Astra Bloom and Katy Massey selected for Common People anthology

May 16, 2018

We’re delighted to name the two writers from southeast region selected for inclusion in Unbound’s forthcoming Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers, edited by Kit de Waal.

In her recent BBC Radio Four documentary, novelist Kit de Waal asked an important question: ‘Where are all the working-class writers?’ The answer is right here.

Inspired by a shared concern that working-class voices are increasingly absent from the pages of books and newspapers, Kit de Waal has come together with Unbound and the regional writing development agencies, including New Writing South, to do something about it.

Common People is a collection of essays, poems and pieces of personal memoir, bringing together seventeen well-known writers from working class backgrounds – including Malorie Blackman, Damian Barr, Stuart Maconie and many more – with an equal number of upcoming writers from all over the UK.

From the southeast region, Don’t Mention Class! by Katy Massey and Black Cat Dreaming by Astra Bloom were selected for the anthology from nearly 40 submissions.

Astra said: “I’m so, so happy to be selected for Common People. I badly wanted to be included as soon as I heard about this project. I’ve so much respect for Kit de Waal, and I’m thrilled to be being published alongside many amazing writers. Also really look forward to meeting and reading the other unpublished writers selected.”

Astra Bloom had never shared her work until she got a bursary and enrolled on the Creative Writing Programme at New Writing South. When the second poem she entered anywhere won the Bare Fiction poetry prize, Astra asked the editor if he was sure he hadn’t made a mistake. She has gone on to win or be shortlisted in many prizes, including the Brighton short story prize, the Bridport short story prize, Live Canon International poetry, as well as the Bristol, Brighton and Aurora poetry prizes. Astra has had two novels longlisted for the Mslexia novel award. She has poetry in Under the Radar and Magma magazine and non-fiction forthcoming in A Wild and Precious Life, an anthology of writers in recovery.

Katy Massey grew up in Leeds and worked as a freelance journalist in London. She suffered burn-out, and returned to education, culminating in a self-funded PhD in Creative Writing. This allowed her to write her own family’s complicated story, while researching memoir, and finding out why the lives of some groups of people are much less likely to be recorded, and lauded, than others. Shortly after the birth of her daughter, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and while recovering from surgery, started working on ways to encourage non-writers to author their life stories, particularly those under-represented in literature. One result of this work is Tangled Roots – an anthology of memoir by more than thirty members of mixed race families, exploring their experiences, history and contribution to British society. She is currently developing Who Are We Now? a collection of memoir responses to the Brexit referendum and a post-European future, while also working on The Cleansing, a novel imagining post-Grenfell London after a large-scale attack.

On her selection, Katy said: “It’s always great to have writing accepted, and I am always grateful. Opening up the world of writing and publishing to everyone so that ALL our stories get to be told has long been the focus of my work at, and I passionately support Common People’s chronicling of ordinary lives lived on average – or below average – income levels. It is hoped that the anthology will become a standard text for readers fortunate enough to have grown up in more privileged circumstances.”

Seventeen new writers in total have been selected by the regional writing development agencies: Paul Allen, Ruth Behan, Astra Bloom, Jenny Knight, Katy Massey, Julie Noble, Louise Powell, Emma Purshouse, Loretta Ramkissoon, Riley Rockford, Jodie Russian-Red, Adam Sharp, Eva Verde, Lynne Voyce, Helen Wilber, Elaine Williams and S M Wilson.

Their work will be published alongside established writers Damian Barr, Malorie Blackman OBE, Lisa Blower, Jill Dawson, Louise Doughty, M J Hyland, Stuart Maconie, Chris McCrudden, Lisa McInerney, Paul McVeigh, Daljit Nagra, Dr Dave O’Brien, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Anita Sethi, Adelle Stripe, Tony Walsh and Alex Wheatle

Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers edited by Kit de Waal is published by Unbound in 2019.