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New Year, New Writing Goals with City Writes – City Writes Competition Open

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes, the showcase event for new writing coming from City’s Creative Writing Short Courses, is delighted to announce that Hannah Begbie will be its published alumna this term at our City Writes Spring 2023 online event on Wednesday 29th March at 7pm.

 Novel Studio alumna, Hannah Begbie is the author of two award-winning novels, Mother and Blurred Lines, both published by HarperCollins. For your chance to join Hannah on the virtual stage, you need only send in your best 1,000 words of creative fiction or nonfiction (no young children’s fiction or poetry please) by midnight on March 3rd to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk . You can find full submission details here.

Photo of author Hannah Begbie

Novel Studio alumna and City Writes guest author Hannah Begbie

There is no theme, just your most sparkling prose, and the competition is open to all current students and alumni of Creative Writing short courses at City. If your piece is chosen, you will be asked to read your work at our City Writes Spring 2023 event at 7pm on Wednesday 29th March on Zoom. You will be reading alongside the fantastic Hannah to a supportive audience of students, alumni, friends and a few industry members. Don’t miss your chance, submit now!

 For those of you keen to sign up in advance, you can register for the event here.

We can’t wait to read your submissions!

Hook, line and sinker: alumnus Conor Sneyd’s path to publishing his debut novel Future Fish

Back in 2018, Conor Sneyd took City’s Novel  Writing and Longer Works course taught by Martin Ouvry. 2023 sees the publication of his debut comedy novel, Future Fish. Read on to find out more about Conor’s writing journey.

 

Author photo of Conor Sneyd

Conor Sneyd, author of Future Fish

Conor Sneyd was born and raised in Dublin, where he studied English Literature at Trinity College. After a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he spent several years working as an environmental and animal rights activist. The larger-than-life characters he encountered in this field served as inspiration for his debut novel, Future Fish. We caught up with Conor to find out more about his experience on the course and his subsequent publishing deal.

How did you find the Novel Writing course at City?

“I really enjoyed it. The instructor was enthusiastic and encouraging, but also very laid back about homework and assignments, so it never felt like I was back at school! Every week we’d do a mixture of reading, writing and giving each other feedback, which meant each lesson was nice and varied, and the two hours always flew by.”

How did the course impact on your writing journey?

I started writing my novel Future Fish as one of the assignments for the course, so it definitely had a big impact on my journey. Besides all the technical advice and feedback, I think the most valuable part of the course was just being in an environment where I could start to take my writing seriously. Up until that point, it had just been a hobby, but suddenly it felt like finishing a novel and getting it published was actually an achievable goal.

Did you stay in touch with your classmates and continue to give each other feedback on your work?

Yes, a group of us continued to meet up regularly for several months after to share feedback and moral support on the lonely writing journey. The instructor Martin joined us on several occasions too.”

How important do you think these kinds of courses are in a writer’s evolution?

I think there are several different elements a writer needs to be successful, including technical skills, motivation, and feedback from readers. There are lots of different ways you can go about getting these, but the great thing about a writing course is that it brings them all together in a neat little ten-week package. The feedback I received from my classmates was particularly valuable. It can be scary sharing your writing with somebody you’re just getting to know, but the fact that we were all in the same boat made it a lot less daunting.”

 What was the process of finishing the novel like? How did you motivate yourself and how long did it take?

It was a long old process – about three years from starting the novel to sending it out to publishers. Then there was several months of waiting, followed by more editing work once it had been accepted. Writing the first draft was definitely the hardest part. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and that everything I wrote was crap. But I knew I just had to keep going, and so I pushed myself to plough through it without worrying too much about the quality. Once that first draft was done, I was able to go back and polish it up on later drafts. There was still a lot of work to do, but at that point, I’d come too far to give up!”

Can you tell us a bit about your publishing experience, both pre and post publication?

It was a difficult experience, I can’t lie. I’d worked so hard to finish the book, and now the final step – actually getting it published – felt like it was out of my hands. All I could do was send out my synopsis and sample chapters and keep my fingers crossed.

I initially approached a few agents, but the feedback I received from them was that although they liked my writing, they thought the book was just a little too weird and wild for a mainstream publisher, and so they weren’t able to represent it. Eventually I changed my strategy and started approaching smaller publishers directly, figuring they’d be more willingly to take a chance on something outside the box. Lightning Books caught my eye as they’d published some similarly absurd comedies before, and I was delighted when they said they were interested.”

What’s it like to be a published novelist?

It’s exciting, but surreal! The process of getting the book out into the world is so long, there’s not really one single moment where it all hits you. I’m currently in this strange in-between stage where the preview copies have been sent out, and people have started reading them, but the book hasn’t officially been released yet. Maybe once launch day arrives on March 9th, and I see it in a bookshop for the first time, it will finally feel real!”

 And what are you working on now?

“I’ve just started working on novel number two – a modern retelling of King Lear, with an absurd comedy twist.”

 

Thanks so much, Conor, and very best of luck with publication day!

Cover picture of Conor Sneyd's debut novel Future Fish with picture of a red fish hanging from a chain

Future Fish by Conor Sneyd

Future Fish  is available to pre-order here.

City’s Novel Writing and Longer Works short course runs every evening for ten weeks and takes students through the building blocks of writing a novel from creating characters through to developing plots.

For more on all our creative writing courses, visit our home page here.

And if you’re already a current or past writing short course student, why not enter our City Writes competition. See here for more details.

Five soft skills employers are looking for: what they are and how to develop them

In an increasingly virtual world, soft skills have become essential to succeed in today’s workplace. So what are the most important soft skills and how can you go about developing them?

While hard skills are usually obtained through training programmes and formal education, soft skills are to do with who people are – their character traits and interpersonal skills – and how they relate to other people in the workplace. Soft skills are now prerequisites for employers looking to recruit their best teams. Indeed, the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2021-22 report on the State of the Workplace found that 77% of HR professionals cited the importance of developing managers’ soft skills to better meet current workforce expectation.

Read on for the top five soft skills and how you can start to cultivate them.

Communication

Photograph of yellow telephone set on yellow background

Let’s Talk

Successful communicators don’t just know what to say, they know how to say it; they understand the importance of non-verbal communication; and, crucially, they know how to listen. These are all critical skills to develop if you want to take an active role in the workplace, make an impact, and have a chance to progress within your chosen field.

Let’s talk

Being an effective communicator is not something we are born with. Fortunately you can get better at communicating by practising the skills required. First, take an inventory of the ways in which you interact with colleagues on any given day. What did you say? How did you say it? Did you give any nonverbal cues? How well were you really listening? Make notes and see where you were most effective and authentic and where you feel there is room for improvement. Once you know what your weaker areas are you can then start to work on building those skills.

City’s Presentation Skills short course is taught by Karen Glossop. Karen read Classics at Cambridge University and trained as an actor at Mountview. Since 1997, she has tutored groups and individuals in areas such as leadership, personal impact, presentation and speech-making, communication and influencing, writing for business and creativity. As Karen puts it:

“People often say they want to be more confident. I can’t snap my fingers and make that happen, but I can equip them with practical skills that will lead to confidence if they put in the work. This confidence is their success, not mine. My job is to make sure people have the techniques to relax in front of an audience; to encourage them to think analytically – and creatively – about how to structure a speech or presentation; and to nudge them to take positive risks in how they present themselves and their message. Everything I do is driven by the belief that the need to communicate is fundamental to our humanity.”

You might also find our Effective Communication and Interpersonal Skills course useful to help develop your communication skills.

Creativity

Photograph of lightbulb on beach against a sunset.

Lightbulb Moment

Creativity is vital for innovation and as important for mathematicians and scientists as it is for writers and artists. Linkedin’s 2022 Global Talent Report now puts creativity as one of the current top five in-demand skills for employers. And no wonder. Creative-minded colleagues make excellent problem-solvers; contribute energy and dynamism to their teams; and are able to see the bigger picture at work.

Light the Fuse

Not feeling particularly creative yourself? Don’t worry. There are many ways we can all start to be more creative. Start by asking more questions; observe a situation before stepping in; experiment with new ways of thinking and approaching a subject; make more connections; and network within and across teams. It’s also important to get your mind in the right state to receive new, more creative ideas. Often this is when we are most relaxed and not overthinking. Taking regular breaks at work, staying active, having a daily meditation practice and allowing your mind to rest can all give space for ideas on the brain’s back burner to come into conscious awareness.

Our creative writing short courses at City provide an excellent space to explore your creativity. Start with An Approach to Creative Writing and move on to try Novel Writing and Longer Works or Short Story Writing. Taught by writers and editors, our writing courses will help you build your creative skills through storytelling and fiction writing.

Language learning also provides an opportunity to become more creative. Learning a language has been proven to (LINK TO OTHER POST) boost brain power and fire up those neurons essential for discovering new ways of thinking and approaching a subject. You’ll get the added bonus of practicing your networking skills with our interactive classes with plenty of opportunity for pair and group work.

Emotional Intelligence

Photo of nine Lego Mini figure heads with range of emotional expressions from neutral to fuming.

Multi-faceted

Emotional intelligence as a concept was first popularised by Dan Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence. Today the World Economic Forum defines emotional intelligence as one of its top ten in-demand professional skills. It’s not hard to see why. Leaders with emotional intelligence are routinely better able to resolve conflicts; collaborate with others; build psychological safety within teams and coach and motivate others.

I hear you

The good news? Emotional intelligence is something you can develop. First try to manage your negative emotions. When someone annoys you at work, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Excuse yourself to go for a toilet break if you need. Then come back when you’re calmer. You’ll make better decisions and you’ll be better able to listen. Think about the language you’re using to communicate at work. Could it be clearer? Is there room for improvement? Put yourself in your colleagues’ shoes and practice active empathy. How can you let your colleagues know, verbally or non-verbally, that you appreciate and understand their position, even if you don’t agree? Try to become more cognisant of what triggers you towards stress. If you’re someone who gets stressed when they read work emails, make sure not to have your phone on in your bedroom or set a time limit after which you no longer check your emails. Try to practice being optimistic rather than complaining. We are what we do and the more you complain, the more you will find something to complain about. Reminding yourself of what you have to be grateful for, however small, can increase our optimism and allow us to contribute at work, and home, in a more positive way.

City’s two Positive Psychology courses are both taught by Tim Le Bon and are a great way to improve your emotional intelligence. Tim has a first class degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Trinity College, Oxford and an MPhil in Philosophy from the University of London. He is a qualified life coach and psychotherapist and the author of Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors; Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology; and 365 Ways to be More Stoic.

“I originally studied PPE and really took to the philosophy part of the course,” says Tim. “The idea that we could reflect on how to live better was exciting and new to me. In my twenties I undertook further study in psychology.

“I then worked in IT for a company called Logica, where I really enjoyed my work and the camaraderie with fellow workers. But in my late twenties, I found something was missing. I wanted to make a positive difference to people’s lives and I wanted to do something that I was really passionate about. When I asked myself “is this how I want to spend the majority of my time?” the answer was a resounding “no”. So I trained as a counsellor, psychotherapist, life coach and teacher. I find my work now much more meaningful.

“Over the ten weeks students learn about the practical topics of Positive Psychology, such as happiness, positive emotions, achievement, positive relationships, mindfulness and compassion. They also learn evidence-based techniques to help them become happier, achieve more and be more mindful. Homework is set each week around activities aimed at helping students achieve these techniques.”

 

Adaptability

Photo of scrabble letters on white background.

Resistance is Futile

Despite being one of life’s only real certainties, human beings are notoriously resistant to change. How we respond to change – and the challenges that are change’s inevitable companion – depends on our ability to adapt. Flying off the handle when things don’t go according to plan will not buy you friends at work, or home.  Putting your head in the sand and hoping you can ignore the consequences of change will most likely damage you, your team and your organisation. A colleague who can show true adaptability to any situation, good or bad, is a huge asset to an organisation and more likely to be adept at other soft skills such as creativity.

Turn on a dime

Start by reframing your thinking. See challenges as opportunities rather than threats. See if you can get ahead of any potential challenges coming down the track and try to be an early adopter of change. Take advantage of any training courses your employers offer, particularly on resilience. Share your learning with your team; often seeing a colleague successfully take on new challenges can inspire others within a team to adapt and grow further.

City’s Leadership and Management short course is an excellent way to enhance your ability to adapt by learning practical tips on how to succeed in today’s job’s market.

Critical Thinking

Photo of man dressed in black clothes and black beanie hat with glasses on and hands resting on chin in thoughtful pose.

Let’s See

Being able to step back from a situation and apply logic is invaluable in the workplace. Critical thinkers use their skills to analyse information – essential in our data-heavy modern world – look for patterns in that information; see where there are gaps; and use their findings to come up with innovative solutions and strategies to ongoing problems. Not only do colleagues with good critical thinking skills make great leaders, they also know how to prioritise and manage their time effectively which has knock-on effects for their teams and organisations.

Give it some thought

You can work towards improving your critical skills by taking time to consider the information in front of you. Don’t take anything at face value. Be as objective as possible and try to evaluate the data as rationally as possible. Ask questions. Is there anything missing from this information? Who funded the research/website/platform? How big was the data set? Whose voice is missing from the research? Evolve your ability to listen with empathy. Try not to insert your own opinion before you’ve heard what others have to say. Listen carefully and keep an open mind.

City has a range of courses which will help students develop their critical thinking skills. Through reading and discussion of set texts and examples on our non fiction writing courses such as Journalism Skills, Writing for Social Impact and Narrative Non Fiction, students learn to analyse theirs and others’ writing and provide constructive criticism on ways to make it stronger and clearer.  Our fiction writing courses – particularly our year-long Novel Studio programme – also help to strengthen students’ capacity for independent judgement and thought and to practice skills in critical reasoning and appreciation.

Our law short courses help students develop their critical thinking skills through the examination of key legal case determinations and analysis of evidence and decision-making processes.  While our computing short courses – particularly our Data Analysis courses – are designed to sharpen students’ ability to apply logic to their understanding and use of programming and data management.

For more on all our short courses – from Human Rights Law through to Python, take a look at our home page.

Or contact shortcourses@city.ac.uk to talk directly to one of our subject coordinators.

Controlling the Narrative Non-Fiction

Peter Forbes on the success of City’s Narrative Non-Fiction short course

Author photograph of writer and editor Peter Forbes

Tutor, science writer and editor, Peter Forbes

For over fifteen years, City has run its Narrative Non-Fiction short course. For almost a decade, one tutor has been at the helm.  Peter Forbes is a science writer with a special interest in the relationship between art and science. He initially trained as a chemist and worked in pharmaceutical and popular natural history publishing, whilst writing poems and articles for magazines such as New Scientist and World Medicine.

He has written numerous articles and reviews – many specialising in the relationship between the arts and science – for the GuardianIndependentThe TimesDaily MailFinancial TimesScientific AmericanNew ScientistWorld MedicineModern PaintersNew Statesman and many others.

Peter is also an editor. As editor of the Poetry Society’s Poetry Review from 1986-2002, he played a major role in the rise of the New Generation Poets. He has edited three anthologies: Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry (Viking, 1999), We Have Come Through (Bloodaxe, 2003) and The Picador Book of Wedding Poems (Picador, 2012). His book, The Gecko’s Foot, about the new science of bio-inspired materials, was published by Fourth Estate in 2005 and was long-listed for the Royal Society Prize. Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage (Yale University Press, 2009) won the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Mary University of London (2004-7) and at St George’s, University of London (2010-12).

“I loved science as a child,” Peter explains. “But fell out of love with it at university, so poetry took over for a long time. What thrills me about science now is that all of the naive questions I used to ask as a student – about the origin of life; about the development of form in living creatures – are well on the way to being answered, if they haven’t been already. I can’t resist trying to tell the world about all these discoveries.

“I owe my entree into teaching to the Royal Literary Fund (RLF). The RLF scheme involves one-to-one tutoring of university students and I discovered that I enjoyed this very much. It was through the RLF that I came to City. I then discovered that I enjoy teaching a class even more than one-to-one.

“Teaching is an animated, sociable activity, unlike the solitariness of a writer’s work. I enjoy seeing people grow in confidence. As everyone gets to know each other, our classes develop into a lively discussion group from which everyone learns from each other.

“The standard at City is high and many of the students have the potential to publish successfully. Success, though, requires more than talent and I try to inculcate the attitude necessary to cope with the frustrations and setbacks that dog any published writer’s life.”

Cover picture of Dee Peyok's book Away from Beloved Lover

Away from Beloved Lover by Dee Peyok

It would seem Peter’s advice has paid off. Alumni from the course have been phenomenally successful. This year alone sees the publication of three alumni books: Dee Peyok’s Away From Beloved Lover (Granta); Claire Martin’s Heirs of Ambition (The History Press); and Aniefiok Ekpoudom’s Where We Come From (Faber). (As Dee herself tweeted recently in response to Peter’s message of congratulation on her book: “Your class really set me on my path. I can’t recommend Peter and the course enough to anyone considering it.”) Other notable alumni successes include Ciaran Thapar’s acclaimed Cut Short (Penguin) (Ciaran now teaches his own course for City: Writing for Social Impact); Deidre Finnerty’s book Bessborough (Hachette); and Jack Price’s book on Stem Cell Therapy, The Future of Brain Repair (MIT).

Cover picture of Deidre Finnerty's book

Bessborough by Deidre Finnerty

So what’s the key to the course’s success? Peter explains: “In the first half of the course we work mainly with set topics and in the second half with the students’ own work. Besides the class sessions, every student gets individual written feedback on several assignments during the course. This is professional, hands-on editing that is hard to come by elsewhere.

“The 10-week course is an ideal format in which to develop your writing skills. The friendly, enabling environment of the class takes the sting out of the anxiety of offering up your thoughts for scrutiny. It is, in fact, a milieu that many writers, at a computer or alone in a library, pine for.”

Since the pandemic the course has been delivered online and can be joined remotely from anywhere in the world. Students have been known to log in from the UK, USA, India, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Ethiopia, Haiti, Uganda, and Malaysia. And from this term City are offering the course on two nights – Tuesdays with Peter and Thursdays with acclaimed writer and teacher Holly Rigby.

For more on the course visit the home page.

For more on our other writing short courses visit our page here.

The next course starts on 17 or 19 January.

City Writes Winter Warmer 2022

City Writes, our termly showcase event for the fantastic writing coming from City’s Short Courses, was a great way to begin the festive season this year. And don’t worry, if you missed it, you can read about it and see the recording, just scroll on.

This term we were incredibly lucky to have the brilliant writer and alumna, Elizabeth Chakrabarty with us to share her astounding, genre-busting debut, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First up were the wonderful readings from our talented competition winners, students and alumni of multiple short courses.

Nathaniel Ashley

Kicking us off, quite literally, we entered the world of animation with Nathaniel Ashley’s story, ‘Captain Proton vs. the Deviator’. An alumnus of the Short Story Writing course, Nathaniel offered some masterful shifts between imagined onscreen action and the humdrum of the day job that made for some great contrast as the protagonist tried to manipulate his action heroes in a dramatic fight scene.

Hugo Cox

We took a non-fiction turn next with Hugo Cox, alumnus of the Narrative Non-Fiction course. He took us on a half marathon with his piece, ‘Half Over’. Filled with all the circumspection and reflection one might hope from the sensory and mental overload that comes with the distance run, Hugo’s story is a journey well worth celebrating.

Isabelle Mouttet, joining us all the way from Trinidad and Tobago, and an alumna of An Approach to Creative Writing, took us on a mythical journey next. Her story, ‘The Myth Finder’, is a spell-binding account of researcher and adventurer, Miss Marks who goes looking for, and finds, Borges’ Aleph. Nothing is quite as you imagine it might be and even over Zoom the atmosphere was altered by Isabelle’s reading.

Tunde Oyebode

We went from myth to romance next as we listened to Writers’ Workshop alumnus, Tunde Oyebode read his sultry story of holiday desire, ‘Wants’. Set in the warmth of Positano, the longing of the protagonist, written in a tantalising second person, charmed the audience, leaving them longing to jump on a plane.

Alison Halsey

Alison Halsey, a current Novel Studio student, followed Tunde with an extract from her novel-in-progress, Agnes Gets a Lift. We went headlong into the mind of octogenarian Maureen, watching for the body of her recently deceased friend to be removed from her over-seventies residence home. There’s nothing like a bit of bleak comedy and the faces of the zoom crowd were creased in amusement.

Katharine Light

Our last competition winner was Novel Studio alumna, Katharine Light, whose story ‘My Arms Are Empty’ threw us into an intense encounter between old friends that prompts a discussion about motherhood and fulfilment. An extract from her novel, Me Too, the sequel to her debut, Like Me, which is planned for publication in 2023, the story lit up the chat with admiration.

After such excellent readings by our competition winners we were nonetheless eager to hear from Elizabeth Chakrabarty whose debut novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, inspired by experience of race hate crime, was published in 2021 by The Indigo Press. Shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, the work is an incredibly rich and hybrid creation.

 

Elizabeth, alumna of the Novel Studio (Certificate in Novel Writing as it was), introduced the book and gave us a short reading examining the complexities of approaching a novel based on real experience of ongoing race hate crime in the workplace. The reading was powerful and moving and it was a real honour to hear Elizabeth share her work and then go on to answer questions from host and City Short Courses’ Tutor, Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, and the audience.

Together we explored how Elizabeth developed the hybrid approach to the novel, her publishing journey, tips for writers and the merest hint of the work to come. The discussion was wide-ranging and fascinating. Thank you so much, Elizabeth for joining us!

What a way to end the term and the year. Thanks were extended to all the scintillating competition winners, to Elizabeth again, the audience, and of course to Emily Pedder, head of Creative Writing Short Courses.  Don’t forget to look out for City Writes next term. The competition will open again in the new year and watch this space for news on our next published alumni. As always, the display of talent at City Writes is a joy to witness. Merry Christmas everyone, and roll on more events in 2023!

What ‘The Rest is Politics’ taught us about learning a foreign language

The Rest is Politics is having a bit of a moment.

The odd-but-good pairing of Alastair Campbell — Tony Blair’s former Head of Communications — and Rory Stewart — former Conservative MP and London Mayoral candidate — exchanging views on their weekly current affairs podcast has proved an unexpected hit, with worldwide audience numbers now into six figures and a million downloads per episode.

photo of hand holding words hashtag study in blue sign against backdrop of tree-lined road

Always Be Learning

Photograph of Eiffel Tower in Paris

Parlez-vous francais?

As avid fans of the benefits of learning a language here at City, we were delighted to hear last week’s podcast in which Campbell pointed to the importance of mastering influential languages such as Mandarin and Arabic, and also to the value of learning any language for the process alone.

Both podcast hosts speak from experience. While Campbell is fluent in French and German, Stewart speaks eleven languages, including French, Latin, Greek, Dari (a form of Farsi), Nepali, Urdu, Indonesian and Serbo-Croat.

If after listening to their podcast you’re still in any doubt about why you should learn a language, here are five more reasons:

  1. Learning a language can increase your confidence and mental alertness

A 2019 Italian study, looking at the effects of language learning on adults between 59-79, found that it improves “global cognitive and re-organizes functional connectivity.”

  1. Learning a language can protect against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia

Several studies have found that language learning engages parts of the brain’s network that overlap with regions which can be negatively impacted by ageing.

  1. Learning a language can broaden your horizons

A 2021 UK government report recognised the value of learning a language to protect against ‘insularity and provide an opening to other cultures’.  And by being able to talk to more people, you’ll also be able to express yourself in a more diverse range of ways. A win-win!

Photo of Chinese lantern hanging inside a room

Chinese Whispers

4. Learning a language can make you more compassionate

A recent study found that bilingual children were ‘better at grasping other perspectives,’ something we could all do with more of in our increasingly polarised world.

  1. And if nothing else, learning a language is a useful exercise in humility

There’s nothing like learning a language to remind you of your fallibility! But being in a position of uncertainty can actually help you recognise the steps you need to close those knowledge gaps. No bad thing for any learner, or any human being for that matter!

For all City’s short online language courses, visit our languages home page.  We cover everything from Arabic to French, German, Korean and Japanese all taught by qualified, native speakers using the recognised framework of languages such as CEFR (for European languages), JLPT (for Japanese), or HSK (for Mandarin).

To learn from our students how they found learning with us, read our blog post here.

And if you’d like to talk through your options, just email our friendly team on shortcourses@city.ac.uk and they’ll be happy to help.

For all our other courses, visit our home page here.

City Writes Autumn 2022 Competition Winners Announced

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

We’re delighted to introduce our fabulous City Writes Autumn 2022 Competition Winners, who will be reading their work alongside renowned author and alumna, Elizabeth Chakrabarty, on Wednesday 14th December at 7pm. Register to join us here.

This term’s winners, chosen from our usual weight of entries are:
Author photo of Nathaniel Ashley

Nathaniel Ashley

Short Story Writing alumnus, Nathaniel Ashley is an author and freelance journalist who has written for Neon Books Literary Magazine, The Skinny and Massive Cinema. He runs the film and television blog Natflix and you can find him on Twitter @NateAshley10. Nathaniel will be reading his story ‘Captain Proton vs. the Deviator’.

Author photo of Hugo Cox

Hugo Cox

Hugo Cox. For fifteen years Hugo has been a freelance journalist covering property, housing and investment, mainly for the Financial Times; before that he was a mediocre actor. Encouraged by the Narrative Non-Fiction course, which he has just completed, he hopes to continue bumbling around after interesting topics beyond his day job, as well as kookier ways (or outlets) in which to tell his property stories. He is fairly useless without a looming deadline and very keen for tips on writing groups or classes to help maintain his newfound momentum. Hugo will be reading his piece, ‘Half Over’.

Author phot of Alison Halsey

Alison Halsey

Alison Halsey is a fiction writer and a former financial services professional, with a career lasting over 45 years. She has also served in many roles supporting charities with a focus on young people with disabilities. A student of The Novel Studio, Alison is currently writing her second novel, Agnes Gets a Lift, from which she will be reading the first chapter. She is currently also still editing her first novel, Minta Gets Everything Wrong, for which process The Novel Studio course is proving invaluable.

Author photo of Katharine Light

Katharine Light

Katharine Light. During her year on The Novel Studio at City, University of London, Katharine worked on her novel Like Me, which she plans to publish in 2023. It is the first of a series of novels about a group of teenage friends who meet up again in their late thirties. The short story ‘My arms are empty’, to be read at City Writes, is based on an episode in the sequel, Me Too. Katharine lives in London and fits writing around a full-time job and busy family life.

An Approach to Creative Writing alumna, Isabelle Mouttet. Isabelle was born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago and has been living in London getting her Master’s in Entrepreneurship. She is an avid reader and a hopeful writer who plans to pursue a career in book publishing. Isabelle will be reading ‘The Myth Finder’.

Author photo of Tunde Oyobode

Tunde Oyebode

Writers’ Workshop alumnus, Tunde Oyebode is a London-born Nigerian, based in East London. Working primarily as an Architect in North London, he is committed to delivering inclusive projects with high social and aesthetic value. Writing is a passion that he has developed in parallel with Architecture. His creative and essay writings explore human relationships and society and have been published in anthologies and magazines. Some of these writings include ‘Explosions,’ which was published in print in the 2021 Michael Terrence Anthology, ‘Wants’ published online in Stylist Magazine and ‘Riot,’ which is pending print publication in Obsidian Magazine in December 2022. Tunde will be reading his story, ‘Wants’.

After listening to tales of magic, wonder, romance, desire, film, work, running and death, you’ll be thoroughly warmed up to hear from our guest author, the wonderful Elizabeth Chakrabarty whose novel Lessons in Love and Other Crimes is a gripping and vital novel.

Don’t miss your chance to hear all of these authors and get in the mood for the festive season. Register here for City Writes Autumn 2022 at 7pm on Zoom. See you there!

Portrait of author Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

Guest alumna Elizabeth Chakrabarty, photo by Jason Keith

City Writes Deadline Tomorrow 18 November!

Got 1,000 words of fantastic fiction or non-fiction ready to share? This is your chance to join award-winning writer and alumna, Elizabeth Chakrabarty on the online stage of City Writes! Send your 1,000 words (no poetry, scripts or picture books) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by midnight on Friday 18th November along with details of your current or past City Short Creative Writing Course.

City Writes is a termly event showcasing the best of City’s Short Courses Creative Writing talent and this term, alongside the readers from the termly competition (this could be you!), we are extremely excited to welcome Elizabeth Chakrabarty as our alumna guest author.

Alumna of the Novel Studio, Elizabeth Chakrabarty is an interdisciplinary writer using creative and critical writing, besides performance, to explore themes of race, gender and sexuality. Her debut novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimesinspired by experience of race hate crime, was published in 2021 by the Indigo Press, along with her essay, On Closure and Crime. In 2022 Lessons in Love and Other Crimes was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, and also shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.

Portrait of author Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

Author photo of Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

For your chance to read your work alongside this ground-breaking author, you need only send your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction (no poetry, scripts or picture books) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by midnight on Friday 18th November along with details of your current or past City Short Creative Writing Course.

Registration for City Writes Autumn 2022 event on the 14th of December at 7pm on Zoom is open now. Simply follow this link to sign up to hear Elizabeth Chakrabarty read from her fantastic debut, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, alongside the competition winners (possibly you?!) to be announced in just a few weeks’ time.

Full submission details can be found here.

 

We can’t wait to read your work – submit now! – and see you on the 14th December.

What is branding and why is it so important for small businesses?

Ahead of our next Introduction to Branding course run by the brilliant team at Anon Agency, we caught up with Founders Anna Tsekouras and Pete Austin to find out more about what branding really is.

Anna Tsekouras and Pete Austin, Founders of Anon Agency and Tutors on City’s Introduction to Marketing Short Course

  1. Can you describe what branding is?

 

It might sound crazy but that’s a tough question! Technically, in terms of the textbook definition, it’s the way you identify your product, service or company which sets you apart from your competitors. But in reality, it’s about much more than that. It’s more than what you can just see – it’s not just your logo, colours and font! Your brand comprises a set of personality attributes, values and beliefs that engage your audience who share those same values. Your brand might stand for body positivity, environmental sustainability or simply be about living luxuriously. Whatever it is, your brand is just like a human personality and its attributes will tell your audience who you are. How does my brand act when they go to a party? What does my brand talk to its friends about? What excites my brand? What scares my brand? Getting to know and defining your brand is integral to your success. A clear and confident brand builds trust and increases your business value.

 

  1. Why do you think an understanding of branding is so important for start-ups and SMEs?

 

Photograph of sardine tin with small shoot growing out of it planted in soil

Growing concerns, photo courtesy of Wilhelm Gunkel

Brand underpins everything you do; your Vision and Mission define why your brand exists, and who you want to reach. That relationship is integral to the success of a brand. If you don’t know who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in; then your audience won’t connect with your brand. And we all know the immense level of competition out there at the moment – now more than ever with small businesses booming since lockdown – so to get a competitive edge is vital.

 

Branding allows you to build relationships with your audience, which can turn them into loyal customers. The customer journey is a complex thing. But one thing that remains consistent, is the impact of a good brand in the process. Whether the customer is spending £1 or £10,000, branding could be the very reason to make their decision. If you had to choose between a business with clear and confident branding, and a business that hasn’t made this effort, you probably know which one you’d trust more. Branding helps you show potential customers that you’re an established, credible business.

 

  1. Can someone else create a branding strategy for your own business, or should you try and do it yourself?

 

Both! Firstly, it starts with you. You know the business you want to build and the brand you want to create. Start by defining the service and product you’re offering and think about why you exist. What motivated you to launch your business? What makes you different? Who do you want to reach? Once you start brainstorming these answers, it might then help to source external help in creating a brand strategy. Brand experts will help you define, articulate and communicate your brand’s mission and vision to your audience – those ‘next steps’ of bringing your brand strategy to life are often best achieved with the help of experienced brand experts.

 

  1. At what point in developing a business should you start to think about your brand identity?

 

As soon as you start to think about launching your business and you’ve worked out your product or service, it’s a good idea to start thinking about your brand values, attributes and its ‘personality’. The sooner you get the brand defined, the better you’ll be able to connect with your audience. A quick way to get the ball rolling with your brand identity is to focus on the ‘why’ you exist.

 

  1. Can you make changes to your brand as you go along or do you need to stick to the one you have?

 

Photograph of person in red sweatshirt holding iphone with red image of Nike tick

Nike image, courtesy of Kristian Egelund

To a degree, you can change as you go along. Your brand will probably change as your business develops, but it should always stay true to the brand values you define at the start. If you start to change those values (and there are some big companies who’ve tried, and failed, to do that) then you risk alienating your audience who connect with your values, mission and vision. Brands that endure move with their customers and consistently reflect their changing lives and concerns. Nike is an obvious but great example – Just Do It is still their overarching brand slogan (and has been since 1987) but more recently they’ve flexed their brand to move away from aspiration for athletic achievement, and embraced the way society and sport has advanced. Two examples are their 2018 campaign selecting Colin Kaepernick, an outcast American football player and civil rights activist, as the face of its new global advertising campaign, emphasising their brand’s position as a vehicle for social change. And more recently in 2022, their Play New campaign which embraces trying and failing, not just achievement. Their campaign slogan is “no matter how many times you fall down, you’re still coming out on top.” Both the 2018 and 2022 examples still keep Nike’s original brand values at their core, but they show how you can flex the brand campaigns as you go along, if it’s done carefully.

 

  1. How important is social media in supporting your brand?

 

Love it or hate it, social media is an invaluable way of talking directly to your audience. Not only can you use social media tools to identify your audience (demographic, age, location and interests), it enables you to have a two-way conversation with that audience – gathering vital feedback, intel and being able to shape and adapt your brand to build awareness, customer loyalty and increase your audience and bottom line! Unlike previous methods of advertising and branding, where the audience were simply on the receiving end of marketing campaigns – social media allows you to have real-time conversations, and actively make your audience feel part of your brand and become brand ambassadors.

 

  1. There are a ton of free online videos about branding. Why is it important to study a course with tutors available in real-time?

 

Well, that’s precisely why studying a course with tutors in real-time is so vital – the sheer quantity of brand-related videos and articles out there is insane. There’s so much information (a lot of which is just pulled together with no real expertise to get YouTube views or website hits) that it would be impossible to know which is good advice or good theory and which is not. On a course with expert tutors, you get case studies brought to life and explained to you so you can understand how successful brands have applied the theories to achieve their goals. An interactive course with tutors allows you to get tailored advice and to navigate the steps you need to bring your own brand to life in line with industry standards. And plenty of time is built in for you to ask questions – about your own brand – and tap into the years of brand experience from the tutors; something you simply can’t do with an online video.

 

  1. What are your three top tips for anyone thinking about their brand?

 

  1. Audience – it’s vital to know who you are targeting with your brand. It helps to think of them as a person (or create a ‘persona’ for them) – their age, interests, ambitions, motivations and pain points.
  2. Vision and Mission – You need to answer the ‘why’ behind your brand before anything else. If you don’t know why you exist, how can you expect your audience to connect with you and, crucially, engage with you over one of you competitors?
  3. Research how your brand fits into the market – Consider your unique selling point (USP) in helping you to think about how you’ll stand out against your competitors. It’s always good to do some competitor analysis before launching a brand; it helps you define what can make you different.

 

Thanks so much, Anna and Pete! If you’d like to find out more about all things Branding, why not join our next Introduction to Branding short course starting on 21st November. The course is aimed at start-up owners, entrepreneurs, small business owners, communications and marketing professionals or anyone interested in learning how to communicate their brand more effectively, and learn what makes up ‘a brand’.

For more on all our short courses, visit our home page

For any questions email our team on shortcourses@city.ac.uk

5 reasons why now is a good time to learn how to write crime fiction

Crime fiction is having a boom time, spurred on by the phenomenal success of books like Richard Orsman’s Thursday Murder Club series. Read on for more on why now is a great time to learn how to write crime fiction.

 

 

  1. Crime fiction is an incredibly popular genre

Crime is one of the fastest growing genres in UK fiction book sales, with Nielsen’s reporting a 19% volume growth in UK book sales for crime and thrillers in 2020.

 

  1. Crime fiction translates

Write a successful crime novel and the chances are it will be adapted into a film or onto the small screen or stage. From TV staples such as Midsomer Murders and Wallander to box office hits like Murder on the Orient Express and The Talented Mr Ripley, all began life as crime novels.

 

  1. Crime fiction has some of the most loyal fans

From Hercule Poirot to Philip Marlowe, from Inspector Morse to John Rebus, at the heart of the best crime fiction is an unforgettable detective. Create a detective your readers love and you’ll have them clamouring for the next book in the series.

 

  1. Crime fiction: a genre for our times?

From climate change to global pandemics, we live in increasingly uncertain times. While crime fiction delves into the darker side of life, ultimately justice prevails – the criminal is caught, the mystery is solved – and readers are left with the, however temporary, relief that order has been restored.

 

  1. Crime fiction is versatile

Study crime fiction and you’ll discover plenty of sub-genres to sink your teeth into (no pun intended). From cosy crime – currently having a moment due to the incredible success of Richard Orsman’s Thursday Murder Club series – to psychological thrillers epitomised by City Novel Studio alumna and Sunday Times bestselling crime writer Harriet Tyce, to hardboiled fiction, courtroom dramas and legal thrillers, there’s a sub-genre for everyone!

 

 

City’s Short Courses offer a ten-week Crime and Thriller Writing course taught by Sunday Times bestselling thriller author Caroline Green. Read here for her top tips on how to write crime fiction. Or click here to book her next course starting in January 2023.

 

And don’t just take our word for it: in the words of former student Darah O’Reilly, it’s ‘an outstandingly well put together course from a leading crime writer.’

 

For more on City’s Writing Short Courses visit our home page and keep an eye out on this blog for more updates on our growing list of published alumni.

 

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