No one had any idea when the London Library’s inaugural “emerging writers” scheme kicked off in spring 2019 (a year’s membership and a programme of workshops for forty writers at various stages of emergence) that it would end with us not being there.
The London Library is a remarkable, magical building set off St James’s Square in Pall Mall. I don’t think I was alone in not having heard of it before seeing the application for the programme, but it is used as an office-away-from-home by London literary types, or anyone wanting a quiet place to work.
Besides the building’s charm and the incredible location the Library’s real benefit is that the “stacks” are open – you can browse the books on the shelves. You might end up with something you hadn’t thought you wanted, which are often the things you need.
To celebrate the scheme’s first year, the Library have put together an anthology, featuring contributions ‘from 35 writers spanning prose to poetry, non-fiction to YA, stage to screen.’ The blurb says: ‘This is a feast of words and creativity from an exciting array of bright new talent.’ The book is available as a PDF or an eBook. It will also be published as a paperback: £2 for the eBook or £8 for the paperback – with all proceeds going back into the Emerging Writers Programme.
We were asked to pick something to contribute over the summer, so the choice was made under the influence of lockdown. I sent in three poems. One was my own pandemic poem, a squib of frustration riffing off comparisons between our situation and the Second World War. Another was a good idea which on reflection I smothered with too many commas. The first is about Greggs – sort of.
The library is an amazing space, especially if you don’t have much of that at home. I am very grateful to have been part of the first cohort (and particularly appreciated the ‘peer support’ sessions). Next/this year’s scheme is open for applications.