In the autumn of 2015, The Literary Consultancy (TLC) launched its latest round of the FREE READS scheme, a programme aimed at developing the talent of marginalised writers facing barriers to career progression. TLC, the UK's first and leading editorial and manuscript assessment service, worked with 13 partner organisations including Shape, to ensure that these bursary opportunities went to talented emerging disabled and BAME writers, as part of their Quality For All campaign.       

We were delighted to work with Midlands-based writer Kuli Kohli as part of this scheme, who submitted for assessment a full length manuscript of her novel, 'Dangerous Games - What will people say?', a contemporary story about living with cerebral palsy in an Asian household in Britain. Kuli reflects below on her writer's journey and the experience of having her manuscript put under top professional scrutiny.  

Kuli Kohli at a desk promoting her poetry and prose collection entitled

Kuli Kohli promoting 'Rag Doll', a collection of poetry and prose

What got you started writing, and what were your earliest influences?

I went to Penn Hall Special School as a child and I was particularly interested in the electronic typewriters they had for children who found it difficult to hand write. I too had difficulty with my handwriting and was drawn to these machines. It was a great way to communicate my feelings and I felt very comfortable using them.

I think the main point was that I didn’t want to live in silence especially when I found it difficult to say something I felt strongly about… writing gave me the answer.

And now? What are your main motivations and influences as a developing writer?

Well, after completing my novel, I wanted to develop my writing further. I was lucky to find a good mentor, Simon Fletcher, who has given me invaluable help and guidance; he has re-educated me so that my voice shines through in my poetry and prose. In 2014, I put together a collection of poetry and prose, Rag Doll, which has given me a voice and it has been well received.

My main motivation is to inspire and show those who are living with a disability that we are able all to live life to the max. It’s hard but it is worthwhile, especially when we follow our dreams and desires.

What inspires creativity in you?  And how do you manage to maintain the discipline of writing with all your other responsibilities to juggle?

When I was writing my novel, my mission was to complete the story, it took me years on and off. I used write first thing in the morning and late at night, in my lunch hour at work and an hour after work. It took a lot of dedication and discipline, especially when I had three young children, elderly in-laws and my husband. What a relief it was when I finally completed my novel!
Now, I mainly write short prose and poetry which is easier to juggle. I am inspired to write through my own life experiences and how I perceive and observe life. I am a member of Blakenhall Writer’s Group which gives me valuable time to write and opportunities to share my work with other writers.

This month we are launching our Blakenhall Writers Anthology, edited by myself and two other members which is exciting.

The TLC scheme was designed to support marginalised writers and those who are facing barriers to progression due to socio-economic circumstances. There is a lot being discussed in the media at the moment around diversity and the profile of people from minority backgrounds; do you feel that voices like your own are heard enough in society? What’s your take on this- with regards to disabled and BAME writers getting published and recognised (on merit) in the mainstream press – or more generally …

I don’t believe that voices like ours are heard enough in society. Being an Asian woman with disabilities (cerebral palsy) has many complex issues in itself. There aren’t many stories/novels around where the main character has a cerebral palsy and living an event filled life.

I understand that writers generally find it tough to get into the mainstream without knowing the right people or being in the right place at the right time. For people like me, it proves to be even more difficult as we have a lot of restrictions and physical/social/financial/cultural barriers we have to cross to get noticed. I, therefore, am very grateful to the TLC, especially to be taken seriously as a writer.  This has been so important for my self-esteem and to feel significant, valuable and accepted in the world of writing and publishing.

I wanted to say a big thank you to Shape for your help in getting my manuscript ‘Dangerous Games' read by the TLC. The feedback is very useful and full of constructive criticisms. Some of the feedback was eye opening and some of it I already knew about.

Of course, now it’s time to make the changes. I do know what to do, well I hope so. This means a lot of hard work on re-drafting, re-reading, re-telling/showing, re-shaping, re-delivering the story in a different perspective; thinking more about character development and taking the novel to a different contrast to get as much detachment from it as possible.

I am looking forward to this exercise. This proves to be fairly difficult when I am working full time and a mother of three growing children and having an extended family and coping with my own disability cerebral palsy. However, I enjoy a challenge and I am planning to get the redraft done by the end of this year. I will be attending the TLC editing workshop in London on 15 March. So it’s all exciting and full of fun and adventure. I am ready to go...

Discover more of Kuli's story at City Voices: International Women's Week Special where she will be interviewed by Simon Fletcher; includes a poetry reading. 

Date and Time: Tuesday 8 March; 7:30pm - 9:15pm

Location: Lych Gate Tavern, Queen Square, Wolverhampton, WV1 1TX (Website)

Tickets: £3/£1 for under 16s

Visit Kuli's website at this link


In 2001 TLC received its first sum of ongoing core funding from Arts Council England. This enabled the provision of bursaried manuscript assessments for writers from low-income households. The scheme is known as ‘The Free Read Scheme’ and offers access to TLC’s core services to writers who under normal circumstances might not be able to afford them. Free Reads are selected by a range of literature development bodies coming from as wide a spread across the UK as possible. There are currently thirteen organisations benefitting from the Free Reads Scheme. We work with partners who are proven to work well, but will also from time to time open the process up to include new partners and ensure the best possible national spread.

You can find out more about the scheme and TLC's work at this link