Words We Write is a festival dedicated to celebrating the works of Black British writers. Co-founders Leonie Annor-Owiredu and Hannah Lee wanted to create more access into the world of writing and share the experiences of award-winning and acclaimed writers with as many people as possible. Over the course of the next week, the best Black British writers will share their top tips and advice through a series of workshops and events. We spoke to both Freelance Digital Editor, Leonie, and FAB Alumni and author, Hannah, to find out more about this festival.
How did Words We Write come about?
HL: Like many great ideas, it started with a question: Wouldn’t it be great to put on a literary festival celebrating Black British writers?
LAO: Hannah and I were talking and she mentioned how it would be cool to do a festival that focuses on Black British writers, I agreed and we pitched it to the events team at the Soho House and here we are!
Why was it important for you to create this space?
LAO: There is so much talent in the UK that I think goes uncelebrated. We wanted to celebrate those stories as well as offer access to more people. Because of that, it was important for us to organise a mix of workshops and talks. We wanted attendees to learn about topics like the anonymity of ghostwriting, the basics of fantasy writing, balancing a business while writing and so much more.
HL: It’s so important to celebrate Black British writers that are established and to showcase those that are starting their journeys. Black British authors have such a wealth of knowledge and talent and they deserve to be uplifted. Audiences deserve to see their brilliance in an event setting too!
What do you want attendees to take from the week?
HL: I want people to feel like they’ve gained something special by coming to our events. There are so many amazing authors sharing writing advice, personal stories and reflections on how they made it to where they are now. That’s something you can be inspired by, even if you aren’t a writer. Most of all, I really want people to have fun and enjoy themselves!
LAO: I wanted to show that a career in writing has many options! There are so many different writing styles and ways of working. Ultimately, I want to let people know that Black British writers are here and brilliant!
What are you most looking forward to about the festival?
HL: First and foremost, I’m really excited to meet the writers! It will also be great to hear them share their personal tips, techniques and journeys. I’ll be joining in the writer’s workshops too because I know some gems will be dropped there.
LAO: I’m excited to simply see the writers in action! They are all people I’m interested in learning from. I’ll be sat with my notepad and pen, eager to scribble down all the wisdom!
What comes to mind when you think of Black British Literature? What excites you most about this?
LAO: I think of Hannah Lee, Rian Davis and Beatrice Obe. They’re all working on stories I’ve never seen before that I know will contribute to the canon of Black British literature. I also think of the fact that there is an opportunity to do the unthinkable.
HL: Unique! Black British writers have the perspective of parents and grandparents who have travelled from other countries. The traditions and cultures of those places are added to the experience of growing up and living in the UK. This all comes with its own set of societal rules and expectations. Having to navigate these different spaces means that you have so much to draw from when writing stories.
What book made you feel seen for the first time?
LAO: There are a few. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, which I read for the first time last year. I also resonated with Carefree Black Girls by Zeba Blay when I read it earlier this year. Both of these books helped me in my understanding of the world. I would also say the Bible. I’ve reread the Bible from start to finish for about five years and it helps me centre myself.
HL: It’s not a book but a genre, romance. I love LOVE, and reading romance novels with Black leads reaffirms and relaxes me. I feel seen when I can see someone like me being loved for who they are, being cherished and learning about themselves along the way. I’d recommend reading work from Katrina Jackson, Jodie Slaughter, Talia Hibbert, Melissa Blue and Charish Reid.