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Major book deal for Birkbeck Creative Writing graduate

The debut novel from Abi Darè, a recent graduate from Birkbeck’s esteemed MA Creative Writing, will be published by Sceptre following a “fierce” auction between five publishers.

Abi Darè, who recently graduated from Birkbeck’s highly regarded MA Creative Writing programme with a Distinction, has secured a major book deal for her debut novel, The Girl with the Louding Voice.

The title was inspired by the housemaids who lived with Darè when she was growing up in Nigeria. It tells the story of 14-year-old Adunni, who is seeking her ‘louding voice’: an education that will mean she is heard. Instead, Adunni’s father sells her to a local man who is hoping for a son and heir. She will not be quiet, refusing to give up on her dream, and her quest takes her to Lagos, where further traps await.

Darè said: “I started writing my novel about half a semester into my MA course at Birkbeck. My supervisor needed my submission for our first discussion on my dissertation and I recall hastily typing the first 1000 words of the book a week before it was due, and sending it in with trepidation because my character has a unique voice. She is a semi-illiterate girl and I wasn't sure if it would work. I was pleasantly surprised that he loved the story and voice and encouraged me to continue writing. As I developed the story, I shared it in a few workshop sessions with my brilliant workshop group (who still meet regularly to feedback and encourage each other on our writing). 

“By the second year of my course, my novel was about 60% complete. I had Julia Bell assigned as my workshop tutor and subsequent supervisor. I recall her saying in one of our feedback sessions, that she felt I ought to try and find an agent. I would never have felt confident enough to do more with my writing or to even share it beyond my MA group without that support. With feedback and further encouragement from the class, I finished my novel in time for the 2018 Bath Novel Award (which I won). 

“My MA contributed immensely to my novel. The feedback I received and continue to receive, the knowledge and support gained during and outside of lectures has been invaluable to my growth as a writer.  I feel very grateful to have had that opportunity."

Julia Bell, Director of the MA Creative Writing, said: “It was clear from the first year that Abi had a very special project on her hands. Her central character Adunni is an inspiring voice and I’m personally really pleased that I was able to help her develop this project. Abi’s workshop group was a real ‘supergroup’ too - another one of her class - Louise Hare - also has a novel coming out soon - and others have been shortlisted and won prizes for their stories and work in progress.

“It’s a real privilege to be a part of the creative ferment as projects and pieces find their way into the world. And it’s a testament to the hard work of all my colleagues that we have so many Birkbeck students bringing their exciting new voices to British literature in all its forms - fiction, drama and poetry. We all really look forward to seeing Abi’s book in the shops and finding the readership we know it deserves.”

The novel was acquired by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, following a ‘fierce’ auction between five publishers. It will be published as Sceptre’s lead debut fiction title in March 2020.

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