Month: June 2022

City Writes Summer 2022 Competition Winners Announced

We’re delighted to announce the competition winners for 2022 summer term’s City Writes event showcasing the fabulous talent coming from City’s Short Courses. These wonderful winners will be joining debut writers and alumni of the Novel StudioAttiya Khan and Simon Culleton. You can register for the Zoom event on Thursday 7th July at 7pm here.

Our winners this term are:

Richard Bowyer

Richard Bowyer for his extract, ‘The Manton Ultimatum’.

Richard Bowyer is just completing City University’s Novel Studio course. The characters and setting in ‘The Manton Ultimatum’ are drawn from The White House, his novel in development. He likes to write about the nature of community and belonging, friendship and obligation, everyday heroes, inclusion and exclusion, and how decisions get made. Richard was born and brought up in Essex and now lives in West London with his demanding cat and understanding wife.

Jonathan Gallard

Jonathan Gallard for his story, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.

Alumnus of the Short Story Writing course, Jonathan Gallard is a writer whose style and approach defies categorisation.  Mostly because he hasn’t written much, yet.

 

Orsolya Kiss-Toth for her extract from Nadi Leaves

Originally from Hungary, Orsolya moved to Leeds about 15 years ago where she lives with her partner. She is an HR professional and whilst she loves the challenges of her role, writing is something she’s passionate about.

Orsolya Kiss-Toth

She first joined a writing group in November 2020, is an alumna of the Writers’ Workshop, and her first novel, 24 Windows, was long listed in the Stylist Prize for Feminist Fiction 2021. She’s currently working on her second novel, Nadi Leaves.

Jordan McGarry for her creative piece, ‘The First Spring’.

Jordan McGarry

Jordan McGarry has worked in the screen industries for 20 years, initially as a journalist covering the industry, and then as a programmer, a producer and now as an executive. Jordan is endlessly interested in story, but more used to helping other people write theirs than telling her own. She is trying to be braver in 2022 (though will never be comfortable with writing about herself in the third person). She is just completing the Narrative Non-Fiction course.

Lia Martin for her story, ‘Church Bells’.

Lia Martin

Lia Martin is a Londoner completing her Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck University and was enrolled on City’s Short Story Writing course back in 2014. She started her career in the media but became a secondary teacher in 2015, working in both London and Norfolk-based schools. She now leads on English for a national network of schools and is currently working on a short story collection.

 

Su Yin Yap for her creative piece, ‘Notes on a Pregnancy’.

Su Yin Yap

​​Su Yin Yap is a psychologist and writer. Her work has been published in literary magazines and websites such as Popshot Quarterly and Litro Online, as well as various anthologies of flash fiction and creative non-fiction. She has written for the psychology section of the award winning Arts and Culture website Headstuff.org. She is currently working on a collection of essays. She is an alumna of the Short Story Writing course.

These fantastic authors will be reading online at City Writes alongside Attiya Khan and Simon Culleton on Thursday 7th July at 7pm. From village referendums through lost loves and historical feuds to the anticipation of life to come, City Writes Summer 2022 will be a night of readings to remember. You can register here. We look forward to seeing you there.

A Cautionary Tale of ‘Reply All’

We’ve all been there… you were either the recipient or the sender of an accidental reply-all email. It may have made you cringe. It may have made you wonder whether you should acknowledge your mistake. Should you apologise? Should you notify the sender? One thing is certain, it looks unprofessional. Writing for Business student, Karen Young, gives her top three reply-all blunders: how to deal with them, and how to avoid them.

 

Ready to send?

1.The time you didn’t check your email before replying all. The result: you’ve sent a comment that was meant specifically for one colleague and ended up offending the other external recipients.

We’ve all done it: hit reply-all by accident, whether it’s on your mobile or desktop, and not checked that all-important email before sending. You may have made a comment to your colleague and cc’d the external recipients. It could have been a response meant only for your colleagues.

What should you do? Acknowledge that you sent the email to the external recipients by mistake. And apologise: they could have been customers or third-party suppliers.

My advice: always triple-check your email before sending. Check the recipients and cc’s, the subject, and the body text. You will never regret doing so.

 

2.When a flurry of people reply-all to the whole company

A company-wide email is sent. The topic could be an upcoming event, a milestone, or a financial goal reached. If senior management acknowledge this, fine. But there’s no need for everyone to say “Fantastic”, or “Okay”, or “Thanks”. This type of reply-all clogs up inboxes and the server.

My advice: if you have a meaningful reply, select only those who need to hear it.

Think before you click?

3.You’ve accidentally replied all, and then those in copy purposefully reply-all to let you know you’ve replied all!

My advice: If you need to let the person know they’ve made the mistake of replying all, let them know. Everyone else on copy will already know. Reply to the sender only.

To aid the fight against the reply-all annoyance, Microsoft have helpfully enabled a feature to deal with email storms – a Reply All Storm Protection Feature. Check whether your organisation has this. It could save many headaches.

Above all, consider whether a reply-all is necessary and always triple-check your emails. It may take a few minutes when time is precious but it is always worthwhile!

Triple check before you hit send

About the author

Karen Young has worked in secretarial / assistant roles for 24 years in three different industries – law, private equity, and most recently mining. She holds a Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law through the Institute of Legal Executives. Karen enjoys learning to maintain her professional development, including the very rewarding City’s Writing for Business short course.

For more on the Writing for Business course Karen took, visit our webpage.

We are also running our Writing for Business course this summer as a one-week intensive. For more information visit the course page here.

To find out more about our vibrant writing short course portfolio, including our summer schools, visit our website here.

 

Business as Usual?

Do we create our own business stereotypes and, if so, where do these  misconceptions come from?  Writing for Business student, Stacey Steele, investigates.

Business As Usual?

I’m going to be completely honest. If you had said the word business to me three years ago, I would have visualised a group of people sat round a large table wearing smart, but monotonous, clothing. The group would mostly be men (I’m ashamed to say) and they would be listening and nodding along to their leader without question. For some reason, I always thought the environment would be tense and uptight, and personalities or fresh ideas were best left at the door if business was going to get done.

Why on earth I had these misconceptions, I do not know. I certainly never thought businesses should be run like that. I can only assume my own life experiences, which were probably hugely contributed to by certain TV shows like ‘The Apprentice’, had moulded a fixed stereotype of business settings. Based on my own knowledge and skills, it didn’t feel like it was a world I was qualified to be in and therefore definitely best left to the ‘experts’.

The dictionary definition of business is very loose. Dictionary.com describes it as ‘an occupation, profession, or trade’, ‘the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit’ or a ‘person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce, manufacturing, or a service; profit-seeking enterprise or concern’. So, my own fixed view of what was basically Mr Banks at work (from the 1964 film, Mary Poppins) was restrictive, and had major potential to hold me back.

Business Revelations

Transferable skills: easy as A, B, C

Before my current role (as an Operations Manager), and for most of my adult life, I worked in education. Not strictly a business, but I would argue I gained most of my transferable skillset there. Experience quickly taught me that managing a class of children, all with different learning targets, and being able to adapt and develop to meet individual needs are all invaluable skills in a business setting. Prior to that I had various jobs in an office, shops, and a photography studio – all of which were clearly businesses. Places where goods or services were offered in exchange for payment and with the intent to make a profit. But why had I hastily dismissed these settings as being part of the business world, and therefore myself included?

It seems when we think about stereotypes and fixed ideas, we may not be self-reflecting enough. Although it is important to recognise that our own unconscious biases and stereotypical thinking can be reinforced by structural inequalities and prejudices, are we also restricting ourselves? By leaving teaching and joining the business world I suddenly had to address my own ignorance. I quickly discovered that these fixed notions of working in business were causing me to limit myself. But is it any easier to challenge misconceptions when they are our own?

What’s in a Job Title Anyway?

A possible route to feeling intimidated by business is the array of officious-sounding job titles floating around in businesses. These have the potential to create a fixed mindset of the type of character a role requires. People in senior roles may be expected to behave in a certain way, with a system of hierarchy affecting how colleagues interact with each other. But this behaviour may be assumed rather than anticipated and by continuing the cycle, rather than challenging stereotypes, nothing changes.

Doing it Differently

There are many outliers in business. Those that don’t worry about what has gone before. Industry pioneers we read about and by whom we’re inspired. I sometimes wonder if ‘imposter syndrome’ is commonplace for potential trailblazers. Are the ones who would dare to do it differently, the very people who don’t feel they belong?

Blaze your own trail

There is a risk that individuals with a unique approach could feel intimidated and dissuaded from entering a profession because of the barriers they interpret are there. Many factors can affect our opportunities, including education, gender, race, disabilities and social background. But the drive for greater diversity is gathering pace and blinkered views of who sits in the boardroom are slowly being cast out. Nevertheless, we also need to address our own self-limiting and obstructive attitudes.

Smashing Stereotypes

Create your own possible

So how do we avoid becoming victims of a perpetual self-fulfilling prophecy? What can we do to stop our preconceptions of the business world and ‘how it’s done’ from leading us to believe we don’t have a place in it? Essentially, be the change. Don’t be influenced by unwritten rules or intimidated by grand job titles. Becoming a CEO doesn’t mean you have to stay in your office and taking a trainee role shouldn’t mean others can’t learn from your ideas. Breaking conforms and challenging expectations takes bravery, but it’s the only way outdated stereotypes (even fictional ones) can become a thing of the past.

About the author

After becoming a mum at 18, Stacey Steele studied part-time whilst working in education and eventually became a qualified teacher. She decided to change direction after her husband took on his own business, and moved into a role managing operations within the company. Stacey took City’s Writing for Business Short Course with Jenny Stallard.

City are running a week-long Writing for Business Summer School in August. For more information visit our webpage.

To find out more about our vibrant short writing course portfolio, visit our website.

Meet the Languages Coordinator

In a new series of interviews we meet some of the team behind City’s short courses. First up, our languages coordinator, Agnes Shepherd

 

Agnes Shepherd, Languages Coordinator

1.Please tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Agnes Shepherd and I’m the Course Coordinator for languages at City’s short courses – which means that I organise how the languages courses are run. I am also a native French speaker and a French teacher who is passionate about teaching. I love to watch students progress and get a great sense of achievement when I see that lightbulb moment as students start to learn. I think it’s also important to teach students about the culture of a country, not just the language. In my spare time I like travelling, learning about ancient history and gardening.

2. What’s your role at City and how does it work?

I coordinate the language courses at City where we offer ten different languages across a variety of levels from beginners up to advanced. City is actually one of the few language providers to offer Japanese language courses right the way up to advanced level. In total I look after more than 25 courses and manage all the visiting lecturers, language enquiries, relevant marketing, social media, and administrative issues. I also come up with new ideas for courses, such as our recent holiday French course. And watch this space for our brand-new simple conversation classes!

3. Why do you think it’s important to learn a foreign language?

First of all, it’s important for effective communication. While English might be the most commonly spoken international language, if you want to communicate well while abroad or when you work with colleagues from overseas, I would say it’s crucial to learn that language.

Secondly, it is excellent gymnastics for the brain. You get to stretch yourself and fire up those neurons in a way that research has proven to be beneficial. Whether you learn Spanish, Korean or German you get to extend yourself.

Finally, but not least, it’s fun. When you learn a language, you are with peers of a similar level. It’s great to discover together the intricacy and pronunciation of a language. You get an extraordinary buzz when you realise that you are making proper sentences. Maybe you’ll find yourself abroad and suddenly the waiters understand your order, or your French colleagues will invite you for lunch and you can finally participate in the conversation!

Ready to order?

4. What are your three top tips for learning a foreign language?

  1. Immerse yourself as much as possible: join a language course where speaking in the target language is prioritised. Having to speak in a foreign language, with feedback from your tutor, will accelerate your language skills.
  2. A little bit every day: while on your language course make sure you practice even a tiny bit each day, whether that’s grammar, vocabulary or even reading packet labels in the target language, it all helps to build your knowledge and understanding.
  3. Develop a peer group within your class and do some fun activities together through Whatsapp, or even go to see a film together.

 

5. Why would you recommend studying a language short course at City?

City’s teachers are all qualified, native speakers who follow the European framework (CEFR) for language learning. Through interactive and engaging methods of teaching, they will teach you more than just a language; they will teach you about the culture too. You’ll be with peers and slowly you will find, even if you’re really shy about learning and speaking a language, you’ll make good friends. Our teachers will put you at ease and before you know it, you’ll be speaking and understanding your chosen language. For example, if you learn Arabic, our tutor Ahmed will provide you with lots of relevant material which will help you quickly progress.

 

Agnes Shepherd coordinates City’s language short courses.

Agnes also teaches City’s short online French language courses.

For more about our other online language courses visit our website.

Five Reasons Why You Should Learn Korean

Research has shown that learning a foreign language boosts brain power. But which language should you choose to learn? Read on for five reasons why you should learn Korean.

 

 

1. Korean has one of the most logical alphabets in the world

 

The Korean alphabet has 24 letters each of which is spelled phonetically. Languages with phonetically spelt words are far easier to learn as there are no tricky spellings (unlike there are in English!) The mastermind behind this simplicity was King Sejong ‘the Great’ of the Joseon dynasty, who tasked Korean scholars with creating an easily learned writing system which could be understood by all.

 

2. Conjugating verbs in Korean is much easier than in other languages

 

Many languages conjugate their verbs into first, second and third person. But with Korean you don’t have to worry which form of the verb to use depending on whether you’re referring to ‘I’, ‘you’ or ‘she/he’. All you need to learn are the conjugations for the different levels of formality and tenses. Similarly, the Korean language does not have gendered nouns which means you won’t need to learn if a noun takes the masculine or the feminine form, another common obstacle when learning a foreign language.

 

3. Learning Korean just might help with your career

 

Employers increasingly value language skills amongst their employees, so learning any foreign language is a solid investment in your career. With Samsung rivalling Apple for innovation and market share, South Korea has the twelfth largest global economy and is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Learn Korean and you might find yourself working for one of the ever-expanding South Korean companies based in the UK, or even in Korea itself. At the very least you’ll have improved your employability prospects.

 

4. Korean arts and culture are taking over the world

 

First there was Gangnam style, then K-pop, now Squid Game (Netflix’s biggest debut success) and the Oscar winning Parasite. Known in Korea as The Korean Wave, or Hallyu, the South Korean pop culture has taken the world by storm and become a major influence on global culture. Learn Korean and you’ll be able to tap into a rich, dynamic culture. With over 70 million Korean speakers worldwide, and Europe’s largest Korean community resident in London, start learning Korean and you’ll be able to fully absorb this fascinating and ever-changing culture.

 

5. Learning a foreign language can help your mental health

 

The pandemic has had a negative effect on many people’s mental health with the World Health Organisation reporting a 25% increase worldwide in anxiety and depression. Conversely, learning a new language can improve your confidence, flexibility and sense of purpose. Plus, it’s fun. You get to meet other learners and practice your language skills in small, interactive groups. So, what are you waiting for?

 

Want to find out more about learning Korean at City, University of London? Visit our Korean language short course page.

 

Interested in our other online language courses? We offer short courses in ten modern languages, from Arabic to Portuguese. Find out more here.

 

A series of possibilities: creating a rewarding career

“What do you want to do when you’re older?” Being asked this question and not having an answer can be hard. Aged seven Emma Wilson wanted to be a dancer. Aged nine, an archaeologist. This changed again in her teens. Now at 24, Emma is still hopeful that she’ll find a career that fulfils her…but just how do you go about that?

Follow or fuel your passion?

I’ve always thought of my experience in the job world as stepping stones, leading me closer to where I want to be. But after university, I felt lost and suffered “the graduation blues”. The best, most exciting, part of my life was over, or so I believed at the time.

On graduating I gained  a 2:1 degree in Psychology, a mountain of debt, some great friends, a lot of life lessons, and an unfamiliar feeling of not knowing what was next. Months after graduating I was offered a job as a research assistant. I wanted to quit on the first day. Most of the work ended up being cold calling.

So I decided to take a step back and get some transferable experience – as a customer service advisor. While aware this wasn’t going to be my career, I learnt a lot from the role and about myself. I learnt that I enjoy communicating and helping people. One of my hobbies is fashion, and I became a merchandiser at Matalan where I learned that although something is a hobby, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the path for you.

I knew I was curious, creative and conscientious. But these didn’t translate easily to a particular career path. I agree with Julia Wuench writing in Forbes Magazine:“Most people need time, education and exposure to different jobs and companies before they’re able to hone in on a passion.”

The assumption that we only have one passion in life, and that this passion cannot change over time, can limit people to doing what they’d like to. As I’ve been able to take some time, and a step back, I’ve realised you have to be open-minded… and you can be good at a number of different things.

After I left my job as a merchandiser, I completely re-evaluated my career. Rather than thinking too deeply about it, I just thought ‘What makes me happy?’ This can be a very daunting conversation to have, no matter where you are in your career.

I started to gain experience, writing a piece for The Considerate Consumer, an online information platform, advising people how to be more sustainable. I also enrolled on City’s “Introduction to Copywriting” course run by Maggie Richards. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it awoke something in me that had been asleep for years.

Am I meant to be successful writer? I’m not sure. But I do know some people are destined for certain careers. Mozart, for example, wrote his first symphony at eight years old. Others have a long, winding road to their vocation. Vera Wang entered the fashion industry at 40, while Stan Lee created “The Fantastic Four” just before his 39th birthday.

While we may not all achieve such illustrious careers, I do believe what is meant for you won’t pass you by. We all have paths to choose from in life and work. What direction we take is up to us.

About the author

Emma Wilson is an aspiring writer. She has a passion for writing, communication, fashion and sustainability.

For more about the copywriting course Emma took, visit our web page here.

To find out about the other writing short courses we run, from fiction to non-fiction, visit our website here.

 

7 Simple Ways to Avoid Fast Fashion and Help the Planet

Fast fashion is a major contributor to plastic pollution and environmental damage. Melissa Pearson explores seven simple ways you can play your part in reducing this damage.

Conscious Clothing?

A recent report published in Nature suggests that the environmental impact of fast fashion is widespread: the industry produces 8-10% of global CO2 emissions – that’s up to 5 billion tonnes  – a year. It’s also a major contributor to microplastic pollution in our oceans.

The UK charity Clothes Aid meanwhile  reports that £140 million worth of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill every year in Britain.

In the face of such grave statistics, change can seem impossible. But there are things each of us can do.

1. Educate yourself

Avoid fast fashion brands as much as possible. But how can you tell if a brand is fast fashion?

2. Switch up your shopping habits

Shopping can be fun but trying to cut down on buying clothes when you don’t need them is a great way to begin cutting out fast fashion for good. It helps you save money, too. Before you buy, ask yourself if you really need it.

3. Buy sustainable fashion

Sustainable brands tend to be more expensive but often last longer. If you can’t afford sustainable fashion, then following the other steps will help.

4. Shop second-hand

When avoiding fast-fashion, second-hand clothes are your best friend. If everyone bought one used item in a year, it would save 449 million pounds of waste – equivalent to the weight of a million polar bears.

eBay, Vinted and Depop are popular places to buy and sell second-hand clothes – and to look for something specific. If you enjoy clothes shopping in general, charity shops and vintage fairs are a great alternative to high street shopping.

5. Care for your clothes

According to Traid.org, extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by up to 30%. Pay attention to how to wash and dry your clothes to make them last longer. And if something needs a small repair, don’t throw it away – fix it yourself. The internet will show you how.

6. Follow the experts

To learn more about how to avoid fast fashion, these are all good places to start: Fashionchecker.org, Cleanclothes.org, and Aja Barber and Labour Behind the Label on Instagram.

7. Spread the word

Once you have educated yourself and found ways to avoid fast fashion that work for you – tell your friends and family. By helping them to change their habits you’ll be increasing the ripple effect of your good deeds.

About the author:

Melissa Pearson took City’s Introduction to Copywriting Course taught by Maggie Richards. She is a History graduate hoping to pursue a career in copywriting.

For more about our short writing courses, visit City’s website.

 

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