Searching For New Authors

Middlesbrough has a bit of a literary tradition from Ernest Hornung author of gentleman thief Raffles to Mel Small and (Sherlock) Holmes as a Boro lad. You could be the next in line on the ever growing Tees library shelf thanks to a brand new initiative being launched by Writers’ Block North East.

The Middlesbrough based creative hub that is Writers’ Block has forged a partnership with literary agents from ‘Watson, Little’ and ‘Hardman and Swainson’, is searching for new and emerging writers in the North East.

Sixteen writers will be selected to take part in Block 1: a nine-month writer development programme consisting of workshops, one-to-one mentoring and advice from industry professionals, culminating in a networking and showcasing event which will be attended by literary agents and other industry gatekeepers.

“We’re looking for anybody who wants to produce a brand new long-form narrative prose work, and wants the opportunity to present that work to a selection of agents in 2017-18,” said Laura Degnan, Writers’ Block director and mentor. “We want to support aspiring writers from the grassroots up.”

When Block 1 is complete Writers’ Block and the literary agents will then work together to select the eight writers whose projects are closest to completion to become part of Block 2: an additional, accelerated, 3-month completion programme, after which the eight participants will re-submit their work to the agents for final feedback.

All workshops will take place at The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) in Middlesbrough town centre and mima will be a key partner in the programme delivery, offering professional support and further development opportunities to writers. Participating writers will become mima writers in residence, producing written creative responses to their collection and working with the wider mima team to explore and expand their practice as writers.

Writers’ Block will provide ongoing one-to-one mentoring and a series of four intensive story development days for the chosen writers, as they develop an idea from scratch into a completed manuscript, including workshops delivered in partnership with Northern Film and Media and New Writing North.

The aim will be for the 16 writers to have produced a draft long-form manuscript at the end of Block 1, which they will then be able to pitch to agents.

Block 2 will include two further development days and mentoring from Writers’ Block and a literary agent.

“We’ve had a good record with introducing regional talent to national agents,” said James Harris, WB mentor and workshop leader. “People like Cathryn Summerhayes (William Morris) and Camilla Wray (Darley Anderson) have been very impressed with the standard of writers at our events, and all have said they’re keen to come back. Following our 2016 Meet the Agent event, two writers are represented by agents and a further three writers are in ongoing talks regarding representation.”

“If you’re a writer, or you think you’d like to be one, we’d love to hear from you,” said Degnan.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 17th March 2017. For further information please contact Laura Degnan on or visit


Richard Milward Talks Apples and Honours


Middlesbrough writer Richard Milward deservedly earned himself an honorary degree this week from Teesside university. The author of Apples, Ten Storey Love Song and, most recently, Kimberly’s Capital Punishment is very young to wear the honorary gown and hat, not yet turned 30 years of age. But Teesside Uni has rewarded someone that has made an immense contribution to the culture of the region and in Richard you could not hope to find a better ambassador for the town and Teesside as a whole.

I grabbed Richard for a chat as he posed for photos prior to making his speech at Middlesbrough Town Hall. He was in good company with comedy actor and Strictly contestant Mark Benton also due onto stage at the same time.

Q: What was your reaction to being given an honorary degree by Teesside University?
R: It was very unexpected. With me being so young it is not something that I expected. Looking at everyone that has previously received them it does seem to be something that you get later in life perhaps. But I did start writing when I was eleven so two thirds of my life have been devoted to writing and it took ten years of perseverance and pestering publishers to try and get published. The last six or seven years I have been a published writer, so I suppose I have achieved quite a lot in a small space of time. But again I just feel as if I am getting started in a strange way. So it is quite unexpected.
Q: You have three books published now and you are still very young.
RM: Yes exactly. Too right. But I just want to get better and better and experiment more with form and subject matter and everything. So it was incredible for the University to think if me. But when i do give interviews with papers I do try my best to show Middlesbrough in a good light. My books are quite dark but very much inspired by the flavour of the conurbation of Teesside.
Q: Which obviously means a lot to you?
RM: Exactly. It was when I started writing about Teesside that editors started to really take notice. It was as if suddenly something clicked. That was when I was 15 or 16 so I was beginning to mature as a writer anyway. That was when I started putting the everyday of Teesside into the books. Hopefully it began to ring true. It was that real character that the town has. The self-deprecating sense of humour, the resilience and a certain wildness that you do get in Teesside as well that all came through in the novels.
Q: I cannot think of too many other examples of music, art, writing that is so intrinsically Teesside as your books.
RM: Yes definitely. Obviously there have been writers that have written about Teesside before but it almost seems a bit like uncharted territory. The place is so unique. Even the backdrop, you get this incredible industrial landscape to set your books on. Even just as purely location wise. It is amazing trying to describe the plumes of steam coming from cooling towers etc.
Q: Talking of that industry it has changed. The parents in your books might have been from the last generation with jobs for life in heavy industry. You are writing about the generation where all that has gone.
RM: Yes exactly when I was writing Apples or Ten Storey Love Song, I wasn’t really thinking of them as if it is a statement of a state of the nation type of story but I guess in a way they just happened to be set in Teesside at a time of flux. It is strange that just purely by accident.
Q: Because they was your times.
RM: Yes exactly just writing about what was going on around me at the time in Teesside and what you are hearing in pubs and the way people speak about certain things and the attitude the people have.
Q: What did you feel when Apples was put on stage?
RM: Yes it was amazing. I guess it is every writer’s dream to try and get it on the stage or make a film out of it. It was really strange hearing actors say certain lines that had come from my life. Obviously a lot of the book is just pure imagination but certain scenes are based very specifically on certain things I had been through and I had observed. So it is really strange seeing it acted out again. Like looking into a curious mirror.
Q: You are back in Middlesbrough again and able to go to the Boro match.
RM: Yes too right, when I can.
Q: Are you enjoying being back?
RM: Yes definitely. I have been back for five years after bring in art college.
Q: But you have spent a fair amount of time in London more recently.
RM: Yes. It is incredible being back. Again it is just the personality of the place. People are witty and very warm. And the town is the perfect size, Middlesbrough. It is not too claustrophobic but you do bump into people in town and you can have a lot of camaraderie. It is a great place.
Q: You can walk to events etc.
RM: Exactly, compared to London which is strangely claustrophobic and you can be anonymous in London. It is quite a strange atmosphere but in Middlesbrough the pace of life and the people are spot on.

Photos – Tracy Hyman