Last month, The Literary Platform released The Tilt, ‘an illustrated collection of new writing that centres around belonging, identity and inequality in the publishing industry.’
The anthology features work from the 2020 mentees on the Platform’s ‘Lit:Up’ programme – a scheme that pairs a new, emerging talent with experienced writers, to help them pave their way to publication. Alongside the work from new writers, The Tilt features forewords from their mentors, and creative pieces from writers personally-selected by the mentees. It’s an intriguing concept, realised with painstaking attention. Not only is the book beautifully designed, available to buy as a physical copy or to download for free as an eBook, but each chapter has also been translated into languages chosen by the writers. You can ‘unlock’ the audio by scanning the illustrations to head the writing in Gujarati, Lithuanian and Spanish.
One of the 2020 mentees is my friend, April Roach. I’ve known April since university, where we both studied Creative Writing. We got closer during a year abroad in Paris where, while I stuttered through my phrasebook, struggled to order a coffee without a gaffe, April took her lectures in French, held down a job, volunteered, socialised, and saw the sights without issue. She did all this while also putting in an hour a day on her then work-in-progress, a YA sci-fi novel. I’ve always thought that, whatever I’m doing, April is probably doing twice as much, in a foreign language.
April is now a successful journalist. She’s written for locals, as well as huge London papers like The Evening Standard, and is about to embark on an exciting new career in Amsterdam, reporting for Bloomberg. I caught up with April to find out more about The Tilt, her story, and how she keeps so many plates spinning so fast.
‘I thought very hard about who I should choose to respond to my story,’ April says. ‘I knew The Literary Platform had some connections with Amy Lilwall. I read her book The Biggerers – it’s so good, and she writes speculative dystopian fiction like I do. She was given my short story and was invited to respond to it any way she wanted. I think some of the other writers chose to respond with a poem or an essay but she chose to respond with another piece of fiction. Her story takes place just before the events of my story – it’s kind of a prequel.’
April’s short story is a sort of ‘outtake’ from the novel she’s currently writing. I remember her beginning this novel at university, reading the first chapter and being gripped by its premise, how compulsive it was. The story is set in an alternative world, similar to our own, but where people view the world through filters. They can choose how they look to others, the parts of themselves they display, the parts they hide. But even as early as chapter one, the ramifications of this are clear – though the filters enhance, they also distort. So wrapped up in herself, in a possible love interest, the main character hasn’t noticed the glaring truth. Her filters flicker off for a moment. Long enough for her to realise her roommate is missing. But for how long? And why?
The short story in The Tilt, We Paint with Our Eyes Open, features the missing friend. While the protagonist in the novel is pretty satisfied with her world, the narrator of We Paint with Our Eyes Open is a rebel, deliberately disfiguring and damaging the propaganda of the ‘Fixers’, the government officials that enforce the illusions.
It’s one thing to create a world. It’s another entirely to invite in someone else, ask them to walk around, smell the air, feel the ground beneath their feet.
‘I was so excited to read her [Amy Lilwall’s] story,’ April says. ‘It was almost strange how well it works with my story. She really embodied the characters and the world. I think my chapter is probably particularly difficult to work from because it’s speculative science fiction. I know a lot about the world because I’ve lived in it for a very long time, but she was just given 1,500 words and had to imagine what it would be like. But she did it really well – it flows so smoothly. It’s also so interesting to see a different side of the character in such a small space. I thought it was great.’
Lilwall’s story has the same energy, the same feeling and flair, as April’s. Both stories are propulsive and fun: cool things happen fast. That another writer, with their own deadlines and worldbuilding to do, can climb so confidently into a new fictional world, says something about that fiction’s foundations.
April’s mentor at The Literary Platform is C.J. Flood. In her foreword to the pairing of stories, Flood observes, ‘It is crucial for a writer to be able to take feedback and use it to improve the work far beyond any mentor’s vision. April did this after each of our meetings, taking suggestions I made, and sprinting with them, much further and faster than I could have envisioned, returning without a drop of sweat with work enriched beyond what I could have imagined. This is the quality that writers need above all, if they are to succeed in a market crammed full of talented writers. To be able to turn guidance into gold.’
‘April’s imagination, work ethic, and passion for the craft of writing and her story made mentoring her feel like I’d won a prize. Each session, she raised the bar, and reading this new piece from her, I see she has done it again. This is a new writer with something to say about the world we live in, and an arresting way to say it. I cannot wait to see the full novel in print.’
She’s not the only one.
There are six chapters in The Tilt; six emerging talents, six mentors, six established writers invited to respond. The one-word titles of each chapter (Conscience, Room, Longing, Ecology, Paint, Sacrifice) symbolise the change that each contributor wants to see enacted in publishing.
Six stories to read, six writers to watch, six changes to make. The Tilt is a slim volume but it’s beautiful. It’s ink and ideas, paper and power.
You can buy a copy here.
About the Author
For ten years, Ellen Lavelle has interviewed authors for The Young Journalist Academy, Nothing in the Rulebook, Newark Book Festival, and her own blog. She’s written for several publications, including The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award Blog. Now an editor at Nothing in the Rulebook, she writes fiction and non fiction, while working as a digital copywriter for an education company. You can follow her on Twitter @ellenrlavelle