Selin was awarded a place on our Breakthrough Mentoring Programme for Disabled Writers.
Selin Claire (she/her) is a teacher and writer based in East London. She gained a first-class degree in English Literature from the University of Oxford in 2020 with a special interest in life-writing and autofiction. She writes short stories and memoir, and is drawn to themes of illness, disability, imagination and violence. Having experienced a severe and unexpected stroke in her twenties, Selin has begun writing about her own experience of living with and recovering from brain injury: a recent short piece on fatigue can be found in Lassitude Zine.
It’s All In My Head is a moving account of life-changing brain injury, full of darkly comic observations and arresting images of life and death.
The story opens a few days after twenty-three-year-old Selin has suffered a stroke. She is lying in a hospital bed, unable to move and unable to place herself in space or time, but desperate to get better. Written in present-tense, in a relentless and at times hallucinatory first-person, It’s All In My Head interweaves multiple strands of reality and time to create the picture of a life in rupture.
- 'I’m incredibly excited to be working with my mentor to bring my memoir to life. I’m grateful to be in a position to receive personal feedback on my writing - feedback that will, I’m sure, prove invaluable in the drafting and editing process - and to have my work encouraged and believed in. It is my hope that the Breakthrough Writers' Programme will allow me to finish a full first and second draft of my book, and to explore and experiment with style while I do so. This programme will give me the support I need to commit to my writing, and the freedom to take risks and be bold within it.'
Jeannetta was awarded a place on our Breakthrough x Black Ballad Mentoring Programme.
Jeannetta Craigwell-Graham is a Caribbean/African-American writer based in Ebeltoft, Denmark. She is a Spring 2024 MacDowell Fellow, recipient of the 2023 de Groot Courage to Write prize and a 2021 Tin House Winter Workshop Scholar. Her writing has appeared in swamp pink, Indiana Review, X-R-A-Y Magazine, Litmosphere, as a second place finisher in their 2023 Lit/South Awards in Fiction, NY Writers Coalition Black Writers Program Journal, among other publications. Jeannetta is also the co-host/producer of The Write Attention Podcast and co-founder of Black Women Writers in Europe, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting Black women writers in Europe. She is currently working on a novel trilogy incorporating family history and horror mythology from the African Diaspora.When not writing, Jeannetta works in international aid and development across Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.
What Time Is It Mr. Wolf is a mythologized account of Jeannetta’s uncle's real-life struggle with mental illness as a Black boy growing up in Baltimore public housing in the 1950-70s. The novel follows Samuel, who lives with a mysterious “illness” he has inherited from father, as he navigates the turbulence of the times, social dynamics of a historically black university and post-war Germany as a Fulbright student. He searches for belonging, in spite of his illness and his fear he will become like his father, before ultimately succumbing to the horror of increasing alienation, paranoia and madness. Samuel’s mental unraveling is explored through the figurative lens of a werewolf transformation. The novel navigates themes such as the meaning of time, the Black achievement trap and sexual agency.
- 'As someone who has had a non-traditional path to writing, working on a book that is embracing the margins of literary fiction, I knew finding mentorship and early engagement with the publishing industry would be critical to my book’s journey. The CBC Breakthrough Mentoring Programme provided the perfect opportunity for both, substantive and detailed feedback on my manuscript with an outstanding mentor, Yvvette Edwards, whose care and encouragement brought new life into the work, and, support with positioning my novel for the start of the publishing process.'
Louise was awarded a place on our Breakthrough x Black Ballad Mentoring Programme.
Louise Cunningham is a 26-year-old writer from Oxford. Based in Bristol, she is a teaching assistant supporting children with Social, Emotional, and Mental Health needs. While she is committed to helping young people develop emotional intelligence and resilience, her true passion is storytelling. Louise’s fiction writing has awarded her prestigious positions in the HarperCollins Author Academy and the Curtis Brown Creative Breakthrough Mentoring Programme. She enjoys crafting dark yet beautiful narratives and immersing readers in the minds of flawed, diverse, and compelling characters. Louise aspires to be an illustrator. Through digital and traditional art, she aims to further develop her skills to visually create enthralling worlds and characters.
Tamsin and Marlie are sisters with a past. More than anything, they want to never become like their mother. Unstable. Losing their autonomy. Stuck with children they never wanted. As children they went to strange and extraordinary lengths, vying for their mother’s affection. Never enough, they sought love and solace in each other. Tamsin, assuming a maternal role, withered under the weight of caring for an unruly Marlie and their struggling father. Resentment festers. As adults, Tamsin is driven by spite. She believes her childhood was stolen raising her sister, and that Marlie has squandered her potential and the sacrifices Tamsin made. Unable to maintain secure relationships or a career, Marlie is desperate for Tamsin’s validation. She resents Tamsin for replicating their mother’s detachment. The sisters find themselves again going to extreme lengths to determine the strength of their relationship and how far they’ll go for sisterhood.
- 'Winning a place on the Breakthrough x Black Ballad Mentoring Programme means validation that I have something to offer, that there is something exciting about my voice. Earning this place gave me the drive and the self-assuredness to know that I can do this. As I’m early into my writing career, it’s easy to be discouraged and feel as though I’m not moving forward. But winning this means that I am headed towards my goal. Ore, my mentor, is incredible and gives me insight to my writing that I’m not even aware of. She has really helped refine my characters and shape the direction of my story. The programme means that my dream is becoming a reality and I am beyond grateful for the opportunity.'
Lou was awarded a place on our Breakthrough Mentoring Programme for Disabled Writers.
Lou Harvey writes adult fiction and creative non-fiction alongside an academic career in Education. Both her academic and her creative writing are about what happens when we’re unable to articulate traumatic experience, how we make sense of things beyond our understanding, and the transformative power of accepting that we are always mysterious to ourselves. She has published widely as an academic and collaborated with theatre company Cap-a-Pie to co-devise and co-script a performance based on her research, which was funded by Arts Council England. She is being mentored on her second novel, the first fiction she’s felt brave enough to try and publish.
After reading and writing, Lou loves early choral music, walking, quizzes, maps, interstices, highly saturated colours, and aesthetic irresolution. She is a practising neuroqueer, a thwarted foodie, and a cheerful iconoclast with the eyeshadow of a much younger woman. She is at her best in the sea.
And I Shall Take Him is a dark literary thriller with a supernatural twist. Edinburgh student Issy Godall is looking for love after a traumatic relationship, but every man she dates reveals himself to be toxic. After she meets a mysterious woman calling herself Issy’s protector, her former dates start to disappear without trace, to Issy’s increasing horror. When Issy meets and falls in love with Jonas she believes herself to be happy, but the ongoing disappearances threaten to derail their relationship and, ultimately, endanger Issy’s life. Issy must therefore come to terms with the abuse she’s suffered and make sense of her own vulnerability. Only then can she understand who her strange protector is, discover the fate of the missing men, and break her cycle of abusive relationships.
- 'Autism and authorship have a complex relationship. Autistic people are considered either too impaired to be credible narrators, or too ‘normal’ to be credible autistic people. Autistic people, particularly women and girls, are being increasingly recognised and diagnosed, and although there are plenty of autistically coded women in fiction across the centuries, adult contemporary fiction is so far lacking in nuanced, autist-authored representations of autistic women’s lives. Autistic women are everywhere, and autistic women are nowhere. This is why my place on the Breakthrough Mentoring programme is so valuable: it will support me, as an autist author, to speak audibly to a world heavily invested in what is neurologically ‘normal’. This in turn will help to bring autistic and neurodivergent voices further into the mainstream in their full humanity, and support others to connect with their own neuroqueerness through the life-changing potential of fiction.'
Sarah was awarded a place on our Breakthrough Mentoring Programme for Disabled Writers.
Sarah used to design computer systems for banks, but much prefers making up stories. She lives in the Cotswolds and started writing for children when her kids were at primary school. They are now in their twenties and she is working on her eighth manuscript. She has a Masters in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University, and has had other work shortlisted in the Bath Children’s Novel Award, Mslexia Children’s Novel Competition and the Guppy Books Middle-grade Open Submission.
Sarah is currently reworking a contemporary middle-grade adventure very close to her heart. It features ancient myths and maybe-monsters; a spooky attic stuffed with old furniture and secrets; a most unusual fossil, and a sinister Victorian mystery. The protagonist and several other characters also happen to be disabled.
Sarah first came up with the idea for this story back in 2017, when visiting one of her favourite places, the Natural History Museum in London. Although writing it has often felt beyond her, not writing it has proved equally impossible.
- 'I feel so lucky to have a place on this amazing programme. I want to write gripping, surprising, magical children’s adventures where difference isn’t something to be ashamed of, pitied or feared; where disability can be central or incidental, depending on the story; and where disabled characters in no way need to be ‘inspirational’ to earn their place on the page. To have the opportunity to work on my manuscript with someone who has already achieved this is wonderful, and I can’t wait to get started.'
Nosa was awarded a place on our Breakthrough x Black Ballad Mentoring Programme.
Nosa Novia was born in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to the UK at the age of nine. Her background in film studies and as a poet has resulted in two anthology publications and a first-class degree award from the University of Warwick. She recently completed her Masters in Writing and is currently working on her debut novel and a sci-fi novel set in West Africa, which she is writing under the Harper Collins Author Academy. She is the founder of The Reclaim Collective CIC, a social enterprise dedicated to equipping poets from marginalized backgrounds with the skills to secure their first publication. She spends her days writing, watching old animation, pretending she knows how to bake and wishing she was the type of person that could be loved by a cat.
Illoi/The Wives is a historical fiction, fantasy novel set in the royal harem of a fifteenth century Benin kingdom. As the wives of the King compete to mother the next heir, the fight between two wives in particular, Oloi Idiah and Oloi Ohonmi, transforms into an epic journey involving magic, witches and curses, a journey which reshapes the royal lineage of the Kingdom of Benin forever.
Ese, a mute servant to Oloi Ohonmi, recounts the story of these queens. Her voice brings the lost and untold aspects of the Benin kingdom back to life, whilst revealing her own ties to the unfolding competition to acquire the throne.
Departing from the conventional portrayal of the power of the voice in reclaiming female agency, Illoi is a story prefixed on the conversation of silence, told through the recollections of a mute servant within the palace. In doing so, its story becomes a way to interrogate the complex network of agency and freedom which existed in the kingdom and West Africa, both then and today.
- 'Winning a place in this mentorship program was a leap into an industry I had previously only daydreamed about operating in. Despite earning a Writing degree, the idea of becoming an author remained a fantasy for me. The Breakthrough Mentoring program gave me the confidence to take active steps in entering the industry as an author, applying for other programs and academies to expand my knowledge of the publishing world. My mentor, Irenosen, was instrumental in helping me realize the worth of my novel and encouraged me to cultivate the attitude and discipline of an author. Having a mentor who understands the vision, direction, and context of my novel has been an indescribable support, especially so early on in my novel writing career. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity to be in this program.'
Linda was awarded a place on our Breakthrough Writer's Programme.
Linda Wystemp is a former Black Forester now residing in London. She enjoys writing across multiple mediums, including novels and screenplays. Linda is currently studying on The Novel Studio, a City, University of London writing course. When she is not working on her contemporary novel, Little Red One, she can be found dabbling in fencing or taking long walks by the river.
Linda is working on a contemporary novel told from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl who must learn to navigate and confront the terrors and triumphs of life on her father's farm and the moral ramifications of her family's illegal blood trafficking business. It explores the complexities of parent-child relationships as well as themes of familial love and loss and finding one’s own moral compass.
- 'I am immensely grateful to Curtis Brown Creative for awarding me a place on their Breakthrough Writers’ Programme 2023. Being selected has been a huge confidence booster and given me the courage to start sharing more of my writing and ideas. I am very much looking forward to working closely with my mentor on my novel-in-progress over the next nine months.'
Saleyha was awarded a place on our Writing Your Novel – Three Months (London) course, supported by our Gillian McAllister Novel-Writing Scholarship for Writers with Low Income.
Saleyha is currently a full-time PhD student at the University of Cambridge examining the impact of attacks against healthcare in war. Her portfolio career fuelled her ambition to interrogate this subject in greater depth after having worked as either a humanitarian doctor or writer from a number of conflict settings including Syria and Libya.
Saleyha is an emergency medicine doctor by training but prior to medicine was a British Army officer – the first British Muslim woman to gain a place at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. She served in Bosnia, where she was inspired to retrain as a doctor. Prior to the army, Saleyha’s passion for writing led her to journalism. She was NCTJ trained and worked in a BBC local radio newsroom. Since returning to civilian life, Saleyha has coupled freelance journalism with a career in medicine. Saleyha also has a Masters Degree (LLM) in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.
Percy is a burnt-out A&E doctor in London, recovering from a breakdown after a bitter divorce. When she’s offered a job in remote, rural Scotland on the fictitious island of Aoin, she seizes it.
The island haven is everything Percy needs. At first. An escape, a new life, and a community that embraces her. The friendly local hospital is a far cry from her previous overstretched, toxic hospital. Whilst on the island, she becomes intrigued by the work of an unnamed local artist, hung in numerous places including her B&B and the hospital she works in. The work depicts standing stones, the menhirs, on the islet off Aoin. On impulse, Percy buys the islet as it comes up for sale. There follows a series of unexplained deaths including that of the estate agent, Elizabeth who sold Percy the island. The dark past of the islet and Aoin reveal themselves and Percy’s escape to Aoin becomes set in stone.
- 'Winning a place on the Breakthrough Mentoring Programme is a phenomenal opportunity. As a full-time student dependent on a small stipend, affording the 3-month novel writing course was an impossibility. I often looked at Curtis Brown Creative courses but was resigned to only being able to ‘window shop’. This is the single most important opportunity for my writing I have ever had, and I believe it is a turning point. Sharing my work with my peers and our tutor, award winning novelist Ali Shaw has provided me with invaluable feedback which I am drawing on as I prepare my novel for submission. Under the incredible tutorship of Ali, my work has developed, my approach to writing enriched and my skillset expanded. It was rather special to hear those in the group who are drawn to the darker side of bookshops, were hooked. I am supported, encouraged, and am gaining skills that will remain throughout my writing career.'
Nina was awarded a place on our Writing an Original TV Drama Serial course, supported by our Breakthrough TV Screenwriting Scholarship for Writers with Low Income.
Nina is a writer, actress and producer. Her first script, You Make Me Feel Lonely, was a finalist in the Stage 32 TV Comedy Writing Contest. She has worked on productions with Hulu and Sylph Productions and will co-produce Instructions For A Teenage Armageddon, premiering in London’s West End in 2024. She splits her time between Barcelona and London.
Nina's TV drama serial
Inspired by true events, City of Bombs is a historical crime drama that follows an heiress who turns her family hotel into an illegal casino. When she divorces her powerful, corrupt police chief husband, he launches a ruthless campaign against her. The story is set in Barcelona and spans three decades from the early 1900s.
- 'Earning a place on the Breakthrough Programme has afforded me the ability to bring my story to a new audience and given me the opportunity to learn from some of the best writers, producers and agents in the U.K. Film and Television Industry. I’m enormously grateful for this and to the other talented, supportive writers I’ve met along the way. Can’t imagine a better bunch to work and grow alongside with.'
Miranda was awarded a place on our Writing Your Novel – Three Months (London) course, supported by the HW Fisher Scholarship for Writers with Low Income.
Born and raised in London, Miranda is a queer poet and filmmaker whose work explores desire and identity. With a background as an actress, she has performed in Olivier nominated West End theatre and BBC dramas and is a regular on the professional live poetry circuit. Her poetry has been published in literary magazines internationally and this year she was the recipient of The Curtis Brown Creative H.W Fisher Scholarship and The Literary Consultancy LGBTQ+ Free Reads Scheme. The Second Adolescence was recently longlisted for the 2023 Comedy Women in Print Unpublished Manuscript Prize.
31-year-old Olivia is searching for her sex drive. Following recovery from an eating disorder, she has spent the last year living a life of celibacy from the childhood bedroom of her parents London home. On the first day of her new job - a start-up that centres female pleasure, she is seized by a crush on her glitteringly confident co-worker Rayanna. Plagued by memories of her elite London girls’ school, the word 'lesbian' still stings like an insult. Seeking confirmation of her heterosexuality and someone to share the cost of a one bed with, she sets off on the dating apps. But her obsession with Rayanna is too hard to ignore and when her thumbs start wandering towards the preferences tab, long-repressed desires begin bubbling to the surface.
The Second Adolescence is an upmarket queer awakening story which explores privilege, body dysmorphia and internalised homophobia.
- 'Winning a breakthrough scholarship has been game changing for my writing career. My tutor Charlotte Mendelson was not only a fantastic teacher but also instilled in me the confidence to tell this story. I am leaving the course with greater clarity of what I want to say and a much more focused narrative structure. This was my second time applying for the scholarship and I would not have been able to take the course without it. I highly recommend other writers seeking community, support, and structure to apply.'
Kate was awarded a place on our Writing Your Novel – Three Months (online) course, supported by the Klara Nilsson Novel-Writing Scholarship for Writers with Low Income.
Kate Paterson is a fiction writer born in Canada and raised in Shropshire. She is a recent MA Creative Writing graduate from Durham University and graduated from Loughborough University with a BA in English with Creative Writing in 2022. At Loughborough University, her undergraduate dissertation The Tragedy of Privilege: Exploring The Conventions of the Tragedy Genre Through British Male Boarding School Experiences and Creative Writing achieved a mark of 83%. This mark awarded her the Leicester Literary & Philosophical Society’s annual award for the highest dissertation mark in English at Loughborough University. In August 2023, she was awarded the Curtis Brown Creative Klara Nilsson Novel-Writing Scholarship to attend the Writing Your Novel course led by author Suzannah Dunn to aid the development of her novel: Conceal Me What I Am.
Kate is working on a coming of age and dark academia retelling of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, set at an all boys boarding school in Wales titled Conceal Me What I Am. At the start of her A-levels Violet, disguised as the boy Callum, enrols at Illyrium International School for Boys to investigate the death of her twin brother, Spencer. Spencer was pronounced dead by suicide six months prior to the events of Conceal Me What I Am. Violet is sure Spencer wouldn’t take his own life, and believes the school is trying to keep a murder hidden. Spencer’s (ex)boyfriend, Adam, discovers Violet’s secret, helps her, and most importantly agrees with Violet that somebody murdered Spencer. Violet needs to implement herself into male private school life which means drugs, alcohol, violence, and rugby, whilst trying to understand her own grief and identity.
- 'The Breakthrough Mentoring Programme has been life changing. For the last three months I have been able to collaborate with a diverse online community who have been nothing but amazing. The immense amount of support this group of writers had for each other was incredible and extremely helpful, where discussions of novels ranged from structural plot elements, character and theme decisions, and the literary submission process. The group and the team at Curtis Brown Creative created a space where we felt comfortable and safe to experiment and try new things regarding our novels. This also couldn’t have been achieved without the course leader Suzannah Dunn. In addition to the practical knowledge gained, I have gained confidence in my abilities and for Conceal Me What I Am, inspiring me to take the next steps forward and solidifying my career goal of becoming an author.'
Maddy T Thomas
Maddy was awarded a place on our Writing Your Novel – Three Months (London) course, supported by the HW Fisher Scholarship for Writers with Low Income.
Maddy T Thomas is an Art History graduate turned exotic dancer whose invisible disability can lead to days of enforced rest from which writing has been a much-used escape. A writer of both poetry and fiction which explore the stories of marginalised women, Maddy is passionate about the power of words and the importance of queer and disabled voices in literature. Maddy writes from her historic cottage in Northamptonshire in the company of her two cats and a whippet and surrounded by family who are her biggest supporters.
A love story between two women set in the gritty underbelly of the circus Side-Show where every day is survival under scrutiny.
Paula, the run-away daughter of a tailor comes to the carnival when in hiding from her family using the name Paul. Dressed as a young man, Paula falls in love with Carousel when she sees her dancing as the headline performer of the Girlie Show and bravely pays her extra services fee. Both women recognise in each other a broken heart and a longing for belonging and so, embark on a life together in the circus. Supported by a colorful cast of characters and through a rich tapestry of voices a brutal yet beautiful narrative unfolds.
- 'Winning a place on the Breakthrough Mentoring Programme is my biggest writing achievement to date. Not only did the teaching I receive improve my skills, but it also boosted my confidence to keep striving, because it made me feel that I have something of value to share and proved to me that barriers to writing, like a low income, can be overcome with determination. Being part of the programme this year, has changed my writing life for the better and I will always be grateful for the opportunity to take my work to the next level.'
Reva was awarded a place on our online Writing Your Novel – Three Months course, supported by the John le Carré Scholarship.
Reva Zirkel’s poetry has appeared in publications such as The Guardian and Ambit. Holding a First-Class Honours BA in Russian Language and Literature from UCL, and an MA in Screenwriting, Reva draws inspiration from her decade-long residencein Moscow, navigating peculiar and challenging circumstances. With a professional background as an addictions counsellor and experience in a psychiatric hospital, she offers valuable insights into alcoholism and psychosis – recurring motifs in Anna Z. Currently residing in Dorset, Reva shares her home with a delightful feline menagerie. Alongside her writing pursuits, she works as a poetry editor and enjoys occasional getaways to Burgundy, exploring its vast network of cycle tracks.
Anna Z unfolds as an exploration of resilience and redemption amidst the backdrop of loss, political persecution and addiction. Anna, a Russian dissident poet, navigates the haunting shadows of her past in Moscow while grappling with cultural isolation in England. Traumatised by separation from her incarcerated partner, Kolya, and contending with false accusations, Anna descends into a harrowing struggle with alcoholism. Faced with the looming threats of divorce and the potential loss of her daughter, she joins a recovery group, where she encounters the enigmatic Reuben. Their relationship unravels amid external pressures, from spying neighbours to bureaucratic obstacles. Anna’s triumph over addiction leads to renewed creativity and fluency in English, propelling her towards a life-altering challenge – reuniting with her daughter. Anna Z is a resonant journey through despair, infused with dark humour reminiscent of Chekhov’s ‘Laughter through Tears’, encapsulating the indomitable spirit of a woman rebuilding her life against all odds.
- 'I was delighted to be awarded the John le Carré scholarship. Receiving such affirmation for my writing has lifted my self-confidence, allowing me to trust my ‘voice’ and listen to my intuition. The CBC course, expertly led by Andrew Hurley, is immersive and inspiring. Its meticulous construction becomes evident as different aspects of novel writing are explored each week. Collaborating with my talented coursemates and the perceptive Stakhanovite, Andrew, is enlightening. The generous, constructive feedback and interactions with fellow writers on their unique journeys are eye-opening. This course has proven invaluable in enabling me to view Anna Z with fresh eyes. Better still, I’m integrating the insights gained into my second novel.'
The Breakthrough Writers' Programme is funded by The Curtis Brown Group and our valued partners.