Introducing the 2020 Michael Langan LGBTQ+ Free Reads Winners

August 13, 2020 | Other News, Press & Publicity

TLC is delighted to announce the fourth cohort of writers selected from submissions open to LGBTQ+ writers, run during Pride month each year. The LGBTQ+ Free Reads scheme is part of TLC’s Quality Writing for All Campaign which advocates for better representation and accessibility in the worlds of literature and publishing. This year, the level of submissions was so high that Michael has selected six winners, instead of the usual five, generously donating three of the opening extract manuscript assessments the scheme provides, with the remaining three covered by TLC’s Arts Council England funding. He had the following to say about the submissions:

“TLC’s LGBTQ+ Free Reads Scheme has been even more important in this year of Covid-19, with many queer cultural events cancelled and lots of LGBTQ+ people facing particular economic and personal hardships. What we could not have imagined was the extraordinary level of response we’d receive – not just in the greatly increased number of applications but in the incredibly high standard of the work we were entrusted to read and select from. This was both thrilling and daunting because it involves a real sense of responsibility to the individual writers who have invested so much in their work already, and to the wider LGBTQ+ community. More and more of us are feeling confident enough to write the stories we want to write, but the literary industry is still playing catch-up when it comes to putting warm words about diversity into action. We have to keep pushing against the barriers, to resist the sense that there are a limited number of spaces available to us, and the more of us there are, the greater the pressure for real, substantial, concrete change.   

To those who were not selected, I want to say that this is not a reflection on the quality of your work and please don’t take it to heart. There are many factors that determine a process such as this one, and for writers, as well as those working in other creative fields, facing this fact can be dispirited. Keep writing, keep thinking, keep reading, keep loving, and, above all, keep living your brilliant and extraordinary lives as members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

The 2020 Winners

Leonie Abrahamson

Leonie Abrahamson

Leonie Abrahamson was a lecturer in early years and child development until a curious stroke robbed her of exactly half her sight. She lost the ability to read, but this prompted her to write. She loves this new world of craft, courses, book fairs and festivals and has had various teacher training texts published, including The Early Years Teachers Book. Leonie is currently working on a series of murder mysteries featuring Ruby Duke, an eager young sleuth, and The Accidental Chihuahua. This is a humorous account of creative approaches to rehab, and she performs excerpts from it at events. Leonie exhibits art work locally, has a wonderful partner and is addicted to whittling in her greenhouse.

“I’m so excited to receive this award and the timing is perfect! I spent lockdown slipping into reimagined forest hamlets and smoky mill towns. Now I’m in desperate need of feedback and Michael and TLC’s support will be invaluable. It’s also wonderfully appropriate that this LGBT+ FreeRead celebrates Miriam, a feisty young woman who proudly owned a banned copy of The Well of Loneliness.”

About the Book

In 1902 my Lithuanian great grandfather ignored his wife’s wishes and bought a one way ticket across the Baltic. Strangely he was less afraid of the perilous crossing than his wife’s fury or his congregation’s disappointment. What Rabbi abandons his flock? Days later he crosses the lowlands on the back of an old cart, with only a mute driver and a very special hen for company.  Memories prompt a crisis and he exchanges his last roubles for Devil’s Gold. In the sequel, A Stormy Petrel, the family is reunited in Sheffield. Unfortunately, as his wife warned, the Rabbi’s new position (and an unfortunate dose of strychnine) was the death of him. A century later his daughter Miriam’s memoir resurfaces in an attic in Brooklyn and falls into her granddaughter’s hands. Like Miriam and the Rabbi, hers was a life of two halves, before, and after

They may have cheated fate in one life, but must prepare for the unknown in the next. Only in the quiet spaces between worlds can they find the strength and comradeship they need. 

Colin Crummy

Colin Crummy

Colin Crummy is a Northern Irish journalist and writer based in London. His work regularly features in The Guardian, Stylist and The Face and he has written for The Observer, The Times and The Irish Times. He has been an editor at Esquire and Attitude magazines. 

“I’ve reported on LGBTQ+ stories throughout my career and am interested in digging into underexplored aspects of the queer experience in my writing. I’m written about the notion of home for a LGBTQ+ person and what it’s like to return to a place where you could not be yourself. I’d like to examine that idea from different perspectives, particularly those of rural queer people. Themes of community, survival and endurance interest me, as does the potential for queering the traditional Irish narrative. The TLC Free Reads, with the expertise of a published LGBTQ+ author like Michael Langan, is a great space through which to do that.”

Sophia Danes-Gharbaoui

Sophia Danes-Gharbaoui

Sophia Danes-Gharbaoui studied literature for nearly a decade. She graduated with a first for her BA in Comparative Literature in 2009, a Distinction for her MA in English Literature in 2010, and in 2015 she was awarded her doctorate by King’s College London for her thesis about George Eliot and the anxiety of female authorship. With her student days behind her, she now works as a policy advisor in the Civil Service but writes novels in her free time. She lives in south east London with her partner and Dougal the poodle. 

“This is a real confidence boost!  I’m delighted to have won this opportunity to have my writing professionally assessed by Michael Langan as part of the TLC Free Reads scheme. If I hadn’t won, I wouldn’t have been able to access this kind of professional feedback on my work – I wouldn’t have been able to afford it – so I am both delighted and very grateful.”

About the Book

Crakemere Hall is a modern reimagining of Jane Eyre. In this gothic novel, the white, quakerish governess who falls in love with her master is replaced by Eleanor Roche, a mixed-race lady’s maid who faces the impossible task of taming the wayward heiress Miranda Radcliffe in preparation for marriage. Capricious and ill-tempered, it is rumoured that Miranda’s mind is addled by grief following the death of her brother a year earlier. As the volatile relationship between the two women develops, complications ensue when Eleanor realises that Miranda, like herself, is a closet homosexual. 

Oakley Flanagan

Oakley Flanagan,
Photography credit Sabiheh Awanzai

Oakley Flanagan is a writer originally from the West Midlands. They have received development as a playwright from Birmingham REP, National Theatre and The Royal Court, and are also a member of Roundhouse Poetry Collective and an associate artist for OPIA Collective. As a playwright: ‘This Queer House’ (OPIA), one of Lyn Gardner’s top picks for VAULT Festival. A previous winner of the Out-Spoken Prize for Page Poetry, Oakley’s work appears in Wasafiri (‘Queer Worlds/Global Queer’ ed.)Bath MaggPoetry London and Under the Radar, as well as ‘Poems from a Green and Blue Planet’ (Hachette UK).

“I am shocked and thrilled to be one of the writers benefiting from TLC’s Free Reads Programme with Michael Langan generously offering his expertise to provide feedback reports on our manuscripts. It is very heartening to know that at this difficult time queer writers are being bolstered to create work. I would not have been privy to such a valuable opportunity were it not for TLC’s scheme to provide access to a published novelist and editor. It is a wonderful feeling for any writer who has a specific story to tell, and a belief in writing that draws on personal experience to be championed in this way.”

About the Book

Nameless, save for a Grindr username, Pan receives an invitation to dinner with an older man who prefers the company of women and aspiring male models. What follows is a novel relayed through sexual encounters with strangers and sober conversations with friends. Shifting from the anonymity of the early hours to the cold light of day, the narrative oscillates between precarious environments and respectable ones, shot through with hook-ups in gentrifying areas and the emergence of concealed personal truths. A story of sex, gender, and power, told from a perspective compelled by negation and loss, Quercus explores what happens to us when we assume roles for other people whilst refusing to engage with our pain.

Andrew Kaye

Andrew Kaye

Andrew Kaye is a freelance writer, teacher and coach who writes non-fiction and short stories. He has been published in Untitled Writing, Clavmag and Huffington Post. He’s a genealogy geek, is nostalgic for European city weekend getaways, and is influenced in his writing by the desire to be as brave and candid as possible. The greatest gift he ever received was a copy of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Folding Star from his therapist. After a kidney donation in 2019, and leaving behind a 15 year career working in charity campaigning, he’s now focused on developing as a writer.

“I have written about the almost addictive need for recognition and validation and it’s double edged when writing because there’s always a standard refrain I hear from professional writers, which is to write for the love of writing and for oneself. I can’t deny it – winning the TLC/Michael Langan LGBTQ+ Free Reads was affirming for many reasons, but above all, because I want to reach an audience. I write experimentally as a queer writer and am influenced by Garth Greenwell, Jonathan Kemp and Neil Bartlett. Having spent the best part of five years writing my memoir, I can’t wait to act on Michael’s expertise to ensure my book is the most authentic version of my own queer story.”

About the Book

Not quite full circle is about saying to hell with family responsibilities even as they threaten to overwhelm me. Ever since I lost Mum to cancer, I’d been on the proverbial ‘hamster wheel’, never slowing down. I try to break free from dating emotionally unavailable men, grieve Mum’s untimely death and come to terms with Dad’s growing dependence on me as his only son. I travel to seven South American countries on a tight budget and encounter a continent not on the rise, but looking to Europe for inspiration as it spirals. Confronting hard personal truths about my sexuality, and looking for self-acceptance, my story explores the contradictory impulses to sail away from obligations and a deep desire for intimacy and success. 

Elspeth Wilson

Elspeth Wilson

Elspeth Wilson is a writer, researcher and poet with degrees in Social Anthropology and Gender Studies. Her non-fiction work has been shortlisted for the 2019 Nan Shepherd prize and received a special mention in the 2020 Spread the Word Life Writing prize. She has also recently been shortlisted for Penguin’s Write Now for underrepresented writers and is passionate about creating spaces for other marginalised writers through her work and in her facilitation practice. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found in or near the sea or spending time with her elderly dog.

“I am really excited to be selected by TLC and Michael as I continue my journey towards publication as I am completely committed to making my writing the best it can be and I know how important it is to have feedback on your work! TLC are an organisation I hugely admire and I consider myself really lucky to be a recipient of an LGBT+ Free Read and can’t wait to continue my journey with Three to One. 

About the Book

My debut novel Three to One is deals with #MeToo at universities, the limits of liberal feminism and coming of age in a turbulent world. I wanted to write about the intensity of friendships as a teenager, and how if you’re queer but not out this can sometimes be confusing when trying to figure out your sexuality and romantic feelings. I also wanted to write a novel that has elements of both crime and romance with a LGBT+ love story at its heart as I feel these genres still underserve queer women and non-binary people. Ultimately, I wanted to write a book that is dark, sexy and morally ambiguous and allows its LGBT+ and disabled characters to be so too in all their complexity 


You can read about the TLC Free Reads scheme, which is funded by Arts Council England and supports around 100 low-income and marginalised writers each year, here.

If you are interested in making a similar donation or supporting the Free Reads scheme in other ways (we are obliged to raise matched funding so every donation is very welcome), please email TLC Director Aki Schilz on  with the subject header ‘TLC Quality Writing for All’.