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Starry night: Novel Studio Showcase 2021

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

Tuesday 15th June was a beautiful summer evening, perfect for sharing the dazzling work of our 15 Novel Studio 2021 students via zoom. The Showcase is the culmination of a year’s work on their novels and with genres as varied as satire, sci-fi, procedural crime and literary fiction, this year’s cohort promised a varied and tantalising programme of extracts from their work-in-progress.

This is the first year of the Novel Studio which has been run entirely virtually and it has led to a wonderfully diverse group with students joining us from India, France and America as well as the UK. The students have forged a tight-knit group, challenging each other in an incredibly supportive and encouraging manner, leading to some truly fabulous work being produced as we soon heard.

After running through the amazing list of published alumni, that grows year on year with names like Kiare Ladner, Harriet Tyce, Deepa Anappara, Hannah Begbie, Elizabeth Chakrabarty, Attiya Khan, Anna Mazzola and Greg Keen, we heard from alumna Harriet Tyce who introduced and funded the Novel Studio Scholarship in 2019, which provides one successful applicant from a low-income household with a fully funded place. We are delighted the scholarship is running again for the third time this year.

Harriet spoke with fondness about her time on the Novel Studio and all that it offered her in terms of structure and support. She also spoke of her sense of anxiety waiting to share her work at the Showcase and wished all the students luck. Hopefully they will all go on to have writing careers as successful as Harriet’s.

Nana Wereko-Brobby

With some thank yous to all the tutors, Kiare Ladner, Emma Claire Sweeney and Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, alongside our director Emily Pedder and the Short Courses team, in particular Laura Bushell, Robert Lastman and Sathya Mathivanan, we were ready to be transported into the various fictional worlds of the students starting with Nana Wereko-Brobby whose novel, Dark Heart explores one British Ghanaian’s journey into boredom, excess and murder. Reading from the first chapter, Nana gave us an insight into her character’s acerbic attitude to his daily life and relationships that left us wondering what else might be in store.

Deepa Somasunderam

We went from London to a village in Tamil Nadu next as Deepa Somasunderam read from her novel, Nivya, a coming of age novel in which twelve-year-old Nivya must come to terms with a more complex understanding of her world and heritage. Narrated by Nivya, Deepa read us a passage that introduced her uncle’s latest business venture, the tuk-tuk Henry.

Freya Sanders

Freya Sanders took us into a young woman’s mind next when reading from her literary anti-bildungsroman, out of the sky. We learnt about the tragic death of Peter Gilbraith, a popular, high achiever whose death is all over Facebook. What will this mean for the character, her friends and the wider social circle? What importance do external achievements have in the face of death?

Michael Lawson

From Cambridge to British Airspace next, Michael Lawson took us into the mind of Blanche, an undead agony aunt and political agitator who died choking on a custard cream in an airplane sitting next to her best friend, Cilla Black. A hilarious satire sending up the British and their political system, Michael’s extract from Biscuits with Blanchehad the audience giggling in delight.

Scholarship winner Janice Okoh

We were dropped right into the action in a large house in Nigeria next as Novel Studio Scholarship 2021 winner, Janice Okoh, read from the beginning of her novel, The Killing Season. Olori’s daughter is missing. She went out with the bosses new British Nigerian wife who Olori does not trust at all. Where is her daughter? Who will help her find her? Certainly not the police, or so it seems. Leaving us on tenterhooks, reeling from the pithy phrases of Olori’s mind, we were transported into an entirely different character’s mind next.

Stephan Schmidt

Delving into the head of a young man who wishes he’d already written the Next Great American Novel, Stephan Schmidt shared an extract from his novel Abscondia in which his second person narrator described meeting a woman at a cafe in France. Seeped in skepticism and nihilism, will this woman mean anything for the unnamed narrator, or will it just be one more in a catalogue of disappointingly mundane events?

Rhiana Gold

We were transported into the near future next as Rhiana Gold read from her speculative fiction novel, Under the Surface. We joined her character, Stevie, at the hospital, there for her dying father, a father no one like her – a lab-born – usually has. What is a lab-born and how is Stevie different? You’ll have to wait for the full novel to find out!

Seema Clear

Seema Clear took a different look at identity and belonging next, as she read from her multigenerational novel, The Refugees, that explores the life of Vidya and her father who were some of the many Asians expelled from Uganda in 1972. Seema read from the opening of her novel in which Vidya is back in the family home in West London, tending to her father on his deathbed.

Lucy Blincoe

From one set of emotional waters to another, we travelled to the Cornish coast with Lucy Blincoe next as she read from her novel, Kernow. Susie is a Met detective on leave, taking time out from London after the death of her colleague ostensibly to spend more time with her teenage daughter, Nancy. Then Nancy finds a dead body washed up on the beach. Susie thinks the young man won’t be her problem to solve, but the audience all knew better.

Grayson Anderson

We were blasted into the distant regions of an alternative galaxy next as Grayson Anderson read from the first in a trilogy of science fiction novels, Until Time Runs Out: The Awakening. We joined Aluz as she attempted to persuade her superiors to let her keep a perfectly preserved body found on a long-dead planet while mining. Drawn in by the sharp dialogue and Grayson’s fabulous voices, the audience was left wondering about Aluz’s discovery and what it might mean for her future.

Catherine Till

Time traveling into the past rather than the future next, Catherine Till took us on a train ride as her character attempted to travel illegally across the border and out of Soviet-controlled Hungary, as she read from her novel, Behind The Curtain. Leaving us with our hearts beating in our mouths, fear sounding loud in our ears, we were left to imagine whether her character made it or not.

Back to London and the world of environmental protest, government cover-ups and organised crime, James Mott read from his novel, The Holloway Men next. He introduced us to his main character, DI Robert Bramadisso, just back from a year’s suspension whose first job is to babysit City boys. How could that possibly go wrong?

Vasundhara Singh

We went back to India next with Vasundhara Singh whose novel, mistress, mother, explores the lives of three women: the wife and mother, the daughter and the mistress. Taking us into a scene of shared memory and food, we followed each bite with careful and lyrical attention.

Nola D’Enis

Continuing the lyricism, we journeyed to a small French town next as Nola d’Enis read from her novel Doulun. We joined her for the opening pages as one of her characters, Judith, explored the treasures of her underwear drawer and revealed a little of the steely femme fatale that lies beneath the frills.

Rhydian Wynn Davies

Finally, we were thrown into a scene of rich drama as Rhidian Davies read from his novel, Role of Lifetime, in which his two main characters, ex-actor Oliver Molyneux and solicitor-agent, August Avery, talk about Oliver’s impending divorce. Both narcissists, the extract from this tragi-comic novel introduced us to a world where these men and their impulsive actions might take them into deeper water than either of them expected.

 

 

 

The readings ended with a fantastic revelation, taking the death knoll high and our emotions higher. With final thanks and reminders about students’ contact details in the chat and in the anthology now available here, the Showcase for the Novel Studio students 2021 was concluded with a marvellous dramatic flourish. Watch this space for news of these students’ future successes. Congratulations Novel Studio Cohort 2021!

 

Short Courses alumnus shares his experience of Python course

We spoke to alumnus Jason Bradley to find out why he chose to take an online City short course with his colleagues and how it has helped him develop the skills required to progress within his career.

What were the main reasons you wanted to join this course?

The entities that we oversee are increasingly making use of programming tools to perform data analytics and we wanted to ensure that we stayed ahead of the curve and developed the skills needed.

Why did you pick to study this course at City?

Reputation of City, University of London and the course was a very reasonable cost compared to other, less well-known institutions.

How have you found the online classes and teaching environment?

The course material was excellent, and although the pace was quite quick (difficult with a mixed ability group) the material was manageable.

What did you learn throughout the course? 

As I had no knowledge of Python prior to the course, I learnt a great deal and it has helped me to understand the processes that are undertaken to build programs.

How will taking this course help you in your professional and personal life?

In my professional life it will help me engage with our stakeholders effectively and personally it has spurred me to look into how programming languages are use in Blockchain technologies.

Would you choose to study another short course at City? 

Yes, I am in fact already doing the follow up course on data analytics and machine learning!

If you or someone you know may be interested in our Introduction to Programming with Python or other related short courses then please visit our website.

City Writes Summer 2021 Writing Competition

City Writes Summer 2021 Competition Opens

City Writes, the showcase for Short Courses creative writing talent, is back on Zoom this Summer with alumna, Alex Morrall as our professional. Alex’s debut, Helen and the Grandbeeswas published by Legend in 2020 to great acclaim.
Described as ‘Uplifting’ by the Daily Mail and ‘Breath taking’ by Awais Khan, Helen and the Grandbees is a mother and daughter reunion exploring identity, race and mental illness. We’re delighted Alex will be sharing the novel with us on Wednesday 7th July.

Alex is a Brummy artist and writer living in southeast London who took a Freelance Writing short course at City. She has had poetry published in several journals and writes food reviews for her local newspaper. You can find out more about her work on her website.

Alex Morall, author of Helen and the Grandbees

For your chance to join Alex on the online stage, all you need to do is send us 1,000 words of your best creative writing (fiction or non-fiction, YA but sadly no poetry or children’s fiction) by Friday 11th June 2021. Full submission details are here.
If you want to register for the event on Wednesday 7th July, you can do so here and if you are keen to catch up on the online events you’ve missed, check out the blog for links to videos and articles.
Don’t forget to send your best 1,000 words by midnight Friday 11th June 2021. Competition winners will be announced in week 9. We can’t wait to read your submissions.

Meet JavaScript course lecturer, Aris Markgiannakis

My name is Aris Markogiannakis and I am a Developer, a Lecturer and a Leader in London,  JavaScript Community organiser and creator of CityJS Conference. I have been teaching for the past 10 years at City, University of London and other institutions around London for the last couple years. My specialisation is in teaching Programming languages such as ASP.NET and JavaScript.

At the moment I am teaching the Advanced JavaScript short course, which happens to be one of my favourite subjects. JavaScript is a very flexible and at the moment on the top two Languages for developers.

JavaScript was invented in 1995 by Brendan Eich. At the very beginning was just a small additional scripting language to languages such as .NET and JAVA. Through the years it has developed to an autonomous programming language with the creation of NodeJS.  You can now do everything with JavaScript from reading databases, programming chips, and creating e-shops fully running with JavaScript. You will still need to know HTML and CSS as JavaScript is depending on those two web programming languages.

JavaScript comes with a vast toolkit that is developed by various companies and the developer community. Most recent one is ReactJS which is developed as an Open-Source project by Facebook. ReactJS is an abstraction on top of the core JavaScript and it fastens development by providing a set of tools and capabilities so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we create a new project. Other frameworks include VueJS, Angular. In addition there are tools such as JQuery which was quite popular a few years ago but with the creation of Frameworks its popularity decreased.

The most common mistake when you start learning JavaScript is by starting learning a framework instead of learning the core JavaScript.

  • The key advantage is that all frameworks change over time.
  • Frameworks are written with JavaScript so when something goes wrong you will need to understand why it doesn’t work you will need to know the basics
  • When using a framework you still need to use some of the core JS features.

When teaching my course , I make sure that  the student can get from  having a basic level of JavaScript  learns and understands the advanced concepts of JavaScript  and at the end can relate those concepts with the key features of the frameworks.

Some of the core areas we cover at my course are:

  • Arrays, Objects, Prototyping
  • Scoping, this, Hoisting
  • Event handlers, Bubbling and Delegation
  • Async and Await, Asynchronous JavaScript
  • REST API’s
  • TDD
  • ES6, Babel Transpiler
  • Modularisation of Applications and use of Webpack
  • Introduction to React

All those areas are covered with the main idea that students when end the course get to know how to easily adapt to a Developers working environment.

To sign up and join Aris’s course, visit our website.

 

 

 

City Writes Spring 2021: an evening of spellbinding stories and creative writing tips

City Writes Spring 2021: another fabulous evening of readings from the writing short courses alumni

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes Spring 2021, although held on April 1st, was no joke. With the fabulous Kiare Ladner as our professional writer, reading from her debut Nightshift (Picador, Feb 2021), the event was an evening filled with spellbinding stories and creative writing tips.

 

The event marked the fifth year of City Writes, an event that showcases the best of City’s creative writing short courses. The event is fuelled by a termly creative writing competition open to all current students and alumni of creative writing short courses at City. Five to six pieces of writing, either fiction, nonfiction, complete story or extract, are chosen each term to share their work in front of an audience and alongside a publishing professional from amongst the short courses staff or alumni. Having started with the Visiting Lecturer Emma Claire Sweeney in 2016, it was great to have another Visiting Lecturer, Kiare Ladner, share her work. 

 

Though we’ve moved from in-person events to Zoom, there is something about the intimacy of online readings that mirrors the magic of holding a book in your hands.

 

The night began with the first of our competition winners, K Lockwood Jefford. Alumna of the Novel Writing Summer School, Kate read her haunting and harrowing story, ‘Driver’, about a woman driving to the address of the man who killed her nephew in a car accident. Kate’s reading set our pulses on fire with the pain of grief and the anxiety of what the narrator might do about it.

 

Another car accident was at the heart of the next piece, ‘The Opposite of Grace’, written and read by Sini Downing, alumna of Short Story Writing. If you can capture motion with a machine, can you recreate a better version of them on screen? Sini’s narrator fought to reconcile the elegance of the dancer with her graceless personality and the energy of her performance was breathtaking.

 

Lara Hayworth, Novel Studio alumna, took us across Europe with an extract from her story ‘Monumenta’ next. Which massacre would be remembered in a monument that would take a character’s house? How many histories are buried beneath our pavements and homes? Poignant and political, the extract asked us to imagine many characters and the borders crossed through their connections.

 

Alumnus of City’s former Theatre Writing course, Stephen Jones, read an extract of his story, ‘Pearl’, next. Here windows were reimagined as screens and watching took on a new, unnerving, eerie direction. What story would our windows tell of us?

 

From characters to memoir, Avril Joy, alumna of the Memoir Writing Course, read an extract from ‘Clothes my mother made me – A Memoir’ next. Using the motifs of creative writing suggestions to begin with what you know, to start with something other than death, Avril took us to the deathbed of her narcissistic mother and explored the idea of living on ‘a diet of stones’. A moving reading filled with poetic imagery, it was a taste of the joys the finished memoir will bring.

 

The last of our competition winners to read was Vasundhara Singh, a current Novel Studio student. She read her story ‘Feel, Feeling’ about a pregnant woman at a garden party in India. When confronted with the question, ‘How are you feeling?’ the character longed to answer such a direct and complex question in Hindi rather than English. Exploring the complexities of social interaction, Vasundhara’s performance of the story, her careful rhythms and attention to etymological nuance, was brilliant.

 

With these wonderful stories to follow on from, Kiare Ladner spoke next. She read from the beginning of her debut, Nightshift, an exploration of obsession amidst London’s night workers. Kiare’s character Meggie introduced us to Sabine, the woman with whom Meggie becomes fascinated to such a degree that their friendship ripples through into Meggie’s more mature adult life. Who is Sabine? Where does she come from? Could Meggie ever emulate such insouciant charm?

 

Following her fantastic reading, Kiare answered questions from Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, Visiting Lecturer for the Novel Studio, and also took questions from the audience. The discussion explored the complexities of female friendship, the subtleties of translating in relationships and Kiare’s writing inspirations, methods and tips. She was a fascinating and candid City Writes guest with helpful ideas for all the budding and established authors in the audience.

 

If this sounds too tempting to miss, you can see a video of the whole event here. Click to be transported and do watch out for the City Writes event next term when our professional will be Alex Morrall who’ll be reading from her debut, Helen and the Grandbees (Legend, 2020).

Watch the full event here

Major Event Management webinar hosts an international panel

Students from City’s Major Event Management short course are once again given the chance to attend as leading international event practitioners come together for a discussion of the effects of Covid-19 on their industry.

This event will have a more international focus where special guests will discuss events from across the globe and how differently the pandemic has affected their work.

Kassiani Benou

Kassiani Benou

Born and raised in Kalamata, since 2006 Kassiani has been at the National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens (EMST), where she is the Arts and Cultural Manager and Communication Manager. Having taken her first degree in Greece, she completed her Masters in Arts and Cultural Management in New York and followed it with internships at some of the US’s great cultural institutions. A former host and editor of a national TV show Kassiani is also a founding member of an organization that focuses on the restoration and promotion of Ancient Greek theatres.

Aya El Kara

Aya El Kara

Aya El Kara has long been passionate about event management. After working on a wide variety of corporate and private events in Dubai – including the prestigious Dubai Shopping Festival – she co-founded her own company Essence-Ciel Events in her home country of Lebanon. Essence-Ciel continues today, with Aya as CEO, to provide clients with the best and most memorable events. Aya has also been very socially active, working to support the Beirut community during the period of inflation, covid lockdown and the blast of August 4th.

Glenn Spicker

Glenn Spicker

Glenn Spicker moved to Prague just after the Velvet Revolution and retired as an intrepid traveller and below average student of international relations. Excited about a new democracy and capitalism he ventured into the Restuarant business and also salvaged communist artifacts nobody wanted (or wanted to admit they had) and opened Prague’s Museum of Communism. 25 odd years later he still lives in the city and runs his Burrito Loco fast food shops, the jazz club U maleho Glena, the museum as well as 2 fine dining restaurants  Agave and Cali Brothers. He’s opened more then 20 different businesses…. some of which still survive as of this writing ).

Caroline Wade

Caroline Wade is a hugly-experienced freelance events professional who has worked for Primary Talent and Harvey Goldsmith Entertainments amomg others, and has a relationship of over thirty years with the International Live Music Conference.

Dave Powell

Dave Powell

Dave has 30 years’ experience in event ticketing. He worked at the Royal Albert Hall for 10 years. He has also worked for a number of ticket agencies and venues and in 2020 managed the set-up of ticketing for later cancelled Edinburgh International Festival.

Tune in tonight, Tuesday 13th April, 19:00-20:00 (BST) to watch the event on the City Short Courses Facebook page.

Short Courses Taster Week 22nd-26th March 2021

For the very first time, City hosted taster sessions online and live via Facebook for a whole week. The talks were delivered daily over lunch with a great turn out.

If you missed the live streams, don’t worry, we have recorded each session which is now available below for you to watch at your leisure.

To discover all of our courses starting this spring, visit our website www.cityshortcourses.com for more details.

Introduction to Copywriting – Maggie Richards

Introduction to Chinese Mandarin – Ping Chai

Major Event Management – Liam Devine

Project Management: An introduction – Marian Wancio

Photoshop: An introduction – Pete Polanyk

Curation and Exhibition Management – Renee Pfister

Introduction to French – Agnes Shepherd

Novel Writing and Longer Works – Martin Ouvry

Leadership and Management; An introduction – Geoff Llewellyn

Immigration and Asylum Law – Nasreen Choudhury

 

 

Interview with Novel Studio alumna, Kiare Ladner

Kiare Ladner’s debut novel, Nightshift

Novel Studio alumna and tutor, Kiare Ladner, published her brilliant debut novel, Nightshift, in February 2021. Novel Studio Course Director, Emily Pedder, caught up with her to find out more about the book and her path to publication.

EP: ‘Your debut novel is set in a pre-pandemic London, in the nineties. Reading it now feels like entering a different country. How do you imagine London will recover in the years to come?’

KL: ‘London has so much kinetic urban energy. At its best, it’s a place where a person can have the freedom to be whoever they want to be (or are), and find others who are like them.  What I hope change will bring is a city with more realistic rents for its workers. With affordable space for creative endeavours. With the arts right there, accessible, at the heart of it. A city revitalised by new ways of thinking in culture, economics and politics. An urban landscape that holds the thrill of the avant-garde alongside home gardens created to give nature refuge. A place that builds on the sense of community some have felt more keenly recently. And that always welcomes the immigrants we rely on.  Even now, there’s a lot to appreciate about being here. The parks, the free art galleries, the brilliant hospitals, the possibilities for anonymity, the joys of simply wandering. . . When asked if I feel British or South African, my gut response is that I feel most like a Londoner.’

EP: ‘Meggie is a fascinating character, full of contradictions. She could so easily have been a passive character, with Sabine taking all the decisions, but it feels as if you’re showing us it’s Meggie who chooses what happens to her, and Meggie who has to deal with the consequences. Was this a deliberate choice from the beginning or did you need to consciously make her decisions more active?’

KL: ‘From the start, I was curious about the idea of wanting to escape the self, wanting to be other, and how far you can push it. During the writing process, I felt that Meggie was driven by this desire rather than acted upon. As a writer, I inhabited her in the way that an actor inhabits a character, and from there her decisions came intuitively. However there is one scene in the book in which she is less passive than I’d initially written her, thanks to an inspired suggestion from a beta reader. The changes were subtle but kept my narrative more in line with my vision for it. Beta readers are invaluable!’

Novel Studio alumna and tutor, Kiare Ladner

 

EP: ‘Sabine is one of those characters I feel everyone will recognise. That sophisticated, aloof person we all secretly aspire to be. How important was it to you to interrogate the personas people create and what lies beneath?’

KL: ‘This disparity is perhaps what first drew me to writing. Fiction allows us to investigate and express a less commonly portrayed sense of what lies beneath exteriors and dominant narratives. So I’ll probably be interrogating it forever…’

EP: ‘Where does a story usually start for you? With a character? A line of dialogue? A ‘what if’ plot question? A feeling?’

KL: ‘For me, it tends to start with a conundrum. Something that causes an itch in my brain, some question or situation I keep fiddling with. So the beginning is fairly abstract. Then if I give it time and space, scribbling and thinking, it tends to attach itself to a voice, and from there the story builds.’

EP: ‘I love how your novel taps into that complicated question of identity, particularly for those who live far from their native country. As a South African whose made London your home, is that an experience you relate to?

KL: ‘Definitely. I have gained a lot from being a stranger in a country, and the freedom to find my own tribe. But there are also aspects to leaving your country of origin that are painful, complex and irresolvable. Much to keep grappling with, in part through writing, I guess.’

EP: ‘You’ve studied creative writing at many levels, from short courses at City right up to PhD at Aberystwyth. What’s been the most important thing you’ve gained from that study?’

KL: ‘I’ve had some excellent tuition over the years. But I’ve also learned so much through other student writers. Not only from their brilliant and inspiring work – which has shown me the range and versatility of fictional prose – but also from their work ethic: their perseverance, resilience and determination.’

EP:  ‘Do you think creative writing can be taught?’

KL: ‘It certainly involves craft, and learning. And a course environment makes space for a particular quality of attention to the work. I like how George Saunders puts it when he says that even for those, “who don’t get something out there, the process is still a noble one – the process of trying to say something, of working through craft issues and the worldview issues and the ego issues – all of this is character-building and, God forbid, everything we do should have concrete career results. I’ve seen time and time again the way that the process of trying to say something dignifies and improves a person.”’

EP: ‘How are you finding teaching on the Novel Studio, a programme you took yourself?’

KL: ‘Years ago this course gave me an inroads to the nuts and bolts of writing a novel. Its structure was invaluable in maintaining momentum and providing a sense of progression. And some of the other writers’ novels had me in awe! Now, what I find most exciting is to see the growth of the students’ writing over the course of a year. How hard some of them work, and how much they can do and learn and change. Also, the ways they engage with each other’s texts, their generosity in terms of time, attention and encouragement, is very heartening.’

EP: ‘What are you reading right now?’

KL: ‘I always have lots on the go in different genres (poetry, short stories, biography, comfort-for-the-middle-of-the-night etc). I’ve just excitedly added Mary Ruefle’s lectures Madness, Rack and Honey to my pile. And the novel I’m reading is This Mournable Body by the wonderful Tsitsi Dangarembga.

EP: ‘What are you working on now?’

KL: ‘A new novel called Skylight. I dare say no more!’

 

Kiare Ladner

Kiare’s short stories have been published in anthologies, journals, commissioned for radio and shortlisted in competitions, including the BBC National Short Story Award 2018. She won funding from David Higham towards an MA (Prose Writing) at the University of East Anglia, and then received further funding for a PhD (Creative Writing) at Aberystwyth University. She was given Curtis Brown’s HW Fisher Scholarship in 2018. Her debut novel, Nightshift, was published by Picador last month and is available to buy now.

For information on the Novel Studio and how to apply, visit City’s website.

For those who want to hear Kiare read from her novel, she will be the guest at our next City Writes on 1 April.

Register for free attendance here.

City Writes Autumn 2020 Transports the Zoom-bound!

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone
The sun is shining less hours in the day, we’re all straining under the impact of the pandemic, but City Writes Autumn 2020 was a perfect tonic for the blues. Held on Zoom, five fantastic competition winners joined prize-winning author and alumna, Deepa Anappara who read from her debut, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line and discussed her work with City Writes host and Novel Studio Visiting Lecturer, Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone.
We began in France with the opening of Nola d’Enis’s novel, Uhtcaere, a work-in-progress currently being written whilst Nola studies on the Novel Studio. Treated to the lingerie draw of a femme fatale, Nola enthralled us with her eloquent delivery and her sensory and sensual detail.
Emma Dooley, a recent alumna of Cherry Pott’s Approach to Creative Writing class, read next, giving us a terse, poignant account of two ex-lovers meeting outside Lidl during the lockdown with her story ‘Fine.’. The economy of her writing really plumbed the emotional depths and awkwardness of a chance encounter.
Novel Studio alumna, Marta Michalowska read her story ‘Grey Curtain’ next, immersing us in the muted tones of loss and longing, a sea landscape where water and sky blend and walking provides the only cure for despair. Such delicate and specific descriptions transported us into the world of her character.
Back to the pandemic, Richard Bowyer, an Approach to Creative Writing alumnus, was the next to read his story. ‘Return of Service’ is his first ever short story and what promise it shows. A hilarious account of a golf sale sign holder needing a new job, this gem of a story gets better with reacquaintance, and got the audience giggling.
We returned to France next with Novel Studio student, Lucy Blincoe, who read an extract from her first novel, We Are Young, called ‘Lessons in Aioli’. In France to improve her French, the main character visits an acquaintance to cheer her up after a break-up, and ends up being forced into an uncomfortable situation with her father. Filled with tension and sexual menace, this minutely observed story was painfully familiar for many.
Suzanne Farg, another alumna of Approach to Creative Writing, read her tense and complex story ‘Ruby’ next. Beginning in a courtroom, we follow Ruby’s perspective as she reveals what really happened to that boy her husband was accused of killing. That should be enough to whet your appetite!
With these wonderful readings from competition winners over, it was time to hear from our professional Deepa Anappara. Her novel Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, set in a Basti – an overcrowded area on the outskirts of a big Indian city – explores child disappearances through the children’s perspectives, with a brilliantly buoyant and upbeat main narrator, Jai, whose positive exploration of difficult subjects lifts the dark subject matter and gives us an account of a marginalised community who lives are rich with hope and ambition despite their circumstances. It’s an overwhelming generous and thoughtful novel and if you haven’t read it yet, get a copy now.
After a reading from the novel, discussing the significance and power of the djinn, Deepa answered questions from Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone and audience, contemplating the power and difficulties of the novel to speak from diverse voices and offering wonderful advice to budding writers. She suggested writers’ practice persistence, meticulous research and listen carefully to feedback.
The full interview can be viewed in the recording of the event with all the fabulous readings too. If you missed it, you don’t need to miss out!

What Are SMART Objectives?

Businesses need goals in order to grow and experience the desired success. As part of one’s individual job role, it’s logical for each person to also have individual goals. General targets such as “increase sales” and “improve the lead conversion rate” are too vague. How does a business or marketing professional decide what is or is not a realistic target, and the how of achieving those targets? They do this through something called SMART. It is a process of carefully considering goals in an overall plan of implementation and measuring results.

What elements comprise the SMART acronym?

Specific: This means that a personal or business target must be clearly defined. Vague or generic goals are not useful as they do nothing to push the business forward. Being organised from the start and understanding what the goals are helps set out the remainder of the list. Multiple goals are sometimes required when aiming for an intended outcome. A specific goal can be to increase ecommerce revenue by 15%.

Measurable: Having a specific goal must be measurable in some form. The target of increasing ecommerce revenue by 15% is certainly measurable as the relevant people will observe it the cash flow. There are tools a business might use to measure ecommerce revenue, especially if their sales are multichannel (for example selling products through the web and brick and mortar stores).

Achievable: This defines what steps might be required to achieve the goal. Achievable goals need to strike the balance between improving the current situation and requiring a rethink or change of practice to achieve them. It differs from realistic in that “achievable” means a goal that could improve given the right preparation.

Realistic: No business could ever enter a market on a Tuesday and be its market leader by Friday of the same week. Realistic looks at the rules of a market and the potential for progress. A goal must be possible given the investment, resources, skills and in line with trends. It’s should be achievable with a change in strategy, but not impossible.

Timebound: This is the all-important deadline. For business or personal goals, such targets can only work if there is a time limit placed on the goal. A personal goal like “lose weight” is SMART when a target weight and a date is set – lose four stone by our summer holiday. It is the same with businesses. Increasing ecommerce sales by 10% should have a relevant goal such as the business’ busiest quarter.

Why are SMART objectives important?

SMART is a carefully designed system that a business of any size may apply. It’s broad enough to apply equally to marketing, business goals, and cost savings goals, for any business in any industry, and of any size. At the same time, SMART is specific enough to work as a tangible framework of prompts and guides to help experienced and new business owners and marketing executives develop. It’s a system of support, a strategy, and a framework to develop a business.

More than that, SMART is also a method of tracking goals over time. When used correctly, it is a flexible system to help you learn from your mistakes and successes and apply them further in the personal or business SMART framework.

Example goal with SMART applied

A typical personal goal might be: I want to resign from my job and start a business. That goal is vague and the person setting it is likely to give up on it before they have even begun to give it due and serious consideration. Starting a business is an exciting task. It’s also daunting, fraught with difficulty and possibility in equal measure.

A SMART version of the statement may look a little like this.

Specific: I will investigate the potential for setting up in business in line with my skills, qualifications, and experiences before deciding on products or services that could provide a genuine business opportunity. For example: as a wedding photographer.

Measurable: By the end of the first month of setting up my business, I will have a business plan, including a list of services, and a date that my business will effectively open for trade. I will also set up business pages on social media and have a website in this time advertising a list of my services.

Achievable: I will start with a personal website and start taking practice photoshoots now with volunteer models. That way, when I start shooting weddings for real, I will have a portfolio to show to potential clients. Is specialist training or certification required?

Realistic: In order to make it as a wedding photographer in a short space of time, the person must understand photography principles and know how to use the equipment correctly, and build a relationship with local venues.

Timebound: What is the viable timeframe to establish a wedding photography business?

If you’d like to know more about SMART and other goal-setting tools in business, have you considered an introduction to marketing course?

 

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