The Literary Consultancy celebrate their 20th anniversary


With contributions from Lemn Sissay, Abi Morgan, Margaret Busby, Professor Jon Cook, Elif Shafak, Mark Ball and other leading commentators

Friday 11 November 2016, Free Word Centre, London



The Literary Consultancy (TLC), the world’s first and leading editorial service for writers, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an all-day Literary symposium, What’s your story? examining the way that the publishing industry has changed over the last two decades.

Delivered in association with Free Word Centre in London and supported by Writers' Centre Norwich, Apples and Snakes and English PEN on 11th November 2016, the event will draw together a diverse range of exciting writers, publishers, agents, arts practitioners, community leaders and commentators to examine far-reaching questions about storytelling both nationally and internationally. TLC is aiming to spark new thoughts and connections as delegates consider the enduring aphorism ‘everybody has a book inside’.

The day will open with a specially commissioned 20th Anniversary poem by poet and Chancellor of Manchester University Lemn Sissay, followed by a keynote by TLC Director Rebecca Swift, and an open forum discussion chaired by Jon Cook, Professor of Literature and Director, Centre for Creative and Performing Arts, UEA. In the afternoon scriptwriter Abi Morgan, poet Raymond Antrobus, authors Elif Shafak and Kit De Waal, war photographer Giles Duley, graphic novelist Henny Beaumont, publisher Margaret Busby and artistic director of London International Festival of Theatre Mark Ball, will participate in a Pecha Kucha ‘Canon Tales’ event, each presenting their own story in a rapid-fire format of 20 images, each lasting 21 seconds, for 7 minutes. All have dedicated their lives to telling the lesser-known stories of the world and will address the question ‘What’s Your Story?’, and how it relates to their own lives and their work.  

In the 20 years since TLC first began the publishing industry has undergone huge change. But its primary function – to enable writers to tell their own stories, and the stories of the world – has remained unchanged.

“TLC was born of a psychoanalytic observation,” says Swift, “that people often held firm beliefs that their work was publishable when it wasn’t. Or good writers feared they weren’t as good as they were. I was interested in the nature of this ‘delusion’, and how over time the changes in publishing, and mushrooming of organisations which provide an editorial education, have modified the nature of authorial ‘delusion.’

“Technology now means that most people can ‘publish’ their story. This usefully serves the cliché that everybody has got ‘a book inside,‘ but what are the implications for our literary culture and all parties involved in the making and sharing of texts?”

To ensure an international perspective, and in keeping with its position as a Founder Member of the Free Word Centre, Free Word and TLC have commissioned four powerful blogs from writers around the world who face challenges being a writer. Pieces from Indian poet Salma, Eritrea-born novelist Sulaiman S.M.Y. Addonia, Russian journalist and author Alisa Ganieva and Beijing-based Chan Koonchung will be published weekly in the run up to the event.  These address the theme of ‘the book inside’ in relation to political regimes which are all too ready to censor, imprison or even kill to keep the book from being released into the world.  Their contributions will be considered throughout the day.

‘What's Your Story?’ has been made possible by Free Word and the Free Word community, who work together to explore and celebrate the power of words to change lives. 


TLC was a visionary idea, and the first service of its kind to offer professional, in-depth editorial advice and assessment to anyone writing in the English language. Since it was founded in 1996 by Rebecca Swift and Hannah Griffiths, TLC has helped thousands of writers better understand their writing and the publishing industry, and in many cases find publication. Supported by Arts Council England since 2001, TLC’s Free Read Scheme - open to all low-income writers resident in England - has offered bursaries for editorial assessment to circa 1,500 writers.

In 2015 TLC received increased funding for the Free Read Scheme to deliver the Quality Writing for All Campaign, with a special focus on supporting the BAME and disabled writing communities across the UK with manuscript assessment bursaries.  

As a writer from a disability arts background, I’ve pushed my work against a stubborn mainstream glass ceiling for some years. Having had the invaluable opportunity of being mentored by TLC for my memoir ‘First in the World Somewhere’ and Rebecca’s fabulous ongoing championing of my one woman show, ‘Lost in Spaces’, I feel that TLC will play a crucial role in breaking my personal glass ceiling, and also the first wave dismantling of the barriers and stereotyping put upon disabled writers. After a lifetime of defiant battles, the launch event performance of ‘Lost in Spaces’ with TLC was the first time my work appeared in a context with such mainstream clout.”

Penny Pepper, author and disability activist

“If the NHS weren’t bankrupt, I’d say The Literary Consultancy should be available to writers on prescription”

Paul Heiney, broadcaster and journalist 

“TLC introduced my work to agents and publishers on my behalf. I suspect no-one would have looked at it otherwise”

Jenny Downham, Best-selling author of Before I Die (David Fickling Books)

The TLC read was a brilliant opportunity to get detailed and useful feedback […] ‘Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love’ has now sold in fifteen territories, and was selected as book of the week on after it was published by Penguin Press in the US.”

Sarah Butler, Ten Things I’ve Learnt about Love (Picador)


Rebecca read English at University of Oxford, before becoming an editor and writer. She is a published poet, has written and reviewed for The Independent on Sunday and the Guardian and is author of ‘Poetic Lives: Dickinson’ (Hesperus Press 2011).  Rebecca has also appeared at numerous literary festivals and panels talking about the work of TLC and the relationship between writers and the publishing industry.           

Rebecca’s essay ‘Is there anybody reading me? A psychoanalytic exploration of the relationship between those people who write and readers in the publishing and related industries’, will be available exclusively to delegates as a paperback sponsored by IngramSpark at the ‘What’s Your Story?’ symposium on 11 November 2016, and will be published as an e-book in December 2016.