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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.

City Writes summer sizzler

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

The City Writes Summer event of 2019 was a glorious July evening with a number of exciting firsts: our first reading from a Novel Studio Scholarship winner; two readers who had already shared work at previous City Writes events; and a visit from the wonderful Novel Studio alumna Anna Mazzola whose energy and storytelling charm are a delight to share.

We started the evening with a very funny short story about a dreadful first date, ‘Bird’s Nest’, written and read by Su Yin Yap. If you can picture a presumptuous, entitled man biting into the wicker basket his Chinese meal was delivered in, you’ve got an idea of the kind of laughter the story invoked in the audience. This was Su Yin Yap’s second story to be chosen for City Writes and it was great to have her back.

Lola Okolosie

Next Ruth Thorlby, who is currently completing an MA focussing on short stories, but whose journey began on a short course at City, read her poignant and rather haunting story, ‘Passing’, about a young person returning home to try and see her Grandmother before she dies and being unable to make it over the threshold. To say more would spoil it. With beautiful descriptions and a contemplative air, there’s a lot going on under the surface of this story that left the audience with much to think about.

Lola OkolosieOur Novel Studio Scholarship winner, Lola Okolosie, was next. The inaugural winner of the schola rship sponsored by Novel Studio alumna Harriet Tyce, who read from her novel Blood Orange at our Spring City Writes, Lola’s extract ‘Seun’, from a novel-in-progress, took us into the heart of a traffic jam in Lagos where Seun struggles to make sense of his itinerant identity. The audience were entranced. What a start to Lola’s Novel Studio career.

Bren Gosling

Bren Gosling read his story ‘Let Me Pay’ next. Another author returning to grace the City Writes stage, Bren’s tale brought an ex-soldier and a refugee together around a cafe table, their mutual romantic interest fraught with old, unspoken tensions. A taut story exploring the fall out of war on the individual even in peacetime.

Finally, we were delighted to hear from author and Novel Studio alumna, Anna Mazzola who shared some of her latest work-in-progress set in Paris in the 1700s. Not only were we transported to 18th Century France, we were also swept up in Anna’s enthusiasm for storytelling.

Her question and answer session gave us plenty of tips and food for thought – Anna’s productivity is very impressive – about how to write and work and look after children, as well as how to think about writing historical fiction as well as crime fiction. A truly enlightening reading and talk that inspired much interest in Anna’s published and prize-winning novels, The Unseeing and The Story Keeper.

City Writes ended with a little more wine, some networking, some book signing and a general sense of writing camaraderie.

For those of you who don’t know about City Writes, it is an exciting event that showcases the best of City’s Short Courses Creative Writing talent. Held once a term at the University, City Writes hosts readings from alumni, students and tutors. One reader offers a professional perspective, reading from a new or award-winning publication, and the other readers are selected on the basis of a 1,000 word submission to a termly fiction writing competition open to all current and previous students of a City Creative Writing Short Course.

We are doing something a little different with our 2019 Winter City Writes event: our guest readers are all in the wonderful Story Cities anthology edited by Rosamund Davies (Novel Studio alumna), Cherry Potts (City Visiting Lecturer) and Kam Rehal, published by Arachne Press. We will have several shorts read by alumni who have been published in the anthology and will be seeking flash fiction submissions of 500 words or less, meaning we will have a bumper number of readers in December. It’s going to be a flash fiction extravaganza! Do check the website for further details.

 

 

A taste of learning with City

City, University of London proudly hosted our first ever open evening and taster sessions event on Thursday 11th July 2019. Thank you to everyone who made the evening such a success and to all of our attendees – we hope that you found it interesting.

Throughout the evening we offered a series of 30-minute taster sessions in a select number of our short course programmes to give students a feel for what it is like to study a short course with us.

We started the evening on a high with a taster session in one of our most popular courses, Introduction to Programming with Python. Lead by programming expert, Philip De Grouchy, this session was packed out with young professionals looking to try their hand at coding.

Our digital guru, Elliott King, ran a parallel session in Strategic Digital Marketing, combining theoretical knowledge with step-by-step guidance on delivering online marketing campaigns.

Katy Darby lead an interactive session in Short Story Writing, for those looking to nurture their creative flare while Marian Wancio delivered a more practical course in Project Management.

Ping Chai, leading a Chinese Mandarin taster session

We also ran sessions in Immigration Law, Adobe InDesign, JavaScript Programming, Writing for Business, Writing for the Web, Curating & Exhibition Management, Japanese; and Chinese Mandarin.

Feedback from our attendees was overwhelming positive, with the vast majority stating that their questions were answered adequately by our staff. Our taster classes were also well received, rating the quality of the sessions highly.

However, there is always room for learning and improvements! As a result of our feedback, we intend to replace the current format with two separate events. In December 2019, we will be hosting a ‘meet our tutors’ open evening, an excellent opportunity to speak to our experts one-to-one about the wide variety of courses we offer at City. In the summer of 2020, we will be continue to run a full evening of taster sessions, offering a glimpse of what is it like to learn at City.

We will also be extending out taster sessions from 30 to 45 minutes to allow more time for learning. See the Visit Us section of our blog to find out more about our visitor events or book your place on our December open evening.

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 Writes Spring 2019 event

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes Spring 2019 Event was busier than ever, the room filled with writers and their friends sharing conversation and blood orange gin cocktails, all to suit the theme of our professional writer, Harriet Tyce, whose debut thriller Blood Orange has taken the publishing world by storm.

Before we heard from Harriet, the City Writes competition winners treated us to five short creative pieces that took us from distributing ashes, through war zones, lazy summers and an imagined meat-free future, to the humble garden trampoline.

Competition winners

Harriet Pavey

We began with Harriet Pavey’s story ‘Dad’, telling the history of her character’s relationship with her father as she distributed his ashes. A recent graduate of An Approach to Creative Writing, Harriet Pavey filled her story with poignant detail from both present and past that set a contemplative tone for the night.

Next up, we heard from Ursula Hirschkorn, a current Novel Studio student whose story ‘Summer Time’ took us through three characters’ experiences of one summer: the adolescent on summer holidays, desperate to avoid her set texts and talk up foreign encounters with boys; the working mother exhausted by the efforts to manage a holiday with her family; the patient, adept at understanding the terminal nature of their illness.

Not quite ready to dispel the sombre mood, Jake Leyland, an alumnus of Peter Forbes’ brilliantNarrative Non-Fiction course, took us into a war zone in his character study, ‘Portrait of the Technician in a War Zone’. Hidden beneath their desks, the writer considers the technician he is meant to be managing as gun-fire rattles outside their thin walls.

Stephanie Pride

Taking a different turn, Stephanie Pride, who had just finished Cherry Pott’s Approach to Creative Writing course, took us to the future in her story ‘The best way to a man’s mind is through his stomach’. The story asked more questions than it answered as the narrator walked above the grids of groaning meateaters. I’ll just leave you to imagine this one.

Our final competition winner was Ben O’Donnell Bourke, most recently an alumnus of Katy Darby’s Short Story Writing course, whose ‘Negative Habits’ told of another father and child relationship spun around the demise of the garden trampoline. Like the tip of an iceberg, the trampoline gives us access to the depths of the family relationships stretched deep below the surface.

The audience, their minds already filled with the fascinating tales of our competition winners, were then eager to hear from Harriet Tyce, Novel Studio alumna and fierce supporter of the creative writing short courses at City.

Harriet Tyce on Blood Orange

Fresh from a whirlwind book tour for her debut psychological thriller, Blood Orange, that took her through England, Scotland and into America, Harriet decided to side step the opening bang of the novel to give us the morning after when her heroine, Alison, is woken by her husband and daughter as she sleeps slumped in her office chair.

As well as whetting our appetites for the rest of the book which explores what it means to have it and risk it all, Harriet gave us an insight into what it was like to bring a novel into the world and happily shared stories and answered questions afterwards as the audience queued to buy signed copies of Blood Orange. It was a fantastic night. A real example of what City Writes was set up to be: a supportive space for writers from City’s Creative Short Courses to share their experience and success.

Now well into its second year of events, City Writes is a termly event that hosts readings from alumni, students and tutors. One reader offers a professional perspective, reading from a new or award-winning publication, and the other readers are selected on the basis of a 1,000 word submission to a termly fiction writing competition open to all current and previous students of a City Creative Writing Short Course. Out guest reader for next term’s City Writes, which on the 17th July, is Anna Mazzola. Anna is a Novel Studio alumna whose debut novel, The Unseeing, won the Edgar Award in the US, and whose second novel, The Story Keeper, has recently been longlisted for the Highland Book Prize. Watch this space for this term’s entry details.

The Novel Studio Scholarship

For full details on the incredibly generous Novel Studio scholarship set up by Harriet Tyce to support a talented writer from a low-income household; the deadline for the scholarship is 30th May 2019.

Read more about The Novel Studio Scholarship

Sci-Fi, folk songs and mince pies at City Writes Autumn 2018

Competition winners and visiting lecturers perform and read their work at this year’s City Writes Autumn event.

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

With our headline act, visiting lecturer Cherry Potts, bringing along performers from her Solstice Shorts literature and music Festival, the City Writes Autumn 2018 Event was always going to be a bumper and festive night, but the quality of the work being read and performed really exceeded expectations.

First, we had our wonderful competition winners, chosen from a fantastic group of submissions. Angelita Bradney began the evening with her story, ‘A Chance to make things better’, that beautifully depicted the memory of a British seaside town after environmental meltdown. Evocative and moving, the closing setting sun offered some hope for the future.

From there we moved to Italy with Kate Henderson’s meticulously weighted rendering of the mundane minutiae of relationships, ‘The Bay of Naples’, as a woman on holiday tried not to think about her feelings for her husband. It’s amazing what a cup of tea can do for love.

As we contemplated the intricacies of long-term relationships, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt stood up and took us to America in her story, ‘Four Minutes in April’. Different characters and voices were expertly wound together to give us a story of love and loss in different generations and across racial boundaries.

Meera Betab was our final competition winner, taking us into the near future AC (After Copies), with her story, ‘Copy’, in which a professor has created a copying machine capable of created a perfect duplicate of a human right down to its memories, to every thought and feeling that makes us most individual. The twist at the end gave us all something to think about as Cherry Potts took to the stage.

Cherry read us a tantalising extract from her story ‘The Midwinter Wife’ from the Shortest Day Longest Night anthology, the second of the Solstice Shorts anthologies. We were left wondering what the strange woman, taken in, clothed and fed by a 15-year-old boy, would do next. He found her naked and scratched being hissed at by the local cats. Though his friend and neighbour helps him by lending a coat, the boy is soon left on his own with this woman who appears to be shifting, transforming in front of him every time he returns to his bedroom where she has curled herself in his sheets.

Leaving us hanging, keen to buy a copy of the anthology to find out what happened next, Cherry then introduced Katarina Watson who performed her story ‘Threshold’, mesmerising us with a memorised performance about a young woman preparing to open the door to her home and her famous lover, not knowing what weather front he would confront her with once she’d turned the key and stepped over the threshold.

Finally, Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd sang a beautiful folk song Cherry herself had translated and set to music. Their harmonies perfectly transported us to distant times and opened up a field of debate as Cherry fielded questions from the audience.

With book buying and signing and wine and mince pies to follow, City Writes Autumn 2018 event was a brilliantly seasonal night. Thanks to all involved.

For those unfamiliar with City Writes, it is an exciting termly event that showcases the best of City’s Short Courses Creative Writing talent. City Writes hosts readings from alumni, students and tutors. One reader offers a professional perspective, reading from a new or award-winning publication, and the other readers are selected on the basis of a 1,000 word submission to a termly fiction writing competition open to all current and previous students of a City Creative Writing Short Course. Our guest reader for next term is Harriet Tyce whose debut Blood Orange will be published in February 2019 and has been toasted as the most talked about thriller of 2019. Harriet was a criminal barrister for ten years before starting her writing career. A graduate of the Novel Studio in 2010, she is now part way through a PhD in Creative Writing at UEA. The next event will be held on the 9th April 2019 and tickets will go on sale next term. Details of the upcoming competition can be found here.

The Novel Studio alumna, Deepa Anappara, set to release debut book, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

By Emily Pedder

Deepa Anappara’s debut Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line has become one of the most highly prized sales at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

In a joint acquisition with Penguin Random House India, Chatto & Windus won the UK and Commonwealth rights after a hard-fought auction with eight other publishers. The novel will be published in the US by Random House.

Deepa has had an astonishing twelve months, winning the Bridport/Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for First Novel, the £10,000 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writer’s Award and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize.

Novelist and judge of the Deborah Rogers Award, Anne Enright commented on Deepra’s debut:

‘This is storytelling at its best – not just sympathetic, vivid, and beautifully detailed, but also completely assured and deft…Not many writers can make it look this easy. What a privilege to be one of Deepa Anappara’s early readers. There are many more to come.’

Deepa took The Novel Studio programme in 2010. She says the course gave her “permission to write” and the support of tutors and fellow writers:

‘Reading the works of fellow students closely helped me approach my own writing in a more objective fashion. It was useful to listen to the ways in which others had resolved a particular writing dilemma, be it about finding the time or the discipline to write, pushing past the self-critical voices in your head, or a plot problem.

The sessions with tutors were helpful and inspiring – their feedback was exhaustive, constructive, and never hurtful. I always came away encouraged to try harder.’

For more information visit our short writing courses or have a look through our blog for more writing success stories.

In the mood for City Writes

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes, our termly writing competition open to all current and former short course alumni, hit new heights this summer term as one of its previous competition winners, C. G. Menon, came back as a professional reader to celebrate the launch of her debut short story collection, Subjunctive Moods, (Dahlia Publishing). Hot off the heels of her launch party, Catherine was an inspiration to us all.

C. G. Menon, author of Subjunctive Moods

Before we were treated to a story from her collection, we had four readings from this term’s competition winners.

In another first for City Writes, two of the readers, Jacob Bigio and Su Yin Yap, submitted creative non-fiction through travel and memoir writing, widening our horizons on the world geographically and psychologically. Both had recently completed the Narrative Non-Fiction course taught by Peter Forbes.

First to read was Jacob Bigio who took us to Quebec in an extract, ‘On Northern Roads’, from his work-in-progress travel book.

Having just hitchhiked from the Alaskan Arctic to the south of Chile, in a journey of three parts spread over three years, Jacob transported us to an out-of-the-way town in Quebec, where we were taken into a circus tent, waiting with the locals for the arrival of a spiritual leader.

Jane Clancy Reid, a recent Novel Studio graduate, then read an extract from her novel, Take Five, which looks at how differences matter but our common humanity matters most. In a Sydney suburb, Kevin gets up to mow the lawn despite his hangover.

He looks over at Sydney harbour and thinks about when he was first dating his wife, now deceased.Following Jane we heard a harrowing tale, ‘Did He Buy A Single Or A Return?’ by K. L. Jefford, a former Approach to Creative Writing short course student, in which a character travels down to Beachy Head, following her brother’s suicide journey.An extract from her novel, Dr Di, left the audience very quiet, ready to be shaken up by our next reader, Su Yin Yap.

Su Yin Yap

Su Yin read ‘The Unsaid’ a story about how difficult we find it to talk about sex. We laughed as a nun refused to read aloud a passage from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to her students. She didn’t want to say ‘unsex me here’.

We then heard that memory of adult embarrassment flow over into a clinic room where a patient didn’t want to talk about his erectile dysfunction.

With an amused audience ready to hear more, Catherine then read ‘Watermelon Seeds’, one of the stories in her Subjunctive Moods collection. We heard of a childhood friendship that began in a love of drama, that explored the nuances of social and cultural difference, and ended in a world of make-believe that carefully uncovered the truth of early love and its consequent shame and embarrassment.

Beautifully evocative of the collection as a whole, the story embraces the slippages between real and imagined, and had the whole audience holding its breath.

With time to buy books, get them signed by Catherine and drink a little wine, the audience, comprised of teachers, students, editors and friends, discussed writing, publication and the different short courses available at City.

A warm and supportive environment to share stories and successes, City Writes is a great place to be if you love creative writing.

City Writes catches a mermaid

by Rebekah Latin-Rawstrone

City Writes of Spring 2018 was a riotous success. Not only did we have four exciting competition winners proudly sharing their latest work with the crowd, we also managed to snare Imogen Hermes Gowar whose novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, is a Sunday Times bestseller and has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018.

Rushiv Nayee was the first of our competition winners to read. His story, ‘Literally Having An Existential Crisis’ made the audience laugh at the thought of the working life of words whose changing status leads them from elite literary circles to ‘literally’ teaming up with ‘amazeballs’. Rushiv’s was a funny and self-reflexive piece.

He was followed by Kate Vine who read us an extract from her novel Fireflies in which an unexpected visitor turns up at the house of a young mother who has only just returned to her work as a painter. There was a hush as the audience realised they would have to wait for the novel to be published for them to find out the significance of this visitor. Keep writing, Kate!

Sue Lovett followed Kate’s extract with a short story about two boys called ‘Fiery Mortals’. A sparkling gem of a story, the narrative followed one boy’s friendship with another as they each bore the burdens of their home lives. At one point the boys share licks from a stolen gobstopper taken from under the shelves of the local convenience shop. The idea of this caused an audible groan from Sue’s listeners.

Our final competition reader was Aliyah Kim Keshani reading from her novel, Who Will Uphold the House? Staring at her father’s unconscious form, trussed in hospital sheets, Sara replays her father’s favourite anecdote from his school days in Pakistan, told to teach her perseverance. He managed not to lose or damage his glasses for a whole year in order to win the prize of an engraved pencil. When Sara cleans his current, cracked glasses, discarded on the bedside hospital table, one of the lenses breaks.

Taking us from hospital bed to a counting-house in Victorian London, Imogen Hermes Gowar gave us a glimpse into the three voice characters of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. We heard from Johan Hancock perching on his stool at the counting-house and musing on the family he never had while waiting for his ship to come in; Angelica Neal, a courtesan at her dressing table, whose protector has just died and who is therefore looking for a new man to keep her in the state to which she has become accustomed; and the many-voiced dance of the mermaid.

Having teased us with her reading, Imogen signed copies of her book and offered some very helpful tips to City students in the audience. She offered her experience of research and gave ideas on how to build historical knowledge of the time and language into a novel. We were very lucky to have her.

Glasses of wine in hand, the audience and readers chatted and networked – yes, there was at least one agent in the house – until the university closed. How wonderful to see so many students and alumni sharing their journeys and successes. City Writes goes from strength to strength.

We’re delighted to announce that City Writes Summer 2018 event will host Catherine Menon whose short story collection, Subjunctive Moods, will be published by Dahlia Publishing in June of this year.

Ones to watch for 2018: Rising literary stars

By Emily Pedder

City’s short course alumni continue their literary ascent with two debut novels due out in 2018: Hannah Begbie’s Mother (HarperFiction) and Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M (HarperCollins).

Hannah Begbie

Hannah Begbie

Hannah studied on City’s Novel Studio where she also won the new writing competition. Her novel, Mother, developed while on the course, is a brilliant, and brutal, exploration of motherhood in the most complicated of circumstances.Hannah’s agent, Veronique Baxter has said that Mother “is a book you don’t forget in a hurry: unflinching, dark and deeply compelling, it moved me profoundly”.

Martha Ashby, editorial director at HarperFiction, said “Hannah’s writing grabbed me by the throat from the very first page and in her brutal examination of the roles that women play, her novel is at the same time both raw with emotion and deeply thought-provoking. I’m so thrilled to bring such a talented voice to HarperFiction.”

Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd

A former student of City’s Short Story Writing and Writers’ Workshop, Peng attended New York University’s MFA Creative Writing Program on a full scholarship, where she studied under Jonathan Safran Foer. Her fiction has appeared in Litro Magazine, Liars’ League, Cent Magazine, been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in the Weird Lies anthology.

Last year, the Elizabeth George Foundation awarded Peng a major grant based on an early draft of her novel and she was also a finalist for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins 2016 fellowship. Peng’s debut novel, The Book of M, has been described by her UK agent  at Curtis Brown as “a virtuoso debut by an unparalleled talent…Shepherd has created a world filled with big ideas about mortality and self but it is the small intimate moments that pierce and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading”.

The Book of M is due out in June 2018. Follow Peng on twitter.

Mother is due out August 2018. You can follow Hannah on twitter.

Find out more about our writing short courses at City or read other success stories from our writing community.

Pre-order a copy of Mother

Pre-order a copy of The Book of M.

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