All Stories is an initiative that offers free opportunities for underrepresented children's book writers to develop their work. The second programme began in October last year and will end in June '23. Every fortnight, a new mentee introduces themselves and tells us about their experience so far. Please welcome Taslin Pollock.

According to figures collated by BookTrust, in 2021, just 11.7% of children’s book creators were people of colour. While this percentage is increasing, there is still some way to go. In fact, something I have heard reiterated often is that writers of children’s fiction from underrepresented backgrounds face greater barriers than others and can often ill afford the same opportunities for creative development.


To be honest, as a person of colour, this is hardly a surprise.


What has changed is a growing acceptance that writers from underrepresented backgrounds should seek out the free programmes and opportunities that exist that aim to redress this balance. Over the last year, this is exactly what I have done.


Through these opportunities, I have been extremely fortunate to meet an array of amazing people in all areas of the publishing industry from diligent editors and agents, to fellow creatives, fantastic booksellers and caring teachers. These people all continue to try to make children’s fiction representative, in the hope that every child may pick up a book and see themselves and the issues that are relevant to them, reflected in the story that they choose to read, something that I did not experience when I was growing up.


One such opportunity I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of is the All Stories Mentorship Programme. The scope of the programme extends to writers from all underrepresented backgrounds. Its goal is simple: to help writers to hone their craft. Unlike some of the other brilliant opportunities for underrepresented writers, this programme is unique in that it is run entirely by editors. I have heard editors referred to as "book midwives" and I have been told that the relationship between writer and editor is a fundamentally important one. Four months into this programme and I can see why.


The programme itself is divided into two parts. As a group of ten writers on the nine-month long programme, we receive monthly group sessions from knowledgeable editors on a variety of topics, such as plotting and the role of an editor. These online sessions mean that location and cost of travel is not an issue for me. While these sessions are very different from those that might be offered by a creative writing programme, what makes them fascinating is that the advice given is from the viewpoint of an expert reader. As writers writing for children, it is fundamental to remember while we are writing, the very important young people we are writing for and why we want them to read our stories. These sessions have made me think about why I write. I started writing because I wanted my children to see themselves in the stories they read, but I continue to write because I want to inspire children to explore their imaginations, to encourage them to realise their own strengths and to stand up and be counted, irrespective of what is thrown at them.


The second part of the programme involves monthly meetings with an incredibly knowledgeable freelance editor. Much like it works in real life, editors are asked to review applications to the programme and select the stories that connect with them. I was extremely ​ fortunate to be chosen by a wonderful editor called Emma Young. What makes these one-on-one sessions so valuable in helping writers develop, is that they are specifically tailored to the individual. At the start, you and the editor you have been assigned discuss your goals and expectations of the mentorship. Do you want to know more about the industry, or do you want to concentrate on developing your craft or a bit of both? I opted for a focus on my manuscript. I knew what was wrong with it, I just didn’t know how to fix it. Within a couple of sessions, Emma has helped me see a way to move forward. Furthermore, I’ve been able to apply what I am learning to my other writings. Like anything in life, you get out what you put in and working hard is the best way to reap the many benefits of this fantastic opportunity.


The All Stories Mentorship Programme is a collaborative effort but it is the vision of one individual, Catherine Coe. She is the heart of this programme, the diary keeper, the sender of emails, the compere, and she is also one of those amazing individuals I mentioned before, who seeks to strive to make it possible for writers like me to write the stories we hold dear in our hearts that we know will speak to young people.


I speak now to other underrepresented writers – not just writers of colour – who have a story to tell. Don’t be afraid to seek out the fantastic opportunities available that will improve your knowledge of the publishing industry and develop your writing craft. I have been extremely fortunate not only to have benefited from these opportunities but also to have met wonderful creatives through them who continue to inspire me.


*Header image credit: All Stories



Taslin is a British-born writer of contemporary, fantasy and sci-fi, Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction. Her writing usually centres on a protagonist navigating challenging issues affecting young people, such as young people as carers, the effects of racism or bullying.


Her YA novel was longlisted for the Searchlight Best Novel Opening 2022 and her MG novel was shortlisted for the 2022 Golden Egg Award. She is an alumni of the HarperCollins Author and Design Academy Autumn 2022, and the 2021 Scottish BookTrust Writing for Children Course. She also recently won a place on the 2022–2023 All Stories Mentorship Programme for aspiring children’s authors from underrepresented backgrounds.


Taslin currently resides in Central Scotland, with her husband and two children. When she is not writing, she can usually be found in the garden.


Twitter: @taslinp

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