Author: Emily (page 1 of 2)

Children’s author Jennifer Gray’s top five books for kids this Christmas

By Jennifer Gray

As Christmas approaches, let short course alumna and children’s author Jennifer Gray guide you through her top 5 ‘must have’ cosy winter warmers for the festive season.

5. William at Christmas – William takes on Christmas with his usual blend of enthusiasm and outraged indignation. Hilarious fun which will make you eternally grateful for your own children at a time when you might otherwise not be.

4. Pippi Longstocking – Very happy in her own skin with a unique look and a keen sense of justice (not to mention enough strength to lift Santa and throw him twice round the moon), she’s very much a 21st century girl. Pippi’s stockings would look great on the mantelpiece and I can’t imagine her worrying too much about cooking! Good to have around at Christmas.

3. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – I don’t care what anyone else says. In my view stepping into a magical, snowy world through a wardrobe of fur coats has to be the best beginning to any children’s book, EVER. And you’ve got to admit it’s a very Christmassy story at whichever level you choose to read it.

2. Charlotte’s Webb – Christmas is a time for friends and family. Charlotte reminds us they can come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes from places you wouldn’t look. A lesson not just in Christmas spirit but also how to write a really original, touching, animal tale. And thank goodness Wilbur doesn’t end up on the dinner table.

1. Paddington – everyone’s favourite bear. I love him. (So do my children and the youngest is 18.) I can’t better Wendy Ide’s review of his film persona in The Guardian as ‘a slightly sticky beacon of hope for these dark and unsettled times’. Indeed. You can reassure the kids he’s just as good in the books. Guaranteed to make you feel Christmassy.

About the author

Jennifer Gray

Since studying at City on our Writing for Children and The Novel Studio, Jennifer has carved out a successful and prolific career as a children’s author. Her latest book in the Atticus Claw series (book 6) finds Atticus solving crimes in a Scottish castle where ‘danger lurks everywhere on the misty moor…’.

Her new series came out in January 2018 with Usborne and is called The Travels of Ermine. The latest Ermine adventure, The Big London Treasure Hunt, was published in June 2019.

City Writes Autumn 2019 Competition Winners Announced

City Writes Autumn 2019 Competition Winners Announced
Congratulations to this term’s winners of the termly City Writes Competition, showcasing the best creative writing talent from alumni and students of City’s Short Creative Writing Courses. The winners are: Harriet Atkinson, Kathrine Bancroft, Helen Ferguson, Bren Gosling, Shabnam Grewal, Andrea Holck, Revati Kumar, Shibani Lal, Natasha Mirzoian and Angus Whitty.
This term we are running a flash fiction extravaganza event to celebrate the Story Cities anthology edited by alumna, Rosamund Davies and tutor, Cherry Potts, as well as Kam Rehal.
The City Writes Autumn Event is on Wednesday 11th December at 6.30pm in the City 125 Suite, City, University of London. Tickets are £10 and include wine/juice. Buy them here now. City Writes Autumn Event 2019 is going to be storytelling gold. There are lots of authors and lots of readings, but they are all short flashes of brilliance guaranteed to scintillate and mesmerise.
We’ll be journeying all over the globe and into childhood memory, falling in love with mattresses, finding a deceased father in the scribbled margins of their old library, seeing snow for the first time, rethinking bonfire night, trying to look after milk and so much more. Don’t miss out, book now.
In the meantime, meet this term’s wonderful, festively large list of competition winners below.
Harriet Atkinson is a historian of design and culture, based at University of Brighton. Currently, she is writing a book about the design of British propaganda in the 1930s and 40s. Her book The Festival of Britain: A Land and its People was published by I.B. Tauris in 2012. She has written for a range of academic and non-academic publications. Harriet studied Narrative Non Fiction with Peter Forbes. Find her on twitter at @HRAtkinson1

For more than 20 years, Kathrine Bancroft’s career has been at the forefront of broadcast journalism, political and not for profit communications. She is currently a Public Engagement Manager for UKRI. An alumnus of City’s workshop and creative writing courses, Kathrine is currently a 2019/20 Novel Studio student and a creative writing volunteer mentor with ‘The Ministry of Stories’.

Helen Ferguson is a translator of Russian and German and writer based in Ely. Her work has appeared in Lighthouse Literary Journal and she is currently working on a novel with City’s Novel Studio.

Bren Gosling’s writing has been performed at The Pleasance, Arcola, OSO Barnes, Rose and Crown E17, Bloomsbury Festival and Brighton Fringe. He is an award-winning short story writer – Exeter, London Short Story Prizes; Highly Commended 2017 Brighton Prize. His play Moment of Grace – inspired by Princess Diana’s handshake on Britain’s first AIDS Unit – sold out at 2018 Bloomsbury Festival. Bren is a Novel Studio alumnus @BrenGosling

Shabnam Grewal is a Londoner who makes Radio and TV programmes. She is also a parent, a partner, a friend and a reader. A big reader. Shabnam studied on Cherry Potts’ Approach to Creative Writing course.

Andrea Holck is an American-born writer and former English teacher. She is currently on the MA in Creative Writing and Publishing course at City. Her writing has been featured in Popshot, Kairos Literary Journal and Run Like the Wind, a literary magazine about running.

Revati Kumar is based in North London, and took the Approach to Creative Writing course in 2017. She currently works full time as a doctor in the NHS and continues to write (non-medical) fiction in her spare time. 

Shibani Lal is an alumna of Katy Darby’s Short Story Writing course. Shibani’s short stories have been longlisted for the Bristol Prize, Cambridge Short Story Prize and the Fish Short Story Prize. She was also runner-up in the Asian writer prize, and her work has been published in anthologies in the UK (Dahlia Press, Linen Press). Shibani holds an MPhil in Economics from Cambridge University, and is currently working on a short story collection.

Born in Russia and of Armenian origin, Natasha Mirzoian moved to London when she was a child. While working in book publishing, she completed the Novel Studio at City in 2005. She then went on to gain an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths University. She lives in Kent with her family and is working on a collection of short stories.

Angus Whitty was brought up in South Africa towards the end of Apartheid, schooled in England, and spent his life moving between the two. He started writing at sixteen, and worked as a cub reporter for a newspaper at 19. He has studied journalism and film making and done a Masters in Anthropology. He works as a freelance journalist and invented a product for reading books called “Thumbthing”. Over the past 10 years he has used ocean plastic as a resource in design. Now living in Valencia, Spain, he is part of a weekly writing group who are trying to produce a booklet of language-exchange short stories. Angus studied at City ten years ago on a course called Towards Publication, now Writers’ Workshop. Find him on instagram/anguswhitty

With stories from the competition winners and from the Story Cities anthology, you’ll be getting more than £10 ticket worth. Sign up here while there’s still room.

A novel approach: how short course alumna self-published her debut novel

By Rachel Mann

Since the publication of my first novel, On Blackberry Hill, many people have asked me: How long did it take to write? I find this seemingly simple question hard to answer. Maybe what they mean is: How did you do it? This is what people really want to know, isn’t it? How does one write a novel?

There are as many ways to write a novel as there are novelists. Here’s how I did it. In the winter of 2008, I was working as an editor in educational publishing in New York, when my husband accepted a job relocation to London. With two children under five, I decided to focus on helping them adjust, while also taking the opportunity to do something I had long wished to pursue: creative writing. Enrolling on City’s Novel Studio course (then called the Certificate in Novel Writing) felt like signing up to climb Everest. I had never written a story longer than ten pages.

Anne Lamott, author of On Blackberry Hill

The course began with a focus on reading novels of all genres, and on the fundamentals of strong stories. I felt excited and ready to undertake the task of writing my own novel, as I began to evaluate writing from a writer’s perspective, not just from a reader’s. The tutors broke up the monumental process into manageable chunks, guiding us through small goals. As Anne Lamott explains in her influential book, writing is accomplished “bird by bird.” In other words: one image, one scene, one sentence at a time. The camaraderie and the ritual of meeting with other writers for hours each week really drove my commitment to spend the time necessary to complete the novel.

I decided to set my novel in an American summer camp, a setting deeply familiar to me, but foreign to every one of my classmates. Having a thoughtful audience for my earliest drafts helped to push me to make the story accessible to a wide range of readers. I finished the course with an outline and 50 pages. We had a reading for friends, family, agents and publishers, which pushed us to think of our novels as real products, not just class exercises. By the following spring, I had a complete first draft.

So what happened next? Life. My family moved back to New York, and we had a third child. I networked, went to conferences, wrote new pieces, and revised and revised my novel. There were long stretches of time when I didn’t look at the manuscript at all, as other pressing concerns took hold. In the end, it was my Novel Studio classmate and friend Justine Solomons, founder of Byte the Book, who helped me to publish the novel at long last.

As you see, writing a novel, at least for me, was a meandering process that took almost 8 years from first scribbles to printed book. It’s been so rewarding to hear reader feedback, from old friends to other writers, to young readers who relate to the teenage characters. Writing and completing a work is its own reward, but having readers respond to one’s writing is a greater thrill yet.

I remain grateful to the community of my City Novel Studio course, many of whom gathered together to share and critique writing even after the course ended. We continue to share and celebrate one another’s successes to this day.

On Blackberry Hill is published by Create Space and is the winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Young Adult Literature. For more about Rachel’s writing visit her website; for more about The Novel Studio, please visit our programme page.

Short Courses Alumna, Luiza Sauma, on National Writing Day

By Emily Pedder

This year City’s Short Courses have partnered with National Writing Day, an initiative designed to  inspire people across the UK to get writing. To  celebrate we are bringing you an interview with one of our most successful alumni, the novelist Luiza Sauma.

Luiza took several short courses at City before she began her career as a novelist. Her first novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, was published in 2017 by Viking to great acclaim. Tomorrow sees the launch of her second novel, Everything You Ever Wanted. Set on a perfect parallel planet the book explores our ‘age of anxiety’. This interview was conducted by Emily Pedder, Course Director for the Novel Studio

EP: Luiza, thank you so much for being part of this year’s National Writing Day. We’re thrilled to be involved with such an important initiative which aims to inspire creative writing from the very earliest stages.

Can I start by asking whether there was a teacher or adult who you got you interested in storytelling at a young age?

LS: Sometimes I feel like I’m the only author who didn’t have an inspiring English teacher. I loved literature, but I didn’t thrive at school. Luckily I grew up in a house full of books and my parents encouraged me to read widely from an early age. They’re both psychoanalysts, so storytelling is central to their work – psychoanalysis is all about stories.

EP: What was the first book to make you cry?

LS: Books don’t often make me cry. I think I shed a tear when the dog died in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I read when I was a teenager. I found that scene unbearably tender.

EP: Who were your favourite authors as a child?

LS: Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, Louisa May Alcott, C S Lewis, Beatrix Potter, Mark Twain and Hans Christian Andersen. Dahl in particular. I used to re-read Matilda every couple of weeks.

EP: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

LS: I would say, ‘Believe in yourself,’ because I wasted too many years on anxiety and self-doubt. But believing in yourself is easier said than done when you’re surrounded by critical voices. Our society is very hard on young women.

EP: What is it about writing that motivates or inspires you?

LS: Sometimes it feels involuntary – I write in my head all the time. Both reading and writing are a comfort to me; they help me to understand the world.

EP: You recently became a mum. How has that experience affected your writing?

LS: I’m not able to write at the moment – my baby occupies all of my time. But I’m still writing in my head, like always. I’m very sleep-deprived, but the ideas are percolating. Motherhood has been so challenging, intense and joyful. I feel utterly changed. I’ve never had so many ideas.

EP: Your latest novel is a dystopian take on the modern world. What prompted you to set it in an imagined future?

LS: Everything You Ever Wanted is set in the near future – a world that everyone would recognise, apart from the fact that people are being sent to live on another planet. When I came up with the idea, I was writing my first novel, working full-time in an office and feeling quite trapped. This was before Brexit, before Donald Trump became president, but there was a sense of increasing anger and anxiety in the world, and social media seemed to be making it worse. I knew I wanted to explore these things.

Then I heard an episode of the podcast Love + Radio about a woman who wanted to take part in the Mars One mission – which would involve leaving Earth, never to return – and suddenly there was my idea. A lot of people have been joking, lately, about leaving Earth, because things are so awful right now – but what would it take to actually do it? I was feeling stuck, so I thought I might as well try and write something completely wild. At the very least, I thought it would be fun.

EP: Do you see your novels as completely separate or is there a thread that links them for you?

LS: One of the things that excited me about Everything You Ever Wanted was that it felt completely different to my first novel, which was deeply rooted in Brazilian culture, the immigrant experience and the real world. But when I finished writing it, I realised I had written another novel about immigration – just on a larger, cosmic scale. I was born in Brazil and I come from a long line of immigrants from various countries. It’s the defining story of my family, and quite hard to shake off.

EP: Finally, if your daughter grows up and says she wants to be a writer, what would your advice be?!

LS: I would tell her to find a day job that doesn’t eat up all her time and energy, to be ambitious in her work, but also to look after herself – both mentally and physically. Writing is an unstable career, so it’s important to find stability elsewhere.

EP: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, Luiza, and so much luck with the next novel!

Everything You Ever Wanted is published by Viking on 27th June 2019.

For more about the short courses Luiza took at City, visit our short course writing home page.

Luiza Sauma, image by Tim Goalem

 

 

City lecturer delivers The National Portrait Gallery Workshop: The Blank Page

By Emily Pedder

In an exciting collaboration with Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014 and The National Portrait Gallery, City, University of London’s short courses lecturer and  writer Emily Midorikawa led a practical workshop, ‘The Blank Page’, exploring how writers approach the process of creating a character.

The workshop delved into the ways a writer harnesses the anxiety of the waiting page to his or her advantage in developing fictional characters. Activities included attendees looking closely at some of the portraits housed in the gallery to show the different ways to gain inspiration for a character.

The sell-out workshop was a great success, with a wide range of attendees developing their writing skills in the picturesque surroundings of the gallery. Emily said “It was an amazing opportunity to be able to work with images from the National Portrait Gallery’s collections. The portrait I ended up using for the basis of the writing activities was Patrick Heron’s painting of A.S. Byatt and I was delighted by the determination with which workshop participants approached the various tasks. In the two-hour session, we concentrated on developing convincing characters with words and confronting the potential anxiety of the blank page.”

Anna B. Sexton, Learning and Community Involvement Curator for Anxiety Arts Festival, said “We were really happy with how the event went. ‘The Blank Page’ event gave the audience a chance to work with a professional, successful academic author and the workshop reached maximum capacity, which is really great.

“The overriding theme for the Anxiety Arts Festival London has been different mental health and the need to alleviate or exacerbate it. The National Portrait Gallery is one of the most visited places in London, but it’s not often linked with mental health. But actually, even having your picture taken, and then looking at the picture can be uncomfortable, and the relationship between a subject and an artist when painting a portrait often holds even more anxiety, so it was a wonderful opportunity to do a workshop in the gallery.”

Who Says Crime Doesn’t Pay?

By Novel Studio Course Director Emily Pedder

Greg Keen is an alumnus of The Novel Studio course at City, University of London. He completed his debut novel in between stints working as a pitch consultant and a media trainer, all based in Soho. In 2015 Soho Dead won the CWA Debut Dagger. We caught up with him to find out more about his crime series.

EP: Your novel reveals some brilliantly unsavoury characters. Were they based on people you’ve met…?

GK: I’ve met a few people who share their characteristics but no one who is absolutely like them. Bella – the sex club owner – is probably closest to someone I know.

EP: Your novel is set mostly in Soho, a place you seem to know intimately. Can you tell us about your relationship to the place?

GK: I got my first job there after university. Over the next ten years the company re-located four times, always in Soho. During that period I frequented most of the pubs and quite a few members clubs when members clubs meant a dimly lit cellar bar. Few of these remain but The New Evaristo (aka Trisha’s) in Greek Street is still going strong.

EP: Which crime writers have influenced you?

GK: Mark Timlin’s Sharman series primarily. I love Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May books and Colin Bateman’s Dan Starkey novels are wonderfully dark and funny.

EP: What kind of research did you do for the book?

GK: Part of the novel is set in the seventies. Mostly it was a matter of researching what was where in Soho in that period and which drinks and cigarette brands were available etc.

EP: “His pecs needed a training bra and his gut seeped like jelly from a dodgy mould…” Humour is rife in your book. Do you see it as an important element in the crime writing you’re interested in producing?

GK: To a point. Soho Dead began life primarily as a comic novel and was rejected by agent after agent as not having a big enough crime element. Over the next four drafts (complete re-writes basically) I bumped this up. The best advice I received was in a workshop when someone commented that the humour worked when it came from the situation and not when I was trying to insert gags. If any of my three review readers think something isn’t funny then out it comes. But the short answer to your question is that noir and humour often work well together.

EP: The novel is intricately plotted with lots of satisfying sub-plots and red herrings. How did you approach the plotting of the book?

GK: Thank you. I have about 70% worked out up-front and the rest is found while writing and re-drafting.

EP: The ending of the book is nicely unpredictable. Did you have an alternate ending in mind at any point, or were you always clear where the book was going?

GK: Some crime writers only find out who committed the crime when they reach its conclusion. I find this amazing and always knew who did it and why.

EP: What are you working on next?

GK: I’m about to begin structural edits on Soho Ghosts, which is the second in the series and out next year.

EP: Have you given up the day job?!

GK: As I freelance it’s not quite that dramatic for me. I have decreased my hours to focus more on writing though.

Thanks to Greg Keen and all the best with his fantastic novel Soho Dead and upcoming Soho Ghosts.

Short course alumna to publish first book

By Emily Pedder

City short course alumna Luiza Sauma’s first novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, will be published by Viking/Penguin in February 2017. To celebrate her brilliant achievement, we asked her to tell us more about how she writes.

What got you started with writing?

I realised that I wanted to be a writer when I was around fifteen. It was an incredibly cheesy epiphany: I was reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road on a bus in north London, and suddenly the possibilities of literature opened up to me – you could experiment and you could write about anything, not just upper-class English people. I haven’t re-read the book since then, but I suspect it’s best experienced when you’re fifteen.

After that, I started writing obsessively: mostly diaries and a short-lived music zine, but also terrible poetry and fiction. After university I became a journalist and fiction fell by the wayside, but I returned to it in my late twenties.

What do you enjoy about writing?

The same things I enjoyed when I was a child: creating a world from scratch, and playing with characters, ideas and words. When it’s going well, it’s so much fun. David Foster Wallace said that writing used 97 percent of himself, while his other work used just 50 percent. I can relate to that – writing is so completely involving.

What do you find challenging?

The first draft is very challenging for me. I don’t like to plan too much, so it often feels like I don’t know what I’m doing – which is exciting, but scary. Like a lot of writers, I also struggle with procrastination and self-flagellation.

Which writers have inspired you?

I’m still inspired by some of my favourites from my teens, such as Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Ralph Ellison and Albert Camus, but also Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Carson McCullers, Elena Ferrante, Junot Díaz, Edward St Aubyn, Marlon James, Colm Tóibín, Kazuo Ishiguro, Lorrie Moore and many others.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I usually write at the library, because I’m prone to laziness when I’m at home. I can write at any time of day, but I never do it late at night, because it exacerbates my insomnia. I just write on a laptop – nothing too unusual. When I’m out and about, I take notes on my phone. I don’t write much by hand; my handwriting is so terrible, I can barely read it.

Which writing courses did you do at City and what did you gain from them?

I got quite addicted to City’s courses – I did Short Story Writing, Writers’ Workshop) and Screenwriting: First Steps. They gave me a much-needed escape from my day job, a safe place to play with ideas and, more than anything, the confidence to carry on writing. I went on to do the Creative and Life Writing MA at Goldsmiths, which I loved.

How did you get your novel published?

For me, it was all about finding a brilliant agent; things moved pretty quickly after that. I had dalliances with various agents – some had approached me, others I had approached – before I signed with Emma Paterson at RCW last summer. She helped me to do a few edits and then submitted the book to publishers in November. I received a few offers and decided to go with Viking/Penguin.

What would your advice for a new writer be?

Don’t pay too much attention to ‘rules of writing’ and don’t take criticism to heart. All writers can benefit from editorial advice; no one is a perfect genius. Not even Fitzgerald; Susan Bell’s book The Artful Edit provides a fascinating insight into how his editor, Max Perkins, helped him to improve The Great Gatsby. You don’t need to take on board everyone’s ideas, though – just the ones that resonate with you.

Most of all, just get on with it. As Dorothy Parker said, ‘Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.’

What are you working on now?

I’m working on some short stories and also a second novel, which is completely different to the first. I’m still feeling my way through the story.

Have you given up the day job?

I’ve just left my day job, because I needed a break to focus on my second novel. It’s definitely possible to write and work full-time (not just possible, but necessary – you’ve got to eat!), but it can be challenging. I don’t think work is the enemy, though; even the dullest office is rich with drama. I’m sure I’ll be back at another job sometime soon, but for now I’m just going to enjoy writing.

Rewriting History: How Historical Fiction Works

By Emily Pedder

From Brooklyn to Wolf Hall, historical fiction is enjoying a boom moment. But how do you go about writing an historical novel? How ‘true’ to the past should a novelist be? And what can historical novels tell us about the world we are living in today? Last month we were given the insider’s guide to all this and more by two of City short courses’ star alumni: Anna Mazzola, author of The Unseeing, out with Tinder Press next month and Melissa Bailey, author of The Medici Mirror and Beyond The Sea, Arrow Press.

Both authors clearly shared a passion for research and saw it as one of the most absorbing parts of the historical novel writing. Both were also clear that the story had to take precedence: it didn’t matter how much research had been done, or how historically accurate the depiction of period might be, if the story wasn’t working the novelist had to go back to the drawing board.

There was also broad agreement on other characteristics of writing historical fiction. Anna spoke of the importance of giving voice to the voiceless and of uncovering voices from the past that hadn’t been heard before. Melissa highlighted the enjoyable difficulty in trying to imagine what her characters were thinking and feeling, and then imagining what was different about the way those characters might have perceived things at that time.

Well attended and with positive feedback after the event, this writing short course event gave us all food for thought. As novelist Andrew Miller put it, “at its best, historical fiction is never a turning away from the now but one of the ways in which our experience of the contemporary is revived.” Thank you to Anna and Melissa for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. For more info on our short courses, go to our website or follow us on twitter @cityshortcourses. For more on the authors and their books visit: Anna Mazzola and Melissa Bailey.

 

Down memoir lane

By Kamila Zahno

I recently retired from a very active life as a freelance public and voluntary sector consultant and decided to take part in  City’s Narrative Non-Fiction short course.

I had planned to write my memoirs and needed inspiration and structure. I could not find many non-fiction writing courses in London and was glad when I came across this one. The fact that it was offered by an established institution gave me confidence in the quality of education I would receive.

The best thing about the course was the logical structure employed by the tutor, Peter Forbes. He covered a lot of ground in just 10 two-hour classes.

Peter was very organised in his approach, yet there was room for comments by other students. The tutor would read and critique our work and put it up on the overhead so we could all discuss the points raised. He also sent us his slides after each session. These were invaluable as they included a plethora of reference material.

Even with limited time for student interaction due to the intensity of the course, I got to know some of the students quite well. We were all so different with a myriad of writing styles! I learned a lot from our sessions, particularly from the writing tips and examples from selected books.

The course exceeded my expectations. It was very practical and the notes were excellent. We had plenty of varied assignments. In addition, the tutor gave us information about further editing and mentoring help we could get as well as tips on publication.

Throughout the duration of the course, I was able to write my synopsis and book proposal, which was a great start to my memoir. I am now halfway through my manuscript and have submitted 2,000 words to an anthology of the ‘mixed race’ experience of families. This has now been accepted for publication.

This short course provided me with the skills to write my memoir as well as encouragement from both the tutor and fellow students that my story was interesting to a wider audience.

The next step for me is to finish writing my memoir and find a publisher!

Kamila did finish her memoir and has now published it as Chasing Ghosts.

Peter Forbes’ Narrative Non Fiction course runs termly as part of our non-fiction writing course offering.

Consultant on the road to re-invent himself as legal writer with a journalism short course

By Richard Firth

I took City’s short course in  Freelance writing: How to get published in print and online course.

I decided to do the course because, like most of us, I am a newspaper reader and was curious to know how journalists operate. I would like to reinvent myself as a legal writer. I felt that the course would buttress my ambition.

I chose City because I had previously attended an evening class here on public speaking and was impressed with it. But also, my father had been an engineering undergraduate at City between the World Wars so I liked the idea of visiting his alma mater!

It was, of course, important to me that City is a reputable institution. It also offered a valuable bonus – access to a good library.

What I enjoyed the most about the course was the ability to hear of the experiences of past and present students.

I’d describe my course tutor, Susan Grossman, as energetic, dogmatic, kind-hearted… She made sure that all of us could contribute to the class. She was very skilful in teaching practical skills, something which, I know from my own practical experience as a teacher of legal drafting, is very difficult.

The course fully met my expectations – I learnt something new in every session.

As for relations with fellow students, my advanced years (67 and a quarter) were not an impediment!

Although I’ve not yet been able to apply what I learnt on my course directly, it helped me to formulate my arguments and win them!

Richard Firth is a lecturer, writer and consultant on derivatives. In the past he has held positions of Senior Consultant at Linklaters LLP, Hong Kong and Director-Legal at Barclays Capital.

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