Celebrating London’s libraries as places to make and share stories.
City of Stories Home is a creative reading and writing programme in the heart of local communities in London. It discovered aspiring local writers and introduced new stories from diverse writers to audiences in library reading groups and at events.
In February 2022, there were 33 free online creative writing workshops for writers aged 18+ run by experienced creative writing facilitators. Londoners who attended a free workshop were encouraged to enter the City of Stories Home short story writing competition.
The City of Stories Home Anthology was published in June 2022, featuring over 70 London writers, including 63 competition winners and 8 commissioned writers. The Anthologies were launched at 33 special free celebration events across London’s libraries throughout June.
London writers Amer Anwar, Natasha Brown, Jarred McGinnis, Caleb Azumah Nelson, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, Ruth Goldsmith, Iqbal Hussain and S. Niroshini have written stories on the theme of home to inspire Londoners to get creative and write their own story. You can read them here.
Illustrations by Tasia Graham
Caleb Azumah Nelson is a twenty-seven-year-old British-Ghanaian writer and photographer living in South East London. His photography has been shortlisted for the Palm Photo Prize and won the People’s Choice Prize. His short story, PRAY, was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award 2020. His first novel, OPEN WATER, won the Costa First Novel Award, was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year, and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Gordon Burn Prize. His second novel, SMALL WORLDS, will be published in May 2023.
Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including, warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually settled into a career as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent a decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. His critically acclaimed debut novel, Brothers in Blood won the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and was picked by the Times and Guardian as one of the books of the year. His second novel, Stone Cold Trouble, was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. He is currently working on the next book in the Zaq & Jags series.
Jarred McGinnis’ acclaimed debut novel ‘The Coward’ was published by Canongate (July 2021). It was chosen for the BBC Radio 2 book club and BBC 2’s ‘Between the Covers’ show. Also in 2021, he was chosen by the Guardian as one of the UK’s ten best emerging writers. He is the co-founder of The Special Relationship, which was chosen for the British Council’s International Literature Showcase. He was the creative director for ‘Moby-Dick Unabridged‘, a four-day immersive multimedia reading of Herman Melville’s ‘Moby-Dick’ at the Southbank Centre, involving hundreds of participants. He also has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, but mostly he inspires the able-bodied by using public transport and taking his daughters to the playground.
Natasha Brown is a writer who lives in London. In 2019, she received a London Writers Award in the literary fiction category. Assembly is her debut novel.
Iqbal’s short story “The Boy with the Green Eyes” was published in the Leicester Writes Short Story anthology in September 2021. He is one of fifteen emerging writers to feature in the Mainstream anthology by Inkandescent, published July 2021. His short story “A Home from Home” won Gold prize in the Creative Future Writers’ Awards 2019. He is a recipient of the inaugural London Writers’ Awards 2018 and was shortlisted for the Penguin Random House WriteNow scheme 2017. Iqbal’s first novel, Northern Boy, is currently out on submission
Born to a librarian and a museum curator, stories were always going to be important to Ruth. In 2019, she received a London Writers Award for Literary Fiction with Spread the Word to develop her novel. Her short fiction has popped up in various places – as a lead on Visual Verse, in the first City of Stories collection and most recently placed first in the streetcake magazine Experimental Writing Prize 2021. As a commissioned writer on the Science Museum’s #ScienceFictions project, she’s having fun mixing history, science, art and words, with an anthology forthcoming in 2022. Ruth’s a card-carrying member of Waltham Forest Library Service.
Lizzie Damilola Blackburn is a British-Nigerian writer, born in Peckham, who wants to tell the stories that she and her friends have longed for but never seen – romcoms ‘where Cinderella is Black and no-one bats an eyelid’. In 2019 she won the Literary Consultancy Pen Factor Writing Competition with the early draft of Yinka, Where is your Huzband?, which she had been writing alongside juggling her job at Carers UK. She has been at the receiving end of the question in the title of her novel many times, and now lives with her husband in Milton Keynes.
S. Niroshini received a London Writer’s Award in the literary fiction category in 2019 and won Third Prize in the Poetry London Prize 2020. Her pamphlet ‘Darling Girl’ was released in 2021.
Arun Das is a former Television Producer and Journalist. After a rare illness forced him to hit the pause button, he turned to writing fiction. His story ‘Words for Sounds’ was published after being shortlisted for The Guardian 4th Estate BAME short story prize. An early draft of his first novel won him a London Writers Award from Spread The Word. He is currently working on his second novel. Arun is represented by Oli Munson from A.M Heath.
Charlotte Heather is a writer and workshop facilitator.
I’m a writer, based in London. The first of my Arya Winters series of quirky mystery novels – Arya Winters and the Tiramisu of Death – came out with Polis Books in October 2021 and is under a TV option shopping agreement with Renegade Pictures, a Warner Brothers company based in London. A starred review by Publishers Weekly says that the novel is ‘full of original metaphors and pithily funny descriptions’, and it ‘turns the cosy genre on its head.’ My previous novel The Trouble with Rose came out with HarperCollins in 2019. My collection Marmite and Mango Chutney won the SI Leeds Literary Prize in 2016 and it was part-written under a Leverhulme grant based at University College London. I’ve been a Literature Works writer-in-residence at Plymouth University, and taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia and the New College of the Humanities. My stories have been published in Wasafiri, Sand Berlin, Brand, Aesthetica and others.
CHRIS SIMPSON grew up in Bracknell and Slough. He has worked as a waiter, a cinema projectionist, a shoe salesman, an attendant in an amusement arcade, hiring out construction and demolition tools, a pasty seller, a caretaker for a primary school, a teaching assistant, a tutor and a facilities manager. He was a collaborator on a sketch show and has performed as a stand-up comedian. In 2021 he was published alongside Kit de Waal, Kerry Hudson, Philip Ridley and twenty five other writers in MAINSTREAM from Inkandescent Publishers. In 2020 he had a special mention for the Spread the Word Life Writing Prize. In 2019 he was nominated for the inaugural Agora and PFD Lost The Plot Prize. In 2018 he was an awardee of the inaugural Spread The Word’s London Writers Award. He received a First in Creative Writing at BA level from Birkbeck University. In 2016 he was nominated for the Royal Academy and Pin Drop Short Story Award 2016. He lives in London and is at work on a novel.
Helen Bowell is a London-based poet and co-director of Dead [Women] Poets Society. She is a Ledbury Poetry Critic, and an alumna of The Writing Squad, the London Library Emerging Writers Programme, London Writers Awards and the Roundhouse Poetry Collective. Helen won the 2020 Bronze Creative Future Writers Award, and was commended in the 2021 Verve Poetry Competition, 2021 Winchester Poetry Prize, and the 2020 Mslexia Poetry Competition. Her poems have appeared in Magma, bath magg, Poetry Birmingham, Ambit and elsewhere. Her debut pamphlet The Barman is forthcoming from Bad Betty Press in 2022. She works at The Poetry Society.
Maame Blue is a Ghanaian-Londoner and author of the novel Bad Love, which won the 2021 Betty Trask award, and was shortlisted for the Betty Trask Prize. Her short story ‘Howl’ was featured in the KYD New Australian Fiction 2020 anthology, and her story ‘Prodigal’ appears in the Speaking Volumes anthology Not Quite Right For Us. In 2020 she joined a scriptwriting team to remix a Venezuelan telenovela for African audiences, and her writing has since appeared in various places including Writers Mosaic, The Independent, Black Ballad, and as part of the British Council UK/ Australia Season 2021 – 2022. She also has works and writing workshops forthcoming in 2022.
North London-based Lorraine’s varied background spans fashion journalism and acting, giving her a unique take on storytelling. She also worked as a school receptionist whilst writing and taking a postgraduate diploma in psychodynamic counselling. She currently delivers counselling sessions alongside writing novels. The manuscript of what became Lorraine’s debut novel THE PARIS CONNECTION, which includes themes of financial hardship and challenging family dynamics, was longlisted for the Bath Novel award in 2016, after which she was chosen to be part of Penguin Random House’s WriteNow scheme, which aims to launch the careers of writers from backgrounds currently under-represented in the publishing industry. The novel was published in paperback by Orion Fiction in January 2022, as well as by Penguin Random House in the US last summer, and has also sold to twelve foreign territories worldwide including Germany, Italy and Portugal. Lorraine’s second novel, SORRY I MISSED YOU, will be out in June 2022.
Founder of Kiota Bristol and the Yoniverse, Shagufta K Iqbal is an award-winning writer, workshop facilitator and Tedx Speaker. She has been described by gal-dem as a poet whose work ‘leaves you validated but aching – her narratives are important, heart-wrenching and relatable.’ Her poetry collection ‘Jam Is For Girls, Girls Get Jam’, has been recommended by Nikesh Shukla as ‘a social political masterclass.’ Her poetry film ‘Borders’ has won several awards, and has been screened across international film festivals. She is also published in ‘Slam: You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This’, with Macmillan books. She is currently writing her second poetry collection and debut novel.
Tice Cin is an interdisciplinary artist from north London. A London Writers Award-winner, her work has been published by Extra Teeth and Skin Deep and commissioned by places like Battersea Arts Centre and St Paul’s Cathedral. An alumnus of Barbican Young Poets, she now creates digital art as part of Design Yourself – a collective based at the Barbican Centre – exploring what it means to be human when technology is changing everything. A producer and DJ, she is releasing an EP, Keeping the House, to accompany her debut novel of the same name.
Annie Hayter was shortlisted for Young People’s Laureate for London and is an alumnus of Barbican Young Poets and London Writers Awards. They are invested in writing about queerness and myth-making, and have been shortlisted in the London Short Story Prize, commended for the Bristol Short Story Prize and longlisted for the Alpine Fellowship and Mslexia Flash Fiction. They came third in the Cúirt New Writing Prize for Poetry, with a squelching series entitled ‘The Great Lives of Pope Joan’, a faux-hagiography about this legendary figure in genderflux. They won BBC Proms Young Poet 2011 and were runner-up for Times Young Poet 2012. They’ve performed at the Southbank Centre, Barbican, Queer Fringe, Verve Poetry Festival, and Radio 3. Published in MAGMA, Tentacular, Bedtime Stories for the End of the World and TimeOut. They have run workshops with Crisis, Headway East London, the Anna Freud Centre, National Youth Orchestra, The Albany, The Floating Classroom, and Writerz & Scribez.
Jemilea Wisdom-Baako is a British-Jamaican poet. A London Writers Award recipient she was shortlisted for the Rebecca Swift Women’s Poetry Prize and The Bridport Poetry Prize. A graduate of the Advanced Faber Poetry Course her work appears in Magma, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Good Journal, and elsewhere. She runs the arts company Writerz and Scribez CIC and is currently working on her first pamphlet. Writerz and Scribez is an innovative non-profit creative arts company built on the foundation that art changes lives. Based in London, we are committed to providing high-quality unique creative experiences that push art into places where it’s not usually found. We make arts accessible to all, and provide workshops that centre wellbeing for all.
Carinya Sharples is a writer, facilitator and occasional library assistant from Lewisham. Her creative writing has been published by The London Reader, The Guyana Annual, Commonwealth Writers’ adda and was selected by Kendal Mountain Literature Festival as part of its Open Mountain showcase in 2021. She was also shortlisted for Rebel Women Lit’s Caribbean Reader’s Awards 2020 (Non-Fiction Individual Pieces) and Flipside Festival’s GAWP! Green Alphabet Writing Prize 2017, and longlisted for Mslexia’s Short Story Competition 2021. In 2020, she completed an MA in Creative Writing & Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, and co-edited the book ‘Inspire: Exciting Ways of Teaching Creative Writing’. She previously worked as a freelance journalist for BBC World Service, The Pavement, Gal-Dem and many others.