ALL STORIES Free Mentorship Programme

All Stories, a free mentorship programme for underrepresented children's book writers was launched on 30th March 2021. Here, Deputy editor, A. M. Dassu speaks to founder, Catherine Coe to explore the programme in more detail. 

Welcome to Words & Pictures! Can you briefly introduce yourself?


I’m Catherine Coe. I’ve been an editor for over twenty years and a freelancer for the last ten. I work for publishers, literary agents and directly with writers. I’ve also written over forty books for children – mostly young fiction. I like to keep busy!


Can you tell us about the All Stories mentorship programme?


All Stories is offering fourteen mentorship places to writers of children’s books – from picture books to young adult novels – who are unagented and unpublished. The six-month-long mentorships are specifically for writers from underrepresented backgrounds who aren’t able to pay for editorial support to develop their talent. It’s a unique mentorship programme, as it’s delivered entirely by expert editors – freelance editors will mentor the writers, while in-house editors from a wide range of publishers will present webinars about the industry and craft of writing.


Where did the idea for All Stories come from?


I started developing All Stories after realising that many debut authors today are those who’ve been able to afford editorial support to develop their talent – such as MAs, writing courses and/or mentoring. I mentor many writers myself, but I began to ask – what about those who can’t afford help to improve their craft? Will those stories ever get heard? Publishing has a long way to go to be truly inclusive, and I realised I could help to make the changes that are so badly needed.


What’s the application process?


Applications are open until midnight on 31st May. We ask applicants to submit the first 5000 words of their manuscript and a synopsis. If they’re writing picture books, they should submit at least one manuscript and up to three. We also ask you to explain why you’re applying to All Stories – telling us how long you’ve been writing, your experiences so far and what you’re hoping to get from a mentorship. We’re looking for potential – not necessarily polished, pristine writing or a perfect story.


Writers don’t apply to a specific editor but to the project as a whole. The applications will be assessed by an initial editorial committee and selected applications then sent to each mentor based on their genre and age-group preferences – from which they’ll choose their mentee.


The mentees will be contacted by 31st July, and the mentorships will run from September 2021 to February 2022.


How will the mentorships work?


We’ll begin with an online kick-off meeting, where we’ll talk through the practicalities of being mentored and what to expect. This will also be a chance for the mentees to ask any general questions.


The mentorships themselves will involve monthly online meetings between the mentor and mentee to discuss feedback and provide advice and support. Mentees will be asked to submit the writing they’ve been working on to their mentor ahead of the meeting. Alongside this, the in-house editors will run their webinars, giving the mentees invaluable additional advice and support. It’s an incredible package for any aspiring writer – I’m very excited about the opportunity we’re offering.


Do the mentees receive any other benefits?


Yes! The wonderfully generous SCBWI are giving each mentee a year’s free membership, and we’ll be encouraging the mentees to take full advantage of this. SCBWI is such a brilliant community, and I know it’ll really help the writers to feel further supported and connected to fellow creatives.


There will also be a private online All Stories community where the mentees can discuss their work, raise questions, support each other and share experiences.



Who is involved?


We have a team of fourteen fantastic freelance editors and seven brilliant in-house editors – all of whom are very kindly donating their time to the project. That’s how much we all believe in tackling privilege and the lack of diversity in the industry.


The freelance editors are: Catherine Coe, Emma Roberts, Genevieve Herr, Helen Mortimer, Jenny Glencross, Jon Appleton, Kathy Webb, Lucy Rogers, Natascha Biebow, Niamh Mulvey, Nicki Marshall, Sara Grant, Sarah Stewart and Tilda Johnson.


The in-house editors are: Amina Youssef (Commissioning Editor, Simon & Schuster Children’s Books), Ben Horlsen (Publisher, Penguin Random House), Eishar Kaur (Editorial Director, Knights Of), Jasmine Richards (Director, Storymix), Libby Hamilton (Editorial Director, Anderson Press), Linas Alsenas (Executive Editor, Scholastic UK) and Rebecca Hill (Editorial Director, Usborne).


We also have the wonderful award-winning author Patrice Lawrence as the All Stories patron. Patrice is just as passionate as the All Stories editors about addressing privilege in publishing – she even wrote a blog piece on the subject.


Is there any support for people who might struggle to access the mentorship due to financial issues and/or a disability?


Yes – this is something crucial to the project. I am very grateful to the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), who are part-sponsoring All Stories, meaning that we have a fund for any mentees needing support to fully access the programme.


How do writers know if they're ready for a mentorship?


You should already be writing regularly, and be keen to benefit from honest, constructive feedback on your work. You also have to be serious enough about writing to commit to working hard during the mentorship period to develop your skills and talent.


Do you have any tips for people applying?


Patrice Lawrence very kindly filmed a brilliant video full of tips for All Stories applicants – you can find it on the website here.


It sounds like an amazing opportunity! How do writers find out more and apply?


All the details are on the website – – including the application form. You can also follow @AllStoriesWrite on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates. Remember that applications close on 31st May. We can’t wait to read them and start helping hidden stories rise up!


Catherine Coe is a freelance children’s book editor and author. You can find out more about her on her website: Twitter: @catherinecoe Insta: @catherinecoeauthor

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