Category: Insights (page 2 of 9)

Writing Short Courses Newsletter Spring 2024

It’s pretty cold out still, but the snowdrops are here and spring is just around the corner…promise! For even more cheer, here’s the latest from our writing short course alumni and tutors.

The Novel Studio Alumni

 

Lara Haworth’s debut novel Monumenta is due out with Canongate in July. Pre-order here.

 

Jo Cunningham’s debut cosy crime novel Death by Numbers is due out with Hachette in August. You can pre-order here.

 

Katharine Light has been shortlisted for The Selfies 2024 in the adult fiction category for her novel Like Me.

 

Current Novel Studio student Jill Craig has been published in Eggplusfrog.

 

Peter Forbes’ Narrative Non Fiction alumnus Aniefiok Ekpoudom’s debut Where We Come From: Rap, Home & Hope in Modern Britain, was published by Faber last month. Jimi Famurewa reviewed it in The Evening Standard here.

Alumna Sophie Rutenbar, an expert on Haiti were she has worked, has won an International Affairs Fellowship from the US Council on Foreign Relations and is writing for the prestigious Brookings Institute.

 

Former City tutor Marcelle Bernstein’s Fact Based Storytelling alumnus Steve Young has published a book on Motherwell Cricket Club with Troubador publishing.

 

Susan Grossman’s Travel Writing alumna Yvette Cook has published an article in the Independent about travelling by train to Slovenia and another on Boscastle.

Tutor News

Writing for Children tutor Bryony Pearce has her debut Middle Grade novel, Hannah Messenger and the Gods of Hockwold, coming out in June 6, and she has sold a new YA fiction, Aphrodite (an Aphrodite retelling), which is due out in 2025. 

 

One-day Courses

There are plenty of options for anyone keen on one-day writing courses: our ever-popular Introduction to Copywriting with Maggie Richards is available monthly; while our Writing the Memoir course is now taught by the brilliant Anna Wilson. Our Writing for the Web and Digital Media continues to be run by the expert broadcast journalist Holly Powell-Jones; and the dynamic duo of Anna Tsekouras and Pete Austin, aka Anon Agency, run our Intro to Branding course.

Opportunities

Our year-long Novel Studio course for aspiring novelists is now open for applications for 2024/25 intake, with a deadline of 30th June 2024. All successful applicants are automatically entered into the Novel Studio literary agent competition, with the top three applications sent to Lucy Luck, literary agent at C&W Agency with a view to representation.

There is also a fully funded scholarship for the course, The Captain Tasos Politis Scholarship, available to a talented applicant from a low-income household.

Our Writing for Social Impact course continues to offer a scholarship for one young student (18-25) from an underrepresented background and/or facing financial difficulty. Please contact the tutor, Ciaran Thapar, for more information on this opportunity.

All current students of Introduction to CopywritingWriting for Business and Narrative Non-Fiction courses are eligible to submit an idea for a blog post for short courses. If the idea is accepted, and the written piece meets our standards, it will be professionally edited and published on our blog.

City Writes

This spring sees the return of City Writes, our termly showcase for all the great writing talent coming out of the creative writing short courses at City. This term our guest authors will be Laurence Kershook and Katharine Light (see above) both alumni of the Novel Studio.

To join us at the event on March 27th at 7pm on Zoom, please register for free HERE.

And if you would like to enter the competition to win the chance to share the stage with Laurence and Katharine, please visit here for all the submission details. Deadline for entries is this Friday 1st March! That’s tomorrow!!

Writing Retreat

This May the Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio is returning to Paris for another edition of our spring writing retreat. A literary agent and a published author and university lecturer are teaming up to guide writers through five days of focussed writing, offering individual feedback, advice and group exercises. They’re offering £200 off the full price to anyone who quotes PARIS2024 (or mentions where they heard about this).

Open Evening

And finally, we are running an open evening with taster sessions on March 26th at 6pm. There’ll also be a dedicated Novel Studio enquiry desk manned by tutor Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone for anyone who wants to find out more about our flagship year-long course. Register HERE.

That’s all for now. Keep on writing and keep your stories coming into us. And huge congratulations to all our alumni and tutors.

Study Skills – How to Study Effectively as an Adult Learner

With Lifelong Learning still firmly on the government’s agenda, Short Courses and Continuing Professional Development has become increasingly valued. But what happens if it’s been a while since you studied as an adult? What if the last time you were being taught you were still at school? What if you’ve never been taught how to study effectively?

Because it’s not just what you study, it’s how you manage your approach to study that maximises the educational impact. That’s where Study Skills come in. Read on for our top seven tips.

  1. Time Management

You can’t do everything all at once. Planning is essential. Make a timetable or use a digital calendar to block out specific parts of the day for studying each day or week.

  1. Set Goals

Work smarter not harder. Make sure you have clear, achievable goals for each study session and for your overall learning objectives. If you have exams coming up, or a dissertation, or an essay due, break the goal down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Regularly review and adjust these goals as needed.

  1. Note-Taking:

Effective note-taking is essential when listening to lectures or studying texts. Use short hand and abbreviations, summarise key points and organise your information logically. Highlighting key words can help to make your notes more useful when you revise.

  1. Critical Thinking:

The ability to analyse and evaluate information critically is a crucial party of studying well. Always ask questions, challenge assumptions, and seek evidence to support claims. Try applying critical thinking skills to real-world situations and academic tasks.

  1. Strategies for Effective Reading

When faced with multiple text books to read, the task can seem overwhelming. But if you can break down your reading assignments intop smaller sections and set specific goals, things become more manageable. Skimming texts initially to get an overview before reading in detail is also a very useful skill. When reading in more detail, highlight important passages, make notes, and summarise the main ideas in your note book.

  1. Utilise Resources:

Take advantage of all available resources in your place of study, such as textbooks, online courses, academic journals, and library resources. If you need support or want clarity on a particular subject, ask your tutors or seek advice from relevant online communities. Your university or college may have additional learning tools and technologies available so always find out what’s on offer.

  1. Keep things in Perspective

Studying can become very time-consuming. Make sure you also get enough sleep, eat well and exercise. Meditation or mindfulness techniques can also be very beneficial. Take reguar breaks and allow yourself time to recharge to prevent burnout and maintain your overall well-being

By developing these study skills you will enhance your effectiveness as an adult learner and make the most of your continuing educational journey.

 

 

For anyone interested in our short courses, we are running a free Open Evening and Taster Sessions on March 26 from 6-7.30pm. Register HERE.

 

 

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!

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