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When Publishing Wouldn’t Let Me Through The Door, I Built My Own Table For Myself & Others Like Me

I was 12 years old when my teacher told me I should become an author. ‘Writing’ and ‘author’ weren’t words in my family. Growing up as a dancer, I knew other creatives like musicians or videographers, but to me an author was someone famous who did panels, interviews, World Book Day and was completely out of my reach.

Despite Malorie Blackman being the only Black author that I could name, I assumed that publishing was as diverse as dance was and maybe I just hadn’t seen those people yet. I soon realised that wasn’t the case. People that looked like me and from my background very rarely featured in the publishing industry. 

I left Roehampton University at the beginning of my third year determined to figure out how to get into publishing and become an author. What I didn’t realise was to get an internship back then, you needed a degree and I had just left uni with no degree. I submitted countless applications to RandomHouse to do work experience. I would tick every box – editorial, publicity, rights – not knowing what they meant. I just wanted to get my foot in the door but I couldn’t.

I applied to bookshops to become a bookseller and wasn’t offered a job. I wanted to go to a writing course and learn all the things that I felt uni didn’t teach me about creative writing but they were too expensive. It felt like all the doors were closed and those who had the keys were determined to keep me out.