UEA Live : “Whatever #Merky Books will be… is powerful.”

Moving through their glorious panels, UEA Live welcomed the editors and authors alike from #Merky Books on the breezy evening of October 20th. #Merky Books, a publishing imprint created in 2018 by Stormzy, was created to publish books that were “underrepresented in society” and since then they’ve created pop-up events, literature festivals, and their New Writer’s prize that started it all. 

As they began, KR Moorhead introduced the acclaimed panel; Lemara Lindsay-Prince, Jyoti Patel and Jade LB. Naturally, their manner and ease helped the conversation flow as Lindsay-Prince described the difference in becoming an editor at #Merky Books, instead of an author like Jade LB, or a rising star such as Patel. Like many young bookworms, publishing appealed to me because it gave an insight into ‘how the engine works’ as Lindsay-Prince described. Yet, they also argued that being surrounded by authors and collaborating with their work is an extension of being a writer, from the “tinkering and tailoring” of a new piece, to making it ready for publication.  

Lamara Lindsay-Prince, current commissioning editor and UEA Alumni, spoke about the New Writer’s Prize as the ‘forefront’ of their initial idea and an easier way for new writers to be discovered – only writers without previous published work could participate. Prince explained that it was the beginning of publishing bold and intersectional voices, and part of that starts at the crux of when you become a writer, before you’re approached by agents and publishing houses. This was certainly the case for Jyoti Patel, who won the #Merky’s New Writer’s Prize for 2021, only a few months after graduating from UEA’s Creative Writing Masters course. 

Jyoti Patel, both BA and MA UEA Alumni, admitted that after handing in their dissertation, publication was the last thing on their mind. Yet, they pointed out that only 1000 words were required, so Patel gave in and submitted. To her delight, she was shortlisted. Her submission was an extract from her novel Six of One which follows 18-year-old Nick when he leaves for university without his late father’s support. It offers an interesting parallel from Nick’s mother’s perspective as a British Indian woman in the 80s and demands us to ask the question; have we moved on in 40 years? Patel’s Six of One will be on the shelves in early January 2023. Finally, Jade LB was called on to discuss the ‘huge cultural moment’ which was created from her online novel. This skated around the rising growth of social media in the 2010s from the creative insight of a 13-year-old Jade and their figurative 16-year-old friend, Keisha the Sket. Created on their family computer in 2015, LB’s novel offered a voice that mirrored the lives of many young people of colour, as Lindsay-Prince remarked, giving them the opportunity to have conversations and read aspects about their own life that they could resonate with. Still, the innovation of LB’s writing does not stop there, as this online sensation that everyone held in their text chains has finally been put into printed copies, providing us with 13-year-old Jade’s original writing, and re-visited versions many years later. As a brilliantly self-aware author, Jade LB spoke about creating distance between her 13-year-old writing and current works, because it allowed her to de-construct Keisha’s image and evolve into something new. The paper copy of Keisha the Sket is now available on UEA Live’s webpage.

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Jessica Blissitt

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June 2022
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