25 YEARS AT THE HEART OF THE UK’S LITERARY LANDSCAPE

November 08, 2021 | Press & Publicity

THE LITERARY CONSULTANCY CELEBRATES ITS GROUND-BREAKING STORY WITH DANCE, POETRY, FILM, AND A LIVE PODCAST

The in-person party, at London’s Fora Conservatory, is the high point in a year-round programme of creative content and events from The Literary Consultancy (TLC)

Testimonies of TLC’s impact are flooding in as a “digital kitchen table” collects anniversary wishes, videos, poems and other contributions

The Literary Consultancy (TLC) – set up in 1996 as the first editorial consultancy of its kind – is turning 25 this year, and the organisation is concluding a comprehensive anniversary programme with an in- person party at the Fora Conservatory in Spitalfields. The event, on Thursday, 25 November, will feature a Dancing with Words performance featuring poet Lydia Allison and dancer Akeim Toussaint, produced by Sarah Tyson at Books Up North; a screening of Ashley Hickson-Lovence’s Why I Write film, specially commissioned for the anniversary; and a What Editors Want live podcast with Wildfire Press commissioning editor Philip Connor and special guest Marianne Tatepo, commissioning editor at Ebury Press and founder of Black Agents and Editors (BAE). It will be “live-illustrated” by Katie Chappell, who will create a digital keepsake of the evening. The event will also be live-streamed with captions. TLC was founded – at a kitchen table – by editors Rebecca Swift and Hannah Griffiths. Both recognised the need for greater critical engagement with work on a structural level than readers at literary agencies and publishing houses were able to provide, by a reader whose expertise and affinities are aligned closely with the text.

TLC Director Aki Schilz said: “As TLC celebrates a quarter of a century supporting, championing, and advocating for writers, we are looking to the future of the company and of the writing service industry at large. To edit is to listen to writers, and that’s what we have always endeavoured to do, with care, compassion, and a promise to be truthful. We look forward to the next 25 years, and to being part of many more writing journeys along the way.”

Over its quarter-century existence, TLC has helped thousands of writers on a range of projects – novels, memoir, poetry, short stories and scripts, from beginner writers to well-known names – leaving its mark right across the UK writing and publishing landscape.

Hannah Griffiths, co-founder of TLC, said: “It’s hard to believe that 25 years have passed since Becky and I first talked about setting up a feedback service for writers. Memory suggests we spent as much time singing Joni Mitchell songs as we did discussing our creative enterprise in those early days. Happy Birthday TLC. Such a simple idea, beautifully sustained and grown by Becky and the team over all these years.”

Chris Gribble, CEO, National Centre for Writing, said: “TLC was founded with a generous, inclusive and ethically-driven view of how our publishing industries might better support, represent and serve writers and readers alike. It has pursued that vision unwaveringly over its 25 year history and has created real change and positive impact in its wake. As partners, NCW is proud to have been part of that journey and we’re looking forward to being part of the next chapter in TLC’s story.”

Writer, poet and performer Penny Pepper said: “My journey with TLC has been one of adventure, development and achievement. They have also been the most supportive. Without question TLC – beginning with mentoring from Becky Swift – revolutionised my life as a writer. Not only have I learnt to value my own work through them, but they have opened significant pathways to the exposure and understanding of untold diverse stories – including, at last, the disability story.”

Crystal Mahey-Morgan, founder of OWN IT!, said: “It was such a pleasure to be part of the TLC journey and to see first-hand the difference they make to writers. It’s an excellent team under excellent leadership with Aki Schilz and exciting to not only celebrate the past but also, to look ahead to the next 25 years.”

TLC has expanded beyond its core manuscript assessment service over the years, and offers an intensive one-to-one mentoring programme (Chapter and Verse); well-curated and maintained online resources; and a stimulating, accessible events programme. In 2020, the consultancy launched Being a Writer, an affordable digital membership platform that provides support for writers to sustain and protect their creativity, and stay resilient. It is also funded by Arts Council England to provide a nationwide Quality Writing for All campaign, widening outreach to writing services to low-income and otherwise marginalised writers through a bursary scheme that partners with all of the major literature development agencies across England. The organisation is currently working on an ambitious new strategic plan that revives its founding values.

Aki Schilz said: “We have always been interested in process as much as in product, and we are careful to balance an excellent track record for talent-spotting and helping launch authors’ careers with an equally important consideration of the myriad reasons writers write, including the value of writing for therapeutic purposes, of writing outside of capitalist structures, or of writing simply for writing’s sake.”

The 25th anniversary programme launched in June with four specially commissioned films, titled Why I Write: Tales of Creativity and Resilience. The pieces, produced in partnership with Story Machine, draw on interviews with four leading writers — Hanif Kureishi, Elle McNicoll, Kit de Waal and Ashley Hickson-Lovence — and explore the personal and wider importance of nurturing literary creativity. All four films are now available to watch freely here: literaryconsultancy.co.uk/why-i- write-film An innovative online feature, a “digital kitchen table“ on the TLC website, is collecting short notes, videos and other creative pieces which will draw on 25 years’ worth of experiences from those who have worked with the consultancy, as well as from the wider writing community. These can be viewed, and contributed to, here: kitchentable.literaryconsultancy.co.uk

Other anniversary year initiatives include:

Writing Soup for the Soul, a series of pay-what-you-can creative writing workshops looking at nurturing the literary soul. Celebratory, inclusive, accessible, and with creativity at their heart (Summer 2021)
Funding for Writers, a free-to-attend webinar looking at financial support for writers featuring speakers from the Society of Authors, the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Literary Fund, and Arts Council England (Autumn 2021)
Why We Write, a crowdsourced film featuring writers from around the world sharing why they write, part of the wider Why I Write project (Summer 2021)
Ethical Editing, a training model developed with Dr Kavita Bhanot to support publishers with developing ethical editing frameworks. (Currently available)
TLC Fees Experiment, based on research and supported by Rakhee Jasani, TLC will launch the pilot for a first-in-the-industry tiered client fees, with Standard, Supporter, and Supported options, allowing writers who can the opportunity to support those without the means, and boosting the TLC bursary scheme (launched October 2021)
The Literary Culture Report (forthcoming), a look at who is writing, writers’ motivations for writing, what their needs are, and how the industry can can better serve them within the context of a healthy, thriving literary culture that prioritises’ writers’ wellbeing (planned for 2022)

Also planned are My Agent and Me, a series of video conversations between writers and their agents, and The Edit, a new suite of online writing courses focussing on the editing process. Join the conversation on Twitter @TLCUK and Instagram @theliteraryconsultancy.

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