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Author Academy Guest Speakers

Each of the HarperCollins Author Academy & Design Academy courses will provide opportunities for students to meet and learn from HarperCollins published authors and designers in the industry. The Academy has lined up some amazing guest speakers for each of our courses: Writing Fiction, Writing Nonfiction, Writing for Children, Design for Adult publishing and Design for Children’s publishing.

We have a tremendous line-up of authors and designers from all corners of publishing, who represent many genres and will lend their time and expertise to assist students in their learning. Some of the HarperCollins authors and designers who will take part in the various courses’ breakout sessions are:

June Sarpong

Author of The Power of Privilege and Diversify

June Sarpong has enjoyed a 20-year career which has already seen her become one of the most recognizable faces of British television, as well as being one of the UK’s most intelligent and dynamic young hosts. June is a media phenomenon and is equally comfortable interviewing politicians, celebrities, and members of the public.

June has also taken on the world’s most challenging live audiences, hosting 2005’s major Make Poverty History event in London’s Trafalgar Square and presenting at the UK leg of Live Earth in 2007. In 2008, alongside Will Smith, she also hosted Nelson Mandela’s 90th-birthday celebrations in front of 30,000 people in London’s Hyde Park.

June has worked extensively with the Prince’s Trust for two decades and also campaigns for The One, (RED) Product and the United Nations. She was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in the Queen’s 2007 New Year’s Honours List for her services to broadcasting and charity, making her one of the youngest people to receive an MBE.

June is the Cofounder of Women: Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE), first launched in New York in 2010, and then in the UK in 2012, which has featured leading speakers from a gamut of industries. Previous speakers include: Sarah Brown, Melinda Gates, Arianna Huffington, Donna Karan, Queen Rania, Nancy Pelosi, Iman, and many more.

June is cohost of Sky News’ flagship weekly current affairs show The Pledge. She is the author of Diversify and Power of Women, both of which are published by Harper Collins and out now.

Kieron Lewis

Kieron Lewis

Freelance Graphic Designer and Public Speaker

Kieron Lewis is a South London-born freelance graphic designer, public speaker and host on Adobe Live.
His work covers a range of disciplines including, editorial design, branding and marketing. Over the years, he has designed numerous self-directed and client-based projects for clients such as, Harper Collins, Levi Strauss, D&AD and Penguin Books.

Jamila Gavin

Author of The Wheel of Surya and Coram Boy

Jamila Gavin was born in Mussoorie, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. With an Indian father and an English mother, she inherited two rich cultures which ran side by side throughout her life, and which always made her feel she belonged to both countries. The family finally settled in England where Jamila completed her schooling, was a music student, worked for the BBC and became a mother of two children. It was then that she began writing children’s books, and felt a need to reflect the multi-cultural world in which she and her children now lived.

Since her first book, The Magic Orange Tree was published in 1979, she has been writing steadily, producing collections of short stories and several teenage novels for the whole age range from six to sixteen, including Grandpa Chatterji, which was short-listed for the Smarties Award and was dramatised for television on Channel 4 Schools, and The Surya Trilogy of which the first, The Wheel of Surya, was runner-up for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Award in 1992.

Her book, Coram Boy, a novel for young adults, was published to critical acclaim in 2000 and won the Children’s Whitbread Award, as well as being short listed for the Carnegie Medal. It was subsequently adapted for the stage and had two highly successful runs at the National Theatre in 2005/6 and on Broadway. Jamila’s latest book is Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales published by Tamarind.
Away from story writing Jamila has written for television, radio and the stage. Her first original radio play, The God at The Gate was broadcast on Radio 4 and she is currently adapting Coram Boy for Radio 4’s Classic Serial, to be broadcast this December. She adapted her children’s book, The Monkey in the Stars as a play for the Polka Theatre, which was followed up by a Polka commission for a play called Just So, based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories. She also dramatised Grandpa Chatterji for Channel 4 Schools that starred Roshan Seth and Saeed Jaffrey.

In between her novels, Jamila has written numerous short stories, and involved herself in charitable projects such as abridging Measure for Measure for the Shakespeare Schools Festival. Jamila has lived in Gloucestershire for over thirty years. She is a regular visitor to the schools and libraries all over the country.

Rachel Edwards

Author of Darling and Lucky

Rachel Edwards was born and raised in the UK by her Jamaican mother and Nigerian father. She is delighted to have been ‘born on three continents at once’ and identifies as many things: a black British author; a Sunday Times columnist; a wife and stepmother; a London-loving resident of the Shires; a now-wistful Europhile and a diehard Soul II Soul fan.

Rachel read French with English at King’s College London. After a graduate stint in publishing, her break into fiction came in her twenties when she was engaged to craft literary sauce for her first editor, Rowan Pelling. She then won a national fiction award from The Arts Council which comprised mentoring from the acclaimed novelist Catherine Johnson. She has since written for many national publications, freelancing for more than ten years until 2016 when she chose to focus full-time on her fiction. Darling, the result, was her debut novel. and her second novel, Lucky, was published on 24th June 2021.

Rachel is the author of Lucky, a novel that helter-skelters into the world of online gambling while looking at race, migration and the risks we all take to survive. This follows the success of her debut, Darling, a book that features a toxic battle between a Black British stepmother and her white stepdaughter, hailed as ‘the first Brexit thriller’. Edwards was born and raised in the UK by her Jamaican mother and Nigerian father and relishes having been ‘born on three continents at once’. She has written for numerous publications including The Guardian and, during summer 2020, the Sunday Times Magazine for which she wrote a popular weekly column.

Smriti Halls

Author of Elephant in my Kitchen

Smriti Halls is an award-winning, critically acclaimed children’s author. Since the publication of her first picture book in 2012, she has had a US number 1 bestseller and been published in more than thirty languages, from Arabic to Afrikaans, and from Catalan to Korean.

With a cast of characters as varied as mischievous monsters and disgruntled geese, she explores relationship and identity; the personal and the political; how it feels to be in your own skin – and in someone else’s. Her books, often fast-paced and funny, or lyrical and tender, are always full of hope and heart, and speak to the child in all of us.

Several of her books have been nominated and shortlisted for national awards. The Little Island (illustrated by Robert Starling) is currently shortlisted for the 2020 Teach Primary Awards and the 2020 Little Rebels Award.

Smriti works extensively with the Bedtime Stories Prison Project, helping parents in prison stay connected with their children at home through stories. She has been interviewed about this work by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and the Guardian.

Smriti has been a judge for several awards and prizes, including the Stratford-Salariya Prize, Faber’s FAB Award, and the BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award. She is currently BookTrust’s Writer in Residence.

South Indian by birth, British by nationality, and London-loving by heart, Smriti lives near Richmond Park with her husband and their three sons, reading, writing, and eating iced buns.

Paul Magrs

Author of The Panda, the Cat and the Dreadful Teddy

Paul Magrs was born in Jarrow in 1969 and grew up in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, where he went to Woodham Comprehensive. He did English at Lancaster University, and then their MA in Creative Writing, and then a PhD on Angela Carter. He brought out his first novel in 1995 when he was 26. He was a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at UEA and then at MMU. Over the years he has published over fifty books for adults and children and has written many audio dramas for radio and download.

In 2019 he published his book on writing, ‘The Novel Inside You’. In 2020 Snow Books republished his Brenda and Effie Mystery series of novels. In 2021 Harper Collins published his book of cartoons, ‘The Panda, the Cat and the Dreadful Teddy.’ In 2022 he won the Crime Writers’ Association prize for best short story of the year.

He lives and writes in Manchester with Jeremy and Bernard Socks.

Layla AlAmmar

Author of The Pact We Made and Silence Is A Sense

Layla AlAmmar grew up in Kuwait, with an American mother and a Kuwaiti father. She has a master’s in creative writing from the University of Edinburgh. Her work has appeared in the Evening StandardGuardianQuail Bell Magazine and Aesthetica Magazine, where she was a finalist for the Creative Writing Award 2015. She currently lives in Lancaster and is researching a PhD in the intersection of Arab women’s fiction and literary trauma theory at Lancaster University.
The Pact We Made was her debut novel and was discovered by Melissa Edwards as part of the agent’s open call for submissions by Muslim writers last year. The open call was a response – made initially by a group of twelve agents and later joined by many more – to President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending refugee admission to the U.S. and restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries.

Charlie Wetzel

Author of The Marvel Studios Story

Charlie has penned nearly a hundred books with leadership expert John C. Maxwell, including six New York Times bestsellers, and co-authored three books with Kevin Myers. Charlie wrote The Marvel Studios Story and assisted his wife Stephanie with The Spanx Story. His other creative work includes writing the Crystal Heart award-winning short film “The Candy Shop” starring Doug Jones, a feature screenplay, and the novella “A Christmas Wish.”
Charlie has held a most unlikely list of jobs: chef, roustabout, car salesman, teacher, busboy, dishwasher, board-road crew member, tubing fitter’s helper, waiter, cook, sexton, resume writer, and dean. All those crazy experiences make him better at what he does now: write. Along the way, he also earned a BA and an MA in English from the University of New Orleans.
When Charlie isn’t writing, he’s cooking, reading, traveling, running, or trying out watersports at his north Georgia home with Stephanie, his wife of twenty-six years, or with their three adult children. 

Rebecca Kuang

Author of the Poppy War Trilogy

Rebecca F. Kuang is a Marshall Scholar, Chinese-English translator, and the Astounding Award-winning and Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award nominated author of the Poppy War trilogy. Her work has won the Crawford Award and the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. She has an MPhil in Chinese Studies from Cambridge and an MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies from Oxford; she is now pursuing a PhD in East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale.

Luan Goldie

Author of Nightingale Point and Home Coming

Luan Goldie is a Glasgow born author and primary school teacher who grew up in East London.
Her debut novel Nightingale Point was longlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize. It was also a BBC Radio 2 Jo Whiley Book Club Pick.

Her short stories have appeared in Resist: Stories of Uprising and The Good Journal. She is also the winner of the 2017 Costa Short Story Award.

Her second novel Homecoming will be released by HarperCollins in 2020.

Melissa Reddy

Author of Believe Us

Melissa Reddy is the Senior Football Correspondent for The Independent, specialising in the Premier League and European competition, which she also covers for BBC, Sky Sports, Premier League Productions and other leading broadcasters.
Her expertise is in exclusive, in-depth interviews with some of the game’s greatest managerial minds like Jürgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino and Julian Nagelsmann, as well as sharing the untold tales behind the world’s best players. An excellent storyteller, who focuses on giving the reader a panorama of the subject matter rather than scandal or chasing headlines, she has produced an incredible archive of longform writing.
Melissa has covered a series of major tournaments – World Cups, Euros, Champions League, Europa League, Africa Cup of Nations – as well as travelled throughout the continent covering Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 games.
Born in South Africa, she has shattered ceilings for women in football back home and in the UK. Melissa also hosts her own podcast and Believe Us: How Jürgen Klopp transformed Liverpool into title winners is her first book of man

Sarah Morgan

Author of One More for Christmas

Sarah Morgan is an international bestseller and Sunday Times bestselling author of One More for ChristmasA Wedding in December and The Christmas Sisters. She has sold over eighteen million books worldwide.
Sarah lives near London, England with her family and when she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to spend time outdoors hiking or riding her mountain bike.

Kia Abdullah

Author of Truth Be Told and Take it Back

Kia Abdullah is a novelist and travel writer from London. She has written for The New York Times, the Guardian and The Telegraph, and is the author of Take It Back, named one of the best thrillers of the year by the Guardian and The Telegraph
Kia frequently contributes to the BBC commenting on a variety of issues affecting the British-Asian community and is the founder of Asian Booklist, a site that helps readers discover new books by British-Asian authors. Kia also runs Atlas & Boots, a travel blog read by 250,000 people a month. For more information about Kia and her writing, visit her website at, or follow her at @KiaAbdullah on Instagram and Twitter.

Saara El-Arifi

Author of The Final Strife

Saara’s heritage has always been intrinsically linked to the themes of her stories. She was raised by a Ghanaian/British mother and a Sudanese/Arab father—who were both brought up Christian and Muslim respectively. When she was reaching her formative years her family moved from the Middle East to a village outside of Sheffield, Yorkshire. This change of climate had a significant impact on her growth—not physically, she’s nearly 6ft—and she learned what it was to be Black in a white world. 
Saara initially specialised in theatre directing, achieving a 1st BA Hons in Theatre Studies from Kent University, a Diploma in Directing from RADA and a badge for acting from Brownies. Her creative writing and specialism in theatre led her to the big screen, where she worked in film marketing and communications for nearly a decade.
The Final Strife wasn’t her first novel to manifest onto paper, but it was the first story that refused to be ignored. It sold in the US to Del Rey books and to HarperVoyager in the UK in six-figure deals. It will be published simultaneously in 2022.

Anna Stephens

Author of The Stone Knife

Anna Stephens is the author of the Godblind trilogy (Godblind, Darksoul, Bloodchild) and the Songs of the Drowned trilogy, of which the first two volumes are now published.

Anna also writes for Black Library in their Age of Sigmar and Warhammer Horror worlds, and for Marvel Comics through their tie-in publisher Aconyte Books.
As a black belt in Shotokan Karate, Anna’s no stranger to the feeling of being hit in the face, which is more help than you would expect when writing fight scenes.

David Wragg

Author of The Black Hawks

Dave Wragg really got into writing stories just as he finished his English GCSE, then took about twenty years to get back to it. In the meantime, he studied software engineering, worked in global shipping and technical consultancy, and once spent a year in the Foreign Office ‘hiding in the basement’. Dave lives in Hertfordshire with his wife, two small daughters, and two smaller cats.

Amrou Al-Kadhi

Author of Life as a Unicorn

Amrou Al-Kadhi is the founder of drag troupe Denim and has written an episode for Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon’s upcoming series for Apple (US), Little America, as well as for BBC America’s hotly anticipated series, The Watch. Amrou has two original TV-series in development, one with Channel 4 Comedy and the other with BBC Drama. Amrou has written and directed four short films that focus on the intersection of queer identity and race, and has features in development with Film4, the BFI and BBC films. Their journalism has appeared in the Guardian, Independent, Gay Times, Attitude, CNN and Little White Lies, among other publications. Life as a Unicornis Amrou’s first book.

Kenya Hunt

Author of Girl, Gurl, Grrrl

Kenya Hunt is the Fashion Director of Grazia UK. Her career spans working for some of the world’s most influential women’s titles on both sides of the Atlantic from her post-graduate days as an Assistant Editor at the seminal magazine, Jane, to her years as Deputy Editor of ELLE UK. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, Vogue, Marie Claire, The Evening Standard and other publications. And she has made a number of appearances on BBC Woman’s Hour, Sky News and more.

As the founder of R.O.O.M. Mentoring, she advocates for greater diversity within the fashion industry by providing a supportive network for some of the many talented aspiring designers, journalists and image makers of colour London has to offer. An American based in London, she lives south of the river with her husband and two sons.

Charles Cumming

Author of The Man Between

Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. He was educated at Eton and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 with First Class Honours in English Literature. In 1995, he was approached by the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Charles Cumming’s novels have been translated into thirteen languages. He is winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and Bloody Scotland Crime Book of the Year. BOX 88 is his latest novel.

Clive Gifford

Author of How The World Works

Clive Gifford is a highly experienced journalist and author with over 180 books published and more than 800 features and stories written for adults and children.

Clive is an unusual author who likes to work in both fiction and non-fiction. Perhaps this reflects his unusual life which, so far, has seen him travel to over 70 countries, be held hostage in Colombia, go parachuting, coach several sports and run a computer games company.

Catherine Barr

Author of The Story of Life

Catherine Barr studied Ecology at Leeds University and trained as a journalist. She worked at Greenpeace International for seven years as a wildlife and forestry campaigner and has a long-running interest in environmental issues. While working as an editor at the Natural History Museum, she researched and wrote two major summer exhibitions: Dinosaurs of the Gobi Desert and Myths and Monsters. She is now a partner in communications company bwa design. She lives on a hill near Hay-on-Wye in Herefordshire with her partner and two daughters.

Felicity Cloake

Author of The A to Z of Eating

Felcity Cloake is an author, freelance journalist and writer, the author of the Guardian’s How to Make the Perfect column, and the New Statesman’s food columnist. She’s also written for the FT, Observer, Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Metro, olive, delicious, Literary Review, Sainsbury’s magazine, Waitrose magazine and Fire and Knives. She is incorrigibly greedy. Felicity likes trifle, terriers, travelling, running, riesling and reading. She does not like truffles or tinned tuna. Her favourite cocktail is the Boulevardier..

Simon Toyne

Author of Dark Objects

Simon Toyne is the international bestselling author of Dark Objects, the Sanctus trilogy and the Solomon Creed series. He wrote Sanctus after quitting his job as a TV executive and it became the biggest selling debut thriller of 2011 in the UK. His books have been translated into 29 languages and published in over 50 countries.

Find out more at

Sue Moorcroft

Author of Summer at the French Cafe

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author of emotionally compelling contemporary fiction. Her books have reached the #1 spot in the Kindle UK chart, top 100 in the US and Canada and have won a Contemporary Romantic Novel Award and a Best Romantic Read Award. A past vice chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Sue also edited its short story anthologies. Her novels, short stories, serials, writing guide and columns have appeared around the world.

As well as leading workshops for various learning institutions, Sue created writing courses for the London School of Journalism and DigitalSea.

Born in Germany, Sue lived in Cyprus and Malta before settling in the UK. She loves Formula One, Zumba, reading, white wine, chocolate, and the company of family and friends.