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Pen to Print creative writing programme

Pen to Print. What's your story?At Pen to Print we are passionate about helping people discover their stories through free competitions, events, classes and creative writing initiatives.

Please visit our Pen to Print website and our social media channels to discover digital content to read, watch listen and enjoy. We are busy creating more exciting things for you to get involved with as the weeks pass so keep checking in with us online.

We are always looking for more content so if you would like to contribute by writing or recording something please send it to our email address: pentoprint@lbbd.gov.uk

Online content and activities include:

  • films and podcasts
  • quizzes
  • how to guides

We are also looking for submissions for our Pen to Plate book.

You can also discover our Pen to Print competitions, all the entry requirements and details are on our website.

Read Write On! Magazine in print or the digital version that can also be read online.

Enjoy our Write On! Extra online only content:

  • Monday Moments
  • Thoughtful Tuesdays
  • Write On! Features
  • Thursday Connectors
  • Write On! Showcase
  • Saturday Spotlight
  • Write On! Interviews

You can also buy our local authors books online!


We believe everybody should have a chance to tell their story and aim to build a network of expertise and support for aspiring writers in Barking and Dagenham and sharing this with a wider national and international community.


Pen to Print provides a safe, collaborative environment that attracts and supports a network of diverse writers and genres. By learning to develop their authentic voices, aspiring writers are encouraged to reach communities with their stories reflecting not just their own journeys but also inspiring potential in others.


Our birthplace in libraries has taught us that the best results for a diverse and relevant service can be achieved by being the welcoming heart of a community, allowing all to learn, discover, create, and connect. Pen to Print has translated this ethos into a relevant library service for writers and readers which, irrespective of their background or circumstances works towards creating a shared storytelling experience accessible to different markets and communities.

We are committed to:

  • giving our network the skills to document, influence and make history through their writing
  • promoting the value of diverse voices to the widest possible audience
  • making our network innovative, measurable, creative and enjoyable
  • collaborating with educational, corporate and charity partners to create funded universal access to our services

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team.

For news on the Pen to Print classes, workshops and events sign up for the newsletter:

Pen to Print newsletter sign up

Find out more

Pen to Print website

The programme is funded by Arts Council England and has these elements:

The Book Challenge Competition - Write a novel in a year! Toggle accordion

The Book Challenge. What's your story?Pen to Print is looking for budding authors to work with them with the aim of getting their work published.

The Book Challenge is a programme of support provided by established authors working with participants to create a book-length piece of creative writing. The work can be in any fiction genre.

Support for writers will come in the form of a year of free mentoring support with a professional writer. This can be supplemented by attending our regular programme of monthly workshops and enhanced by master classes and author talks in a wide range of genres. Sessions will be open everyone.

Submissions will be evaluated and the best, as judged by creative writing experts, will be allocated a professional writer who will be their mentor for 12 months and will guide them through the process of getting their work written and ready for publication.

Workshops, master classes and author talks take place throughout the year and there will be scope to connect you to other opportunities for the duration of the whole project and everyone will continue to be able to benefit from them.


First prize is a tablet PC.

All finalists received free mentoring for a year and have the opportunity to get their completed book published.

How to enter

Visit Pen to Print - Competitions.

Entering the competition will entail sending us your first chapter and a synopsis of your book idea.

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team.

Poetry and Short Story Competition Toggle accordion

If you enjoy writing short stories or poetry this is for you! 

Poems can be of any length but must not exceed two A4 pages. Short stories must not be more than 2,000 words in length.

You can get support through our programme of free creative writing classes with the aim of developing your work so it is suitable for publication in magazines and other media.


First prize is a tablet PC.

How to enter

Visit Pen to Print - Competitions.

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team.

Speech & Drama Festival (Incorporating The Michael Feld Creative Writing Competition for young people) Toggle accordion

The competition is now open to adults and children aged 7 and over as set out in the categories below

Write and perform a Poem, Monologue or Short Play of no more than 3 mins long as part of our new online Speech and Drama Festival on 25 and 26 March 2022.

You can enter as an individual or team up with friends and enter as a group. You can enter only once piece of work for each category: Poem, Monologue and Short Play

You should send us the work in writing and as a video performance of no more than 3 minutes long.

Age Categories:

  • Adults aged over 16
  • 14 to 16 Years – Key Stage 4
  • 11 to 14 Years – Key Stage 3
  • 7 to 11 Years – Key Stage 2
  • Mixed age groups should fall within the corresponding age category (Key Stage)

The competition closes on Friday 21 January 2022, 5pm.

Please note that entrants must be available to perform live at our online Speech and Drama Festival Finalists from Schools on Friday 25 March in slots between 9.30am and 3pm.  Adult finalists and finalists from Independent Drama /Theatre Schools & Groups - Saturday 26 March in slots between 9.30am and 4.30pm


Winners will win prizes that can include a Kindle Fire Tablet or the opportunity for a free coaching session with an acting professional. Other runner-up prizes are on offer.

The best overall piece of writing and performance by young people aged 7 to 16 years old living or going to school in Barking and Dagenham will be eligible to win the Michael Feld Memorial Award.

How to enter

Visit Pen to Print - Competitions.

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team.

Audio Play Competition Toggle accordion

Write an Audio Play

Your Audio Play should have a running time approximately 30 minutes and should have at least 2 characters but preferably 4 or 5.- the word length for this will be approximately 4,000 - 5000 words. Your manuscript should not exceed 5,000 words. Include a synopsis of your story of no more than 250 words.

Entries must be received before 5pm on Friday 25 March 2022


First prize is a fully produced audio drama which will go out as an Alternative Stories podcast edition to their global audience.

This includes:

  • the opportunity to work with Alternative Stories actors including casting, direction and fielding their questions on character tone and delivery
  • the opportunity to work with Alternative Stories in the design of soundscapes and the tone of music and ambient sounds we produce for their production
  • the opportunity to play a small cameo part in the production, should you wish to
  • to be fully credited as the writer in all branding for the production

How to enter

Visit Pen to Print - Competitions.

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team.

Digital Photography Competition Toggle accordion

Use your phone camera or conventional camera to capture your digital images. Take a photograph that tells a story. Send us a short description of your image in story form or as a poem in no more than 500 words.

There are two categories Under 16s and Over 16s

Entries must be received before 5pm on Friday 25 March 2022


Tablet PC

How to enter

Visit Pen to Print - Competitions.

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team

ReadFest - Our annual literary festival Toggle accordion

ReadFest. Barking and Dagenham's literary festival.ReadFest 2022 will be from Monday 5 September to Friday 23 September 2022.

ReadFest has been running in Barking and Dagenham libraries since 2011. ReadFest aims to deliver a wide-ranging selection of local, national and internationally acclaimed writers and speakers specially selected to entertain and inform.

Writers to feature at previous years of ReadFest include:

  • Ben Aaronovitch
  • Laura Barnett
  • Simon Brett
  • Kimberley Chambers
  • Martina Cole
  • Jane Corry
  • Miranda Kaufman
  • Christy Lefteri
  • Ayisha Malik
  • Dreda Say Mitchell
  • David Neita
  • Dr. Janina Ramirez
  • Simon Toyne
  • Catriona Ward
  • Sarah Ward

and many, many more.

We are always looking for artists, authors and speakers to take part if you are interested in getting involved speak to the Pen to Print team.

Details of the 2022 line up will be available on the Pen to Print website.

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team.

Pen to Print courses and workshops Toggle accordion

Pen to Print includes a series of free courses and workshops including:

  • creative writing for beginners
  • creative writing advanced
  • poetry for beginners
  • poetry advanced
  • playwriting for beginners
  • playwriting advanced
  • screenwriting
  • comic book writing

New courses and workshop opportunities are being added throughout the year.

Search and book free places online at Pen to Print events

For enquiries, contact the Pen to Print team.

Write On! Magazine – Real people, real writers Toggle accordion

Write On. Real people, real writers. By Pen to Print.Write On! is a free quarterly magazine aimed at story tellers everywhere. With a projected circulation of 30,000 readership which comes from 10,000 copies of the magazine being distributed directly thought libraries and other community spaces in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, along with Havering, Southend and Redbridge and many other venues.

Each Write On! issue features news and articles for the writing community by our own team of volunteer writers, it includes interviews with leading authors and people who can support writers. It showcases new writer’s poetry, stories and novels. You can also get advice and tips on writing and much more!

View the current and past issues of Write On!

Write On Extra. Real people, real writers. By Pen to Print.Write On! Extra’s additional online only content is posted regularly on our website.

Write On! and Write On! Extra reaches national and 120 international communities via the online publication on our Pen to Print website with the potential to reach many thousands more!

Write On! offers regular workshops encouraging everyone to join in and discover what it is like to create a publication for the magazine market. Gain valuable experience in writing short stories, poems, articles and conducting interviews with leading writers and industry professionals. Get insight into how to attract marketing and sponsorship. Become part of the volunteer team and get hands-on experience of helping to decide on content, structure and help edit each issue of Write On!, getting it ready for publication.

Check the Pen to Print events page to find out when the next workshop will be.

Write On! Audio Toggle accordion

Write On Audio Logo

Write On! Audio is the new podcast ‘For Writers Everywhere’ connects emerging and established writers to each other, the publishing industry and a wider audience in an audio celebration of diversity, originality and excellence!

Created in partnership with the award-winning Alternative Stories podcast, you can find it on all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and many more. Just type Pen to Print into your browser and look for ‘Pen to Print – Podcasts for Aspiring Writers’. Alternatively, you find it via the Anchor FM hosting site, which links you to content on a variety of podcast platforms.

Listen to Write On! Audio

Pen to Plate – Your food stories Toggle accordion

Do you have a recipe with a unique story behind it?

Pen to Print are collecting recipes and stories to add to our new publication Pen to Plate.

Taste and smell are among our senses that can generate recollections from our past. We often associate special memories with treasured family recipes or meals, for example we eat our favourite meal and it takes us back to when we were a child, I for one can’t forget my Mum’s Sunday roast! We are looking for these special recipes and memories to share with each other in our latest publication.

It could be a memory of sharing a meal with your family or a meal you enjoy that reminds you of an important event or person in your life.

If you have a recipe and a story to go with it we would like to know. Share it with others and help create more special memories for the future.

We would like a list of ingredients along with the amounts you need of each ingredient and instructions on how to prepare your special dish. In no more than 2,000 words we would also like you to tell the story that makes the dish special for you .

We aim to collect all the recipes and stories together in a book to be published. If you are included, we will give you a copy. We will contact you to let you know when the book is going to be published. We will also make the book available in our local libraries.

The Pen to Print Digital Storytelling Trail Toggle accordion

Digital Storytelling Trail LogoDiscover heritage information, poetry and stories true and fictional!

The Pen to Print Digital Storytelling Trail is an ongoing project to record and share stories about Barking and Dagenham. 

Our first trails can currently be found in Barking Town Centre but they are expanding around the borough. Download the Street Tag App on your smart phone and using Augmented Reality (AR) technology read, watch or listen to stories new and old.

We have been working closely with our partners to include images, written poems and stories, videos and audio that will inform and entertain.

More trails are being added all the time but we are focusing on the Becontree Estate in Dagenham to mark its 100th anniversary in 2021. 

We are looking for your stories too – visit our website to discover how your stories can feature on the trail, along with details of how to download Street Tag.

The Pen to Print Digital Storytelling Trail

In addition to the main competition elements, there will be a series of ongoing author events and workshops.

These events are open to all residents and are aimed at inspiring and encouraging aspiring writers, especially those from groups and communities that are under-represented in the publishing industry, as well as providing entertainment to the wider reading public.

Pen to Print and our annual literary festival ReadFest are supported by National Portfolio funding through Arts Council England with £180,000 per year until 2023.

Connect with the Pen to Print team

Email: pentoprint@lbbd.gov.uk
Pen to Print website