Tag: female authors (page 1 of 3)

Two Published Alumni Usher City Writes Summer 2022 into the Heatwave 

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes Summer 2022

Running since April 2016, it is a huge privilege to be involved in the fantastic showcase event for City’s Short Creative Writing Courses, City Writes. This term’s event was no exception. Held over Zoom on Thursday 7th July (our ears tuned briefly away from the politics of the day), City Writes Summer 2022 not only had two brilliant published alumni from the same Novel Studio cohort, Attiya Khan and Simon Culleton, it also made space for some wonderful new writing coming from the competition winners made up of current students and alumni. What a talented bunch!

 

We began with the competition winners. Jordan McGarry, Narrative Non-Fiction student kicked things off with a fantastic piece, ‘The First Spring’, about her recently deceased mother. The chat was filled with responses to her careful observations of grief and insightful turns of phrase. Her biography had told us she was planning to be braver with her work in 2022 and we hope this will mark the beginning of a habit as we all want to hear more of Jordan’s writing.

 

We headed in an entirely different direction next with a witty piece on community division, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’, written and read by Short Story Writing alumnus, Jonathan Gallard. Giving us two perspectives and navigating the complex origins of divisive tradition, this was a wonderful piece of writing.

 

We returned to grief with the next reader, Orsolya Kiss-Toth. A Writers’ Workshop alumna, Orsolya read an extract of her second novel, Nadi Leaves, in which the main character confronts the studio of her recently deceased father and ends up painting her grief into a self-portrait in a way that mimics her father’s artistic process to moving affect.

 

Three times winner of the City Writes competition and another Short Story Writing alumna, Su Yin Yap read for us next. She gave us a non-fiction piece, ‘Notes on Pregnancy’ the form of which was much appreciated in the chat. Moving from facts about pregnancy to a personal account of their emotional and physical effects, the piece viscerally remembered what it feels like to be pregnant.

 

Recent Novel Studio graduate Richard Bowyer then took us into the world of satire with an extract from his novel, The White House. A hilarious letter to the prime minister called ‘The Manton Ultimatum’ had us all giggling as we contemplated the idea of one village in Essex forming an independent state. Roger Rowntree was a favourite character of the Novel Studio 2021/2022 cohort and he proved a hit with this City Writes audience too.

 

Following Richard, we listened to our last competition winner and Short Story Writing alumna, Lia Martin read her story about lost love, ‘Church Bells’. Such a sharp, witty, and painfully moving account of trying to process the end of a relationship. We can’t wait to read what Lia writes next.

 

The end of Lia’s piece marked a move into the second half of the City Writes event as we heard from alumni Attiya Khan and Simon Culleton. Both writers published their debuts in 2021 with exciting independent publishers. We heard two short readings and then moved into a Q&A.

 

Attiya Khan’s debut novel Ten Steps To Us

Attiya’s debut, Ten Steps to Us, is a Young Adult novel that readers have described as ‘the perfect teen romance that covers religion, romance and diversity’. She read the scene in which devout, hijab wearing, Aisha is saved from Islamophobic bullying at a bus stop by the handsome non-Muslim, Darren. Where would this encounter lead? Published by Hashtag Blak, this is a story you’re going to need to buy to get the whole story.

 

Simon Culleton’s debut novel Shadows of Fathers

Simon Culleton then read from his debut, Shadows of Fathers, published by Stairwell Books, about one father’s fight to stay close to his children in a journey across geographical, cultural and emotional borders. He took us into a difficult conversation with his children about where he had been and why he didn’t live with Mummy anymore. Had the children missed him? Why didn’t Mummy and Daddy get on anymore? When he said Mummy and Daddy got on the way that a cat and a dog did, things got complicated… Funny, poignant and moving, it was a great introduction to the complexities of the novel.

 

The Q&A explored inspirations, from Attiya’s desire to see Muslim young women represented in fiction in realistic, non-Islamophobic ways, to Simon’s need to show the father’s perspective in divorce proceedings. We looked at their publishing journeys from the courses they took to the agents that rejected them to the publishers that championed them. We explored what they had enjoyed most about getting their work into the public domain, what they were working on now and what their writing routines were like. Both Attiya and Simon had some fantastic tips for writers and spoke of how important it was to follow your passion in your work.

 

You can hear the full Q&A and all of the readings by watching a recording of the event here.

It was an inspiring night and I can’t wait for the next City Writes when we’ll be joined by the amazing writer and another Novel Studio alumna, Elizabeth Chakrabarty whose debut novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, published by The Indigo Press in 2021, was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022. Look out for competition and event dates coming soon to this blog.

Novel Studio 2022 Showcase: A Night to Remember

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

What a pleasure to be writing once again about another fantastic Novel Studio Showcase event, this time for the cohort of 2021/2022. The reading event marks the end of a year of hard and creative work for students who have been planning, writing, workshopping and editing their novels throughout the course. Finally they get a chance to show off all that hard work to an audience of industry, friends and family guests. This year’s event was no exception in its display of exciting new writing in a wide range of literary styles and genres.

Our third year of hosting the event on Zoom, we had 50 attendees in our rapt audience. It’s amazing what the online space can offer as a meeting point of people from diverse geographical locations and this being the second year of the Novel Studio being fully delivered online, it was a fitting end to a year that showed just how supportive online writing communities can be. For those of you there, the chat really testified to this year group’s investment in their cohort’s writing journeys.

As host for the evening, I began by outlining the fantastic history of the Novel Studio course which, having developed from the Certificate in Novel Writing, has been going in its current format since 2012. The course allows students to focus solely on developing their novels for a year. You can find out more about the course here.

I went on to explore just some of the publishing successes of our amazing Novel Studio alumni (click here for more details) and we were very lucky to have present Novel Studio alumna, sponsor of the Novel Studio Scholarship (now in its fourth year!) and Sunday Times and Kindle #1 Bestseller, Harriet Tyce. Harriet offered a few words of wisdom and inspiration for the students as they embarked on their readings and looked forward to writing beyond the course. She shared her memories of reading at her Showcase event and wished the students luck.

Encouraging the audience to develop an atmosphere in the chat, the readings from the students began and what a set of readings they were.

We started with Darren Pininski and an extract from his novel, Forgive Me Father, set across London and South Africa. The extract offered an atmospheric description of a small South African town and the first meeting between two men who will go on to change each other’s lives. Forgive Me Father follows the lives of Kenneth, Nico and Dominee Paul as they navigate love, loss, forgiveness and the bizarre and dangerous world of high end sneaker crime. We were left wondering what this meeting of Kenneth and Dominee Paul would lead to.

 

We jumped onto a plane next with Clare Bunning who read from the opening of her novel, Work Trip. Fast-paced, funny and acutely observed, we followed Franny Phillips as she walked into her initial experience of first class. Who should follow her? Only the A-list celebrity and sex-god, Leo Rossi. Titillating in more than one way, the audience was left wondering how this fortuitous meeting might develop.

 

England of the noughties was waiting to greet us next as we listened to Miranda Weindling read an extract from her novel, Love + Strife. We were treated to the first real contact between two ten-year-old girls, Phoebe and Gemma. A master of the eloquent long sentence with deft descriptions of the turns of consciousness, Miranda dropped us right back into those awkward pre-teen years.

 

We headed for the Essex coast next and struggled to contain wry smiles and giggles as we listened to Richard Bowyer read from his satirical novel, The White House. With some hilarious one-liners and sharp dialogue, this is one of those timely novels that really has something to say about modern Britain. One of the main character’s Roger Rowntree was proposed for Prime Minister in the chat. We were definitely left wanting more.

 

Ammarah Ahmad took us back to early adolescence next as we listened to her read an excerpt from her novel, The Nightfall Gatherings. We joined her main character, Zara, as she experienced her first ever cult gathering. It was a very unnerving experience of darkness and chanting that young Zara could not easily navigate. We could see some difficult but fascinating times ahead for Zara.

 

Zeke McLeod read next, sharing an extract from the opening of his novel, Poseable, in which his narrator describes breaking up with his girlfriend. Painfully honest and read from the heart the novel goes on to explore the complex world of online pornographic role play. The audience was visibly attentive and left eager for more.

 

We went from the end of a relationship to the tantalising beginnings of another next with Natalie Bray as she read from her novel, Sexy Witch. Natalie took us on a whirlwind, motorcycle date with first name, surname guy, Adam Dale. Enraptured by her cutting observation and crisp dialogue and text talk, we were completely taken into her protagonist’s world.

 

Staying on a relationship run, we were treated to another remembered teenage entanglement next as Dominic Hayes read from his novel, Mean Time. With some great observations and hilarious Freudian slips, we were offered the beginnings of a multiple perspective novel of epic proportions.

 

Galaxy O’Sullivan took us into unchartered territory next as we headed for a wild science-fiction, fantasy ride through the virtual world of Galaxy’s novel, The Poltergeist Aquarium. We listened as Bishop Crowther attempted to shove souls into the unwilling bodies of one of the main characters and her colleagues. Galaxy gave us a fantastically voiced and dramatic reading with a heady mix of profanity and philosophy.

 

We went from the virtual to the very real next with a story about the vibrant hidden UK community circumscribed by immigration, patriarchy and faith as Novel Studio Scholarship winner, Hawa Maua, read an extract from her novel, The Church for Disciplined Women. Tasting just two of the novel’s engrossing four main characters, the audience got a sense of the richness of voice Hawa delivers in the novel. We left the characters in their deportation van on the way to Heathrow and headed back into fantasy with our next reader, Angus Cameron.

 

Angus delivered us into the distant country of Kizna with an extract from the first novel in his epic fantasy trilogy, A Broken Web. We listened aghast as two young men – one still a boy – were forced to watch their fathers’ executed and then kneel in the blood of their fathers and swear an oath of allegiance to the conquering empire. Read with the professional delivery of an audiobook, we were hooked into the complex politics of this distant land.

 

We stayed with the bloody mess families can be as our next writer, Sam Miller read an extract from her novel, The Last Weekend. Thinking we were in the happy domestic sphere of a mother-daughter reunion, we soon had our assumptions upturned as the narrator’s mother takes a knife to one of the chickens. Both funny and horrific, Sam plunged us into the depth and psychological complexity of mother-daughter relations. As the last reader of the evening, a dead, bloody chicken presented for dinner was a dramatic way to end the night.

 

Wrapping up with congratulations and thanks all round. Particular mention was given to the sterling work of the Novel Studio director, Emily Pedder, as well as tutors Kiare Ladner and me, and the Short Courses staff at City University, especially Josie Gleave, Sathya Narayanan and Robert Lastman. It only remained to thank the hard work of the students, to congratulate them on a highly enjoyable and productive year, and to thank the audience for their avid participation in the chat. What a fantastic night with some truly mind-blowing readings. Congratulations Novel Studio cohort 2021/2022! We feel sure we’ll soon be adding you to the list of published alumni. What a talented group.

 

For those of you who missed the night, you can watch the recordings here, or download a copy of the Novel Studio Anthology here. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

Lessons in Love and Other Crimes – Elizabeth Chakrabarty on the writing of her debut novel

Novel Studio alumna Elizabeth Chakrabarty published her brilliant debut novel Lessons in Love and Other Crimes with Indigo Press  in 2021. She took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions from Novel Studio course director Emily Pedder about her writing life.

Have you always written?

 

Yes, I can’t remember not writing — stories, poems, a journal.

 

Which book was the first to have a real impact on you as a reader, and which as a writer?

 

I remember reading Villette, at a really young age; I was about nine. I’d got through my library books one evening, and took it down from my mother’s bookshelves. I was aware of reading it, and not understanding it exactly, and yet at the same time it interested me as a reader, this literature for adults; it intrigued me more than books for children. As a writer, so many books over the years, it’s difficult to think of a first, unless it’s that dual creative experience of reading as a writer, being really aware of the writing. Anna Karenina is one particular novel I’ve returned to as an adult, and reread sections very much as a writer, looking at its construction and language.

 

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

 

Just to do what you’re doing: to live and to read, and then to write, and not to listen to anyone at all who tells you you can’t be a writer.

 

Why do you write and what makes it so vital for you?

 

I can’t imagine not writing, it’s what I do every day in some way; it’s like exercise, something I have to do, going for a walk in my mind, taking the characters somewhere interesting to discover things about them and their world.

 

We worked together many years ago on the Novel Studio (then called the Cert in Novel Writing). What do you think of the view that creative writing can’t be taught?

 

Techniques and discipline can be taught and encouraged, and particularly in a group, it is a great way of learning from peers, as other readers and writers. After that though, it’s up to the individual, whether they have something to say in writing, and whether they feel pushed to write — that they have to do it — and if they have the endurance to work at it, despite the immense odds.

 

Can you tell us a bit about your experience of being published? Has anything been surprising, in a good or bad way?!

 

It has taken a long time to get small pieces, and then a novel published. I was first published in translation in Swedish years ago, then in French, and finally in English. I met my agent, and gradually we’ve worked together, and she’s stuck with me, and now my debut novel has been published in the UK, EU, Australia and the US in 2021. What’s surprising has been how many stages there are of the publishing process, after your book has been accepted, such as all the levels of editing, the marketing — all the care and attention. What’s been less surprising is just how non-diverse the publishing industry is in the UK, although that seems to be changing.

 

Which fiction writers inspire you at the moment?

 

Carmen Maria Machado, Sarah Hall, Jeanette Winterson, Bernardine Evaristo.

 

Do you have a particular writing process? Favourite place or time of day to write? Favourite pen or notebook?

 

No, I’ve learnt to write wherever I am, with whatever I have with me. I feel like having things that you have to do, to make writing right, are counter-productive.

 

At what point in the writing of the book did you decide to structure it in the way you have? And what impact did that have on the structure as a whole?

 

I started by writing the novel, that is the fiction, but then gradually realised I wanted to add elements of creative non-fiction, to make clear that I had experienced the specifics of the hate crime I was writing about; that the racism is not fiction. That led to writing about how I thought through how to write about crime and racism in fiction, and became the essays bookending Lessons in Love and Other Crimes. As the book became hybrid, a novel with creative non-fiction essays bookending the fiction, that in turn impacted the fiction, and so I then also intercut the fiction with metafictional author’s notes.

 

What are you working on now?

 

I’m now working on the second draft of a new novel, which I’ve been working on during, and since we’ve come out of lockdown. I’ll be sending it to my agent soon — she is always my first reader — so other than that, I won’t say more, but as they say, watch this space. In the meanwhile, thank you for reading my work!

 

Thank you so much, Elizabeth, and huge congratulations on your fabulous debut. We are really looking forward to welcoming you as our guest alumna at next term’s City Writes.

 

Lessons in Love and Other Crimes is available now. Elizabeth was also recently shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction, for which her story will be published in an e-anthology by Comma Press. Her story ‘Eurovision’ was shortlisted for the Asian Writer Short Story Prize in 2016 and published in Dividing Lines (Dahlia Publishing, 2017). Her poetry has been published by Visual Verse, and her short creative-critical work includes writing published in Glänta, Gal-Dem and New Writing Dundee, and more recently in Wasafiri, and the anthology Imagined Spaces (Saraband, 2020). She received an Authors’ Foundation Grant from The Society of Authors (UK) in December 2018, to support the writing of Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, and was chosen as one of the runners up for the inaugural CrimeFest bursary for crime fiction authors of colour in 2022.

 

The Novel Studio is now open for applications for 2022/23 with a deadline of 29th April 2022. To find out more about the course register for our virtual open evening on March 31st 2022 6-7.30pm. For more on all our writing short courses visit our website.

My Short Course Experience : Gillian Belchetz

Gillian Belchetz

Gillian Belchetz

We spoke to Gillian Belchetz who completed the Writing for Children 10-week course last year, to understand what she learnt from the course and has been up to since.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Lancaster but have lived in Leeds for 40 yrs. I was a nurse for 37 years but also love writing, so undertook and MA in Writing for Performance and Publication at Leeds Uni as a mature student. My first book, ‘A Game of Consequences’ was published in 2015 by Fisher King Publishing, and raised money for The Alzheimers. In lockdown, and inspired by my grandchildren, I started writing for children and my first kids book was published at the end of 2021. I volunteer one day a week at a homeless charity in Leeds, St George’s Crypt, and wanted to write something that was both engaging and would raise the issue of homelessness with children. I have sold almost 1000 copies and raised over £3,500 for St Georges. Supporters have bought 350 of these books to be donated to local schools, and this year I will be visiting schools, giving them copies of the book, doing a reading and talking to the children. I love walking our dog Winnie, and am learning to play bridge – badly!

Why did you choose to take this course at City?

The Writing for Children course was well structured and specifically aimed at learning the craft of writing for children, which is similar to writing for adults, but also different.

What did you learn on the course?

Each week introduced a different aspect of writing so that we discussed how to open a book, plot, character, endings, editing etc. It was thorough and a lot was crammed into ten weeks. The different requirements for picture books up to Teen literature. Brilliant.

How did you find the virtual classes?

Excellent. A great mix of information delivery and participation.

What are the key things you have taken away from the course?

Great examples of books for different age groups were used which I find a useful reference. Writing exercises to inspire and motivate. Information on structure and how to keep a child’s attention.

What have you achieved since completion? 

I wrote and had published ‘Clara’s Geni-Ous Plan – To help a lady who is homeless,’ and experienced working with an illustrator for the first time.

I liaised with Booths Supermarkets, (Waitrose of the North) who have been selling it and donating their profits to the homeless charity I am supporting. It has been a roller coaster and a real thrill to see it on a supermarket shelf.  You can order the book now through this online form.

To find out more about the course Gillian took visit our Writing for Children webpage and for more about our other writing courses browse our course finder tool.

 

Novel Studio Scholarship Winner 2021

Winner of 2021 Novel Studio Scholarship Announced

by Emily Pedder

The third  Novel Studio scholarship, set up to support a talented writer from a low-income household, has been awarded to Hawa Maua.

Hawa is now part of  The Novel Studio 2021/22, alongside 14 other selected writers. Speaking of Hawa’s application,  Novel Studio course director Emily Pedder said: “This was an outstanding piece of writing. Distinctive and energetic, there was an urgency to the voice which was compelling.”

 

On winning the scholarship, Hawa said: “For a long time, I dreamt of being heard, giving voice to my thoughts, my hopes, my experiences and the things that I observed. I was dreaming of being a writer and thought someone like me could never get a chance. Now I have a chance to make something more concrete.”

Harriet’s new novel out in 2022.

 

Novel Studio alumna and crime writer Harriet Tyce set up the scholarship in 2019 as a way to help talented writers who might not otherwise be able to take up a place on the course. Lola Okolosie, the inaugural recipient of the scholarship, has said the opportunity was “life changing” while last year’s winner, Janice Okoh, said that without the scholarship she would not have been able to take the course.

Harriet was a student on the Novel Studio in 2009/10 and went on to gain a place on the MA Crime Fiction at UEA, where she received a distinction. In 2017 Wildfire pre-empted her debut psychological thriller, Blood Orange. It was subsequently sold in 19 territories worldwide and became a Sunday Time bestseller. Her second novel, The Lies You Told, described by Sophie Hannah as ‘totally addictive’, was published in August 2020 to rave reviews. Her third, It Ends At Midnight, will be published in 2022.

 

The Novel Studio has been running as part of City’s short courses programme since 2004 and has been instrumental in providing a foundation for emerging writers to go on to successful publishing careers. Taught by professional writers and editors, 15 selected students develop their novels over a year. The course has a  strong publication record, with many alumni publishing novels with major publishing houses, including, most recently, Deepa Anappara, Hannah Begbie and Harriet.

 

Congratulations, Hawa! We can’t wait to see your novel develop over the year.

For more on all our writing short courses, including The Novel Studio, visit.

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