Tag: literary (page 2 of 3)

City Writes Spring 2019 event

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes Spring 2019 Event was busier than ever, the room filled with writers and their friends sharing conversation and blood orange gin cocktails, all to suit the theme of our professional writer, Harriet Tyce, whose debut thriller Blood Orange has taken the publishing world by storm.

Before we heard from Harriet, the City Writes competition winners treated us to five short creative pieces that took us from distributing ashes, through war zones, lazy summers and an imagined meat-free future, to the humble garden trampoline.

Competition winners

Harriet Pavey

We began with Harriet Pavey’s story ‘Dad’, telling the history of her character’s relationship with her father as she distributed his ashes. A recent graduate of An Approach to Creative Writing, Harriet Pavey filled her story with poignant detail from both present and past that set a contemplative tone for the night.

Next up, we heard from Ursula Hirschkorn, a current Novel Studio student whose story ‘Summer Time’ took us through three characters’ experiences of one summer: the adolescent on summer holidays, desperate to avoid her set texts and talk up foreign encounters with boys; the working mother exhausted by the efforts to manage a holiday with her family; the patient, adept at understanding the terminal nature of their illness.

Not quite ready to dispel the sombre mood, Jake Leyland, an alumnus of Peter Forbes’ brilliantNarrative Non-Fiction course, took us into a war zone in his character study, ‘Portrait of the Technician in a War Zone’. Hidden beneath their desks, the writer considers the technician he is meant to be managing as gun-fire rattles outside their thin walls.

Stephanie Pride

Taking a different turn, Stephanie Pride, who had just finished Cherry Pott’s Approach to Creative Writing course, took us to the future in her story ‘The best way to a man’s mind is through his stomach’. The story asked more questions than it answered as the narrator walked above the grids of groaning meateaters. I’ll just leave you to imagine this one.

Our final competition winner was Ben O’Donnell Bourke, most recently an alumnus of Katy Darby’s Short Story Writing course, whose ‘Negative Habits’ told of another father and child relationship spun around the demise of the garden trampoline. Like the tip of an iceberg, the trampoline gives us access to the depths of the family relationships stretched deep below the surface.

The audience, their minds already filled with the fascinating tales of our competition winners, were then eager to hear from Harriet Tyce, Novel Studio alumna and fierce supporter of the creative writing short courses at City.

Harriet Tyce on Blood Orange

Fresh from a whirlwind book tour for her debut psychological thriller, Blood Orange, that took her through England, Scotland and into America, Harriet decided to side step the opening bang of the novel to give us the morning after when her heroine, Alison, is woken by her husband and daughter as she sleeps slumped in her office chair.

As well as whetting our appetites for the rest of the book which explores what it means to have it and risk it all, Harriet gave us an insight into what it was like to bring a novel into the world and happily shared stories and answered questions afterwards as the audience queued to buy signed copies of Blood Orange. It was a fantastic night. A real example of what City Writes was set up to be: a supportive space for writers from City’s Creative Short Courses to share their experience and success.

Now well into its second year of events, City Writes is a termly event that hosts readings from alumni, students and tutors. One reader offers a professional perspective, reading from a new or award-winning publication, and the other readers are selected on the basis of a 1,000 word submission to a termly fiction writing competition open to all current and previous students of a City Creative Writing Short Course. Out guest reader for next term’s City Writes, which on the 17th July, is Anna Mazzola. Anna is a Novel Studio alumna whose debut novel, The Unseeing, won the Edgar Award in the US, and whose second novel, The Story Keeper, has recently been longlisted for the Highland Book Prize. Watch this space for this term’s entry details.

The Novel Studio Scholarship

For full details on the incredibly generous Novel Studio scholarship set up by Harriet Tyce to support a talented writer from a low-income household; the deadline for the scholarship is 30th May 2019.

Read more about The Novel Studio Scholarship

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.

In the mood for City Writes

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes, our termly writing competition open to all current and former short course alumni, hit new heights this summer term as one of its previous competition winners, C. G. Menon, came back as a professional reader to celebrate the launch of her debut short story collection, Subjunctive Moods, (Dahlia Publishing). Hot off the heels of her launch party, Catherine was an inspiration to us all.

C. G. Menon, author of Subjunctive Moods

Before we were treated to a story from her collection, we had four readings from this term’s competition winners.

In another first for City Writes, two of the readers, Jacob Bigio and Su Yin Yap, submitted creative non-fiction through travel and memoir writing, widening our horizons on the world geographically and psychologically. Both had recently completed the Narrative Non-Fiction course taught by Peter Forbes.

First to read was Jacob Bigio who took us to Quebec in an extract, ‘On Northern Roads’, from his work-in-progress travel book.

Having just hitchhiked from the Alaskan Arctic to the south of Chile, in a journey of three parts spread over three years, Jacob transported us to an out-of-the-way town in Quebec, where we were taken into a circus tent, waiting with the locals for the arrival of a spiritual leader.

Jane Clancy Reid, a recent Novel Studio graduate, then read an extract from her novel, Take Five, which looks at how differences matter but our common humanity matters most. In a Sydney suburb, Kevin gets up to mow the lawn despite his hangover.

He looks over at Sydney harbour and thinks about when he was first dating his wife, now deceased.Following Jane we heard a harrowing tale, ‘Did He Buy A Single Or A Return?’ by K. L. Jefford, a former Approach to Creative Writing short course student, in which a character travels down to Beachy Head, following her brother’s suicide journey.An extract from her novel, Dr Di, left the audience very quiet, ready to be shaken up by our next reader, Su Yin Yap.

Su Yin Yap

Su Yin read ‘The Unsaid’ a story about how difficult we find it to talk about sex. We laughed as a nun refused to read aloud a passage from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to her students. She didn’t want to say ‘unsex me here’.

We then heard that memory of adult embarrassment flow over into a clinic room where a patient didn’t want to talk about his erectile dysfunction.

With an amused audience ready to hear more, Catherine then read ‘Watermelon Seeds’, one of the stories in her Subjunctive Moods collection. We heard of a childhood friendship that began in a love of drama, that explored the nuances of social and cultural difference, and ended in a world of make-believe that carefully uncovered the truth of early love and its consequent shame and embarrassment.

Beautifully evocative of the collection as a whole, the story embraces the slippages between real and imagined, and had the whole audience holding its breath.

With time to buy books, get them signed by Catherine and drink a little wine, the audience, comprised of teachers, students, editors and friends, discussed writing, publication and the different short courses available at City.

A warm and supportive environment to share stories and successes, City Writes is a great place to be if you love creative writing.

City Writes catches a mermaid

by Rebekah Latin-Rawstrone

City Writes of Spring 2018 was a riotous success. Not only did we have four exciting competition winners proudly sharing their latest work with the crowd, we also managed to snare Imogen Hermes Gowar whose novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, is a Sunday Times bestseller and has been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018.

Rushiv Nayee was the first of our competition winners to read. His story, ‘Literally Having An Existential Crisis’ made the audience laugh at the thought of the working life of words whose changing status leads them from elite literary circles to ‘literally’ teaming up with ‘amazeballs’. Rushiv’s was a funny and self-reflexive piece.

He was followed by Kate Vine who read us an extract from her novel Fireflies in which an unexpected visitor turns up at the house of a young mother who has only just returned to her work as a painter. There was a hush as the audience realised they would have to wait for the novel to be published for them to find out the significance of this visitor. Keep writing, Kate!

Sue Lovett followed Kate’s extract with a short story about two boys called ‘Fiery Mortals’. A sparkling gem of a story, the narrative followed one boy’s friendship with another as they each bore the burdens of their home lives. At one point the boys share licks from a stolen gobstopper taken from under the shelves of the local convenience shop. The idea of this caused an audible groan from Sue’s listeners.

Our final competition reader was Aliyah Kim Keshani reading from her novel, Who Will Uphold the House? Staring at her father’s unconscious form, trussed in hospital sheets, Sara replays her father’s favourite anecdote from his school days in Pakistan, told to teach her perseverance. He managed not to lose or damage his glasses for a whole year in order to win the prize of an engraved pencil. When Sara cleans his current, cracked glasses, discarded on the bedside hospital table, one of the lenses breaks.

Taking us from hospital bed to a counting-house in Victorian London, Imogen Hermes Gowar gave us a glimpse into the three voice characters of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock. We heard from Johan Hancock perching on his stool at the counting-house and musing on the family he never had while waiting for his ship to come in; Angelica Neal, a courtesan at her dressing table, whose protector has just died and who is therefore looking for a new man to keep her in the state to which she has become accustomed; and the many-voiced dance of the mermaid.

Having teased us with her reading, Imogen signed copies of her book and offered some very helpful tips to City students in the audience. She offered her experience of research and gave ideas on how to build historical knowledge of the time and language into a novel. We were very lucky to have her.

Glasses of wine in hand, the audience and readers chatted and networked – yes, there was at least one agent in the house – until the university closed. How wonderful to see so many students and alumni sharing their journeys and successes. City Writes goes from strength to strength.

We’re delighted to announce that City Writes Summer 2018 event will host Catherine Menon whose short story collection, Subjunctive Moods, will be published by Dahlia Publishing in June of this year.

Ones to watch for 2018: Rising literary stars

By Emily Pedder

City’s short course alumni continue their literary ascent with two debut novels due out in 2018: Hannah Begbie’s Mother (HarperFiction) and Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M (HarperCollins).

Hannah Begbie

Hannah Begbie

Hannah studied on City’s Novel Studio where she also won the new writing competition. Her novel, Mother, developed while on the course, is a brilliant, and brutal, exploration of motherhood in the most complicated of circumstances.Hannah’s agent, Veronique Baxter has said that Mother “is a book you don’t forget in a hurry: unflinching, dark and deeply compelling, it moved me profoundly”.

Martha Ashby, editorial director at HarperFiction, said “Hannah’s writing grabbed me by the throat from the very first page and in her brutal examination of the roles that women play, her novel is at the same time both raw with emotion and deeply thought-provoking. I’m so thrilled to bring such a talented voice to HarperFiction.”

Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd

A former student of City’s Short Story Writing and Writers’ Workshop, Peng attended New York University’s MFA Creative Writing Program on a full scholarship, where she studied under Jonathan Safran Foer. Her fiction has appeared in Litro Magazine, Liars’ League, Cent Magazine, been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in the Weird Lies anthology.

Last year, the Elizabeth George Foundation awarded Peng a major grant based on an early draft of her novel and she was also a finalist for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins 2016 fellowship. Peng’s debut novel, The Book of M, has been described by her UK agent  at Curtis Brown as “a virtuoso debut by an unparalleled talent…Shepherd has created a world filled with big ideas about mortality and self but it is the small intimate moments that pierce and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading”.

The Book of M is due out in June 2018. Follow Peng on twitter.

Mother is due out August 2018. You can follow Hannah on twitter.

Find out more about our writing short courses at City or read other success stories from our writing community.

Pre-order a copy of Mother

Pre-order a copy of The Book of M.

City Writes autumn event success

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

With our headline act, CWA Debut Dagger Award Winner Greg Keen to look forward to, a wonderful crowd of people braved the cold and rain to listen to and support City’s showcase of its short creative writing course talent. And what talent there was.

Campaspe Lloyd-Jacob

Amidst a buzz of audience excitement, we were treated to four readings from the City Writes Competition winners. Campaspe Lloyd-Jacob, Novel Studio alumna, was first, reading from her novel in progress The Fall. Taking us into the world of reality television gone wrong, a boy’s life was left hanging in the balance, sending a ripple of anxiety and silence through the listeners.

 

Second, we heard Elena Alston’s wonderful short story, ‘The Cuckoo Broadcast’. Having just finished the Short Story Writing course with Katy Darby, Elena’s story cast its spell over us all. We laughed as the clever young character fought to be creative despite the difficulties of her family life and the constraints of her conformist school.

Elena Alston

Following Elena, another talented Novel Studio alumna Angela Dove took to the stage reading from her novel For One Night Only. A mysterious package arrived at the character’s door. How did they find her address? Could she remember how to process celluloid? When a woman appeared in one of the photographs, against a backdrop of 1940s Amsterdam, closer inspection revealed her own face.

Our last competition winner to read was Sophia Rainbow Haddad who had just completed the Novel Writing and Longer Works course with Martin Ouvry. Sophia read her story ‘Heart on your sleeve’ taking us on a journey with her father’s denim jacket, originally bought for her brother. As her parents split up and her father moved away back to Algeria, the jacket became the warm hug of her father now so far away.

Sophia Rainbow Haddad

Emotionally charged from these fantastic competition winning pieces, the audience was now ready to hear from Greg Keen whose novel, Soho Dead, won the CWA Debut Dagger Award in 2015 and who is already working on edits for the third novel in the Kenny Gabriel crime series. Another Novel Studio alumnus, Greg read from part way through the novel where his main character questions a nightclub owner about a young murdered girl. We were treated to some witty and illuminating dialogue between Kenny and the owner who has cancer, swaps between cigarettes and her oxygen tubes and talks freely about her sexual desires and the development of her club. She offers him information in exchange for something you’ll need to read the book to find out about.

After the readings, there was lots of discussion about the stories and extracts, about writing, reading and City’s short creative writing courses over drinks and mince pies.You can find out more about City Writes and the termly competition here.

Our event next term is on the 28th March. Put the date in your diaries now.

Working with writing: the art of collaboration

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

It’s often a challenge to move writing out of the silent room and into the shared space of publication and readership. The Novel Studio’s Working with Writing event was all about helping writers to think about how and who to collaborate with in order to enhance their creative practice and reach more readers.

Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, both tutors on the City’s Novel Studio course, started the evening off by introducing us to the little-known literary friendships of two sets of famous female authors.

We learned that George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe critiqued and supported each other despite their geographical and spiritual distance; and that Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield had a passionate friendship that far surpassed the vitriol commonly used to summarise their relationship.

Through the continued development of their website Something Rhymed, Emily and Emma have learned of many more female literary friendships, inspiring writers to look to their peers for creative development.

Having heard of how to work with other writers, the author Heidi James and her editor at Bluemoose Books Hetha Duffy took to the stage to give us a masterclass in how to develop a creative and productive editorial relationship.

Hetha and Heidi worked closely together to edit Heidi’s novel, Wounding, which follows one woman’s search for identity, redemption and truth. This was a rare opportunity to see how an unpublished manuscript is developed and polished.

Heidi read compelling extracts from the manuscript and the published novel opening the floor to Hetha for explanations behind her reasons for, and ways of, requesting change. We learned that trusting in a shared vision for the end product, being receptive to criticism, ready to ask questions and try things out were all essential tools in a successful editorial relationship.

The evening ended in an exciting and in-depth panel discussion in which professionals and audience members explored the how, why and wherefore of collaborative writing practice. An inspiring and lively evening was enjoyed by all.

City lecturer delivers The National Portrait Gallery Workshop: The Blank Page

By Emily Pedder

In an exciting collaboration with Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014 and The National Portrait Gallery, City, University of London’s short courses lecturer and  writer Emily Midorikawa led a practical workshop, ‘The Blank Page’, exploring how writers approach the process of creating a character.

The workshop delved into the ways a writer harnesses the anxiety of the waiting page to his or her advantage in developing fictional characters. Activities included attendees looking closely at some of the portraits housed in the gallery to show the different ways to gain inspiration for a character.

The sell-out workshop was a great success, with a wide range of attendees developing their writing skills in the picturesque surroundings of the gallery. Emily said “It was an amazing opportunity to be able to work with images from the National Portrait Gallery’s collections. The portrait I ended up using for the basis of the writing activities was Patrick Heron’s painting of A.S. Byatt and I was delighted by the determination with which workshop participants approached the various tasks. In the two-hour session, we concentrated on developing convincing characters with words and confronting the potential anxiety of the blank page.”

Anna B. Sexton, Learning and Community Involvement Curator for Anxiety Arts Festival, said “We were really happy with how the event went. ‘The Blank Page’ event gave the audience a chance to work with a professional, successful academic author and the workshop reached maximum capacity, which is really great.

“The overriding theme for the Anxiety Arts Festival London has been different mental health and the need to alleviate or exacerbate it. The National Portrait Gallery is one of the most visited places in London, but it’s not often linked with mental health. But actually, even having your picture taken, and then looking at the picture can be uncomfortable, and the relationship between a subject and an artist when painting a portrait often holds even more anxiety, so it was a wonderful opportunity to do a workshop in the gallery.”

City Writes summer showcase

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

Set up to showcase the wonderful creative writing talent coming from City’s Short Creative Writing courses, City Writes held its second event on the balmy evening of the 12th July to an intimate and attentive audience in City’s Convocation Suite.

Katy Darby, our first competition winner, City Short Courses VL and one of the founders of Liars’ League, began the evening with her story ‘Knock Knock’. A dark and disturbing voice-piece, ‘Knock Knock’ presented the audience with the terrible notion of a baby speaking to its mother in the womb through a series of intense and painful kicks.

Next, we had Bren Gosling reading ‘Meatballs’. An alumnus of The Novel Studio, Bren’s story took us onto a bed in A&E where the protagonist pondered his relationship with his boyfriend while getting his anal cyst lanced. It was as funny and uncomfortable as it sounds.

Our final competition winner was Becky Danks who had just completed the Children’s Fiction course with Caroline Green. Her story, ‘The Anniversary’ was inspired by the painting of the same name and dealt with a couple trying to heal after the stillbirth of their first child. Beautifully poised between the two viewpoints, ‘The Anniversary’ was thought-provoking and quiet in its contemplation of grief and the possibility of recovery.

Our headline act was the wonderful Luiza Sauma, a short courses alumna who was reading from her debut novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, published earlier this year to great acclaim. The novel is set in London and Brazil and explores, through memory, that intense period of early adulthood, lived with such abandon and without the knowledge of the lifelong effects it may have. Heady with Brazilian humidity and the lure of memory, Flesh and Bone and Water unravels the mysteries of Andre’s early youth to great effect, bringing the beauty and heat of Brazil to life.Luiza treated us to a wonderful reading before selling and signing some of her books.

Please do get involved in the next City Writes. If you are an alumni with a novel to promote, get in touch via rebekahlattinr@gmail.com or if you would like to enter the City Writes competition and stand alongside our next professional reader (to be announced in September), the deadline for the Autumn City Writes competition is 17th November. The next event will be held on Wednesday 13th December.

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.”

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