I wasn’t quite a beginner when I applied for the Madeleine Milburn mentorship scheme in 2021, but I was pretty close. I had started writing the novel that would become Wild Geese the previous year, and had participated in some writing workshops, but certainly lacked the background I might have expected to need to become a published author.
For me, as a trans writer, getting 75,000 words out of my brain and into a computer file might have been the easy bit. The publishing industry is intimidating at the best of times. I was well aware of the way the industry can play both sides of political issues, and I was determined to work with people who shared my values.
A major reason why I was drawn to the agency was that it seemed inclusive. I remember looking at the Twitter profile of an agent from Madeleine Milburn – though I can’t remember which one! – and noting that they had their pronouns in their bio. It’s extremely corny to admit this, but small gestures like that matter a lot to someone trying to find a place in publishing.
The mentorship programme seemed very well suited to me – especially because they didn’t mind that my manuscript wasn’t finished. There are increasingly few ways to be nurtured as an aspiring author today that don’t require spending thousands, so I appreciated the mentorship programme, with its particular focus on writers from traditionally marginalised backgrounds.
Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting to be picked out of 1,500 applicants! All I can remember about that is being in a state of shock for about a week.
The programme itself was a wide-ranging opportunity to get to grips with how the publishing industry works: to meet authors, agents, editors, and those dealing with foreign-language rights and adaptation rights. It also gave me the opportunity to work one-on-one with my wonderful agent, Liv Maidment, to get Wild Geese ready for submission to publishers. This was a whirlwind process and I’m so glad it paid off – not only has the novel been published in Ireland and the UK by Footnote Press but also in North America by Feminist Press in September.
It is a little hard to believe that I started on the mentorship programme only two years ago. Perhaps that feeling is a testament to how much I have grown as a consequence of it, and as a consequence of moving forward towards the holy grail of publication. I would thoroughly recommend it!
Soula was a mentee for the 2021 Mentorship Programme. Her book, Wild Geese, was published in the UK this year by Footnote Press and in North America by Feminist Press. You can find out more about the Madeleine Milburn Mentorship Programme here.