Now in its fourth year, our exclusive partnership with the Rathbones Folio Prize offers a unique opportunity for five talented First Story alumni to be mentored for an academic year by five acclaimed Folio Academy writers. 2019/20’s cohort of mentees completed the programme over the summer. Pre-COVID, we would have celebrated their achievement with live readings at the British Library. This year, the celebration necessarily moved online. We’re delighted finally to share some clips from July’s event.
Weronika, who was mentored by Nikesh Shukla and who now intends to study creative writing at university, kicked-off the showcase by reading an extract from her novel in progress.
Maria, who was introduced by her mentor Adam Foulds as “abundantly creative” and someone who has “that rare, unteachable thing: a sense of being at home in the language”, read a passage from her novel in progress, The Blood Children.
Mentor Alice Jolly paid tribute to all the mentees for keeping going during an extraordinarily difficult period of lockdown. Introducing her mentee, she praised Naomi for writing on a range of subjects with “great rhythm and liveliness”, demonstrated in the powerful poem, ‘I Wonder’, which Naomi read.
Nidaa shared a story sequence called the Story of the Seven Apocalypses, inspired by her concerns for climate change, as well as a poem in tribute to her mother, and another confronting racism. Nidaa was mentored by Lucy Caldwell, who gave credit to Nidaa’s “strikingly bold, deeply felt and intensely passionate” writing.
Finally, Mariamah shared an extract from a work-in-progress that her mentor, Sharlene Teo, described as “a strikingly imaginative, textural world with a love story at its heart.”
This year’s virtual event concluded with a Q&A between the mentors and mentees, in which they talked about the most challenging parts of the writing journey, about the value of mentoring, and about creative-writing teaching in schools. The professional writers also shared some of their top tips, which included: “Just go for it when sharing your work’ — that’s one that all at First Story whole-heartedly agree with!