Breakthrough Mentoring Programme
We’re delighted to offer a nine-month mentoring programme for under-represented writers, fully funded by the Curtis Brown Group and Curtis Brown’s literary agents. The programme provides in-depth one-to-one tuition and feedback from published authors to help talented writers progress their long-form writing projects (see below for details). And each mentee also gets a one-to-one meeting with an agent, who will read the opening of their work-in-progress plus a one-page synopsis.
In 2021, mentoring will begin in February, May and October, with different eligibility criteria each time (see below). Each time, five mentees will be selected from applicants by the Curtis Brown Creative team, based on the quality of their writing and of the central idea driving their writing project. If you’re not chosen as one of the five mentees, don’t be discouraged – we offer lots of writing opportunities.
Is it right for me?
This mentoring programme is for you if you are a talented writer who fulfils the eligibility criteria (see below) and if you are seeking targeted, detailed one-to-one feedback on your work-in-progress, plus industry advice. You can apply for mentoring with respect to a project at any stage of writing (from just starting to redrafting) and for a work written in any of the following genres/categories:
- Novel written for adults
- Novel written for children (older than 7) or young adults
- Collection of short stories
- Narrative non-fiction
(We may extend the range of genres in future years of the Breakthrough Writers’ Programme but this will be the offer for 2021).
How it works
If you’re selected for mentoring, we will match you with a mentor from our experienced team of author-tutors whose area of expertise/interest matches the kind of project you’re working on.
On three occasions over a nine-month period, you can send up to 10,000 words from your work-in-progress to your mentor, who will read it and meet with you on Zoom for one hour (on a mutually agreeable date) to discuss it in-depth, providing valuable and constructive verbal feedback plus 500 words of notes each time. You can also use a mentoring session to have an in-depth discussion about plot issues, by instead sending a synopsis plus an 8,000-word extract – or just a synopsis and a sheet of issues and questions to put to the mentor.
The three sessions should be spread so that they happen approximately every three months across the nine-month period (though if you want to have the sessions across a shorter time period – e.g. six months, that’s usually possible if agreed in advance).
At the end of the nine-month mentoring period (or earlier, at your request), each mentee will receive a 45-minute one-to-one Zoom tutorial with a Curtis Brown or C&W literary agent. The agent will read the opening 3,000-word extract from your novel-in-progress plus your synopsis. They will provide detailed feedback as well as answering questions about your writing more generally and your potential next steps.
Help with submitting your work
For all our mentees – when you’re ready to send the project you’re working on to agents, an experienced member of the CBC team will help you submit your work to the agents at Curtis Brown and C&W.
Eligibility and applications
This mentoring is part of The Breakthrough Writers’ Programme, an initiative offering funded opportunities to under-represented writers. Applications are now open for the following:
February–November 2021 – Mentoring for Five Black Writers
We welcome applications from all Black writers over the age of 18 working on any of the long-form writing genres specified above. Find out more and apply below.
May 2021–February 2022 – Mentoring for Five Writers with Low Income
We welcome applications from all writers with low income over the age of 18 working on any of the long-form writing genres specified above. Find out more and apply below.
Meet our author-mentors
Our mentoring team are all published author-tutors – and we’ll be adding more great mentors to this team across the year.
Catherine Johnson, Author
Catherine Johnson has written over 20 books for children and young adults, including Sawbones, which won the Young Quills Prize for best Historical Fiction in the 12+ category and was nominated for the Carnegie medal in 2015. Her book Freedom won the 2019 Little Rebels Award for Radical Children’s Fiction.
Catherine writes for film, television and radio. In 2005, she co-wrote the highly acclaimed feature film Bullet Boy. This was followed by commissions for Century Films, Working Title and Channel 4.
Catherine was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of the Arts London, Writer in Residence at Holloway Prison and Reader in Residence at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Children’s Literature Festival ‘Imagine’. She was awarded an Arts Council of England Writer’s Grant in 2004. Catherine has taught Creative Writing at Kingston University and London Metropolitan University.
‘Catherine wants us to be the best writers we can be and her passion was clear throughout’ Ian Brooks, Writing YA & Children’s Fiction student
Nikita Lalwani, Author
Nikita Lalwani’s first novel Gifted was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2007, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year, and was the winner of the Desmond Elliot Prize for New Fiction. Her second novel was The Village (2012) and her third is You People (2020). Nikita was a judge for the RSL Encore prize and the Rathbones Folio prize 19/20. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Photograph: Vik Sharma.
‘Nikita is warm, challenging, accurate and constructive, a terrific tutor’: Derek Routledge, Online Three-Month Novel-Writing Course, Spring 2015
Mike Gayle, Author
Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology, he moved to London to pursue a career in journalism and worked as a Features Editor and agony uncle. He has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, the Guardian and Cosmopolitan.
Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by the Independent as ‘Full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,’ and by The Times as ‘A funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic’. Since then he has written sixteen novels including Turning Thirty and The Man I Think I Know. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Half A World Away, his latest paperback has just been optioned for TV.
Suzannah Dunn, Author
Suzannah Dunn is the author of thirteen books. She was picked alongside Robert Harris, Edward St Aubyn and Helen Simpson, in response to Granta’s first ‘Best Under 40’ list in 1993. She wrote six critically acclaimed contemporary novels and a short story collection before her first historical novel, The Queen of Subtleties, was published in 2004. It has been followed by five more Tudor novels including The Confession of Katherine Howard and The Lady of Misrule. She has sold over a quarter of a million copies of her historical novels in the UK alone. Her latest historical novel The Testimony of Alys Twist is set to be published September 2020 by Little, Brown.
Suzannah was Director of the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University for six years and has taught many courses for the Arvon Foundation. She is a popular speaker at literary festivals and events including the Bristol Festival of Ideas and has given talks at several beautiful Tudor National Trust buildings including Newark Park in Gloucestershire and Ightham Mote in Kent.
Leila Aboulela, Author
Leila Aboulela is the author of five novels: Bird Summons, Minaret, The Translator, a New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year, The Kindness of Enemies and Lyrics Alley, Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards. She was the first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing and her latest story collection, Elsewhere, Home won the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award. Leila’s work has been translated into fifteen languages and she was long-listed three times for the Orange Prize. She grew up in Khartoum and moved in her mid-twenties to Aberdeen.
Sara Collins, Author
Sara studied law at the London School of Economics before qualifying as a barrister in 1994. She worked as a lawyer for seventeen years before obtaining a Master’s degree in creative writing with distinction from Cambridge University in 2016, where she was the recipient of the Michael Holroyd prize.
Prior to publication, The Confessions of Frannie Langton was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish prize, and it was published earlier this year by Penguin in the UK and Harper Collins in the US to critical acclaim. It has been sold for translation into more than fourteen languages, as well as being optioned for television, and making an appearance in numerous ‘best of’ lists by Oprah magazine, The Guardian, The Observer, Amazon, Apple and Essence, to name a few.
Oprah magazine named her one of the women of summer 2019, and The Sunday Times called her “a star in the making”.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton is the winner of the 2019 Costa First Novel Award.
Cathi Unsworth, Author
Cathi Unsworth is the author of four crime novels, most recently That Old Black Magic; plus two further (non-genre) novels, all published by Serpent’s Tail. Her novel Weirdo was translated into seven languages and longlisted for the 2014 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, the 2014 Gran Prix de Littérature Policiére, the 2013 Gordon Burn Prize and the 2013 New Angle Prize for Literature. Her novel Without the Moon was The Times‘ Crime Book of the month upon publication.
She has published numerous short stories and edited the award-winning short story collection London Noir. Cathi is a journalist and editor, and has taught for the Arvon Foundation in addition to her work with CBC.
Yvvette Edwards, Author
Yvvette Edwards is a British East Londoner of Montserratian origin and author of two novels, A Cupboard Full of Coats and The Mother. She has written a number of short stories which have been broadcast on radio and published in anthologies, including New Daughters of Africa. She was a judge for the inaugural Jhalak Prize for Writers of Colour and the George Floyd Short Story Competition. Her work has been nominated for a number of literary awards including the Man Booker Prize.
She has wide experience of mentoring emerging writers, including on the National Centre for Writing’s Escalator programme and the Common People project, and she is particularly passionate about writing which challenges the single narrative and gives voice to those who are absent, misrepresented and/or underrepresented in fiction.
Anthony Trevelyan, Author
Anthony Trevelyan was born in Lancashire. He read English at Trinity College, Oxford, before going on to further studies at Lancaster University. Since 2000 he has worked as a teacher of English and Creative Writing. He lives in Manchester with his wife Gemma. His first novel, The Weightless World, was published by Galley Beggar Press in 2015; it was longlisted for the 2016 Desmond Elliott Prize. His second novel, Claudia, was published by Sceptre in 2018. He is represented by Lucy Morris at Curtis Brown.
Craig Barr-Green, Author
Craig Barr-Green is a lecturer in Children’s and Young Adult Writing at Falmouth University. He is the author of two award-winning children’s books set in Cornwall: Captured! and A Christmas in Cornwall. In 2010 he set up Clickety Books, an award-winning small press that focuses on speech and language development for children. Craig’s debut play, The One Memory of Flora Banks, co-written with Emily Barr (his wife) for the Hall for Cornwall Youth Theatre, was due to premier June 2020 and will be staged as soon as circumstances allow.
Craig was a freelance children’s book editor for many years. He regularly runs writing workshops for children, young adults and adults, and is often found bouncing around on stage performing storytelling shows at festivals.
Cathy Rentzenbrink, Author
Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of The Last Act of Love which was a Sunday Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize. She followed it with A Manual for Heartache and Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books. Cathy regularly chairs literary events, interviews authors, reviews books and runs creative writing workshops. In previous lives, Cathy worked for Waterstones for ten years, ran the literacy charity Quick Reads, and was Books Editor at The Bookseller.
Cynan Jones, Author
Cynan Jones is the author of five novels, published in over 20 countries. He has won the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize, a Betty Trask Award, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award, and the BBC National Short Story Award, for which he is on the 2019 judging panel. His short stories have appeared in a variety of anthologies and in journals and magazines including Granta and The New Yorker. He has also written a screenplay for the hit crime drama Hinterland, a collection of tales for children, and stories for BBC Radio. His latest work, Stillicide, is a collection of twelve short stories commissioned by Radio 4 and published by Granta in October 2019. Cynan is the RLF Writing Fellow at Aberystwyth University, and a recently elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has worked extensively with schools and writing groups, and tutored on short fiction for the Arvon Foundation and Literature Wales.