PICKED for a prestigious Penguin publishing scheme, an inspiring North-East woman is making her childhood dreams come true while “banging the drum” for disabled people everywhere.

Author, poet and activist Lisette Auton was one of just ten people from 1,700 nationwide to be chosen for Penguin Random House’s WriteNow project.

She has now been matched with an editor from the respected publishing house and will work with them over the course of a year to get her children’s novel ready for publication.

Inspired by a love of the North-East coast and her own experiences, Ms Auton’s The Wrecklings is an adventure novel featuring a “strong female disabled protagonist” at its core.

The 39-year-old from Darlington is hoping to boost representation of disabled people and says she will not rest until bookshelves, TV screens and theatres adequately reflect society’s diversity.

She said: “If you are a young person, whether you’re disabled, working class or a person of colour, you should be able to see yourself reflected on the bookshelves – people are crying out to read or see art by those who are like them.

“My novel is inspired by the North-East coast where I grew up and then my life as a disabled person.

“I feel that much of the time people are disabled by society rather than their ailments, whether it’s through not being able to access buildings or not having their needs understood - being disabled is not really about my impairment but about society’s impairments.

“I’d love to not be identified as disabled but until the bookshelves are representative, I will keep banging the drum.”

Ms Auton said that she hopes her work will also inspire Darlington children and help to promote the North-East.

The former Mowden Primary pupil said: “There is a lot of talent in the North-East and Penguin have realised that there needs to be regional hubs and events.

“They have been fabulous and it still feels surreal to be given this phenomenal opportunity – since I was old enough to know what a book was, it has been my dream to see my name on a bookshelf and this is the closest I’ve ever been.

“Author Anne Fine once visited my school and told me my name was so unusual she might use it in a book and I remember thinking ‘wow, authors exist in real life’ and I hope maybe another child seeing what’s happened to me might be inspired by my story.

“I want to say to the kids of Darlington, carry on writing, be wonderful, work really hard and follow your dreams – who knows, it might come true.”

Ms Auton has thanked Writers Block North East and the Tees Women Poets for helping her to develop her talent.