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Word Factory 2017 Apprentices

Details of the 2018 Apprentice Award coming soon

Word Factory is delighted to welcome four new apprentices for 2017, welcomed by Director Cathy Galvin at a packed salon launching the 2017 programme Citizen: The New Story.

Each Apprentice will receive a year’s free access to all Word Factory events and masterclasses with leading authors, career development and industry support, as well as intensive mentoring from celebrated writers. They will be mentored by Alexei Sayle, Nikesh Shukla, Jarred McGinnis and Zoe Gilbert.

The 2017 Word Factory Mentors

The award is the brain-child of Word Factory’s associate director, Paul McVeigh and founder and director Cathy Galvin, both sharing working-class backgrounds and a passion for the transformative power of literature.

Word Factory have committed to offering an apprenticeship to one BAME writer a year and in 2017, on talent alone, three BAME writers were chosen. “We have been actively seeking writers from communities we know have been traditionally marginalized”, said McVeigh. “That stance has had a remarkable result, with 12 per cent of applicants coming from a BAME background.”

The winners will join the Word Factory team in an exciting year in which writers will be encouraged to become part of the contemporary cultural discourse. Galvin’s artistic programme of readings, debates and special events Citizen The New Story, will run throughout 2017 and has attracted the support of partners including Arts Council England, Waterstones, The Orwell Prize, New Writing North, Spread the Word, Writing Our Legacy, Lacuna Magazine and Picador.

“Publishers are now making more determined steps to seek a diverse range of writers for their lists: they really do not have to look very far. It has never been more vital that talented British writers from every community are encouraged to find their voices and to understand the power and responsibility of language and of good writing, “ said Galvin. “ Our wonderful new apprentices are joining us in an exciting year when we will be inspiring new work that relates directly to the language of our times, where fact is fictionalised and “post-truth” accepted.”


Melissa Fu photo - Word Factory

Melissa Fu

Melissa Fu grew up in the southern Rockies, in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Currently, she lives in Cambridgeshire. She has been widely published. She spent many years working in education, both as a teacher and a curriculum consultant. In 2014 Melissa started Spilling the Ink, a small business offering creative writing courses and coaching.

Avani Shah

Avani Shah

Avani Shah grew up behind the counter in various newsagent’s shops around London. She has a BA and MA in Creative Writing, both from UEA, and is interested in documenting the second-generation immigrant experience. She currently lives in Norwich.

J. Fergus Evans

J. Fergus Evans

J. Fergus Evans is a Bristol-based writer and theatre-maker. Fergus has received commissions from some of the UK’s leading arts organisations. His debut collection of poetry ‘On Euclid Ave’ was published by Manchester-based Flapjack Press. In 2015 Fergus was chosen to be part of NWS10, a writer development scheme delivered by New Writing South. It was then that he began experimenting with short fiction.

Durre Shahwar

Durre Shahwar

Durre Shahwar grew up and lives in Cardiff. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Cardiff Metropolitan University. Her poetry and stories have been published in various other journals and magazines. She is currently an Associate Editor for Wales Arts Review, and also an Artist in Residence for the platform in May 2017. Durre’s work focuses on the topics of identity, gender, race, religion, and mental health.

Tamsin Cottis


Tamsin is a London-based writer, child psychotherapist and Word Factory regular with a passionate commitment to work in the field of learning disability and mental health. She has published widely and is a winner of the Mslexia short story prize.

Trusted relationships are vital to the development of a writer. Our apprentices—Rebecca Swirsky, Holly Dawson, Kerstin Twatchmann, Uschi Gatward, Claire Adam, Divya Ghelani and Emily Devane—have all become members of the Word Factory team, winning awards and being published in leading magazines and journals.

We are currently celebrating the news that Claire Adams’ debut novel has been signed by Faber.

  The Word Factory Apprenticeship was a huge boost, and it came at a time when I really needed it. It brought me into contact with other writers who were at a similar stage to me, which was wonderful for the sense of camaraderie, and also a sense of validation, i.e. not feeling like I was the lone crazy fool who had decided to dedicate so many years to this unprofitable endeavour! And my mentor, Jacob Ross, was also a massive help, not only in terms of the encouragement he gave me, but also on the nuts-and-bolts on the writing side: he helped me untangle the problems I was having with my novel's structure, for example, and helped me move past a bottleneck I'd been stuck on for months. Also, both Jacob and I are from the Caribbean, and it was very useful to be able to discuss Caribbean literature side by side with literature from other countries.
Claire Adam, 2016 Apprentice. Debut novel to be published by Faber.

Many Thanks

Sincere thanks to everyone who has supported our scheme to date: Waterstones Piccadilly, Spread the Word, Arts Council England and most particularly our previous mentors Adam MarekStella DuffyAlex Preston and Nicholas Royle , Jacob Ross, Vanessa Gebbie and Professor Ailsa Cox.

Funds to administer the apprentice scheme have been provided through the generosity of the Word Factory Patrons.