by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone
City Writes Spring 2019 Event was busier than ever, the room filled with writers and their friends sharing conversation and blood orange gin cocktails, all to suit the theme of our professional writer, Harriet Tyce, whose debut thriller Blood Orange has taken the publishing world by storm.
Before we heard from Harriet, the City Writes competition winners treated us to five short creative pieces that took us from distributing ashes, through war zones, lazy summers and an imagined meat-free future, to the humble garden trampoline.
We began with Harriet Pavey’s story ‘Dad’, telling the history of her character’s relationship with her father as she distributed his ashes. A recent graduate of An Approach to Creative Writing, Harriet Pavey filled her story with poignant detail from both present and past that set a contemplative tone for the night.
Next up, we heard from Ursula Hirschkorn, a current Novel Studio student whose story ‘Summer Time’ took us through three characters’ experiences of one summer: the adolescent on summer holidays, desperate to avoid her set texts and talk up foreign encounters with boys; the working mother exhausted by the efforts to manage a holiday with her family; the patient, adept at understanding the terminal nature of their illness.
Not quite ready to dispel the sombre mood, Jake Leyland, an alumnus of Peter Forbes’ brilliantNarrative Non-Fiction course, took us into a war zone in his character study, ‘Portrait of the Technician in a War Zone’. Hidden beneath their desks, the writer considers the technician he is meant to be managing as gun-fire rattles outside their thin walls.
Taking a different turn, Stephanie Pride, who had just finished Cherry Pott’s Approach to Creative Writing course, took us to the future in her story ‘The best way to a man’s mind is through his stomach’. The story asked more questions than it answered as the narrator walked above the grids of groaning meateaters. I’ll just leave you to imagine this one.
Our final competition winner was Ben O’Donnell Bourke, most recently an alumnus of Katy Darby’s Short Story Writing course, whose ‘Negative Habits’ told of another father and child relationship spun around the demise of the garden trampoline. Like the tip of an iceberg, the trampoline gives us access to the depths of the family relationships stretched deep below the surface.
The audience, their minds already filled with the fascinating tales of our competition winners, were then eager to hear from Harriet Tyce, Novel Studio alumna and fierce supporter of the creative writing short courses at City.
Harriet Tyce on Blood Orange
Fresh from a whirlwind book tour for her debut psychological thriller, Blood Orange, that took her through England, Scotland and into America, Harriet decided to side step the opening bang of the novel to give us the morning after when her heroine, Alison, is woken by her husband and daughter as she sleeps slumped in her office chair.
As well as whetting our appetites for the rest of the book which explores what it means to have it and risk it all, Harriet gave us an insight into what it was like to bring a novel into the world and happily shared stories and answered questions afterwards as the audience queued to buy signed copies of Blood Orange. It was a fantastic night. A real example of what City Writes was set up to be: a supportive space for writers from City’s Creative Short Courses to share their experience and success.
Now well into its second year of events, City Writes is a termly event that hosts readings from alumni, students and tutors. One reader offers a professional perspective, reading from a new or award-winning publication, and the other readers are selected on the basis of a 1,000 word submission to a termly fiction writing competition open to all current and previous students of a City Creative Writing Short Course. Out guest reader for next term’s City Writes, which on the 17th July, is Anna Mazzola. Anna is a Novel Studio alumna whose debut novel, The Unseeing, won the Edgar Award in the US, and whose second novel, The Story Keeper, has recently been longlisted for the Highland Book Prize. Watch this space for this term’s entry details.
The Novel Studio Scholarship
For full details on the incredibly generous Novel Studio scholarship set up by Harriet Tyce to support a talented writer from a low-income household; the deadline for the scholarship is 30th May 2019.