Birmingham Editorial Readers Group

From September 2023, we’ve been running a new project where we put together an Editorial Readers Group made from keen readers in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

The Birmingham Editorial Readers Group assisted our team in reading submissions made to the Emma Press’s August 2023 Open Call. Across 4 sessions from September to December, group members read up to the 25 longlisted submissions across fiction, non-fiction and poetry for adults and children. The group have been supported to engage in discussions to create a final shortlist. Following our usual 2 month period allowing shortlisted authors to submit their final, full-length manuscripts, the group reconvene in March 2024 for 2 more sessions to decide on the book/s The Emma Press will publish next.

Sessions are led by the Emma Press staff and author Kate Wakeling and designed to provide insight into the publishing industry and processes. An Industry Day with guest speakers working in different publishing and writing careers – Kasim Ali, Kavita Bhanot & Malachi McIntosh – gives further opportunities to discover different approaches to publishing & editing and quiz local industry professionals.

The project has been designed to support more people from the Midlands to engage with publishing. People from Birmingham and the Midlands area are under-represented in publishing, as are Black and Asian people, people from other minority ethnic groups, neurodiverse and disabled people. We hope this project will help address that imbalance and we are passionate about increasing the diversity of perspectives in the publishing industry. All group members are offered £25 per session to support them to attend.

Introducing Our 2023-2024 BERG Cohort

Aarti Kumari

Aarti is passionate about learning about the world and other cultures through books. She wanted to share this passion with others so started her own tiktok account to share the stories she has read, the independent bookshops she has visited and the book festivals she has attended. A few months after starting this tiktok account, Aarti decided that she wanted to create a space where she could meet like-minded women who also read the same things, so started a Birmingham based bookclub called ‘Women Who Redefine Colour.’ It is a safe place for women of colour to learn from each other and the books they are reading. The club aims to read books from different authors, fiction and non fiction.


Tiktok: (@artreads_writes2)

Beth Preece

Beth Preece is a trans writer currently living in Birmingham, England. Her stories can be found in the likes The Stinging Fly, Litro Magazine, and Extra Teeth. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart prize for outstanding short fiction and is a graduate from the University of Birmingham MA creative writing program. Currently, she is working on her debut short story pamphlet.

Catherine Redford

Catherine Redford is a writer, editor, researcher, and tutor based in the West Midlands. Having begun her career as an academic specialising in Romantic and Victorian literature, she turned to writing poetry after being widowed at the age of 35. Her poems have been published in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, including Under the Radar, The Storms, New Welsh Reader, Propel, Lighthouse, Ink Sweat & Tears, Black Bough Poetry, Atrium, and Alchemy Spoon. She has been longlisted in the Nine Arches Press Primers competition (2023), longlisted for the Dai Fry Award (2022), and commended in the Sussex Poetry Competition (2021). She has also published widely on nineteenth-century literature, with a particular focus on post-apocalyptic texts and the Gothic. She is an Editor at Dust Poetry Magazine.

X: @C_Redford_

Instagram: @catherine__redford

Ilina Jha

Ilina Jha is an English literature student, editor for Redbrick newspaper, and a writer. Her short play Conversation will be performed as a staged reading at the Birmingham Rep Theatre as part of the Kali Theatre Discovery Writers Programme.

LinkedIn: Ilina Jha – Playwright – Kali Theatre

X: @ilina_jha

Redbrick Journalistic work.

Michelle McLean

Michelle is the author of the short story collection, Pay Day and Other Teabreak Tales. She has a plethora of poems, plays and prose waiting to be freed from her laptop, but they’re subjected to constant tinkering. When she isn’t writing, Michelle can usually be found tucked up with a book or moon gazing. She recently graduated from the University of Birmingham’s Creative Writing MA, with Distinction.

Prem Mehra

Prem read Creative Writing with English at Birmingham City University. Collaborating with the Birmingham School of Acting, he wrote the script for The White Tarpaulin, a short film directed by BAFTA-winning director Michael B. Clifford. Prem resides in the West Midlands.


We hope to be able to run more versions of the group in future, depending on the project’s success and funding opportunities. Sign up to our newsletter for first information about applying again.


  • The Emma Press

    The Emma Press is an independent publisher specialising in poetry, short fiction and children’s books. We are trying to make publishing and literature as welcoming and accessible as possible.

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