years. He and his wife returned to Wales in 2008. He has written twenty novels and around a hundred short stories, and his fiction has been adapted for stage and television. His science fiction novel Terminal World (Gollancz) was a Wales Book of the Year shortlisted title in 2011.

"For Sc-Fi to remain vital, it needs to welcome under-represented voices. This process is happening around the world and there is no reason for Wales not to play its part in this exciting new wave, with young, talented and ambitious writers such as Daniel Howell coming to the fore."

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Manon Steffan Ros
Mentee: Nia Morais

Manon Steffan Ros is a Welsh novelist, playwright, games author, and scriptwriter. She is the author of over twenty children's books and three novels for adults, all originally written in Welsh. In June 2017, she won the prestigious Tir na n-Og Award for the third time, presented by the Welsh Books Council to honour the year's best Welsh-language book. She is twice winner of the Drama Medal for playwrights at the National Eisteddfod of Wales and won the Prose Medal in 2018 for her work Llyfr Glas Nebo (Y Lolfa, 2018), which has since been turned into a play. Llyfr Glas Nebo went on to win the triple crown at the 2019 Wales Book of the Year Award, and in 2021 it was announced that the novel has been acquired by Firefly Press to be published in English as the The Blue Book of Nebo.

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Michael Rosen
Mentee: Shara Atashi 

Michael Rosen is one of Britain’s best loved writers and performance poets for children and adults. He was the Children’s Laureate from 2007-2009. He has published over 200 books for children and adults, which span over a variety of genres. He regularly writes for The Guardian on the topic of education and has a regular column in the New Humanist. He has been commissioned to do work for major national institutions such as the British Museum, the Snape Maltings concert hall and collaborations with the London Sinfonia, the Bach Choir, the Barbican Arts Centre, the Wellcome Collection, and Tate Modern. He has received several honorary awards, including the Eleanor Farjeon Award for his outstanding contribution to children’s literature.

"I'm very excited by this project. I feel a responsibility to pass on any tips, thoughts, ideas that can help writers who are reaching out for advice."

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