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Londoners invited to showcase their hidden writing talents

PICTURED: Olumide Popoola

LONDONERS ARE being invited to brush off their dusty manuscripts and showcase their hidden writing talents as part of City of Stories, a London-wide short story initiative featuring acclaimed writers in 20 libraries.

Leading writers Leone Ross (Come Let Us Sing Anyway), Gary Budden (Hollow Shores), Meena Kandasamy (When I Hit You) and Olumide Popoola (When We Speak of Nothing) have taken up City of Stories residencies in four London libraries.

Each writer has been commissioned to pen an original short story, inspired by their locality and Londoners’ tales, which will be published in an anthology and made into short films.

The initiative will also:

· Run 42 free short story writing workshops in June 2018, inviting Londoners to pick up a pen and write their story in libraries across 21 London boroughs, led by 11 critically acclaimed writers, including the four writers in residence.

· Host a City of Stories 500 word Short Story Competition for participants who have attended the workshops, with a judging panel comprised of the writers in residence.

· Publish an anthology featuring the writers in residence’s original short stories alongside the writing of the 20 competition winners.

· Identify and develop new talent from the City of Stories competition entrants, with an invitation to attend a writer development day.

This Arts Council England funded city-wide celebration of writing, reading and short stories is managed by Spread the Word and commissioned by the Association of London Chief Librarians.

Caroline Rae, president of the Association of London Chief Librarians, said: “Last year, City of Stories increased awareness of our libraries as creative spaces and gained a wider audience as a result.

"We hope City of Stories 2018 will continue to demonstrate the important contribution London libraries makes to the cultural life of the city, both as an incubator of creative talent and as spaces where a wide range of Londoners can engage in literary activity.”

Leone Ross, author and creative writing lecturer, said: “I am excited to be the City of Stories writer in residence at Woolwich Centre Library in Greenwich. It’s good to walk into a humming, busy, community-strong library.

I don't think I can promise inspiration - everyone finds that in their own way. But if I can pass on a little knowledge about writing craft - and do a lot of listening to other people's stories - I will be happy. People need others to bear witness. Storytelling is one of the most important ways to know that we're alive.”

Gary Budden, author and co-founder of the award-winning Influx Press, said: “I hope that through my residency in Merton I can inspire people to write about the things and places they know, in a new way, and for them to realise that everywhere is full of wonder and is worthy of literary exploration. It’s also important to highlight that libraries are a vital community asset. They make literature available to all for free and were crucial in my development as a reader and writer. We lose them at our peril.”

In 2017, City of Stories’ inaugural workshops made a significant impact and attracted 430 budding writers. The short story writing competition received 227 submissions, resulting in 20 competition winners, two of whom went on to be selected for Spread the Word’s PLATFORM scheme for emerging talented writers.

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