Tag: literary agent (page 1 of 2)

Interview with Novel Studio alumna, Kiare Ladner

Kiare Ladner’s debut novel, Nightshift

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

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

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

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

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

Novel Studio alumna and tutor, Kiare Ladner

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EP: ‘What are you reading right now?’

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

EP: ‘What are you working on now?’

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

 

Kiare Ladner

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

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

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

Register for free attendance here.

City Novel Studio Agent Competition Winners

By Emily Pedder

We are  delighted to announce the winners of City’s Novel Studio Agent Competition 2020. In a rare opportunity to bypass the slush pile, all applications to the Novel Studio are automatically considered for our literary agent competition, run in conjunction with Christine Green Authors’ Agency.

Competition winner Nana Wereko-Brobby

This year’s winners are Janice Okoh, Freya Sanders and Nana Wereko-Brobby.

Novel Studio tutor Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone said ‘The standard of submissions this year was really high and these three winners are writers with some serious promise. Alongside depth of character and enticing plot, their writing shines with eloquence. This is a group of writers to watch!’

Competition winner Janice Okoh

The Novel Studio is City’s flagship year-long course for aspiring novelists. Established for over a decade, the course has a strong track record of published alumni including bestselling authors Harriet Tyce and Hannah Begbie, and debut novelist Deepa Anappara.

Competition winner Freya Sanders

An early winner of the agent competition, Hannah Begbie has gone on to publish two award-winning novels, Mother and Blurred Lines. Another winner, Louise Beere, was shortlisted for the 2019 Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

Congratulations to Janice, Freya and Nana! We can’t wait to see your writing careers develop over the coming months and years.

Novel Studio Literary Agent Competition 2020

Calling all applicants to the Novel Studio 2020!

In a rare opportunity to bypass the slush pile, all applications to the Novel Studio will automatically be considered for our literary agent competition, run in conjunction with Christine Green Authors’ Agency.

The Novel Studio is City’s flagship year-long course for aspiring novelists. Established for over a decade, the course has a formidable track record of published alumni including bestselling crime author Harriet Tyce and debut novelist Deepa Anappara.

Previous winners of the competition include Hannah Begbie, award-winning author of Mother, and the hotly anticipated,  Blurred Lines; and Louise Beere, shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2019.

The deadline for applications is 30 June 2020.

For full details on criteria and how to apply, visit our competition page.

We look forward to reading your entries!

Novel Studio alumna Ali Thurm publishes debut novel

Novel Studio alumna Ali Thurm on the enduring group of friends she made while on the course, and her path to publication.

“In 2012 I’d been working on One Scheme of Happiness for about a year; I could tell a story with a beginning, middle and end but what I had wasn’t a novel. I’ve always read a lot and studied literature at university so I knew what a novel could be like. I knew I could write but I didn’t know how to structure a novel, how to write effective dialogue and many things I didn’t even know I didn’t know (voice, point of view, first person or third person…)

Then I saw an open evening for the Novel Studio (arts council website). By the end of the course I not only had a structure I was happy with, I also knew how to write a letter to an agent and how to submit my work. I also had a group of friends who would give valuable, objective feedback on my work. Seven years later we still meet regularly to write, share work and celebrate successes. Even in this time of self-isolation we’re Zooming together. It’s been amazing to be friends with other writers who are also balancing writing with work and childcare.

After the course I kept going until I had a draft of my novel that I was happy with, then started:

  1. Choosing agents and sending the first few chapters out.
  2. Enrolling on short courses.
  3. Entering novel competitions.
  4. Building up an author profile on Twitter.

It’s a lot of work and a lot of rejection and costs money (some courses and competitions have subsidised places).

But it all helps, and in 2015 I was taken on by Emily Sweet Associates; it was wonderful for a professional to ‘get’ my novel and to validate my writing. Emily suggested editing and redrafting – more work – but the new draft led to some long and short-listing in national competitions. To minimise the angst of waiting for more rejection from publishers (easier if your agent can soften the blow!) I drafted a new novel and set up a WordPress blog to review new books. I also signed up to NetGalley – a brilliant way of reading new books as digital ‘galley proofs’ before they’re published. For free. All you have to do is write a review after you’ve read them. I’ve read books by Kamila Shamsie, Linda Grant, Kit de Waal and many more. Reading is vital for any writer.

Finally in 2018 an indie publisher, Retreat West Books, wanted to publish my novel. Again I had more work to do on the novel itself as well as promoting it on social media, but Amanda Saint has been a great editor. On 27 Feb 2020 my debut, One Scheme of Happiness was published. Just before lock down, I had a launch and signed copies of my book like a proper author!

I’m now working on my next novel: The River Brings the Sea (third in the First Novel Award, 2019).

Congratulations, Ali!

You can follow her on Twitter @alithurm

Or her blog on WordPress https://alithurm.com

For anyone interested in The Novel Studio, applications are now open for entry in October 2020. Further details here.

 

Writing Deadlines

Two deadlines are fast approaching for all you brilliant writers out there.

City Writes: Deadline for submissions 6th March

This term’s City Writes, an event showcasing the best writing from City’s Creative Writing Short Courses, will feature the fabulous Shahrukh Husain. Editor of The Book of Witches, as well as screenwriter, playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer, Shahrukh will be sharing this wonderful collection and exploring the ongoing relevance of myth and fairytale.

shahrukh husain

For your chance to share the stage with Shahrukh, enter your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction by midnight Friday 6th March. You can find all the submission details here.

The event will take place on Wednesday April 1st in City’s 125 Suite at 6.30pm and you can buy tickets to hear Shahrukh and the competition winners here. Details of the competition winners will be announced in week 9.

Already excited? Prepare for the event by reading Emily Pedder’s interview with Shahrukh Husain here.

 

Ruppin Agency Full Mentoring & Editing Scheme: Deadline 9th March

If you’ve made good progress with your book, fiction or non-fiction, and are looking for a breakthrough that will make your writing stand out to agents and publishers, apply for the Ruppin Agency’s Full Mentoring & Editing scheme.

The scheme consists of six monthly sessions with a mentor and a full developmental edit by  The Book Edit.

An additional session with a literary agent will give you some invaluable DOS and DON’TS specific to your book.

You can choose from their team of over 30 mentors, all published writers and experienced creative writing teachers, based across the UK, meeting up in person or via videocall. For more information contact: studio@ruppinagency.com.

 

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

By Emily Pedder

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on The Novel Studio please visit.

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

City Novel Studio competition winners 2017

We are delighted to announce the winners of 2017’s City Novel Studio Competition.

In association with Christine Green Author’s Agency, the competition was open to unpublished novelists writing in any fictional genre for adults, but not non-fiction or fiction for children.

Course Director Emily Pedder and Novel Studio Tutor Kirstan Hawkins have considered all the entries and come to their final decisions.

The winners this year are:

  • Jess Commons
  • Alistair Dyte
  • Olorunfemi Fagunwa

Congratulations to our winners! A great start to their Novel Studio year.

 

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.”

Short course alumna to publish first book

By Emily Pedder

City short course alumna Luiza Sauma’s first novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, will be published by Viking/Penguin in February 2017. To celebrate her brilliant achievement, we asked her to tell us more about how she writes.

What got you started with writing?

I realised that I wanted to be a writer when I was around fifteen. It was an incredibly cheesy epiphany: I was reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road on a bus in north London, and suddenly the possibilities of literature opened up to me – you could experiment and you could write about anything, not just upper-class English people. I haven’t re-read the book since then, but I suspect it’s best experienced when you’re fifteen.

After that, I started writing obsessively: mostly diaries and a short-lived music zine, but also terrible poetry and fiction. After university I became a journalist and fiction fell by the wayside, but I returned to it in my late twenties.

What do you enjoy about writing?

The same things I enjoyed when I was a child: creating a world from scratch, and playing with characters, ideas and words. When it’s going well, it’s so much fun. David Foster Wallace said that writing used 97 percent of himself, while his other work used just 50 percent. I can relate to that – writing is so completely involving.

What do you find challenging?

The first draft is very challenging for me. I don’t like to plan too much, so it often feels like I don’t know what I’m doing – which is exciting, but scary. Like a lot of writers, I also struggle with procrastination and self-flagellation.

Which writers have inspired you?

I’m still inspired by some of my favourites from my teens, such as Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Ralph Ellison and Albert Camus, but also Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Carson McCullers, Elena Ferrante, Junot Díaz, Edward St Aubyn, Marlon James, Colm Tóibín, Kazuo Ishiguro, Lorrie Moore and many others.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I usually write at the library, because I’m prone to laziness when I’m at home. I can write at any time of day, but I never do it late at night, because it exacerbates my insomnia. I just write on a laptop – nothing too unusual. When I’m out and about, I take notes on my phone. I don’t write much by hand; my handwriting is so terrible, I can barely read it.

Which writing courses did you do at City and what did you gain from them?

I got quite addicted to City’s courses – I did Short Story Writing, Writers’ Workshop) and Screenwriting: First Steps. They gave me a much-needed escape from my day job, a safe place to play with ideas and, more than anything, the confidence to carry on writing. I went on to do the Creative and Life Writing MA at Goldsmiths, which I loved.

How did you get your novel published?

For me, it was all about finding a brilliant agent; things moved pretty quickly after that. I had dalliances with various agents – some had approached me, others I had approached – before I signed with Emma Paterson at RCW last summer. She helped me to do a few edits and then submitted the book to publishers in November. I received a few offers and decided to go with Viking/Penguin.

What would your advice for a new writer be?

Don’t pay too much attention to ‘rules of writing’ and don’t take criticism to heart. All writers can benefit from editorial advice; no one is a perfect genius. Not even Fitzgerald; Susan Bell’s book The Artful Edit provides a fascinating insight into how his editor, Max Perkins, helped him to improve The Great Gatsby. You don’t need to take on board everyone’s ideas, though – just the ones that resonate with you.

Most of all, just get on with it. As Dorothy Parker said, ‘Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.’

What are you working on now?

I’m working on some short stories and also a second novel, which is completely different to the first. I’m still feeling my way through the story.

Have you given up the day job?

I’ve just left my day job, because I needed a break to focus on my second novel. It’s definitely possible to write and work full-time (not just possible, but necessary – you’ve got to eat!), but it can be challenging. I don’t think work is the enemy, though; even the dullest office is rich with drama. I’m sure I’ll be back at another job sometime soon, but for now I’m just going to enjoy writing.

The Novel Studio’s end of year showcase 2016

The Novel Studio’s End of Year show is a hotly anticipated event.

This year was no exception. From eighteenth century Spitalfields to the mean streets of nineties Moscow, the students electrified an audience of friends, agents and publishers as they read work from their novels-in-progress.

After the readings students mingled with their guests amongst much industry interest. With diverse genres spanning everything from sci-fi to historical fiction, it’s surely a matter of time before these talented students celebrate publication success of their own. Congratulations to the Novel Studio teaching team and the class of 2015/16.

To read their extracts and novel outlines visit: The Novel Studio 2016.

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