The Story and Stories of Working Class Writers

In November 2017 I cried at the radio. I was listening to Where Are All the Working Class Writers? The show had been put together by Kit de Waal. It featured writers and editors who came from working class backgrounds telling their stories of how they broke into the industry. They talked about libraries as refuges and publishing institutions as gated palaces they didn’t feel they belonged inside. I cried because this was my writing story too, the risks, the highs and the barriers.

So I contacted Kit and asked what needed to be done to get Working Class voices heard. She said people like me should join together to form a collective. Right then! So I floated the idea on Twitter and writers started to show their support. And that’s how it happened – a movement to get Working Class stories heard.

We’re just at the beginning and I’ll be sharing news as we go along. But I thought we could start with a place to hear the stories of how working class writers got their stories out into the wild world: from their first school story to final draft. Who championed these stories and how barriers were overcome? These tales of breaking in are so important as they show it can be done and how, they also reveal where the pitfalls are that our collective needs to address.

I’m Carmen Marcus, a writer from Saltburn by the Sea on the wild North Yorkshire coast. I’m the daughter of a Yorkshire fisherman and an Irish chef. I write performance poetry and have been commissioned by the Royal Festival Hall, BBC Radio and Durham Book Festival. I also write literary fiction and my debut novel HOW SAINTS DIE was published with Harvill Secker in July 2017. It is the story of ten-year-old Ellie Fleck and how she copes with her mother’s mental illness through the power of stories.

If you’d like to know more about the Working Class Writers’ Collective or add your story to this blog please email me at

Author: Carmen Marcus

As the daughter of a Yorkshire Fisherman and Irish Mother, my writing brings together the visceral and the magical. My debut novel #How Saints Die was published with Harvill Secker in 2017. It won New Writing North's Northern Promise Award as a work in progress and was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize in 2018. My poetry has been commissioned by BBC Radio, The Royal Festival Hall and Durham Book Festival. As a child of an 80s council estate I am an advocate for working class writers and stories. I’m currently working on my first poetry collection The Book of Godless Verse and my next novel. I try to live up to the words of my first critic and primary school teacher ‘weird minus one house point.’

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