Catherine Coe is a children’s book editor, author and the founder of All Stories. She was an editor at Hachette for ten years before going freelance in 2011, and enjoys working with a wide range of publishers, literary agents and writers. You can find out more about her on her website: catherine-coe.com Twitter: @catherinecoe Instagram: @thisiscatherinecoe
WO: Can you tell us about All Stories and how/why it was set up?
CC: The All Stories mentorship programme is for aspiring children’s book and young adult writers from underrepresented backgrounds (BAME, LGBTQ+, socio-economically marginalised and writers with a disability) who can’t afford editorial support to develop their talent.
As a freelancer, I have many clients who are writers – usually those who are yet to be published and agented, who want help to develop their craft and evolve their manuscripts. But, of course, these are people who can afford to pay for support. I realised that many – if not most – debut authors today are those who’ve had access to MAs, writing courses and/or mentoring. I began to ask: what about those who can’t afford help? Will those stories ever get heard? Publishing has a long way to go to be truly inclusive, and I realised I could help to make the changes that are so badly needed.
WO: All Stories mentorship programme sounds fabulous. Can you tell us more?
CC: All Stories is offering 14 mentorship places to writers of children’s books – from picture books to young adult novels – who are unagented and unpublished. The six-month mentorship programme is unique, as it’s delivered entirely by expert editors – 14 freelance editors will mentor the writers, while seven in-house editors from a wide range of publishers will present webinars about the industry and craft of writing during the mentorship period. The mentees will also receive a year’s free membership to the Society Of Children’s Book Writers And Illustrators, who offer a wide range of support and events. Plus, there will be a private online All Stories community where the mentees can discuss their work, raise questions, support each other and share experiences.
Applications are open until midnight on 31st May and the mentorships will run from September 2021 to February 2022.
WO: Why do you believe the work All Stories does is so important?
CC: Lack of diversity is still a huge issue in the publishing industry. It’s traditionally very white and middle class, and the way it operates can make it difficult for people outside those backgrounds to enter and prosper in the industry. Improving representation is crucial – not only in terms of ethnicity, but regarding all areas of underrepresentation, including LGBTQ+, people living with a disability and those with a low income. All Stories aims to break down the barriers of privilege in the industry and help underrepresented voices rise up.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of Transformation: Unleashing And Reshaping. Can you tell us about the Transformation you would like to unleash through greater diversity and inclusion through the All Stories Programme?
CC: Children need to see themselves reflected in the books they read, written by authors of all backgrounds. Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold’s 2017 report for BookTrust found that fewer than two per cent of British children’s book creators were people of colour, compared to 33 per cent of school pupils. Meanwhile, CLPE’s Reflecting Realities report discovered that in 2017, one per cent of the children’s books published in the UK had an ethnic minority main character, rising to four per cent in 2018 and five per cent in 2019. Changes just aren’t happening fast enough. Ultimately, I want the work of All Stories to help transform these figures by giving talented writers from underrepresented backgrounds the chance to develop their talent and become published authors.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
CC: Most of my focus is on this year’s programme at the moment, but I do have one eye on the future and hope that All Stories will become a yearly programme. One of the biggest challenges is getting the word out to the people who’d most benefit from the project, so I’m developing partnerships with other initiatives and organisations – including Pen to Print – to reach audiences and make the most of our shared passion to help all writers.
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The All Stories mentorship programme is for aspiring children’s book and young adult writers from underrepresented backgrounds (BAME, LGBTQ+, socio-economically marginalised and writers with a disability) who can’t afford editorial support to develop their talent.