Write-Off with Francesca Steele


Alex Wheatle

Season 1, Ep. 8

The British novelist Alex Wheatle has such an extraordinary backstory that when he was working in the writers’ room for Steve McQueen’s BAFTA winning film series Small Axe, McQueen ended up making one of the films about Alex’s own life. Alex was raised in a care home where he was abused. He emgered as teenager in Brixton under-educated and ill-prepared for adulthood, and in 1981 was sent to prison for a year for his involvement in the Brixton Riots. Prison though turned out to be Alex's salvation. There he met a man who encouraged him to revive his childhood love of reading – and from that came his writing.

He's now written 17 novels, has an MBE, and in 2016 won the Guardian’s Children’s Fiction Prize for his YA novel Crongton Knights.

Alex defines himself as a survivor not a victim, and I found him an inspiring reminder of what can be achieved through perservance. We talked a lot about the difficulties for black authors in publishing both 20 years ago and now, and also about the extraordinary advantage a love of reading can give kids in even the direst circumstances.

Just a reminder that you can buy Alex's books – and those by my other authors – here: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/francescasteele

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