We are delighted to share news from Winnie M Li, whose manuscript Dark Chapter was selected by Spread the Word for a TLC Free Read bursary in 2015. Following a string of prize shortlistings, including the manuscript placing second in the SI Leeds Literary Prize, the novel was picked up by Legend Press, and is due to be published in June. We are thrilled to see another writer come through the scheme and go on to enjoy publication success, and look forward to seeing this exciting book on bookshelves very soon.
“I’d been working on DARK CHAPTER for about a year when I applied for the TLC Free Read scheme through their London-based regional partner Spread the Word. Unlike other (possibly wiser) writers who kept their day jobs, I felt full-time unemployment wasn’t going to give me the headspace I needed to thoroughly investigate my novel’s territory: it’s a fictional exploration of a crime very similar to my own real-life rape, but told equally from the perspectives of victim and perpetrator.
[In 2008, I was violently raped by a fifteen-year-old stranger in a park in the middle of the day. While I have spent the rest of my life since then recovering from that trauma, I always knew that I wanted to write a novel about the experience — and that understanding a rapist’s life was necessary to try and make sense of such a random act of violence.] After a year of writing, I had no idea if my novel would hold up in a more commercial sense.
Since I had very little income while writing, I was thankful that the TLC Free Read scheme could provide me with a professional assessment of the first section of my manuscript. Karen Godfrey, a former HarperCollins editor who has worked with the likes of Val McDermid, wrote an excellent assessment. This really gave me the confidence to believe that my novel could work. I’d been particularly concerned about the voice and believability of one of my protagonists, the teenage perpetrator Johnny, but she told me he was thoroughly engaging. Prior to her assessment, I also had not considered DARK CHAPTER as a crime novel, but I began to see it in a different light as I continued with the manuscript. Later in 2015, I submitted the first 3,000 words to the CWA Debut Dagger competition, where I was shortlisted and later Highly Commended. This led to offers from agents, and two years later, the novel is finally coming out, and has been listed by Stylist as one of ’10 Smashing Debut Novels to Look Out for in 2017′! So many thanks to the TLC Free Read scheme for giving me that initial confidence to believe in my book.”
About the Free Reads Scheme:
The TLC Free Read scheme forms part of TLC’s Quality Writing for All campaign, which supports low-income or otherwise marginalised, talented writers. It is made possible through Arts Council England funding, and by our seventeen regional partners who administrate the scheme across England, and who are all engaged in important literature development work with emerging writers.We are grateful to all of our partners, and to ACE, to be able to support writers like Winnie, and wish all of our writers every success.