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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Roberts

Want to get published? Get scrolling

Around Christmas time in my first year, I saw a callout on Twitter for The Rainbow Library, a programme which would fund free courses across the UNESCO Cities of Literature for LGBTQ+ writers and illustrators who want to produce work for children. I applied, knowing that I wasn’t the strongest candidate. I’d had a five-year break in education and only done one semester of uni. In my application, I told them that there is nothing more important to me than LGBT+ representation in media. It is absolutely my reason for writing. And a week later, I was accepted.

The course ran over eight workshops held on alternating weekends at Manchester Library and The People’s History Museum. We were taught by writer and poet Jay Hulme and illustrator David Roberts - not only how to write for children, but also how to be an LGBTQ children’s writer. Dealing with Amazon reviews on their books from people who call them dangerous to children of course isn’t fun, but they’re still out and proud and writing for children anyway.

The prompt was simple: take a fairy-tale and make it gay. We ended up with a Butch Jack and the Beanstalk, a non-binary Pinocchio, and a lesbian Snow White. I started with the story of Dick Whittington, who instead of becoming the Lord Mayor of London becomes a drag king and House Father to a gaggle of punnily-named Queens. Where Dick in the original story leaves home in search of his fortune, my protagonist Wyn goes in search of independence in the big city and finds the family she never knew she needed. After the course ended, we edited our writing and sent it over to The Rainbow Library for inclusion in their participants’ anthology. In March 2023, a year after the course finished, the anthologies were published.

I came to Salford to write for the stage, and had you told me at the start of the course that my first publication would be for a children’s poem, I’d have laughed in your face. I have since discovered a taste for poetry, and although I doubt a career as a children’s author is on the cards for me, I have added another skill to my CV and managed to get something published, (which had felt like a pie-in-the-sky goal at the start of my course). None of it would’ve happened without scrolling endlessly through Twitter, however. There’s a lesson in there, somewhere.

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