Reese Witherspoon’s Reese’s Book Club has launched LitUp, a writers’ fellowship for unpublished, underrepresented women, Hello Sunshine announced Tuesday.
LitUp aims to help elevate, mentor and champion first-time authors to ensure diverse stories are recognized and read by all. The new fellowship will be powered by The Readership — a pay-it-forward platform on a mission to raise up diverse voices. LitUp is sponsored through Hello Sunshine’s funding partners, Google, Buick, and Emerson Collective.
“As our community and reach continues to grow, we have all collectively sought out innovative ways to create real change and leave an indelible mark on the greater reading community,” said Witherspoon. “We know there are so many powerful stories from undiscovered voices, and now, more than ever, we need to hear them. We are so thrilled that LitUp will serve as a launchpad for a new generation of authors and provide them with the necessary tools and resources to forge formidable careers as storytellers.”
In order to qualify, unpublished candidates without an agent must identify as a woman writer from a diverse background – a person of color, Native, LGBTQIA, a person with disabilities, or a person from an ethnic, cultural, or religious minority. Submissions, which will be open through May 30, must be an original, completed adult or young adult fiction manuscript, written in English, and feature a woman at the center of the story.
Those selected for the fellowship will embark on an all-expenses-paid writer’s retreat next year where they will develop their manuscript and learn about the business side of publishing; a three-month mentorship with a published author; a first-look window with top agents and a book-launch marketing commitment from Reese’s Book Club and its partners. Books will also receive a “LitUp by Reese’s Book Club” seal.
“One of the joys of Reese’s Book Club is our ongoing conversation about finding ways to do better for the reading community,” said Gretchen Schreiber, RBC Manager at Hello Sunshine. “We know there are significant systemic hurdles for aspiring first-time authors from diverse backgrounds, and it became clear to us through our conversations that the only way to create change is by addressing the major pipeline issues that prevent so many underrepresented voices from breaking through.”
Schreiber adds, “In addition to providing financial support and mentorship resources through LitUp, we wanted to give these authors — who are often deemed ‘risky’ by many publishers — the opportunity to work with an agent and a comprehensive marketing campaign for their work. We’re so excited that LitUp will help usher in new voices with dynamic stories to tell.”
For LitUp, Reese’s Book Club will join forces with We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) and Madcap Retreats as operational partners and advisors. We Need Diverse Books will oversee an anti-bias screening process to review and help narrow the winning manuscripts, and Madcap Retreats will create and administer the writers’ retreats.
“As an organization, WNDB has long been dedicated to supporting marginalized writers and their books, and so we couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Reese and the entire Hello Sunshine team on LitUp,” said WNDB’s COO Dhonielle Clayton. “RBC’s commitment to amplifying diverse voices is welcome and needed, and we’re honored to work with them to identify and support these burgeoning authors.”
LitUp submissions are open now through May 30, 2021.