Category: Insights (page 1 of 8)

City Writes Spring 2024 Competition Open for Submissions

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

 

City Writes, the showcase event for all the wonderful writing coming from our Creative Writing Short Courses at City, is only weeks away. This term’s City Writes is Wednesday 27th March at 7pm and we’re delighted to have two Novel Studio alumni, Laurence Kershook and Katharine Light, as our headline double act.

For your chance to join Laurence and Katharine and read your work on the online stage, the City Writes Competition is open for submissions and you need only send your best 1,000 words of creative writing (fiction or non-fiction but no poetry, drama or children’s fiction) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by midnight on the 1st March 2024 along with details of your current or previous Creative Writing short course. Full submission details can be found here.

The Broygus by Laurence Kershook came out in March 2022 and is an evocative exploration of the history of a Jewish East End family not to be missed. Katharine Light’s Like Me came out in November 2023. Her novel turns an adult school reunion into a possible rekindling of teenage romance. You can find out more by reading fantastic blog articles for Katharine and Laurence – simply click on their names. This will be a fantastic night full of tantalising tales and excellent writing advice.

Book your ticket here and send us your work. We look forward to your submissions!

Why You Need to Learn Python – A Guide to What it is and Why it’s Important

Tobi Broadie, City Python Tutor

Tobi Brodie has over a decade’s experience teaching computer coding and web development in London and the South East of England, lecturing at Birkbeck University and, in his spare time, running Code Clubs for kids. He has an educational background  in Computing and Information Systems and has worked in web development with various companies, from start-ups to not for profit organisations.  Over the years he has built up skills in ‘all things web’, with a strong knowledge of the programming languages required to design, develop, and maintain them — including HTML, CSS, PHP & JavaScript. He also  teaches core computer programming languages such as Python and Java to undergraduate level.

We asked Tobi to guide us through a whistle-stop tour on what Python is and why it’s still such an important language to learn.

 

  1. What course do you teach at City? The Python course at City is split into 10 sessions, either once a week over 10 weeks or twice a week over 5. It is a very comprehensive course and we pack a lot of material into each session. It covers all the fundamental concepts of computer coding in detail, which can be applied to any coding language. We use industry standard tools and teach high quality techniques to create maintainable code. We also look at Python specific concepts that make the language one of the most used in industry.

The fundamental concepts include:

  • The use of variables, data types and basic operators
  • program control flow (loops and conditional statements)
  • Functions (reusable chunks of code)
  • Inputs (via the keyboard) and outputs (via the screen)
  • Data structures (accessing and manipulating data)
  • Error handling
  • File handling (opening files, reading and writing to files)

The Python specific concepts we cover are:

  • Accessing data from external sources (HTML & JSON parsing)
  • Using Python libraries and modules
  • An introduction to object-orientated programming using Python
  1. What is Python in a nutshell?! Python is a user-friendly programming language known for its clear and easy-to-read code. It’s used in many areas such web development, data analysis, and A.I. due to its versatility. Python has lots of libraries and modules you can make use of to add additional functionality to your code. Its simplicity makes it great for both new and experienced programmers.
  2. Why is Python still such an important language to learn? Python is often taught as the first language for beginners as the       code uses English-like keywords, so is easier to understand, and therefore a good stepping stone to more complex syntax based  languages such as Java or C#.This simplicity does not make Python only usable for beginners — the variety of different modules makes it a versatile and valuable programming language to learn, and it is one of the most used languages within computer science.In fact, Python is consistently ranked as one of the most in-demand programming languages in the job market and learning Python can lead to lucrative career opportunities in various industries.
  3. What skills or experience do you need to learn Python? You don’t need any prior programming experience to start learning Python! Whether you are completely new to programming or have some experience with other languages, Python can be easily picked up. Having a basic understanding of computer operations and how to use a computer is helpful, but is not a strict requirement. Our course at City takes you through installing Python on your Windows, Linux or Apple PC, and we provide links to useful free software as well as providing learning materials and coding examples throughout the course. All you really need to begin learning Python is curiosity, patience, and a willingness to dive in and explore. With the abundance of resources and materials we provide throughout the course, you can start learning Python today, regardless of your background or experience level!
  4. What would you recommend students study after taking your course?

This all depends on your reason for studying Python in the first place. If your reasons are job oriented, you may want to look into the different uses of Python in industry:

  • If you wanted to use Python for web development I would recommend exploring frameworks such as Django or Flask, which use Python to build dynamic web applications.
  • If you are looking into a career in Machine learning, AI or data science, I would suggest exploring and learning Python libraries such as NumPy, Pandas, Matplotlib and scikit-learn – these tools are widely used for data manipulation, analysis, visualization, and machine learning tasks.
  • If you wanted to go into software engineering, I would say you should familiarise yourself with software engineering best practices such as version control (e.g., Git), testing, debugging, code reviews, and documentation.
  • There are so many other career pathways that I could talk about, such as game development, cyber-security, network programming, automation or natural language processing, but the opportunities are too vast to list in full.

If you have completed the course because you are interested in computer coding and wanted to learn Python as a stepping stone to another language, I salute you! If this is the case, and you are interested in web development, I would recommend any of the other short courses I currently teach at City:

  • PHP — PHP is a server-side scripting language used for generating dynamic content. Its syntax is similar to C-style languages. PHP integrates with databases and has extensive libraries and frameworks. Commonly used for dynamic websites, web applications, and API development, it’s open-source, platform-independent, and widely deployed on web servers.
  • JavaScript —JavaScript is a versatile, high-level programming language. It enables interactive web pages by adding dynamic behaviour to HTML. JavaScript runs on the client-side, executing in users’ web browsers. It’s known for its event-driven, asynchronous nature and is essential for modern web development, including building interactive websites and web applications.
  • MySQL – MySQL is an open-source relational database management system widely used for storing and managing structured data. It uses SQL (Structured Query Language) for querying and manipulating data. MySQL is known for its reliability, scalability, and performance, making it a popular choice for web applications, e-commerce platforms, and when combined with PHP, is an ideal solution for data driven websites.
  • Advanced Web Authoring — This course covers web development using mobile first techniques, how to create accessible websites for all users, use of web-fonts, video and audio within websites, HTML validation in forms, using CSS frameworks such as Bootstrap and styling using SASS/SCSS .

In addition to the courses I teach, City runs short courses in Java, C/C++ , mobile applications and many more. Most of City’s short courses have the same format of 10 sessions over 10 weeks.

  1. How long does it take to master Python, or at least be able to use it in a work setting?

Once you have completed the course at City, you should have a basic understanding of the Python language which will provide you with the knowledge to move onto specialise. If you want to use Python for tasks such as scripting, automation, or basic web development, it shouldn’t take much more time and study to begin working in that field.

As with all skills, the more you use them, the better you will become. Regularly using Python to solve practical problems and create projects helps build confidence and hone your skills.

Mastering Python is something in my mind I am yet to achieve! I have been using Python for many years, and there is always some new library to learn or some new application of the language I haven’t explored yet. I would say ‘mastery of Python’ should be seen as more a journey rather than a destination.

  1. What career paths might open up as a result of learning Python?

There are so many — it depends on your interests or goals.

The following are all possible routes you could go down:

  • Software developer/engineer
  • Data analyst
  • Machine learning engineer
  • DevOps* engineer

* DevOps – a combination of software development (dev) and operations (ops)

  • Quality assurance engineer
  • Cybersecurity analyst
  • And of course, an educator/trainer such as myself!
  1. And is Python still the most important programming language to learn or have others taken its place?

I would say yes. Python is consistently ranked among the top programming languages in terms of job demand and market trends. Many companies across various industries are seeking Python developers. Roles in software development, data analysis and machine learning engineering are commonly advertised across the country.

Other languages like JavaScript, Java, C++, and others do also hold significant importance, depending on the specific context and requirements of a project or industry. However, Python is a great way to start your journey into learning code and is an ideal stepping stone into any of the other languages, due to the simplicity of its syntax.

Thank you, Tobi!

If this has whetted your appetite for learning Python, visit our course page HERE to find out more. The next course starts on 12 Feb with a booking deadline of 7 Feb .

Or check out what other computing courses we have available HERE.

 

Top Ten Tips for Branding

Anna Tsekouras and Pete Austin, the brains behind Anon Agency

Even though we’re surrounded by brands 24/7, branding is sometimes a difficult concept to understand. The reality is that good branding can be the difference between a successful company and an unsuccessful one. And building up ‘brand equity’ in an audience (the measurable ‘value’ of a brand) is something industries spend trillions of dollars on—because if you have a consistent, authentic brand which your audience trusts, there’s no end to where you can go.

Here are some quick branding tips which are just as relevant whether you’re running an in-house campaign, launching your own business or running a global brand…

 

  1. Think about your audience

Audience, audience, audience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re one store with an audience of people within 1.5km of your outlet, or a global brand with an audience of millions, you have to think about who your audience is. Consider why they would want to interact with your brand, and what you want them to do and feel when they see your brand. Who are they? What do they like to do in their spare time? What media do they consume? Audience insights can feel overwhelming, but there are ways to do it in a scaled-back way which means you can create ‘personas’ of the audience you’re looking to reach. You can then plug these into your marketing on platforms like Meta.

 

  1. Know yourself — be authentic

Authenticity is absolutely key for every brand. If you’re inauthentic, audiences will see through you very quickly. There are so many examples of when brands have fallen foul of deviating from their authentic voice or purpose. Audiences don’t want to feel like they’re being taken for a ride. The most successful brands find an ‘authentic voice’ and ‘authentic vision’ and stick to it.

 

  1. Create a strong visual identity

The Nike tick. The McDonald’s golden arches. The Chanel interlinking Cs. The Nickelodeon orange splat. All brand agencies will tell you that a brand is about more than the logo, but it doesn’t mean the logo and a strong visual identity isn’t vital. If it’s done well, your visual brand (colours, fonts, imagery) and creative mark can do a lot of the heavy-lifting for your brand and how it makes your audience feel.

 

  1. Consider all elements of ‘brand’

Although a logo is obviously a vital brand touchpoint (see above!) branding is everything which makes your audience think or feel a certain way. For example the ‘brand’ for a restaurant must consider basic things like menu colours, logos and fonts – but also it’s the ‘physical brand’, so the type and volume of music, scents, quality of cutlery, staff uniforms, levels of lighting, the greeting guests receive etc. Think about how different it feels to sit in a burger joint than a high-end restaurant.

 

  1. Be consistent

Branding is nothing without consistency. Of course, companies can ‘re-brand’ which changes their look and feel, but the core tenets of a brand should not fundamentally change. With every brand you’re aiming to build your ‘brand equity’ —this is the ‘value’ you add to your company or organisation through branding and the association your audience has with it. This is built up over time, and conversely can be lost overnight if not handled properly.

 

  1. Don’t skip the basics: Vision and Mission

There are vital Brand ‘building blocks’ you simply cannot skip. Your Vision is your ‘why’ and your Mission is your ‘what’. Defining a brand mission is usually pretty straightforward, but it can sometimes take much longer to define the Vision. We’ve seen clients take months to come up with their Vision statement – but once it’s done, it’s a core part of everything the business does. It’s usually why the Vision is front and centre on organisations’ websites or in staff induction packs.

 

  1. Identify your point of difference

Brands can become obsessed with competitors — this is something we wouldn’t advise. It’s important to know your competitors and what they’re offering, but you should spend more time working out what is different about YOU. It’s this point of difference that is the essence of your brand. It’s what sets you apart from the rest, and the centre point from which you can build out the rest of your brand.

 

  1. Know your limits — don’t overreach

When you’re working on a brand it’s easy to get carried away; especially if it’s your own brand or company which you’ve poured countless resources into. But we’ve seen clients licence IP for trainers and energy drinks for their brand before they’ve thought about their Vision statement. Branding is a process, and if you follow the right steps you’ll end up with a strong and clear brand. And if you look at any successful business, a strong and clear brand is always at the heart of it. Resist the temptation to get distracted and move too quickly, overlooking the important bits of branding.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid of failure

We hear every day from clients: “we have to get this right”. It’s true, of course. But we always tell them “we’ll get it wrong a few times first”. There’s no way that any brand ever stumbled across its final iteration without rounds and rounds of edits (and probably arguments!). From re-written Vision and Mission statements, to logo changes — brand is an evolution. If you want to get it right the first time, you’re probably going to be disappointed!

 

  1. Get help!

Branding is a conundrum. It can sometimes seem like the most simple thing in the world, but at the same time feel totally overwhelming when you’re not getting it right. We see it every day with clients. Getting a good brand agency or expert to help steer you through branding for your product, company or campaign is vital – and definitely pays dividends in the long run. You often live and breathe your brand, and getting an outside view can give you the perspective you need.

About the Authors

Pete Austin and Anna Tsekouras are the dynamic duo behind Anon, a story-led brand agency. Since launching in late 2020 the Agency has created new brands from scratch for a number of start-ups as well as taking existing small businesses through to funding rounds. Both qualified journalists with over twenty years’ experience on newspapers and national magazines, they transferred their story-driven skills into communications, brand and PR where they worked on major partnerships and campaigns across national government, higher education, charity and the arts. Some of the organisations, clients and businesses Anna and Pete have worked on brand briefs or partnerships with: UAL, Goldsmiths University of London, Hayward Gallery, IBM, Barclays, British Airways, Barbican, Grayson Perry, Design Museum, British Museum, TATE Modern, VICE, Bustle, Evening Standard, BBC, DAN’S and Public Offerings Ltd.

They also teach our intensive Branding A to Z short course at City.

Sign up for Intro to Branding HERE. Next course starts Feb 26 — BOOK NOW.

See what other writing courses we have on offer HERE.

Or browse our full range of short courses HERE.

Don’t Wait, Just Do It! – Novel Studio alumna, Catherine Till, on her path to publication

 

I first had an inkling of my own intentions when, as a City staff member, I went along to a Taster Session for creative writing short courses at City, University of London. In answer to Katy Darby’s probing questions I found myself blurting out, ‘I want to write about the story of my family, but in a fictional form, not as a memoir.’

Some time later I enrolled on the Approach to Creative Writing course, where we had to complete weekly writing exercises, such as dialogue, character portraits or interior monologues. Although not consciously chosen, the subject matter of my homework pieces written for the course were all taken from family memories.

I got the writing bug and was aching to continue, so I took the plunge, applied for the year-long Novel Studio and was accepted. Then, just before starting the course in the autumn of 2019, my elderly mother, living on her own in Budapest, had a fall, and I had to put off starting the course.

Mentioning this delay to a friend I got some wise advice, ‘You don’t have to wait for the course, if you want to write, just write!’ Six weeks later the pandemic struck and, during the long Covid lock-downs, I did just that. In between going for socially-distanced walks I researched documents online, constructed a structure for my novel and wrote. The writing exercises from that introductory course the year before became the kernels of my chapters. By the autumn, when I took up my deferred place on the Novel Studio, I had written forty thousand words.

Nine months later, as the Novel Studio was ending, I still only had forty thousand words, but how much better they were! Thanks to the workshops and tutorials, I revised some old stuff, ruthlessly scrapped others and re-fashioned memories into fiction. After the course, while looking after my mother long-distance, it took me more than a year to finish the manuscript, occasionally reading what I considered interesting bits to friends who were willing to listen without being bribed to do so.

My novel, No Fence Made of Sausages, was finally ready to face the world.

I approached a few agents, choosing carefully on the basis of writers they had taken up and trying to find a connection with them, as we were taught to do. I sent emails, waited weeks for replies, followed up, waited some more, received rejections or silence. After seeing the statistics of what a tiny percentage of writers get published, I realised I didn’t want to wait years to get my novel into the hands of readers who might be interested in the world it depicts. I decided to publish it myself.

If only it had been that simple. I didn’t anticipate what a steep learning curve lay ahead. In comparison with what was to come, the writing had been the easy part.

First, there was the long slog of editing, proofreading, formatting, typesetting and designing, which I mostly did myself, with ‘in-house’ help from my partner. Then, on the advice of a Novel Studio classmate, I explored the Amazon direct publishing route, but eventually decided against it. I thought UK bookshops wouldn’t stock my work because they regard Amazon as a competitor.

The next idea was to have the books printed and distributed myself. I approached a printer recommended by a friend and ordered a number of copies, paying upfront. When I received my printed proof copy, however, I found the quality of the printing below my expectations and had to cancel my order and fight for a refund.

I then tried to identify a reliable, quality printing firm by looking at the copyright pages of the paperbacks on my shelves. I chose a long-established, traditional firm, which had a collection of services suitable for Indie Publishers. They also had a link with a distributor from where most bookshops would source titles.

I set myself up as a publisher and followed the necessary steps to get into trading relationships with all the separate entities in the chain that would eventually make my book available to the public. After a lot of form filling I finally paid the Purchase Order and a few weeks later my Author/Publisher copies arrived. My novel became available to order online from bookshops and I am working on getting it stocked by brick-and-mortar stores.

*****

About the author

Author Catherine Till

Catherine Till grew up in Hungary and came to live in the UK in her early twenties. After a chequered career involving architecture, sinology and handbag design, she became obsessed with shining a light on her native country’s recent past through the tale of a family whose lives are buffeted by history as they struggle with their own personal demons.

About the book

No Fence Made of Sausages is a tale of emigration and homesickness, love and betrayal, addiction and wasted talent. The novel opens with the nail-biting scene of the main character’s attempt to defect from Soviet-dominated Hungary. We then follow three generations of her family from the beginning of the twentieth century, through wars, revolutions and regime changes, right up to the 2015 European migrant crisis.

For more on City’s writing short courses, visit HERE. Or to follow in Catherine’s footsteps, check our our year-long Novel Studio programme HERE.

How I developed three personalities, and why…

Like many multi-linguals, I have varied personality shifts. I am professional in English, friendly in Portuguese, but reserved in Russian.

I was born in St. Petersburg and spoke Russian for the first fourteen years of my life. Then my family moved to Porto in Portugal where I went to an international school. All my classes were in English, but at breaktime everyone spoke Portuguese. It forced me to improve my English and become fluent in Portuguese, in just nine months. 

An epiphany

I’m twenty-five now and was recently confronted with the fact that I behave differently depending on which language I’m speaking. After a work call with a Russian tech client, a colleague remarked that I hadn’t been myself. I was more serious, less confident and made fewer jokes. 

Chatting about it later with bilingual friends, I understood I’m not alone. My Brazilian friend Sarah – who I met at international school – for example, is ambitious in English, a bit anxious in Portuguese, flirty in French, and funny in German!

When in Rome

While learning a new language we tend to get acquainted with a new culture – and change the way we portray ourselves to fit in. Dr Francois Grosjean , author of Bilingual: Life and Reality, says that this is most common among those who are integrated into the culture of the language they’re adopting. 

Portuguese culture, for example, is friendly, open and kind. Now, whenever I’m speaking it, I become all three. It works like a switch and comes very naturally to me.  When I was first learning Portuguese, my school friends regularly said ‘Com prazer’ (With pleasure) and ‘Está tudo bem?’ (Is everything good?), which made me feel welcome as the new girl in school. These kind phrases are now part of my vocabulary too.

Light switch

Last summer I got talking to an entrepreneur at a tech networking event. I was being professional until I realised she was Portuguese. As soon as we switched to Marta’s mother tongue it felt as if we knew each other, and we laughed.


Not many people speak to their boss like they do to their best friends. Therefore, when bilinguals develop their language for a specific purpose – for work, for example – they tend to sound formal and professional, even in informal situations. 


Serious struggle

This theory by Dr Nathan Young explains why I always feel younger when speaking Russian, which I mostly do when around my family. I also struggle to explain to them what I do for a living, because I lack the vocabulary. ‘When are you going to start doing something ‘serious?’ they always ask.

The cause of my personality shifts is probably a combination of both Grosjean’s and Young’s theories. Either way, my daily personality shifts are a blessing and a bit of a ‘curse’. They make me more flexible at work and in my social life. But they also make it difficult to know which traits are truest to me. I’m looking forward to finding out for sure.

Viktoriia Tkachenko is a freelance startup consultant. She is also an alumna of City’s Writing for Business course, taught by Maggie Richards and Tamsin Mackay. As part of the course, students are invited to pitch a blog post idea which, if successful, will be edited and published on our site. 

Viktoriia today in London

Viktoriia, 18, with family at her graduation from international school, Porto.

Viktoriia, aged six, St Petersburg.

For more on our writing courses, visit our full range HERE. For all our short courses visit HERE.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Novel Studio Literary Agent Competition Winners 2023/24

Jill Craig

We are delighted to announce the winners of 2023/4’s Novel Studio Literary Agent Competition are Jill Craig, Shere Ross and Linda Wystemp.

The competition is a key feature of City’s flagship short course the Novel Studio, which offers a select group of 15 aspiring novelists the dedicated time and support to hone their craft. The competition is a rare opportunity to bypass the slush pile of manuscript submissions to literary agents, and is run in  conjunction with Lucy Luck, literary agent at C&W Agency.

Jill Craig works as a secondary English teacher in the North West where literature is a constant presence. She loves fiction which investigates and reflects dynamics which are often the foundation of our lives: romantic, friendship, familial. Although she’s studied and now teaches literature, actually writing it is a relatively new – daunting, but exciting- experience. 

Shere Ross is a writer of short stories and other works of fiction. Her work has been shortlisted for several prizes including the Wasafiri New Writing Prize. She is a winner of the BlackInk New Writing Prize.

Linda Wystemp was born and raised in the heart of Germany’s Black Forest before crossing the Channel to study in Oxford and London. She enjoys writing screenplays and short stories and has dabbled in fencing and the violin. Linda is currently working on her contemporary literary fiction novel which explores the moral complexities of parent-child relationships.

Emily Pedder, Course Director of the Novel Studio said: “We were very excited by these three writers; their submissions were strong and distinctive, and we can’t wait to see their novels progress over this coming year. ”

The Novel Studio was established over a decade ago and has a very strong track record of published alumni. Recent bestselling and award-winning novels include Deepa Anappara’s Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, Anna Mazzola’s  The Unseeing, The Story Keeper, The Clockwork Girl,  and The House of Whispers, and Harriet Tyce’s Blood Orange, The Lies You Told and It Ends At Midnight.

 

Congratulations to Jill, Shere and Linda! We can’t wait to see their novels develop over the coming year!

Autumn 2023 News from our Writing Community

Happy Autumn! Here’s the latest news from our fantastic writing short course alumni and tutors…

 

Alumni News

Author and City short course alumna Deepa Anappara

Oneworld have acquired The Last of Earth, the second novel by Novel Studio alumna Deepa Anappara. The novel will be published in hardback as a lead title in March 2025. An historical novel set in mid-19th century Tibet, Juliet Mabey at Oneworld said ‘I’m delighted to be working with such a bold and unique storyteller.’

 

Katy Darby’s Writers’ Workshop and Short Story Writing students have had more astonishing success. Rupert Dastur has sold his debut novel Cloudless to Penguin. Richie Jones was shortlisted for the London Magazine Short Story Prize. Sean Hannaway, as S. P. Hannaway, recently had a short story published in Stand (‘This or That or Any Other Thing’) and one is forthcoming in The Pomegranate (‘Exit Pye, with Cushion’). Sean was also shortlisted for the Bristol Prize in 2021 for his short story ‘Love, Hunger’.

Peter Forbes’ Narrative Non Fiction alumni have been as busy as ever!

Narrative Non Fiction Alumna Claire Martin’s debut, Heirs of Ambition

NNF alumna Claire Martin published her debut book Heirs of Ambition: The Making of the Boleyns in September with History Press. Ed O’Brien’s article ‘Hardcore Landscaping: how to grow a garden on sand, gravel and concrete’ was published in The Guardian on 28 July 2023; and Alice Kent’s memoir  ‘And Those are Stars’ was published in Hinterland, Issue 13, 2023.

Amal Abdi, graduate of Holly Rigby’s Narrative Non Fiction course, has been commissioned to write a new play for London’s Rich Mix theatre venue. The play will run for two dates on Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th October and can be booked here.

Susan Grossman’s Travel Writing Student, Yvette Cook, has had successful travel journalism commissions from The Independent, The Slovenia Tourist Board and BBC Sky at Night.

Competitions

City Writes, City’s termly writing competition for all past and present City short course writing students, is open for submissions. This term’s event is on Wednesday 13th December at 7pm on Zoom and the published guest author will be writer and City tutor, Caroline Green. Not only does Caroline write fiction for young people and adults, she is also the much valued and acclaimed teacher of the Crime and Thriller Writing short course here at City. From YA, through psychological thriller, to supernatural detective fiction, Caroline Green is an inspirational powerhouse. Register here now to save your spot for the night.

If you would like to read your work in front of a supportive audience and share the virtual stage with Caroline on the 13th December, all you need to do is submit your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction (we accept YA but sadly NOT poetry, drama or children’s fiction) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by midnight on Friday 10th November. Please check the full submission details here.

 The Book Edit Writers’ Prize 2023 is open for submissions. Judged this year by Deepa Anappara, and in association with Legend Press, the prize is free to enter and open to all British or UK-based unpublished, unagented novelists from communities currently underrepresented in UK publishing. For more details visit the prize page here. Deadline 23 October.

 Scholarships

We offer a fully-funded place for a young adult (18-25) from an underrepresented background and/or facing financial difficulty on our Writing for Social Impact course. To apply, please contact the tutor Ciaran Thapar explaining why you’d like to attend. This course is now offered monthly to reflect the increased demand.

 Tutor News

Author and Short Course Tutor Katy Darby

Short Story and Writers’ Workshop tutor Katy Darby has three new historical short stories coming out in anthologies in November, with Belanger Books.

Writing for Children tutor Bryony Pearce’s new Mid-grade novel, Hannah Messenger and the Gods of Hockwold, was published in June, and her short story is in a new sci fi anthology Parsec in Print.

Writing the Memoir tutor Anna Wilson’s picture book Grandpa and the Kingfisher was shortlisted for the Wainwright Nature Prize, illustrated by Sarah Massini.

And finally, we have a new Writing for Business tutor on Monday evenings, Tamsin Mackay. Welcome, Tamsin! And huge thanks to Jenny Stallard, who Tamsin is replacing, for her brilliant teaching the past few years.

Happy Writing Everyone. and congrats to all our brilliant alumni and tutors.

Top Ten Tips for Writing Crime Fiction

By Caroline Green

Crime fiction is booming right now. If you have ever wondered if you could write for this thriving, thrilling genre, here are ten things you should know:

  1. Understand who you are writing for. Read widely within the genre and decide what type of crime fiction you love to read. (Frankly, if you don’t get excited about reading it, why do you want to write it?)
  2. But after you’ve read all those lovely books, don’t try and second guess the market. No one saw the likes of Girl On The Train. The most important thing is to know the genre but write what you want to write.
  3. Watch quality drama as well as reading books. Programmes such as Happy Valley or Line of Duty can teach budding crime writers a lot, despite being delivered via a different medium.
  4. Aim for living, breathing, characters, not cardboard cut-outs. If you are writing another alcoholic PI or police investigator make sure they are so well-rounded they could step right off the page. What is their back story? What made them who they are?
  5. Don’t be afraid to delve into your dark side. Your own imagination is more powerful – and has more twists – than all the CGI in the world. Tap into it and never shy away from those big, bold ideas that make you think, ‘Dare I…?’.
  6. The best twists don’t come hurtling out of nowhere. The really satisfying ones make such perfect sense, you can’t believe you didn’t see them coming.
  7. Remember that conflict is the engine of story-telling. Try to weave some form of conflict into every single scene, every conversation, every plot line.
  8. Think about the ‘why-dunnit’ and not just the ‘who’. The reason psychological thrillers have taken off so much – and helped cause that boom in sales – is that the psychology behind dark deeds makes for a gripping read.
  9. Vary your pace. Sometimes readers need space to breathe, and others they need to be sent hurtling towards the thrilling climax of your story.
  10. Let your setting do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating atmosphere. A creepy atmospheric setting can really help rachet up tension.

 

Caroline Green writes best-selling thrillers as Cass Green and teaches City’s Crime and Thriller Writing Short Course.

Book now for the autumn term, starting 3rd October 2023.

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