Escalator Writing Competition

What is Escalator?

“Since finishing the scheme in February 2015, I've signed with my agent at Bell Lomaz Moreton and have been working on the manuscript. Fortunately, the mentoring had more than prepared me with the reality of rewrites so it wasn't too much of a shock to have to rework sections of the text.” - Pooja Poori, IdeasTap Inspires writer 2014-15

Escalator is a talent development scheme open to all fiction writers living in the Eastern Region (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk). It has been running for almost a decade and in its life has supported over 80 writers in their creative projects, with many going on to sign with agents, publish and receive awards for their writing.

Ten successful applicants are selected for this free scheme, all of whom commit to a period of mentoring, a series of development opportunities, talks and workshops as part of a residential retreat, and take part in a final showcase. 

At its heart is the mentoring; a one to one exchange between writer and mentor, whom interact regularly to review work, discuss challenges and set goals. 

What will the successful applicants receive?

“Escalator affords winners time and space to explore their writing and very important professional and impartial feedback.” - Juliet Pickering, Agent, Blake Friedmann 

The ten successful applicants will benefit from a comprehensive professional package of:

•    One-To-One Mentoring: A year’s worth of support from outstanding professional writers.

•    Professional Development Workshop Residential Weekend: A tailored range of workshops designed to give you the information you need to get ahead in the world of writing.

•    Introductions to Agents and Publishers

•    Peer Support

Is Escalator right for me?

“For me, Escalator was ideal as I’d had no formal creative writing/English Literature training since O-Levels” – K.J. Packer

We are looking to support ten ambitious fiction writers; novel or short story writers who show promise and think that a period of structured support would enable them to develop artistically. 

Successful applicants will have a clear project in mind and will demonstrate considerable creative talent and potential for development. 

Writers who have previously been published, or are currently represented by an agent will still be eligible to apply. We welcome applications from those who have not undertaken postgraduate courses in creative writing, as well as those who have. Escalator is for writers at the start of their careers, whom are looking to engage in the critical process of sharing and discussing their work. 

How do I apply?

Applications for Escalator 2016 are now closed. If you'd like to enter Escalator 2017, bookmark this page or sign-up to our newsletter and we'll let you know as soon as applications open in early 2017.

Got a question?

Check out our handy FAQ guide first, and see if we already have the answer for you.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact WCN on or call 01603 877177.

Writers' Centre Norwich is pleased to announce the ten winning writers for Escalator 2016. 

These promising fiction writers based in East Anglia will receive a period of structured mentoring, development opportunities, and talks and workshops as part of a residential retreat. They will also take part in a final showcase. 

We'll be following them throughout their journey towards becoming the next new generation of successful novelists.


Yvette Edwards
Yvvette Edwards is a British Author of Montserratian origin. Her favourite pastimes are reading and writing. She grew up in Hackney and resides in East London. Her debut novel, A Cupboard Full of Coats, was published in 2011, and nominated for a number of literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Writers Guild award, and the Man Booker Prize.  

Her second novel, The Mother, will be published in April 2016 by Mantel, Pan Macmillan.   

"The Escalator Mentoring Programme is a positive step on the pathway to supporting diverse writers from all backgrounds, for free, at the crucial and vulnerable beginning of their writing careers. I can think of no greater resource for an emerging writer than access to a writer and mentor, someone interested in, focussed on, and invested in you as a writer, happy to read your work and provide support, encouragement and advice, someone familiar with the problems and difficulties of producing a finished piece of work, who has suffered the anguish and despair of the badly written sentence, the struggle to remain motivated and focussed during what can be a long and solitary process. I am excited to play my part in this progressive initiative. I wish I’d had access to something similar, decades ago, myself."

Shelley Harris
Shelley is the author of two novels. Her debut, Jubilee (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), was a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime as well as a Richard and Judy book club selection, and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize. Her latest novel Vigilante (W&N) is out in hardback. A trained teacher, she has tutored in Creative Writing for Faber Academy, the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, the York and Winchester Festivals of Writing, and London Writers’ Café. She mentors new writers for the Womentoring Project, and is excited to be doing the same for the Escalator programme. 

Shelley’s favourite novels include The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, A Prayer for Owen Meany, and everything by Sarah Waters. 

"I love working with writers who have raw talent and a great work ethic, and helping them discover how good they really can be. I reckon mentoring is 50% encouragement and 50% sharing expertise – I’m looking forward to doing both with Escalator."

Benjamin Johncock 
Benjamin Johncock was born in England in 1978. His short stories have been published by The Fiction Desk and The Junket. He is the recipient of an Arts Council England grant and the American Literary Merit Award, and is a winner of Comma Press's National Short Story Day competition. He also writes for the Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife, his daughter, and his son. The Last Pilot is his first novel.

"A guy walks down the street and falls in a hole. Steep walls; he can’t climb out. A doctor walks by, and the guy shouts up, hey, can you help me out? So the doctor writes him a prescription and throws it down the hole and carries on. Then a vicar passes by, and the guy shouts up, hey, Reverend, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out? So the vicar says a prayer over the hole and walks on. Then a friend walks by, and the guy shouts up, hey, Mikey, it’s me—can you help me out of here? And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, wtf, are you an idiot?! Now we’re both stuck down here! The friend says, yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out."

Amy Sackville
Amy Sackville’s first novel, The Still Point (Portobello, 2010) was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for a work of literature by a writer under 35, and was also long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her second novel, Orkney, was published by Granta Books in 2013, and won a Somerset Maugham Award in 2014. She lives in London and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Kent.

Guy Saville
Guy Saville was born in 1973 and studied literature at London University. He has lived in South America and North Africa and is currently based in the UK. A graduate of the 2007 Escalator programme, Guy’s debut thriller, The Afrika Reich, was published in 2011 by Hodder. It was an international bestseller and chosen as a ‘Book of the Year’ in the Economist and Express. His most recent novel, The Madagaskar Plan, was published in 2015.

Guy has also written for the Independent, Telegraph, Observer and South China Morning Post, and was a contributor to the Writers’ & Artists’ Companion to Thriller Writing.

"I won a place on the 2007 Escalator programme. It was a boost to my confidence and the mentoring improved my writing. I’m sure it played a part in me getting a publishing deal. As a beneficiary of the programme, I’m very excited to be giving something back and hope I can encourage another writer as I was encouraged."

“After a six month hiatus following the end of Escalator, I started from the beginning again and completed my first finished draft in August 2014. I then submitted it to a couple of agents and was signed immediately to one of them” – K.J. Packer, Escalator 2011

"Afrika Reich did really well in hardback, selling more than 10,000 copies which makes me the 11th best selling debut of 2011. It also reached number three in Spain's charts [...] All in all, not bad for a book which the majority of publishers in this country said had no commercial appeal!” - Guy Saville, Escalator 2007

Last year, WCN teamed up with IdeasTap to deliver the Inspires writing competition.  Our winners were offered six months of mentoring from authors Daniel Hahn, Kerry Hudson, Alex Preston, Amy Sackville and Nicola Upson. Find out about them here, as well as previous Escalatees.

Hear from previous Escalator winners in their own words... 

Applicants must:
Be writers of fiction living in the Eastern Region (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk)
Be available to commit to the duration of the mentoring and dates set out for the period of the scheme
Be over the age of 18 on the date of application
Be fiction writers; genre or teen writing will be accepted. Children’s or non-fiction writing  will not be eligible
Applications must be single authored works
Applications must be written in English
Be available to attend an inaugural meeting in Norwich on 30 April 2016

Applicants must not:
Live outside of the East of England
Be studying for a postgraduate course in creative writing between May 2016 and February 2017
Submit more than one entry
Have been a selected participant of Escalator before
Be an employee of Writers’ Centre Norwich

The Escalator Writing Competition is supported by the Leverhulme Trust and the Michael Marks Charitable Trust.