Month: December 2023

Novel Studio alumna Katharine Light’s path to the publication of her debut novel, Like Me

Katharine Light’s debut novel, Like Me

When I was a young girl, my dad used to make me little books of paper and I would love to write in them. In my teens these became stories I wrote for my younger sister about a girl who falls in love with the bass player of a pop group. Absolutely not based on John Taylor from Duran Duran.

Later on I tried my hand at writing a Mills & Boons. At around 50,000 words it was great practice, but not quite the right genre. When my children were small, I did a year long creative writing course with the Open University. Two years later I did the advanced version. Then, working full-time and a busy family life meant I kept writing only sporadically until 2018 when I started The Novel Studio at City, University of London. It was a brilliant year with excellent tutors in Emma Sweeney, Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone and Kirstan Hawkins. Fourteen of us completed the course, meeting twice a week and sharing our lives through writing. They are a very supportive and talented bunch.

At the end of the year, I had interest from three agents, and signed with one at A M Heath. This is it, I (naively) thought, on my way to publication… Sadly, during lockdown, having worked on this first novel, Like Me, (her suggestions definitely improved it), she said she wasn’t the right person to take it forward. This was followed by a dispiriting lack of response from several agents she recommended as well as the two who had previously shown interest.

Throughout the pandemic, the Novel Studio cohort kept in touch, via a WhatsApp group. Before covid, about half of us carried on meeting in person, and carried over onto zoom. Laurence Kershook published The Broygus to Amazon in March 2022. Fellow alumna Lara Haworth’s book Monumenta will be published by Canongate in 2024.

On publication, I bought Laurence’s book in paperback and was very impressed. It’s a high quality, professionally produced book, as well as a terrific read, and I began to think maybe I could do that too. Independent publishing seeks to emulate the traditional publishing route, with a professional book edit from the wonderfully talented Emily Pedder at The Book Edit, and a great book cover from designer Simon Avery of Nice Graphic Design. Caroline Goldsmith of Goldsmith Publishing Consultancy ensured the manuscript was print and eBook ready, and Philippa Makepeace of Studio Makepeace created the website. My advice is to surround yourself with people who know that they’re doing!

There was one major hiccough. The book has always been on the long side, and when it was first uploaded to KDP Amazon, although author royalties sounded generous, the print costs on the paperback version were so high, they were almost entirely swallowed up. After a drastic re-think, I cut fifty pages of the book, and added those onto the beginning of book two, which has now become two books. The manuscript for book two has just gone to the editor. The hope is to publish both that and book three in 2024.

There was a point at which I began to feel that the traditional publishing route was becoming less and less likely. Now I’m in my 50s, I developed a sense of urgency, fostered by reading Harry Bingham, founder of Jericho Writers, who is enthusiastic about indy publishing. It has been wonderful to hold the actual book in my hand. We held in person launches where I live in London, and in Altrincham, the fictional Millingham of the series. Lots of kind and lovely people came. As the book is about a group of teenage friends who meet up again twenty years later in their late thirties, the events have been the perfect excuse to reconnect with old friends from the past. As we said, life is now imitating art. We’re doing the fictional reunion for real, just many years later…

Katharine Light took City’s Novel Studio course, a year-long programme for aspiring novelists.

Katharine’s debut novel, Like Me, is available HERE.

Author Katharine Light, photography by Alexandra Vanotti

For more on all City’s writing short courses, visit HERE.



City Writes Autumn 2023 – The [bad pun pending] Advent of the Season!

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone


The 13th December 2023 was the perfect night for a wonderful selection of readings from competition winners and our professional, Caroline Green. At the showcase event for all the fantastic talent coming from the Creative Writing Short Courses here at City, University of London, this term’s City Writes brought the supernatural into Christmas and took us on such an emotional journey it was like living through a night with Scrooge. What a way to celebrate a season where we all want to cosy up and hear stories around the fire.

We heard from the competition winners first. Chosen from a group of students and alumni of Creative Writing Short Courses who sent in 1,000 words of fiction or non-fiction, this term’s winners had me crying from laughter and despair.

We started with skullduggery loving, Writers’ Workshop alumnus, Martin Corteel whose extract, ‘Cat Among the Pigeons’, is taken from his novel-in-progress Dover Soul about battling publicans at the outset of the First World War. His lively reading followed publican Archie who attacked a rival pub dressed as a temperance lady. No need to say more. It was hilarious.

Martin was followed by Vasundhara Singh, a Novel Studio graduate joining us from India. Vasundhara’s story, ‘The Last Woman of Gwalior’ was a harrowing tale in which the women of India have been wiped out by a virus. The museum to the lost women was both beautifully and wittily depicted. Without women to beat and complain to, the men drift about and stare at off-coloured bras in the museum. There’s so much more to it than this, though – what a story.

We came back to the UK with a painful and moving story of a woman haunted by the loss of her baby. Alumna of An Approach Creative Writing, Cathie Mullen, read her story ‘Tulips’ leaving many eyes on those zoom screens very moist. The sparse space of simple domestic tasks laced in the dull agonies of despair was very powerful indeed.

Thankfully, Novel Studio, Crime and Thriller Writing and Writers’ Workshop alumnus, Mike Clarke took us to Spain next with an extract from his novel-in-progress. Magenta Bougainvillea and White Jasmine took us into the secluded mansion of an imposing older woman walking with a skull-headed cane. It was such an atmospheric piece with floral scents and basking lizards and left us all wondering quite why these three women were meeting after so long and what secrets or relationship dramas were about to unfold. Get writing, Mike!

Tunde Oyebode, alumnus of the Writer’s Workshop, who is working on a collection of short stories, read next. If his story ‘Never Born’ is anything to go by, we have to hope he gets this collection out soon. Even over Zoom the silence was palpable. The story was told from the perspective of a young boy writing about feeling he wished he was never born as he witnessed the distress caused to his fragile, but caring mother around their difference in skin colour and hair texture. A boy at school says that can’t be his mother because they don’t look alike. They get into a fight. You’ll have to watch the Zoom recording to find out more. A very powerful, personal and nuanced story about love and systemic racism.

Reeling a little, we were brought back into the festive spirit with Emma O’Driscoll’s extract from her crime novel-in-progress, Trapped by the Flood. An alumna of the Crime and Thriller Writing Summer School and Novel Writing and Longer Works courses, Emma took us into the soon to be sold and dismantled manor house recently inherited by Richard. With the whole family gathered for Christmas and the flood trapping them in the house, Richard lords his control of the family finances over the family and, for fun, suggests a game of murder… I think we were all hoping he’d be the one to go.

Having gone on such an emotional rollercoaster with our competition winners, we went from the closed-room style mystery of Emma O’Driscoll to crime writing with a supernatural twist as we delved into brilliantly compelling world of the Rose Gifford series as our professional prize-winning writer and City tutor, Caroline Green read from her novel The Whisper House, the second in the Rose Gifford series.

Caroline Green is not only a tutor at City, she also teaches for the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and is writer in residence at both Pentonville Prison and East Barnet School. Alongside her teaching, Caroline finds the time to write prize-winning fiction in three different genres: YA, adult psychological thrillers and crime. We were very lucky to have her.

Not only did we get treated to a reading from The Whisper House, Caroline was kind enough to answer some of my questions as well as several from the audience who asked about how she plotted out her novels, which parts of writing she liked the most, what her writing schedule was like, the research aspects of writing crime and what it was like to work in Pentonville Prison. Caroline explained the midpoint is the most significant focal point for her planning – that she doesn’t always know what will happen at the end. We heard about her days writing at the British Library and the amazing writing competition she recently held at Pentonville prison.

For more on this, all of Caroline’s extra tips and of course, a full rendition of all the wonderful readings, you can watch the night in full here. City Writes was definitely my advent of the season.

Don’t forget the City Writes competition next term when we have a double act from Novel Studio alumni Laurence Kershook and Katharine Light. The Broygus by Laurence Kershook came out in 2022 and Katharine Light’s Like Me came out earlier this year. This promises to be another fantastic night. Watch this space for more information in the New Year.

And for any past or present City Writing Short Course students, there’s 10% off if you book a spring 2024 short creative writing course (excluding the 1, 2 or 3-day courses) by 20 December 2023.


How I Navigate Imposter Syndrome as a Non-Native English Writer

Author Dominik Jemec Photo by Marcel Kukovec

By Dominik Jemec

“You’ll never be good enough because you’re not a native writer.” That’s what a professor of translation studies at my university in Austria told me when I said my dream was to be an English writer. That was five years ago.

I’ve had many awful jobs since graduating, from delivering mail in sweltering heat to fielding daily insults while working in a call centre. Then in 2021, I got my first writing job: creating customer care-related content about cryptocurrencies. After a mass layoff in the summer of 2022, I joined a travel company called TourRadar as a content specialist, where I work on creative campaigns.

But I’m not complacent. My impostor syndrome leaks out of me a lot. If you’re a non-native writer like me, you may be fighting the same demons. Here’s how I keep them at bay.

I split up my writing process

You can’t be a writer without writing. But if you’re constantly questioning your skills, how do you actually get down to writing?

First, research. I use AI tools like ChatGPT 4. They’re just much better than looking things up online. I write detailed prompts because the better my input, the better the output.

Then I write, without overthinking. To stay focused, I put on a timer and just hammer out the text. If I have writer’s block, I ask ChatGPT to write a draft based on the research.

Lastly, I edit. It’s a tough process. Sometimes I have to remove parts I really like that just don’t fit. But I never discard them – I put them in a document with other unused content. Editing is ‘magical’. I might go a certain direction when I write, then turn it on its head when I edit.

I seek feedback

I’ve often been scared to send a piece of writing to my manager for proofreading. I would try to make every sentence perfect, thinking I’d be sacked if I didn’t. The pressure I put on myself took more energy than the writing itself, so I eventually learned to let go.

Every time my manager gives me feedback, I go through it carefully, analysing where I need to improve. All my favourite writers – Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams and Hunter S. Thompson – got edited, so why shouldn’t I?

Outside of work, I get writing feedback from the Sunday WritersClub, and do specialised courses, including City, University of London’s Introduction to Copywriting, led by Maggie Richards. Not only did I learn the fundamentals of copywriting, I wrote a lot of copy and received helpful feedback from Maggie.

I connect with other writers

I listen to writing podcasts like the Copywriter Club, and follow creative writers like Drayton Bird, Dan Nelken and Eddie Shleyner on LinkedIn. If, for example, you love advertising like I do, whenever you see an ad you like, find out who produced it and start following them on social media. The knowledge writers share (for free) is staggering.

I embrace my voice

I used to embellish my writing because I really wanted to prove myself. But I’ve found that such texts are mostly unreadable. I’ve learned that simplicity wins.

There is merit in emulating good flow and sentence structure, but at the end of the day, your voice is your USP. Incorporate idioms, metaphors and storytelling elements from your own culture. Your writing will stand out.

I apply for all writing jobs

Many writing jobs ask for a native writer. After I started my current job, I asked our recruiters how many people had applied for the position. Through one job search platform alone there were over 60 applicants. Many were probably native writers with impressive CVs. So why did I get the job? Maybe because of my unwavering passion for writing.

I truly hope my tips help you overcome any self-doubts you may have as a non-native writer – and inspire you to keep on writing well, no matter what lies ahead.

About the author: Dominik Jemec is a Slovenian working in Vienna as a content writer in his third language, English. You can connect with Dominik on LinkedIn.

Dominik took City’s Introduction to Copywriting course taught by Maggie Richards. As part of the course, students can pitch a blog idea. If successful, the post will then be edited and appear on our site. For our full range of courses, visit HERE.



Announcing New Scholarship for the Novel Studio

Growing Concerns

We are delighted to announce a new scholarship partnership for the Novel Studio, which will be in place for the next five years.

The Captain Tasos Politis Scholarship is a fully funded scholarship offered to support a successful candidate applying for The Novel Studio, City’s popular Short Course on the art of novel writing.

Generously funded by City Alumni Ambassador George Politis, and named after his father, the aim of the scholarship is to support a student of talent and potential from a low-income household who might not otherwise be able to accept an offer of a place on The Novel Studio.

Applicants to the scholarship will go through the same process as all other applicants but will need to include a personal statement and provide evidence of financial need.

The top three applications will be shortlisted, and a final winner chosen by a panel, including the course director, and course tutors.

The Novel Studio has been very lucky with its generous funders. For four years, alumna and best-selling crime author Harriet Tyce funded and supported the scholarship. Now with The Captain Tasos Politis Scholarship, we are thrilled to be able to continue this vital support and to help nurture more talented writers of the future.

For further details about the scholarship and how to apply, visit our page HERE. Or email the Course Director:

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