An exclusive interview with Imran Akram, Founder and Chief Executive of Brit Writers.
1. Who is Imran Akram and what inspired you to set up Brit Writers?
In 2006 I established the MWA to help disenfranchised communities to become involved in reading and writing. This project became very successful and is still running. However very soon after this I initiated the Brit Writers since I realised these principals could be applied across the board. The Brit Writers Awards became a universal project without discrimination to race, colour or creed. It had one goal in mind, to discover the huge untapped potential and resources within the silent majority of unpublished writers who had been for years growing increasing frustrated because they were essentially voiceless.
Thankfully as Brit Writers has grown exponentially into the UK's largest platform for new and unpublished writers, the voiceless may now express themselves through this medium, not only from the UK but also from around the world. www.britwriters.co.uk
2. Tell us about some of the challenges you faced when setting up these awards?
As Max Malik says in his acknowledgements in the The Butterfly Hunter: "...unending inspiration, indomitable courage and provided the vision to see a new horizon in publishing."
Some in the publishing industry were not prepared to accept that times had changed and so the process of education was both aimed inwards and outwards also. A few felt threatened by a new way of doing things, especially in that we had adopted the egalitarian approach, feared that they would be undermined and their closed shop approach threatened.
Brit Writers simplified the whole process and in doing so made it transparent and easily accessible to everyone even to those outside of the 'literary' world.
Brit Writers has promoted every option and kept up with all the advances in the publishing industry such as e-books, self publishing, print on demand as well as the traditional methods. http://britwriters.blogspot.co.uk/
Brit Writers has broken the mould but in doing so has made the awards one the most accessible awards in the world.
3. What opportunities does Brit Writers' Awards create for unpublished writers?
Brit Writers provides a platform where the voice of the 'smallest' writer, the least forthcoming or the latest new bestseller can step forward onto an equal footing. They know that their voices will be heard and treated fairly. Everyone has a chance and everyone will be judged by the same criteria and therefore potentially break through the glass ceiling. This has in the past seemed impossible to innumerable writers. Brit Writers also supports the development of new and unpublished writers by providing them with guidance and feedback and supporting them through the publishing process. Award winners and bestsellers have been created who have been previously unknown. This is a result of Brit Writers, hard work and a fair process. They can now be showcased on the world stage.
4. Can you explain the democratic way in which Brit Writers' Awards have structured the submission of and ultimate selection of manuscripts?
New writers awards should not be at the mercy of fickle publishers' tastes. In fact, we believe that everything we build must be on an equal and fair footing and judged in the same light using an equal criteria and then, and only then the final judging process is undertaken. In the earlier rounds, judges include your 'average' reader such as teachers, lawyers etc.. Subsequently, professional judges such as editors, agents, publishers as well as writers are used to make the final selection.
5. Please tell us more about your work in schools?
This is the raison d'etre of Brit Writers. I believe communication is the key to breaking down barriers in life. At the heart of this is reading and writing. The three way process we have promoted between teachers, pupils and parents is unique. Through this active participation in learning we can share and build our narratives together and therefore partake in each others lives, break down barriers and so help create a more tolerant and inclusive society.
Brit Writers has decided to provide lessons plans for different key stages as well as writing resources free of charge which are being distributed to all schools nationally. Thanks to The Word Academy and our network of Schools Territory Partners.
6. Why do you support initiatives like The People's Book Prize?
The People's Book Prize bring their democratized and inclusive as well as transparent approach to publishing: where readers decide which books become bestsellers. I believe this is the fairest way of all and it is something I wish to emulate. I admire The People's Book Prize in the way they have also become pioneers in that they have helped to make the publishing industry more open and fairer.
In particular Tatiana Wilson has shown incredible leadership and a fresh vision in achieving this incredibly difficult task.
7. Will you actively be supporting The People's Book Prize illiteracy initiative?
Yes, we will work together with The People's Book Prize to eradicate illiteracy and will support their campaign. This is complementary to my aims and is something very close to my heart.
7. We understand you will be our guest at next year's The People's Book Prize 4th Awards Ceremony?
Yes, I would be honoured and privileged to be participating in The People's Book Prize.
8. What would you like to say to anyone reading this right now?
Brit Writers is a new approach in the world of writing, which is based on meritocracy and talent. I would therefore encourage all those involved in the publishing industry to embrace our pioneering spirit. I think this brings hope to so many writers and in this goal I believe we should all support and encourage each other for the betterment of literature and also improvement of society.