Tag: City (page 1 of 7)

Meet our Indesign and Illustrator tutor, Helen Pummell

Following our series of interviews with the team behind City’s short courses, today we meet Helen Pummell, tutor on our Adobe Indesign and Illustrator short courses.

Portrait of tutor Helen Pummell

Helen Pummell, Adobe Indesign and Illustrator Tutor

1.Please tell us about yourself and your background

Since 1996 I’ve been a creative art worker and graphic designer specialising in print media and advertising. And for more than twenty years now I’ve also been a part time creative software lecturer at City, University of London.

I’ve prepared in-store graphics, bus and taxi wraps, brochures, flyers, posters, branding and adverts in every major newspaper in the UK.  I’ve worked with educational establishments of world renown like The University of Brighton and Oxford University, also some of the UK’s best-known high street brands like Coca-Cola, Miss Selfridge and Tesco.

2. What do you teach at City?

I teach the Adobe InDesign and Illustrator courses at City. They cover all the fundamentals needed to begin using the software professionally. The design world can be daunting to break into and learning some industry language and processes can give students a valuable advantage, so my courses cover more than just software. My aim with teaching is to give students the tools to do their own creative thing.

3. Why do you think it’s important to learn skills like Adobe Illustrator?

Illustrator is a fundamental part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, the industry standard software. It can be used for print, digital, motion graphics, 3D, logo design as well as a broad range of illustrative purposes.

4. What are your top three tips for learning Adobe Illustrator?

  1. Regular practice as often as possible – even if just for twenty minutes. Familiarity will improve everything.
  2. Look at professional examples. Anywhere you can follow vector artists such as Instagram, Dribble and Behance. Exploring professional portfolios is brilliant for keeping up to date with the latest trends and getting an idea of what is possible with the software.
  3. Try using Illustrator’s Harmony Rules to build colour palettes for all your creative projects. It’s a powerful and underused feature that can make your work stand out and accelerate your design skills.

5. Why would you recommend learning Adobe Illustrator at City?

The format is excellent for a wide range of different learners. Setting aside weekly time over 10-weeks really gives learners the opportunity to develop their knowledge and new skills. It’s a great length of time to get to grips with the fundamentals. The opportunity to practice new digital skills with guided face to face support allows students to learn at their own speed. I also make extensive notes and practice files available to all students on Moodle, City’s online learning platform, to support any personal practice during the week and allow them to prepare for, or revise, lessons as suits them best.

Thank you, Helen! For more on the Adobe Indesign and Illustrator courses Helen teaches, visit our design courses page.

For more on all City’s computing short courses, visit our home page here.

 

Meet our Photoshop tutor, Pete Polanyk

Portrait of Pete Polanyk

Pete Polanyk, City’s Photoshop tutor

In another interview with the team behind City’s Short Courses, today we meet Pete Polanyk, our Introduction to Photoshop short course tutor.

Please tell us about yourself and your background

I’m Pete Polanyk and I’ve been working in the design industry for near on 30 years and have been teaching at City for 20 years. How I actually got into the field was in the early 1980’s I wrote a music fanzine and sometime later undertook a night class in Magazine Design & Production at The London College of Printing (now the LCC) and it evolved from there. I’ve worked in national newspapers, advertising agencies and publishing houses as well as working for myself.

In my spare time I write a music/gardening blog, compile musical mixes for a shortwave radio show and produce electronic music, self-releasing it on my own label and designing the associated visual material.

What do you teach at City? 

I teach the Introduction to Adobe Photoshop course on a Wednesday evening. The course is an introduction to one of the industry’s top image creation and photo editing software.

Over the ten weeks we learn the fundamentals of the application, how to create and edit your own digital image/artwork using a variety of techniques and I also cover some Graphic Design related topics. We start right from the bottom and work our way up.

Why do you think it’s important to learn skills like Photoshop?

It’s a very versatile programme. By learning it, you could add it to your present work skills, you could develop your own creative output or it could be a way of getting your foot in the door into the design industry. Who knows where it might lead you.

Three surfers in the water at sun set

Learn Photoshop to understand how to manipulate images

Over the years we’ve had students wanting to learn it for many reasons. We had a person who wanted to use it just to do some simple amends on promotional material for her own business as she was fed up with paying a designer an extortionate amount for doing small corrections. We had a deep sea diver who wanted to learn the skills to make a poster to promote his local diving club and a vicar who wanted to correct photographs for a parish magazine.

What are your top three tips for learning Photoshop?

  1. Learn the keyboard shortcuts rather than using the pull-down menus, it’s a lot easier and will save you a lot of time.
  2. Set yourself tasks like simple design jobs, something that may be useful for yourself or your workplace and take it from there (promotional material, a simple web banner or greetings card etc). If you’re working on a project with a purpose it will keep your concentration and hold your interest for longer.
  3. Practice, practice and practice! It’s like anything, you get better by putting more hours into it. Little and often is a good thing too. Keep at it and you’ll get there.

Why would you recommend learning Photoshop at City?

The application is taught in small groups in a friendly atmosphere over ten weeks, two hours a week. I set three simple projects that you can complete over the term which gives you more practical skills with the programme as well as some work to show for the course.

It can be a diverse class with students from different walks of life (it’s not just people from a design related background) and it does you no harm being around people from other disciplines who take different approaches when it comes to learning something new or tackling photoshop projects.

Thank you, Pete!

Pete Polanyk teaches City’s Introduction to Photoshop Short Course. For City’s  other graphic design short courses, visit this page.

To see our full range of Computing Short Courses, visit our short course home page.

 

City Writes Summer 2022 Competition Winners Announced

We’re delighted to announce the competition winners for 2022 summer term’s City Writes event showcasing the fabulous talent coming from City’s Short Courses. These wonderful winners will be joining debut writers and alumni of the Novel StudioAttiya Khan and Simon Culleton. You can register for the Zoom event on Thursday 7th July at 7pm here.

Our winners this term are:

Richard Bowyer

Richard Bowyer for his extract, ‘The Manton Ultimatum’.

Richard Bowyer is just completing City University’s Novel Studio course. The characters and setting in ‘The Manton Ultimatum’ are drawn from The White House, his novel in development. He likes to write about the nature of community and belonging, friendship and obligation, everyday heroes, inclusion and exclusion, and how decisions get made. Richard was born and brought up in Essex and now lives in West London with his demanding cat and understanding wife.

Jonathan Gallard

Jonathan Gallard for his story, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.

Alumnus of the Short Story Writing course, Jonathan Gallard is a writer whose style and approach defies categorisation.  Mostly because he hasn’t written much, yet.

 

Orsolya Kiss-Toth for her extract from Nadi Leaves

Originally from Hungary, Orsolya moved to Leeds about 15 years ago where she lives with her partner. She is an HR professional and whilst she loves the challenges of her role, writing is something she’s passionate about.

Orsolya Kiss-Toth

She first joined a writing group in November 2020, is an alumna of the Writers’ Workshop, and her first novel, 24 Windows, was long listed in the Stylist Prize for Feminist Fiction 2021. She’s currently working on her second novel, Nadi Leaves.

Jordan McGarry for her creative piece, ‘The First Spring’.

Jordan McGarry

Jordan McGarry has worked in the screen industries for 20 years, initially as a journalist covering the industry, and then as a programmer, a producer and now as an executive. Jordan is endlessly interested in story, but more used to helping other people write theirs than telling her own. She is trying to be braver in 2022 (though will never be comfortable with writing about herself in the third person). She is just completing the Narrative Non-Fiction course.

Lia Martin for her story, ‘Church Bells’.

Lia Martin

Lia Martin is a Londoner completing her Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck University and was enrolled on City’s Short Story Writing course back in 2014. She started her career in the media but became a secondary teacher in 2015, working in both London and Norfolk-based schools. She now leads on English for a national network of schools and is currently working on a short story collection.

 

Su Yin Yap for her creative piece, ‘Notes on a Pregnancy’.

Su Yin Yap

​​Su Yin Yap is a psychologist and writer. Her work has been published in literary magazines and websites such as Popshot Quarterly and Litro Online, as well as various anthologies of flash fiction and creative non-fiction. She has written for the psychology section of the award winning Arts and Culture website Headstuff.org. She is currently working on a collection of essays. She is an alumna of the Short Story Writing course.

These fantastic authors will be reading online at City Writes alongside Attiya Khan and Simon Culleton on Thursday 7th July at 7pm. From village referendums through lost loves and historical feuds to the anticipation of life to come, City Writes Summer 2022 will be a night of readings to remember. You can register here. We look forward to seeing you there.

A Cautionary Tale of ‘Reply All’

We’ve all been there… you were either the recipient or the sender of an accidental reply-all email. It may have made you cringe. It may have made you wonder whether you should acknowledge your mistake. Should you apologise? Should you notify the sender? One thing is certain, it looks unprofessional. Writing for Business student, Karen Young, gives her top three reply-all blunders: how to deal with them, and how to avoid them.

 

Ready to send?

1.The time you didn’t check your email before replying all. The result: you’ve sent a comment that was meant specifically for one colleague and ended up offending the other external recipients.

We’ve all done it: hit reply-all by accident, whether it’s on your mobile or desktop, and not checked that all-important email before sending. You may have made a comment to your colleague and cc’d the external recipients. It could have been a response meant only for your colleagues.

What should you do? Acknowledge that you sent the email to the external recipients by mistake. And apologise: they could have been customers or third-party suppliers.

My advice: always triple-check your email before sending. Check the recipients and cc’s, the subject, and the body text. You will never regret doing so.

 

2.When a flurry of people reply-all to the whole company

A company-wide email is sent. The topic could be an upcoming event, a milestone, or a financial goal reached. If senior management acknowledge this, fine. But there’s no need for everyone to say “Fantastic”, or “Okay”, or “Thanks”. This type of reply-all clogs up inboxes and the server.

My advice: if you have a meaningful reply, select only those who need to hear it.

Think before you click?

3.You’ve accidentally replied all, and then those in copy purposefully reply-all to let you know you’ve replied all!

My advice: If you need to let the person know they’ve made the mistake of replying all, let them know. Everyone else on copy will already know. Reply to the sender only.

To aid the fight against the reply-all annoyance, Microsoft have helpfully enabled a feature to deal with email storms – a Reply All Storm Protection Feature. Check whether your organisation has this. It could save many headaches.

Above all, consider whether a reply-all is necessary and always triple-check your emails. It may take a few minutes when time is precious but it is always worthwhile!

Triple check before you hit send

About the author

Karen Young has worked in secretarial / assistant roles for 24 years in three different industries – law, private equity, and most recently mining. She holds a Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law through the Institute of Legal Executives. Karen enjoys learning to maintain her professional development, including the very rewarding City’s Writing for Business short course.

For more on the Writing for Business course Karen took, visit our webpage.

We are also running our Writing for Business course this summer as a one-week intensive. For more information visit the course page here.

To find out more about our vibrant writing short course portfolio, including our summer schools, visit our website here.

 

Business as Usual?

Do we create our own business stereotypes and, if so, where do these  misconceptions come from?  Writing for Business student, Stacey Steele, investigates.

Business As Usual?

I’m going to be completely honest. If you had said the word business to me three years ago, I would have visualised a group of people sat round a large table wearing smart, but monotonous, clothing. The group would mostly be men (I’m ashamed to say) and they would be listening and nodding along to their leader without question. For some reason, I always thought the environment would be tense and uptight, and personalities or fresh ideas were best left at the door if business was going to get done.

Why on earth I had these misconceptions, I do not know. I certainly never thought businesses should be run like that. I can only assume my own life experiences, which were probably hugely contributed to by certain TV shows like ‘The Apprentice’, had moulded a fixed stereotype of business settings. Based on my own knowledge and skills, it didn’t feel like it was a world I was qualified to be in and therefore definitely best left to the ‘experts’.

The dictionary definition of business is very loose. Dictionary.com describes it as ‘an occupation, profession, or trade’, ‘the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit’ or a ‘person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce, manufacturing, or a service; profit-seeking enterprise or concern’. So, my own fixed view of what was basically Mr Banks at work (from the 1964 film, Mary Poppins) was restrictive, and had major potential to hold me back.

Business Revelations

Transferable skills: easy as A, B, C

Before my current role (as an Operations Manager), and for most of my adult life, I worked in education. Not strictly a business, but I would argue I gained most of my transferable skillset there. Experience quickly taught me that managing a class of children, all with different learning targets, and being able to adapt and develop to meet individual needs are all invaluable skills in a business setting. Prior to that I had various jobs in an office, shops, and a photography studio – all of which were clearly businesses. Places where goods or services were offered in exchange for payment and with the intent to make a profit. But why had I hastily dismissed these settings as being part of the business world, and therefore myself included?

It seems when we think about stereotypes and fixed ideas, we may not be self-reflecting enough. Although it is important to recognise that our own unconscious biases and stereotypical thinking can be reinforced by structural inequalities and prejudices, are we also restricting ourselves? By leaving teaching and joining the business world I suddenly had to address my own ignorance. I quickly discovered that these fixed notions of working in business were causing me to limit myself. But is it any easier to challenge misconceptions when they are our own?

What’s in a Job Title Anyway?

A possible route to feeling intimidated by business is the array of officious-sounding job titles floating around in businesses. These have the potential to create a fixed mindset of the type of character a role requires. People in senior roles may be expected to behave in a certain way, with a system of hierarchy affecting how colleagues interact with each other. But this behaviour may be assumed rather than anticipated and by continuing the cycle, rather than challenging stereotypes, nothing changes.

Doing it Differently

There are many outliers in business. Those that don’t worry about what has gone before. Industry pioneers we read about and by whom we’re inspired. I sometimes wonder if ‘imposter syndrome’ is commonplace for potential trailblazers. Are the ones who would dare to do it differently, the very people who don’t feel they belong?

Blaze your own trail

There is a risk that individuals with a unique approach could feel intimidated and dissuaded from entering a profession because of the barriers they interpret are there. Many factors can affect our opportunities, including education, gender, race, disabilities and social background. But the drive for greater diversity is gathering pace and blinkered views of who sits in the boardroom are slowly being cast out. Nevertheless, we also need to address our own self-limiting and obstructive attitudes.

Smashing Stereotypes

Create your own possible

So how do we avoid becoming victims of a perpetual self-fulfilling prophecy? What can we do to stop our preconceptions of the business world and ‘how it’s done’ from leading us to believe we don’t have a place in it? Essentially, be the change. Don’t be influenced by unwritten rules or intimidated by grand job titles. Becoming a CEO doesn’t mean you have to stay in your office and taking a trainee role shouldn’t mean others can’t learn from your ideas. Breaking conforms and challenging expectations takes bravery, but it’s the only way outdated stereotypes (even fictional ones) can become a thing of the past.

About the author

After becoming a mum at 18, Stacey Steele studied part-time whilst working in education and eventually became a qualified teacher. She decided to change direction after her husband took on his own business, and moved into a role managing operations within the company. Stacey took City’s Writing for Business Short Course with Jenny Stallard.

City are running a week-long Writing for Business Summer School in August. For more information visit our webpage.

To find out more about our vibrant short writing course portfolio, visit our website.

A series of possibilities: creating a rewarding career

“What do you want to do when you’re older?” Being asked this question and not having an answer can be hard. Aged seven Emma Wilson wanted to be a dancer. Aged nine, an archaeologist. This changed again in her teens. Now at 24, Emma is still hopeful that she’ll find a career that fulfils her…but just how do you go about that?

Follow or fuel your passion?

I’ve always thought of my experience in the job world as stepping stones, leading me closer to where I want to be. But after university, I felt lost and suffered “the graduation blues”. The best, most exciting, part of my life was over, or so I believed at the time.

On graduating I gained  a 2:1 degree in Psychology, a mountain of debt, some great friends, a lot of life lessons, and an unfamiliar feeling of not knowing what was next. Months after graduating I was offered a job as a research assistant. I wanted to quit on the first day. Most of the work ended up being cold calling.

So I decided to take a step back and get some transferable experience – as a customer service advisor. While aware this wasn’t going to be my career, I learnt a lot from the role and about myself. I learnt that I enjoy communicating and helping people. One of my hobbies is fashion, and I became a merchandiser at Matalan where I learned that although something is a hobby, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the path for you.

I knew I was curious, creative and conscientious. But these didn’t translate easily to a particular career path. I agree with Julia Wuench writing in Forbes Magazine:“Most people need time, education and exposure to different jobs and companies before they’re able to hone in on a passion.”

The assumption that we only have one passion in life, and that this passion cannot change over time, can limit people to doing what they’d like to. As I’ve been able to take some time, and a step back, I’ve realised you have to be open-minded… and you can be good at a number of different things.

After I left my job as a merchandiser, I completely re-evaluated my career. Rather than thinking too deeply about it, I just thought ‘What makes me happy?’ This can be a very daunting conversation to have, no matter where you are in your career.

I started to gain experience, writing a piece for The Considerate Consumer, an online information platform, advising people how to be more sustainable. I also enrolled on City’s “Introduction to Copywriting” course run by Maggie Richards. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and found it awoke something in me that had been asleep for years.

Am I meant to be successful writer? I’m not sure. But I do know some people are destined for certain careers. Mozart, for example, wrote his first symphony at eight years old. Others have a long, winding road to their vocation. Vera Wang entered the fashion industry at 40, while Stan Lee created “The Fantastic Four” just before his 39th birthday.

While we may not all achieve such illustrious careers, I do believe what is meant for you won’t pass you by. We all have paths to choose from in life and work. What direction we take is up to us.

About the author

Emma Wilson is an aspiring writer. She has a passion for writing, communication, fashion and sustainability.

For more about the copywriting course Emma took, visit our web page here.

To find out about the other writing short courses we run, from fiction to non-fiction, visit our website here.

 

7 Simple Ways to Avoid Fast Fashion and Help the Planet

Fast fashion is a major contributor to plastic pollution and environmental damage. Melissa Pearson explores seven simple ways you can play your part in reducing this damage.

Conscious Clothing?

A recent report published in Nature suggests that the environmental impact of fast fashion is widespread: the industry produces 8-10% of global CO2 emissions – that’s up to 5 billion tonnes  – a year. It’s also a major contributor to microplastic pollution in our oceans.

The UK charity Clothes Aid meanwhile  reports that £140 million worth of used but still wearable clothing goes to landfill every year in Britain.

In the face of such grave statistics, change can seem impossible. But there are things each of us can do.

1. Educate yourself

Avoid fast fashion brands as much as possible. But how can you tell if a brand is fast fashion?

2. Switch up your shopping habits

Shopping can be fun but trying to cut down on buying clothes when you don’t need them is a great way to begin cutting out fast fashion for good. It helps you save money, too. Before you buy, ask yourself if you really need it.

3. Buy sustainable fashion

Sustainable brands tend to be more expensive but often last longer. If you can’t afford sustainable fashion, then following the other steps will help.

4. Shop second-hand

When avoiding fast-fashion, second-hand clothes are your best friend. If everyone bought one used item in a year, it would save 449 million pounds of waste – equivalent to the weight of a million polar bears.

eBay, Vinted and Depop are popular places to buy and sell second-hand clothes – and to look for something specific. If you enjoy clothes shopping in general, charity shops and vintage fairs are a great alternative to high street shopping.

5. Care for your clothes

According to Traid.org, extending the life of a garment by an extra nine months reduces its environmental impact by up to 30%. Pay attention to how to wash and dry your clothes to make them last longer. And if something needs a small repair, don’t throw it away – fix it yourself. The internet will show you how.

6. Follow the experts

To learn more about how to avoid fast fashion, these are all good places to start: Fashionchecker.org, Cleanclothes.org, and Aja Barber and Labour Behind the Label on Instagram.

7. Spread the word

Once you have educated yourself and found ways to avoid fast fashion that work for you – tell your friends and family. By helping them to change their habits you’ll be increasing the ripple effect of your good deeds.

About the author:

Melissa Pearson took City’s Introduction to Copywriting Course taught by Maggie Richards. She is a History graduate hoping to pursue a career in copywriting.

For more about our short writing courses, visit City’s website.

 

Talking Italian: ‘Rich and intensive’ language courses at City

By Lucie Langevin

Language classes “rich & intense” like the taste of Italian coffee

Learning a new language opens up a whole new world to you, and this is precisely what I love! I will keep learning until I am fluent. I want to achieve a level where it feels natural to speak Italian.

My name is Lucie Langevin and I am a Marketing Executive with an award-winning Italian villa rental company, based in London.

Lucie Langevin

At City I took an Italian Lower Intermediate short evening course.

I’m passionate about languages and have always loved Italian culture: the country, the history, the art, the cinema, the food… To me, learning Italian is about understanding this culture better and gaining insight into what makes the country and its inhabitants tick.

When choosing a class, what matters most to me is what I personally get out of the course and my own learning curve. I care about my knowledge of Italian being recognised as an extra skill that I have gained from a reputable provider. Therefore, when choosing the Italian course, I looked into classes available in my area, read reviews and compared options. City did not disappoint and the course went beyond my expectations.

What I enjoyed most about the course was getting a true feel of Italian culture. Every Thursday I looked forward to my two hours of Italian and always left the class feeling motivated and enlightened.

Veronica de Felice is a great tutor: an authentic Italian with a wonderful sense of humour, always in a good mood and keen on pushing us to learn more and get the best from her teaching.

She regularly went beyond the basics and varied the content of the lessons so that each class would be rich and intense. She always included a bit of everything: culture, grammar, speaking, writing, interactive exercises, homework to practise and prepare for the class… a great balance of activities and a very encouraging attitude towards us, her students.

We were very lucky to be in a small group, which is the best environment to learn a language. This meant we got to know each other very well. The interactive style of our exercises encouraged this even further. All the other students were also very motivated, which created the perfect atmosphere for learning, sharing experiences and interacting together in Italian.

I also enjoyed that we weren’t just taking a theoretical class: we were conversing and exchanging a lot, about life, interests, jobs and got along so well together as a group with the tutor and the other students. I looked forward to my class every week!

I always try to practise what I have learnt in my daily life. At work I feel better integrated and my Italian colleagues love it that I take an interest in their language and culture. I speak Italian with them, can understand them speaking on the phone and don’t need a translator to read emails written in Italian. I also try to pick up new vocabulary by listening to Italian radio and reading the news online.

Learning a new language opens up a whole new world to you, and this is precisely what I love! I will keep learning until I am fluent. I want to achieve a level where it feels natural to speak Italian. I want to travel even more to experience the culture and speak the language in ‘real life situations’. And I want to be able to read books and watch movies in Italian… I’m excited!

Lucie studied City’s short evening course in Lower Intermediate Italian.

For more about our short language courses, visit our web page.

Three Life Lessons Learned Volunteering for a Homeless Charity

Three Life Lessons I’ve Learned Volunteering for a Homeless Charity

By Sepy Akbarian

Since 2008 the charity Rhythms of Life has served over 1.2 million free meals to London’s homeless. But what I didn’t know when I began volunteering alongside founder, Andrew Faris, is that he, too, was once a rough sleeper. I’ve learned a lot since supporting his work…

Volunteers at Rhythms of Life

I began volunteering for Rhythms of Life in 2021. I wanted to engage with my community and for what I did in my life to align more with my values, namely helping those in need. The charity receives regular food donations from renowned brands such as Marks and Spencer, and Coco di Mama. It aims to eliminate homelessness, as well as to enrich lives through educational courses. In essence, it was set up to provide the tools its founder, Andrew, lacked when he was on the streets: daily nutritious meals, lessons in life skills, help getting work, and finding somewhere to live.

 

As a volunteer, I help unload the batches of food we receive, including bread, yoghurt, sandwiches and chocolate bars. In groups of around seven, several of us cook up a hot meal, while others organise food into crates. We then drive together in a van to Trafalgar Square where almost a hundred homeless people are waiting in a queue. This ritual happens four days a week. The charity is open 365 days a year.

 

Here are the three life lessons I’ve learned through my volunteering.

  1. Our past doesn’t dictate our future

 

The charity’s founder, Andrew Faris, ran a lucrative estate management firm before a hit to the financial climate led to bankruptcy. For the next six years he was confined to the streets. His story is not rare. I soon discovered that a sizeable proportion of the local homeless community previously held sought-after jobs, including in aircraft engineering and teaching, but were now homeless due to no-fault evictions – a leading cause of homelessness.

 

Before this, in my ignorance, I believed most people on the streets came from broken families and poor backgrounds. Escaping abusive relationships and leaving prison and the army are also reasons people find themselves without a home.

 

Andrew, in the midst of his homelessness, landed a role selling The Big Issue. He managed to save money to buy a camera and became a photographer, which became his career. He pledged to not turn his back on the community that he once belonged to and has since dedicated his life to the charity.

 

  1. The less you have, the more you give

In the week leading up to Christmas Day 2021, a middle-aged lady who regularly uses Rhythm’s services entered our office and presented us with a red envelope. “Don’t open it yet,” she said mysteriously, then disappeared. 

When we opened the card, we were awed to find a £50 note inside. Overcome with joy, I was reminded of the beauty in humanity’s generosity and the words of Saint Mother Theresa: “The less we have, the more we give. Seems absurd, but it’s the logic of love.”

 

  1. Kind conversations give comfort

My journey at Rhythms of Life has opened my eyes to the extent to which the homeless community feel alienated. After queuing, at times for over an hour, they’re given – in conveyor-belt fashion – a hot sandwich and a drink, then dismissed. Many have expressed to me that they feel seen but not heard. Homeless people want to have intelligent conversations. They want to be humanised. We can do this by asking open questions and by talking like we’d talk to our friends and family.

 

The experiences of the homeless serve as a reminder that even if we have no monetary change to offer, we can create change by stopping for a brief conversation with our fellow humans. “If somebody spoke to me when I was homeless, I was then more open to suggestions about getting off the streets,” Andrew has said.

 

I would recommend to anybody thinking about volunteering to jump in! There’s a lot of flexibility around when you give your time. And not only do you get to help change lives, but you may also meet people who’ll become your friends for life.

 

Sepy Akbarian took City’s Introduction to Copywriting course taught by Maggie Richards. Sepy is an optometrist with a passion for words; she is currently writing a poetry book.

 For more information on our non-fiction writing short courses visit our subject page.

Novel Studio to Broygus: a bumpy but worthwhile journey

By Laurence Kershook

 

Thursday 11th October 2018: the first session of City, University of London’s 2018-19 Novel Studio course. Fourteen would-be novelists seated side-by-side around a table back in those distant days when people used to sit side-by-side around tables and not think anything of it: no masks, no social distancing, no worries; just a shared eagerness to take the first tentative steps that would eventually lead to us writing our novels and fulfilling our ambition to see them published.

 

Fast forward to Thursday 24 March 2022. The date when my debut novel, The Broygus, finally went on sale on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats. Between those two dates there’d been seven re-drafts, three editorial assessments, a global pandemic and around forty submissions to agents.

 

In common with so many people, I’d long thought about writing a novel, and had mulled over various ideas in my head and occasionally on paper about what sort of story I’d like to tell. But it wasn’t until my friend Jane, herself a Novel Studio alumna, told me about her experiences on this course that I thought, maybe this is the time. So, after submitting a sample of my writing and being invited to come along for an interview, I was in.

 

The things I learned in that year were a total revelation to me: the three-act structure, the character arc, the inciting incident… plot, sub-plot, synopsis … a whole new language to learn, and most importantly a powerful set of tools to acquire. I’m happy to say that ours was a friendly, supportive group; we all felt that we could safely share our writing efforts with each other in the workshop sessions, and give and receive feedback with openness and confidence.

 

What I remember most vividly is the week when it was the moment for our newly-developed plot synopses to be evaluated in one-to-one tutorials. When it came to my turn, my tutor Emma Claire Sweeney amazed and impressed me by going straight to the heart of my plot, putting her finger decisively on its weakest point and offering me an inspired suggestion that gave me the key to making the whole thing work. True, it meant I’d have to demolish the entire structure and start all over again, but she’d given me such a good idea that I was only too happy to take that on. And looking back, if I hadn’t been on that course, if Emma hadn’t made that suggestion, The Broygus simply wouldn’t have come to life.

 

By the end of the course my novel had pretty well taken shape, and after a second re-draft prompted by a meticulous line-by-line edit from Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone an optional extra and totally worthwhile I prepared my introductory letter and sent out the first of my forty submissions to agents.

 

Here’s where I have to admit that not one of my submissions was successful. There eventually came a point where I had to come to terms with the fact that, whatever its reasons, the publishing industry simply didn’t seem to want The Broygus. But after going through the stage, well-known to writers, where I thought about throwing my manuscript into the trash and taking up pottery or knitting, I regained my belief in The Broygus, together with a renewed determination to see it published.

 

In the third term of the course, the one that focused on the business aspects of the writer’s journey, I’d learned some facts about the publishing industry that had left me, frankly, uncomfortable. Top of the list: your novel must fit into an identifiable genre category. Is it a romance? A thriller? A family history? Is it YA, or speculative, or maybe post-apocalyptic? I learned that you need this clear genre identity so that an agent will consider taking you on, a publisher will know how to market your book and a bookseller will know which shelf to put it on. And then, publishers want readers to be able to identify your book with recent successful ones they may have read. Example:  “A love story for the young and free –– think Eleanor Olliphant crossed with Where the Crawdads Sing.”

 

None of this sat comfortably with me, and I found myself, whether rightly or wrongly, coming more and more to think of agents and publishers as the unassailable gatekeepers and arbiters of readers’ tastes. And I could see that my novel was doomed to failure because I was incapable of fitting it into any of those required categories. Or maybe there was another reason: maybe I should accept that it just wasn’t good enough. But that wasn’t the message I was getting back from the few carefully chosen, plain-speaking people I’d invited to read it.

 

What finally got me where I wanted to be was my introduction to self-publishing. Once considered very much the poor relation of the publishing industry and sadly it hasn’t altogether shaken off that stigma  it’s now accounting for a steadily-growing segment of the industry’s output. Acting on the advice of other writers who’d successfully gone down that path, I did some research and met with some industry people who had the necessary know-how. It’s via that route that The Broygus was eventually published, and so far it’s working out very well.

 

Of course, self-publishing isn’t entirely straightforward; in fact, there are definite drawbacks in contrast to the conventional agent-publisher route. But counter-balancing all of those is the very liberating feeling you get of being in the driver’s seat and in control of your own destiny –– and above all, knowing that it’s only on the judgement of readers that your novel will stand or fall. All I can say is, it’s working for me. And thanks, Novel Studio, for the essential part you played in enabling me to bring The Broygus to life.

 

 

About the author

Previously a teacher, education consultant and gigging jazz musician, Laurence  Kershook grew up and went to school in Hackney, East London. He completed his first novel, The Broygus, after graduating from City’s  Novel Studio.

Charting the history of a Jewish East End family torn apart by events spanning three-quarters of the twentieth century, his novel follows one family member’s determination to see the hurts healed and the conflicts laid to rest.

You can buy The Broygus in paperback or e-book.

If you are interested in applying to the Novel Studio, applications are now open for 2022/23 with a deadline of 29th April 2022.

 

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