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07 September 2021

Meet Ely Percy, winner of the John le Carré Scholarship

by Katie Smart Events, From Our Students

We are pleased to announce that Ely Percy has been awarded the inaugural John le Carré Scholarship for their novel-in-progress Kingstreet. Ely has won a place on our three-month online Writing Your Novel course. We are extremely grateful to the Curtis Brown Literary and Talent Agency for providing this scholarship, and to the family of John le Carré for their support in establishing it.

The CBC team were instantly hooked by Ely’s Scottish crime novel. The narrative is driven by the engaging first-person perspective of Allen Cassidy, an Elvis impersonator and talent show judge turned amateur detective. Allen’s journey as a trans man and performer intertwines with the solving of a murder. We loved the strong narrative voice and setting of Kingstreet, and we are very excited to welcome Ely to the course this week.

Please could you tell us a bit about yourself and your novel-in-progress Kingstreet?

I grew up in a tiny, working-class, west-coast burgh six miles outside Glasgow, and my parents were aghast when I first said I wanted to be a writer; teachers at school had a similar reaction, and I was told on several occasions that this was not a realistic goal for someone like me. I’m also queer, trans, nonbinary and neurodivergent, and I write about characters with similar life experiences to my own, so I’ve had added barriers from editors and agents telling me that – although they read and enjoyed the manuscripts I sent – they felt they were ‘too niche’ and wouldn’t sell. None of these things have put me off though – I’ve been sending out my work for twenty-eight years now, and I’ve received a lot of really great feedback from people who’ve read the stuff that I’ve had published.

Kingstreet is set in Glasgow in 2007, and is a queer tartan noir centring around the murder of Kelly Corless/Johnny Schlepp, a drag king who achieves posthumous fame after a video of a candlelit vigil goes viral; told from the first-person point-of-view of Elvis-Impersonator-turned-talent-show-judge, Allen Cassidy, Kelly’s killing is reconstructed a decade after the event, detailing how Allen becomes a reluctant amateur detective, and framing his own journey as a trans man with extra-ordinary singing talent struggling to make his voice heard literally and figuratively.

What does winning this scholarship place mean to you?

I am absolutely delighted to have received this scholarship. I wouldn’t have been able to afford to do the course otherwise. I didn’t think I would be chosen though. These things are so competitive. This is also the first time I’ve ever managed to finish writing a synopsis – I have executive dysfunction caused by a brain injury, and identifying main points, summarising them and putting them in linear order are things I struggle with – so being told that the judges really liked my idea was a massive win for me. I can’t wait to get started. I think this course could potentially be a game changer for me as a writer.


If you’re a writer from an under-represented background and want to study with us, check out the Breakthrough Writers’ Programme. This is our exciting programme of free courses, mentoring and scholarships for under-represented writers, funded by Curtis Brown Literary Agency and partners.

Current opportunities include our nine-month Breakthrough Mentoring Programme for disabled writers (apply by 19 September) and The HW Fisher Novel-Writing Scholarship, which will award one talented writer of limited financial means a free place on our three-month Writing Your Novel course (apply by 24 October).

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