It’s almost insulting to say Stormzy has a Midas touch; it took just 16 days for his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer to be certified gold — and following two BRIT Award conquests, it’s now way past platinum.
“I just went to the park with my friends and I charted,” he raps on “Cold”, referencing his homemade freestyle video for “Shut Up” that catapulted him to viral fame in 2015.
But Stormzy — who once shut down Thorpe Park just so his fans and mates could throw a 23rd birthday party — wants to share the fruits of his success once more, and he’s starting with a new project aimed at young writers.
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Stormzy has set up a publishing project with Penguin Random House called #Merky Books — and it’s all about giving young authors an opportunity to showcase their work to a wider audience.
The grime star outlined his plans in an Instagram post on July 5, saying he was “super proud” of the venture.
Super proud to announce our new venture #Merky Books, a publishing imprint in collaboration with Penguin Random House @penguinukbooks We will be using this as a platform for young writers to become published authors, I know too many talented writers that don’t always have an outlet or a means to get their work seen and hopefully #Merky Books can now be a reference point for them to say “I can be an author” and for that to be a realistic and achievable goal. Reading and writing as a kid was integral to where I am today and I from the bottom of my heart can not wait to hear your stories, your poems, your novels, your sci-fis and then getting them out into the big wide world. Proper proud of this! We’ll be doing school competitions, taking entries and submissions and looking for writers as well but I’ll keep you posted! #Merky Books will also be offering a paid internship in 2019! The first book to be released under the imprint will be “Rise Up: The #Merky Journey So Far” out November 1st and available for pre order now (The link is in my bio!) 🙏🏿❤️
The partnership with Penguin Random House will also include a paid internship in 2019, and school competitions to seek out young authors.
#Merky Books — named after Stormzy’s sprawling brand that includes his own record label and a music festival in Ibiza — will publish three to four books every year. Its first release will be the rapper’s own, an autobiography called Rise Up: The #Merky Journey So Far, out Nov. 1.
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“I know too many talented writers that don’t always have an outlet or a means to get their work seen,” he said in the Instagram post. “Hopefully #Merky Books can now be a reference point for them to say, ‘I can be an author,’ and for that to be a realistic and achievable goal.”
“Reading and writing as a kid was integral to where I am today and I, from the bottom of my heart, cannot wait to hear your stories, your poems, your novels, your sci-fis and then getting them out into the big wide world,” he added.
#Merky Books is the most exciting thing to happen to publishing this year:— Demelza Griffiths (@demelzagriff) July 5, 2018
✅ Rise Up by Stormzy is out Nov
✅ 2-3 books a year from new voices
✅ 2019 open submission competition
✅ 2019 paid internship
It's time for new voices #DiverseBookBloggershttps://t.co/6gnSJ6XjkR
However, it’s not just about opportunity; Clash Magazine have argued that the imprint will also champion diversity. It highlights the “phenomenal creative evolution” of grime music, and connects that to a shift in culture that’s allowed more black authors to thrive — like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s bestseller Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.
“It’s this edict that Stormzy’s #Merky Books project is being built upon, an opportunity for the energy that surrounds grime to be used to open doors for young writers from different backgrounds,” wrote Robin Murray in Clash. “Much of the writing around grime so far mirrors the electricity with which musicians, producers, and rappers approach the music they are involved in — we can’t wait to see what #Merky Books has in store.”
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Murray cited a 2017 study that found that the UK publishing industry is 90% white and British.
Penguin Random House has already been leading the battle to increase representation and diversity in the industry, with its UK CEO previously arguing that it will “become irrelevant” if it fails to reflect society.
Stormzy sometimes calls himself The Problem — but for young authors without opportunities, #Merky Books might just be the answer.