Emily Kenny was mentored by author Lindsay Galvin as part of WriteMentor’s Spark programme, a monthly, online one-to-one mentoring service where writers receive ongoing developmental editing, writing advice, publishing insights, and direct feedback on their manuscript. She also took part in two WriteMentor Writing Weekends and, with confidence gained from Aisha Bushby’s Preparing for Submission course, she began querying agents.

Now, she has agent representation and a two-book publishing deal for her middle grade adventure described as Dr Doolittle meets Malory Towers with a pinch of Jacqueline Wilson that follows Alice, an Autistic girl, as she starts a new school and discovers not only that she can talk to animals but that they desperately need her help.

Emily tells us about her writing journey, her relentless drive to fulfil her publishing dream, and how support from WriteMentor helped her achieve this.

What made you apply for the WriteMentor Spark programme?

I applied for the Spark Mentoring programme because I wanted to challenge myself to take my writing more seriously. I thought submitting 5000 words monthly might help with my writing discipline whilst also giving me more experience of receiving and acting on editorial feedback. I’d met Lindsay on the Brighton writing weekend and knew we had a good rapport and that my work was in very safe hands with her. I also wanted some objective feedback because it can be hard to step far enough back from your own writing, and see it as a reader does. That is where the Spark programme has been invaluable.

What was your experience like?

My experience was, and continues to be, amazing! Working with Lindsay on a regular basis has moved my writing on so much, both in terms of completing my manuscripts and in terms of upskilling me as a writer. Lindsay’s feedback has helped me to tighten up my pace and improve my plotting, and to show character and emotion through action rather than an overreliance on summary. Having a regular monthly dialogue with someone who takes your writing seriously has been groundbreaking for me. I see myself as a writer now, and have a lot more respect for my own writing because I am investing in it financially, as well as emotionally and in terms of time. 

Mentoring demystifies the writing industry and makes it accessible to people who may otherwise feel that writing is not for them. It is a friendly face and a listening ear who will take your writing as seriously as you do.

Tell us about your writing journey from start until now.

I have always loved writing and was forever typing up stories as a child! I studied Creative Writing at university and then an MA in Children’s Writing but being autistic, I found the workshop process painful and didn’t share a lot of the other students’ confidence. It put me off writing for a good few years and I felt that the writing industry wasn’t for people like me.

However, the writing itch didn’t go away and in January 2020 I decided to be brave and booked on to Aisha Bushby’s Writing Weekend in Crawley. It was an incredible experience. Aisha was so generous with her time and I got on so well with the other writers on the course that I went home and booked on to two more writing weekends! One of those was Lindsay’s course in Brighton where the idea for my current work-in-practice was born. From there, I signed up to SparkMentor with Lindsay to grow that germ of an idea.

I participated in a number of WriteMentor courses, and Aisha’s Preparing for Submission gave me the confidence to start querying agents. On the April WriteMentor weekend I had a 1-2-1 with my now agent, Lauren Gardener, and from there we went on submission to publishers in the autumn. Now, I have a two book deal for my Middle Grade series. It has been a dream come true and I’ve been very lucky in that it has all happened very quickly for me, though not without a lot of hard work and focus.

A gift of Autism is the ability to hyperfocus and I think that drive, plus the tireless support of the WriteMentor community and my brilliant agent Lauren, has helped propel me forward.

What is your best piece of writing advice that you learned on the programme?

It has to be the importance of agency – having a really active protagonist who really drives the plot forward.

Why do you think mentoring is important for writers?

Mentoring demystifies the writing industry and makes it accessible to people who may otherwise feel that writing is not for them. It is a friendly face and a listening ear who will take your writing as seriously as you do.