Category: Success stories (page 2 of 2)

Novel Studio alumnus Remy Salters wins International Rubery Award for fiction and Chill With A Book Reader’s Award

By Emily Pedder

A few years back I was lucky enough to teach a young writer called Remy Salters, then a student on the Novel Studio at City. Remy was clearly a talented writer with a fascinating story to tell so when I heard he’d secured an agent, I wasn’t surprised. A publishing deal was just a matter of time, or so I thought.

But for Remy, as for so many talented first-time authors out there, this didn’t happen. The book was rejected by traditional publishers leaving him with some tough choices. Rather than give up, Remy began investigating alternative routes to publications:

“I began my novel, Butterfly Ranch, as part of City’s Novel Studio a few years ago. After several full drafts and lots of workshops with fellow writers, I got to a stage where I was able to secure an agent. This was invaluable, as the book underwent a couple more crucial rewrites with her advice. In the end, though, we failed to place the book with the agent‘s targeted imprints, and so I moved on to other projects. However, as time passed, I realised that I had unfinished business. Butterfly Ranch needed to ‘live’ regardless. This is when I decided to self-publish.

“My first idea was to get the book typeset and a cover done by a designer friend, then publish on Amazon CreateSpace as an e-book and paperback on demand; and promote via social media. CreateSpace is a convenient system and the design was the easy part. Now for the promotion. Without releasing the book, I became more active on Facebook and Twitter for several months, but I eventually concluded that converting social media interaction into meaningful readership, as a complete unknown, required more investment in time than I could spare and a long-term active role in a multitude of online communities. In my case, social media could help and enhance, but not be the only channel.

“So I searched for a publicist. I was in touch with several, but always came away with a feeling that there is little interest in self-published authors (or rather interest in their cash, not their title). That was until I came across Matador, who describe themselves as a ‘partner publisher‘ – i.e. you finance the design, production and/or marketing/PR of your book, but they advise, project-manage and promote. I have been impressed by this solution. I have had freedom in choosing the level of support I want, while feeling safe in the knowledge that whatever I choose will be delivered professionally and I can reach out for a real publisher‘s advice.”

Remy’s choice seems to have paid off. After a successful book blog tour this summer, Butterfly Ranch won the International Rubery Award for fiction 2018 and Chill With A Book Reader’s award 2018. Congratulations, Remy!

For more information on The Novel Studio please visit.

To view our full range of writing courses, please visit.

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.

Launched to success through The Novel Studio

By Emily Pedder

Before embarking on a novel writing course at City, University of London, Steve Young worked as a freelance comedian and theatre director: “I toured the UK performing, and directed several times with the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival. I had a personal interest in writing and wanted to explore it. I had written thousands of jokes and vignettes, but was looking for a forum to go into more serious writing.”

Steve chose to pursue his love of writing in London, “the heart of literature central.” But it was a WWII veteran, and literature graduate from Oxford, who suggested City. “His professors were JR Tolkien and CS Lewis,” says Steve, “he told me I reminded him of CS Lewis…unfortunately, having more to do with my physical size than talent. He heard me read a bit of a novel-in-progress at a local social event, and we met.  I used to come by his home, have a few scotches or schnapps, and I’d read aloud whatever I was working on. When it came time to look for a course, we considered the possibilities, but agreed City, University of London was the right fit, I was impressed that the faculty were all writers and editors.”

Steve started by completing two short story courses, and was advised to apply for The Novel Studio, which he felt helped his work enormously, “I had excellent instructors working in the field. They pushed and challenged me.  I loved the fact that they were direct and honest about my work. The rigorous student selection process created a group of extremely talented beginning novelists, who made a huge contribution to my work.  I always felt there was a vested interest in my work and my classmates were committed to my success and I to theirs.”

Since completing The Novel Studio at City, Steve has found great success as an award-winning playwright. Under the Overpass won the TeCo New Play Competition literary award, and The Wal*Mart-ians was a finalist for the Reva Shiner Comedy Awards at the Bloomington Playwright Project out of a thousand entrants. The King’s Face won both the FutureFest and Southwest Playwriting Competitions, and is currently a live semi-finalist at the Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, receiving a staged reading in May at the Blank Theatre in Los Angeles. A few amongst many other varying accolades. Steve’s new play, The Night Witches, will be performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival in May.

“I had some mild success as a writer prior to the course, but The Novel Studio really launched me forward.  It made me brave on the page. It gave me a discerning eye.  I loved every minute of it.”

For more on the course and our growing list of published alumni visit our home page here.

For updates on courses and event follow us @cityshortcourses.

How one student turned his computing hobby into a full time career

by Dionisios Dimakopoulos

Lukasz Buczynski came to Britain to learn English so that he could further his career back in Poland. But after living and working in London, and meeting his fiancée, Lukasz decided to embark on a new career here in the UK.

At City Lukasz took two short courses in computing. At first he viewed computing as a hobby, “I had always seen computing as an entertainment tool for games, movies and music. I had always been interested in computers and electronics but I never thought of working as an IT professional.”

Despite considering some online courses, Lukasz decided that learning in a classroom environment had more advantages: “You can talk to people interested in the same things as you, and develop valuable contacts. In my opinion, classroom based teaching is the best experience you can get.”

I wanted to do something that I love and that would also give me real satisfaction. City’s Java programming course offered a really good coverage of programming in Java for beginners, plus the price was really good.”

City, University of London was the perfect place for Lukasz to study for his new career, as it offers short courses for all levels of competency, from beginners to advanced: “I gained a really good foundation, including how to develop computer programs and how to communicate in a technical environment. I liked the Java course so much that I enrolled myself to Level 2, and I also started to prepare myself for the Oracle Certified Java Programmer qualification.”

It was these courses and qualifications that led to Lukasz being accepted to study an MSc in Computer Science at Birkbeck University of London: “The programming foundations and qualifications I gained at City helped me a lot, and even though I work mainly in C++, I’m sure that without attending the Java course, I wouldn’t be so successful now. Whilst still a student, I was offered my dream job, and now work for an internet security company as an Associate Software Engineer. I can’t imagine myself being anywhere else. I think that if you want to start something new, change your lifestyle, career, this is the way to go.”

“My hunger for knowledge is always increasing so it is very possible I will come back, especially as City, University of London offers the biggest range of courses I have ever seen.”

To view our full range of computing courses visit our home page here. Or follow our updates on events and courses on twitter @cityshortcourses.

Business founder credits digital marketing masterclass for improved performance

By Rav Roopra

At City I took the Integrated Digital Marketing masterclass – a three-day intensive course on practical digital marketing.

Customer education is a key part of what we do at Stubble and Strife. We want to ensure that customers get access to the best advice, information and curated products in the UK. To do this we need to be easy to find on the web. I was therefore keen to learn the key components and strategies in digital marketing.

Choosing City, University of London as a short course provider was a natural decision for Stubble and Strife. The company has strong links with City: one of the co-founders is a Cass Business School alumna. We have also had the support of City graduates. We recognise that there’s a large pool of expertise at City, especially in design, marketing and technology, which complement what we are doing at Stubble and Strife.

For the masterclass City teamed up with dynamic digital marketing agency, MintTwist, who delivered the course content. I was very impressed with the expertise of the speakers, as well as the actionable insights designed to deliver results. Victoria Lennon, MintTwist’s marketing director, is an exceptional tutor, very experienced in her subject area and willing to share her up-to-the minute knowledge of digital marketing strategies and technologies.

Our study group was very diverse, with students coming from a large range of disciplines and backgrounds, which helped to bring different perspectives to the course.

I have already implemented a number of strategies we picked up at the masterclass and the business is seeing improvements in results. I have also brought this new knowledge into our technology and marketing roadmap for the future. It might be too early to measure the impact but initial returns look promising.

As a founder, I want to take Stubble and Strife from a start-up venture to a fully-fledged omni-channel retail business, tying the latest bricks and mortar retail technology together with online convenience, data analysis and digital marketing. I believe that the knowledge I gained at City will be a significant aid in this process.

Rav Roopra is the founder of Stubble and Strife, an expert retailer of shave, beard, moustache and skincare products.

For more on our business and management short courses visit our home page. Or follow our twitter updates @cityshortcourses.

 

The story behind MD Villiers’ novel City of Blood

by Jennifer Mills

“I had to write my story, this was the story I wanted to tell,” MD Villiers.

Martie de Villiers’ debut novel City of Blood – published in May 2013 – has taken seven years to write.

Brought up in South Africa, Martie studied psychology and sociology at university and then worked as a tennis coach, in HR and finally Commodities, but she always wanted to write. By the time she attended her first writing course at City, University of London, Writers’ Workshop in 2006, Martie was already writing in her spare time.

“City gave me invaluable insight into the industry,” says Martie. “You can’t always read up on how to be a writer,” she adds, “There are things you actually need to learn from those with experience in the publishing industry.” Thanks to the course, her writing developed.

“Before the writing courses at City, I wrote very detailed stories and said the obvious, but feedback on your writing helps and I realised that I didn’t have to show every action in my writing.”

Martie soon discovered how isolating writing can be. With fellow course members she formed a writing group.

“We met up and read each other’s work and gave feedback, because by sharing you see yourself becoming better…You need feedback to keep up your motivation. Comforting words from family and friends will not develop your writing and story in the same way as feedback from fellow writers.”

She began to attend as many talks by writers as possible: “You need to study the craft and keep going.”

In 2003 she read a news story in the local Johannesburg paper about a murder where the culprits escaped. It inspired her to write the story about Siphiwe, a young orphan whose life dramatically changes when he meets two dangerous men in Johannesburg; this developed into City of Blood. Growing up in South Africa, Johannesburg is a city Martie says she would never want to get lost in: her mother was a social worker and used to come home with horror stories from what she had witnessed. Martie wanted to understand the violence of the city and its consequences and dedicated herself to write these stories.

After a few years working on her novel, Martie sent three chapters to just one agent, Euan Thorneycroft. He signed her straightaway. After further redrafts her book went out to publishers. She didn’t expect an answer for months, but just six weeks later Martie got an offer: a two book-deal with the prestigious Harvill Secker.

Writers’ Workshop takes place on Friday evenings and is run by Katy Darby. For more on our writing short courses visit our home page here.

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