Skip to main content

Alumni Network

The HarperCollins Author Academy Alumni Network exists to ensure students can continue their learning and connection to the publishing industry.

It also aims to provide key networking opportunities for all students.

The network is a community for underrepresented authors to continue the conversation, create critique circles, and meet industry professionals after completing the course.

Have a look at our Class of Spring 2023 Bio’s below.

Stephenjohn Holgate

Stephenjohn Holgate was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica and has lived in
Florida and London but is in the process of moving to Aotearoa/New
Zealand. He read English at Oxford University and has an MA in
Classical Acting from the Central School of Speech and Drama. A member
of Writing West Midlands Room 204 writer development programme, he was
one of the Bridport Prize’s inaugural Black Writers in Residence and
is one of the winners of the PEN/ Robert J. Dau Prize 2023.

Maritsa Grey

Maritsa started writing and performing spoken word in London. She completed a Creative Writing MA from Goldsmiths University in 2020, and was named Project Phakam’s Young Artist of 2021. She’s been shortlisted for the Jericho Prize (2021) and the HarperCollins Representing Romance Award (2022). She likes funny, surprising, genre-bending stories, and is currently working on a queer romance. She lives in Nottingham with her wife, best friend, and too many books.

Defne Guner

Defne is a writer from Ankara. She is currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Warwick. As a bilingual writer and reader, she is interested in exploring the limits of language and how it shapes experiences and cultures.

Growing up with the poems of Özdemir Asaf, Turgut Uyar, and Nazım Hikmet, she loves writing poetry and has taken part in slam poetry events.
Studying philosophy modules such as Chinese Philosophy and Philosophy of Mathematics alongside English literature, she is passionate about writing philosophical essays and short stories.
She has worked as a Deputy News Editor for The Boar, the University of Warwick’s independent student-led newspaper.
As a self-taught graphic designer, she is the Creative Director of TEDxWarwick.

Becky Balfourth

Becky Balfourth is a writer from East London.  She has had poetry and short stories published in Mslexia, The Colour of Madness anthology, Patrician Press anthology, Litro Online, Blaekk and other places.  In 2022 she was selected as one of 8 poets to take part in Griots Well, a poetry programme by Writerz & Scribez for global majority poets over 25.  As part of this, she was writer in residence at Stone MiniMarket in Leytonstone.  She is currently studying for a PhD focused on life-writing and Caribbean Literature.  Other than writing, Becky enjoys running, hula-hooping and cooking.

Kira Richards

Kira Richards is a journalist and non-fiction writer from London. She mainly writes about lifestyle, focussing on travel, food and consumerism, as well as personal stories on race, loss and relationships. Her writing is influenced by her British-Caribbean upbringing, with her grandparents hailing from Grenada, Trinidad and St Vincent and The Grenadines.
Kira graduated from City, University of London this year with a degree in journalism and was awarded the Nick Lewis Trust Award for being the highest achieving student in her year. During her time at university, she was the leader of City’s African Caribbean Journalism Network, and spoke at multiple panels about the significance of diverse voices in the news and media industry. She’s currently adapting her final investigative audio project into a full length podcast series.
In spring 2023, Kira was part of the fifth HarperCollins Author Academy non-fiction stream, where she developed the proposal for her first book, a memoir about coming of age whilst experiencing life-changing loss. Alongside writing, Kira loves podcasts, film photography and discovering new places.

Lena Lee

Lena Lee was born in South Korea but grew up moving countries every three years. As a Third Culture Kid, she has lived in Seoul, Paris, Oslo, Kuala Lumpur and New Jersey. After studying Human Sciences at the University of Oxford, she—regrettably—ended up an accountant. Now in her thirties, Lena is trying to reduce the amount of corporate BS in her life and maximize her time reading and writing. Her first book—GIRL, UPROOTED—is a memoir about her global upbringing. She lives in London, a place she now calls home(ish).

Ben Jones

Ben is a father to two girls.  They have motivated and cemented his writing journey to this point. He is a fiction writer, creating poignant adventures for children aged 9-13.  He is fascinated by the power and possibilities of imagination and passionate about writing for children.
Ben is mixed race: part Sri Lankan, part Malay, part Welsh.  Growing up, his house was often filled with song and the smell of spice.  The product of a middle-class upbringing in the armed forces and Church of England meant that he moved around a lot, met all sorts of people and witnessed the power of storytelling from the pulpit.
The fact that he was sent away to boarding school at the age of eight has meant that cultural and physical roots were hard to establish.  He spent a lot of time (and still does) living in his head, daydreaming. His writing reflects this use of imagination as a way of navigating the world, and a fascination with identity and the meaning of ‘home’.
Ben is a screenwriter and has written several episodes for the BBC’s award-winning drama, Doctors in which he was also an actor. He played regular character Dr. Greg Robinson across five series.  He is very proud to have been one half of the very first gay wedding on UK television.After a 20-year career in acting, appearing in some of the most popular TV shows and on some of the biggest stages in the UK, Ben switched his attention to writing. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at Falmouth University in 2020.
Ben also works with Synergy Theatre Project as a Reader and Actor, supporting the work of the project to bring creative skills to the UK prison population.
Having recently graduated from the Author Academy, he is excited to finish his first novel.  It is the expansion of a story that he made up in ten-minute installments for his daughter during Lockdown. He hopes that it will be the first of many . 

Debora Adachi

Debora Adachi is Brazilian born illustrator and writer of Japanese heritage currently living in Ireland. She is a FAB Prize 22 Highly Commended Illustration Winner. She is also a Pathways 2022-2024 alumni, an illustration program that supports a diverse group of talented artists hoping to be the next generation of children’s illustrators. In 2023, she was selected to be part of Harper Collin’s Author Academy writing for children. She’s also the Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI Ireland. 
Originally graduated in architecture, she blends her design and technical skills with her passion for visual storytelling, bringing about a perfect marriage of her two passions. Since she decided to change careers, she has been working as a Background Artist for Animation and as a freelance Illustrator, specializing in children’s publishing. 
Her diverse cultural background inspires her in creating stories that celebrate diversity. Family, belonging, heritage, and identity are themes that she’s drawn to. She’s currently working on her first picturebook. You can find her creations on Instagram @deboraadachi Twitter @deboraadachiart

Bunmi Anjorin-Kogbe

Bunmi’s won her first literary prize was when she was nine years old. She retold ‘The Willow Pattern Story’ which really boosted her confidence despite being the only person who entered the competition.
Her love for storytelling began at a young age where would visit her local library at least twice a week to engross herself in fiction. Bunmi has a degree in English language and Literature and a Masters in ‘Applied Linguistics’ where she was able to hone her skill of storytelling.
As well as writing short stories Bunmi has also engaged in writing for children. Growing up in both England and Africa Bunmi has a unique blended culture which she draws on for inspiration for her writing.
She has been published in the respected literary magazine ‘Brittle Paper’ with her short story ‘The Respect of a First Wife’.
In addition, to being an avid reader and writer, Bunmi loves cooking and singing. bag.
She believes that you should always have a book in your bag and hopes to publish her short stories into a collection.

Zita Abila

Zita Abila is a British-Nigerian writer and artist. She was raised in the Netherlands and across the UK from Manchester to Lincolnshire to Milton Keynes. At 17 she moved to London, to study Law at King’s College London. While studying, she worked as a freelance journalist for magazines such as Dazed and Oh Comely, as an assistant at publishing houses such as Unbound and Piccadilly Press, and had a brief stint working at Disneyland Paris. 
After graduating she joined the BBC Production Talent Pool, and has since built her career in digital media storytelling.
Zita is a passionate history nerd with a love of forgotten legends and ancient cities. She gained a Masters in Literature and Culture from the University of Birmingham where she got to explore these things, and her research led to starting an art and storytelling brand, Mordi Studio, which finds creative ways to bring neglected historical stories to life. The first project, on a little-known West African written language has been exhibited at Somerset House as part of the London Design Festival 2021, at the Victoria Miro Gallery in 2022, and shortlisted for the Chroic Award. She was accepted into the London Creative Network 2022-3 programme for this work.
Zita also has a deep love of high-concept stories, and is always asking herself ‘what if…?’ which is what led to the concept for her debut sci-fi/fantasy novel.






Author Academy

Spring 2022 Cohort