Tag: Anna Mazzola

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.

 

 

Criminal Justice Lawyer secures debut historical novel deal after her creative writing course

By Anna Mazzola

Human rights and criminal justice solicitor, Anna Mazzola, studied English Literature at City and has always loved reading.

“Four years ago I began writing fiction; first short stories and then a novel. I wanted some assistance with the novel, especially in terms of structure, as well as support. So I researched the various novel-writing courses available.

“The tutorials and group sessions offered by The Novel Studio at City, University of London particularly appealed to me and I knew after my interview that I had found the right course.

“The Novel Studio lived up to its high reputation. I had some fantastic tutors and their input in my novel has been invaluable. By working with them on my synopsis in the early part of the course, I developed a clear structure for my novel together along with the tools for writing it. I then used the structure of the course itself to ensure that I finished my first draft by the end of the summer term.

“The group sessions are great for getting you accustomed to the criticism necessary during the editing process and provide a useful sounding board for your ideas and work. I continue to meet with the friends I made on the course and I know the same is true of many previous years’ students. Writing can be a lonely business and finding people who will give candid but constructive feedback was, for me, a highlight of the course.

“Another useful aspect of the course was the section on publishing, which gets you thinking about your novel’s possible place in the commercial world and how to go about seeking a literary agent.

“At the end of the course, we hosted an event for literary agents showcasing our work, and sent out an anthology subsequently. It was on the back of this that I signed with my wonderful agent. I know that many other of my colleagues on the course were also contacted by agents who heard them speak at the end of term event, or saw their written work in the anthology – work that they had honed during the course.

“I still have a long way to go, but I feel that the Novel Studio gave me a very firm start in novel writing. The fictional techniques that I picked up have been valuable not just for novel-writing, but for my short story writing and for the children’s fiction that I have begun to work on. The course also introduced me to a talented bunch of authors with whom I continue to share my work. I will certainly be back for more creative writing courses.”

Not long after finishing her City writing course, Anna’s agent, Juliet Mushens, sold her debut novel, The Unseeing, developed while on the course, to Tinder Press. Due out in 2016, Mushens said “The Unseeing is a wonderfully gripping and atmospheric crime novel.”

Rewriting History: How Historical Fiction Works

By Emily Pedder

From Brooklyn to Wolf Hall, historical fiction is enjoying a boom moment. But how do you go about writing an historical novel? How ‘true’ to the past should a novelist be? And what can historical novels tell us about the world we are living in today? Last month we were given the insider’s guide to all this and more by two of City short courses’ star alumni: Anna Mazzola, author of The Unseeing, out with Tinder Press next month and Melissa Bailey, author of The Medici Mirror and Beyond The Sea, Arrow Press.

Both authors clearly shared a passion for research and saw it as one of the most absorbing parts of the historical novel writing. Both were also clear that the story had to take precedence: it didn’t matter how much research had been done, or how historically accurate the depiction of period might be, if the story wasn’t working the novelist had to go back to the drawing board.

There was also broad agreement on other characteristics of writing historical fiction. Anna spoke of the importance of giving voice to the voiceless and of uncovering voices from the past that hadn’t been heard before. Melissa highlighted the enjoyable difficulty in trying to imagine what her characters were thinking and feeling, and then imagining what was different about the way those characters might have perceived things at that time.

Well attended and with positive feedback after the event, this writing short course event gave us all food for thought. As novelist Andrew Miller put it, “at its best, historical fiction is never a turning away from the now but one of the ways in which our experience of the contemporary is revived.” Thank you to Anna and Melissa for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. For more info on our short courses, go to our website or follow us on twitter @cityshortcourses. For more on the authors and their books visit: Anna Mazzola and Melissa Bailey.

 

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