Tag: nonfiction (page 2 of 3)

How I wrote Freak Like Me: Confessions of a 90s pop groupie

by Malcolm McLean

This October saw the release of a book I have been buried away writing and editing for the last three years: a memoir about my teenage years spent obsessing over pop stars, titled Freak Like Me: Confessions of a 90s pop groupie. It feels like an amazing achievement to have got to this point and have people reading the book that I put so much into during the last few years, and I am so proud of myself, but it wasn’t as simple as I naively thought it might be, back at the start of the project.

Freak Like Me, the debut memoir by Malcolm McLean

Freak Like Me, the debut memoir by Malcolm McLean

I’d thought about writing a book for a few years, but lacked the confidence. After tentatively starting the project, my sister suggested I look for a writing course to help give me more of the skills I needed to actually get the thing written and turn a series of anecdotes into a cohesive book. After looking around, I settled on the Narrative Non Fiction short course at City, University of London. The course outline was so detailed and seemed perfect for what I needed to write a memoir.

I assumed there would be an entire class of people writing memoirs like me, but there wasn’t: there were people working in media, wanting help with writing longer articles; company directors hoping to gain more confidence in business communications; and even someone writing a biography of her grandmother’s life in the 1930s. A huge mix. Peter Forbes, the course leader, was an incredible teacher. He gave us writing tools and tricks we so desperately wanted, seeing the strengths and weaknesses in our writing, and always giving such encouraging feedback. He also dispelled a lot of myths about the publishing industry and made it clear how different it is today compared to even ten years ago.

We worked on a variety of types of writing, each of which gave me a new perspective on how language can explain, explore and entertain. This allowed me to develop my book from being very fact and nostalgia-based, to having a more personal story that explored why I ended up doing ridiculous things like breaking into the BRIT Awards, or hanging out at Posh Spice’s mum’s house!

By the end of the course I was ready to submit my first three chapters and a detailed synopsis to try and secure a literary agent, and hopefully sign a book deal with one of the big publishers. I knew that my chances of getting one were slim and, despite some positive feedback, my emails to agents amounted to nothing.

For me, there was always a Plan B, as I knew that I wanted to release my book whatever happened. I researched a great deal into independent publishers, self-publishing, and ‘hybrid publishing’ – a model supposedly falling somewhere between doing it yourself and getting a deal with a big publisher. In the end, I settled on signing with RedDoor, who take on selective book projects that the author has to fund the production costs for. The team there are book lovers with lots of contacts, and I felt that they ‘got’ my idea for Freak Like Me more than anyone else. In hindsight, I feel that self-publishing may have been a better deal for me, financially, but it’s a gamble in finding the right person who can help you edit your book, and I can’t deny that the option I went with meant I was given huge amounts of freedom in producing the book that I wanted to.

The process of actually writing a book is time consuming, and so often it is hard to keep the motivation up, or to see what does or doesn’t work with your writing. After the course, a group of us decided to continue meeting up more informally, to talk about or share some of our writing. These guys became both my most honest critics, and a really useful support network!

Freak Like Me, being such a nostalgic, fun book was always going to be a Christmas release, and so, although it was signed off in early 2019, there was a long wait until October for it to finally get released. I’m immensely happy with the finished book and still flick through it or just gaze at the cover in wonderment. Just reaching this point and receiving such positive feedback from friends, family, or random lovers of pop nostalgia has made the whole experience so worth it, and I’ve ended up with skills and confidence that I couldn’t have imagined three years ago.

Malcolm McLean is a part-time writer and full-time pop music obsessive. His debut memoir Freak Like Me was published by RedDoor in October 2019. To find out more about Malcolm, visit the Freak Like Me website Or to learn about the Narrative Non-Fiction course he took at City visit the City web page.

City Writes summer sizzler

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

The City Writes Summer event of 2019 was a glorious July evening with a number of exciting firsts: our first reading from a Novel Studio Scholarship winner; two readers who had already shared work at previous City Writes events; and a visit from the wonderful Novel Studio alumna Anna Mazzola whose energy and storytelling charm are a delight to share.

We started the evening with a very funny short story about a dreadful first date, ‘Bird’s Nest’, written and read by Su Yin Yap. If you can picture a presumptuous, entitled man biting into the wicker basket his Chinese meal was delivered in, you’ve got an idea of the kind of laughter the story invoked in the audience. This was Su Yin Yap’s second story to be chosen for City Writes and it was great to have her back.

Lola Okolosie

Next Ruth Thorlby, who is currently completing an MA focussing on short stories, but whose journey began on a short course at City, read her poignant and rather haunting story, ‘Passing’, about a young person returning home to try and see her Grandmother before she dies and being unable to make it over the threshold. To say more would spoil it. With beautiful descriptions and a contemplative air, there’s a lot going on under the surface of this story that left the audience with much to think about.

Lola OkolosieOur Novel Studio Scholarship winner, Lola Okolosie, was next. The inaugural winner of the schola rship sponsored by Novel Studio alumna Harriet Tyce, who read from her novel Blood Orange at our Spring City Writes, Lola’s extract ‘Seun’, from a novel-in-progress, took us into the heart of a traffic jam in Lagos where Seun struggles to make sense of his itinerant identity. The audience were entranced. What a start to Lola’s Novel Studio career.

Bren Gosling

Bren Gosling read his story ‘Let Me Pay’ next. Another author returning to grace the City Writes stage, Bren’s tale brought an ex-soldier and a refugee together around a cafe table, their mutual romantic interest fraught with old, unspoken tensions. A taut story exploring the fall out of war on the individual even in peacetime.

Finally, we were delighted to hear from author and Novel Studio alumna, Anna Mazzola who shared some of her latest work-in-progress set in Paris in the 1700s. Not only were we transported to 18th Century France, we were also swept up in Anna’s enthusiasm for storytelling.

Her question and answer session gave us plenty of tips and food for thought – Anna’s productivity is very impressive – about how to write and work and look after children, as well as how to think about writing historical fiction as well as crime fiction. A truly enlightening reading and talk that inspired much interest in Anna’s published and prize-winning novels, The Unseeing and The Story Keeper.

City Writes ended with a little more wine, some networking, some book signing and a general sense of writing camaraderie.

For those of you who don’t know about City Writes, it is an exciting event that showcases the best of City’s Short Courses Creative Writing talent. Held once a term at the University, City Writes hosts readings from alumni, students and tutors. One reader offers a professional perspective, reading from a new or award-winning publication, and the other readers are selected on the basis of a 1,000 word submission to a termly fiction writing competition open to all current and previous students of a City Creative Writing Short Course.

We are doing something a little different with our 2019 Winter City Writes event: our guest readers are all in the wonderful Story Cities anthology edited by Rosamund Davies (Novel Studio alumna), Cherry Potts (City Visiting Lecturer) and Kam Rehal, published by Arachne Press. We will have several shorts read by alumni who have been published in the anthology and will be seeking flash fiction submissions of 500 words or less, meaning we will have a bumper number of readers in December. It’s going to be a flash fiction extravaganza! Do check the website for further details.

 

 

Travellers on the Same Road

By Emma Claire Sweeney

I love to hear from Novel Studio students that our conversations have spilled from the classroom into chats over coffee in the campus café, or glasses of wine at The Peasant. It was just these kinds of tête-à-têtes that first fired my friendship with Emily Midorikawa, my former Novel Studio colleague.

We were lucky enough to have chanced upon each other almost fifteen years ago, back at a time when we were both living carefree lives as young English teachers in rural Japan. I have vivid memories of the moment when we first admitted that we were both secretly writing: the bowls of garlicky spaghetti we were eating; the acquaintance who unexpectedly showed up at the restaurant, putting a stop to our conversation; the way we picked up where we’d left off as we wandered through a shopping mall on our way home.

At the end of that formative year, I headed off to South East Asia carrying my notepad from noisy Bangkok hostels to crumbling villas in Laos, while Emily continued to type away in her tiny Japanese apartment surrounded by carparks and convenience stores.

Many messages pinged between the computer in Emily’s Japanese staffroom and the internet cafés I visited in Chiang Mai and Hanoi and Luang Prabang. According to Emily, it was during this time that I sent her a message in which I daydreamed about the two of us writing together one day. It was a throwaway remark – one I can’t remember making. Back then, we were both just beginning to forge our own paths. We didn’t know where we were heading so we could hardly invite anyone else along for the ride.

We would have been delighted and surprised, I think, to see the similar directions in which we’d travel during the years to come: each working away on our own stories, becoming City colleagues, and eventually finding a way to co-write.

The route we could take for writing together became clear during a chat one summer’s afternoon. We got talking about how much we’d come to appreciate our own friendship and wondered whether our favourite female authors of the past had enjoyed similar types of bonds.

We knew about Coleridge and Wordsworth, Byron and Shelley, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. But did Jane Austen or Charlotte Brontë have female confidantes outside their immediate family circles? Could the great George Eliot ever have deigned to single out another female author as an equal? And did Virginia Woolf look for a woman of comparable talent away from the male-dominated Bloomsbury Group?

In search of answers to these questions, we began co-writing literary features for the broadsheets and magazines, and we then set up a literary blog, SomethingRhymed.com. Together we gradually uncovered a wealth of hidden yet startling collaborations, which led us to be commissioned to jointly author A Secret Sisterhood – a non-fiction book about the hidden literary friendships of Austen, Brontë, Eliot and Woolf.

Our book was published simultaneously by Aurum Press in the UK and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the USA to coincide with Jane Austen’s 2017 bicentenary. On launch day, we were delighted to celebrate not only the joint road on which we had both travelled but also the trailblazing work of the female writer friends who made our journey possible.

A Secret Sisterhood is available here.  For more about Emily and Emma’s journey, please visit their website.

To find out more about The Novel Studio and its growing list of published alumni, visit.

Sci-Fi, folk songs and mince pies at City Writes Autumn 2018

Competition winners and visiting lecturers perform and read their work at this year’s City Writes Autumn event.

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

With our headline act, visiting lecturer Cherry Potts, bringing along performers from her Solstice Shorts literature and music Festival, the City Writes Autumn 2018 Event was always going to be a bumper and festive night, but the quality of the work being read and performed really exceeded expectations.

First, we had our wonderful competition winners, chosen from a fantastic group of submissions. Angelita Bradney began the evening with her story, ‘A Chance to make things better’, that beautifully depicted the memory of a British seaside town after environmental meltdown. Evocative and moving, the closing setting sun offered some hope for the future.

From there we moved to Italy with Kate Henderson’s meticulously weighted rendering of the mundane minutiae of relationships, ‘The Bay of Naples’, as a woman on holiday tried not to think about her feelings for her husband. It’s amazing what a cup of tea can do for love.

As we contemplated the intricacies of long-term relationships, Debz Hobbs-Wyatt stood up and took us to America in her story, ‘Four Minutes in April’. Different characters and voices were expertly wound together to give us a story of love and loss in different generations and across racial boundaries.

Meera Betab was our final competition winner, taking us into the near future AC (After Copies), with her story, ‘Copy’, in which a professor has created a copying machine capable of created a perfect duplicate of a human right down to its memories, to every thought and feeling that makes us most individual. The twist at the end gave us all something to think about as Cherry Potts took to the stage.

Cherry read us a tantalising extract from her story ‘The Midwinter Wife’ from the Shortest Day Longest Night anthology, the second of the Solstice Shorts anthologies. We were left wondering what the strange woman, taken in, clothed and fed by a 15-year-old boy, would do next. He found her naked and scratched being hissed at by the local cats. Though his friend and neighbour helps him by lending a coat, the boy is soon left on his own with this woman who appears to be shifting, transforming in front of him every time he returns to his bedroom where she has curled herself in his sheets.

Leaving us hanging, keen to buy a copy of the anthology to find out what happened next, Cherry then introduced Katarina Watson who performed her story ‘Threshold’, mesmerising us with a memorised performance about a young woman preparing to open the door to her home and her famous lover, not knowing what weather front he would confront her with once she’d turned the key and stepped over the threshold.

Finally, Ian Kennedy and Sarah Lloyd sang a beautiful folk song Cherry herself had translated and set to music. Their harmonies perfectly transported us to distant times and opened up a field of debate as Cherry fielded questions from the audience.

With book buying and signing and wine and mince pies to follow, City Writes Autumn 2018 event was a brilliantly seasonal night. Thanks to all involved.

For those unfamiliar with City Writes, it is an exciting termly event that showcases the best of City’s Short Courses Creative Writing talent. City Writes hosts readings from alumni, students and tutors. One reader offers a professional perspective, reading from a new or award-winning publication, and the other readers are selected on the basis of a 1,000 word submission to a termly fiction writing competition open to all current and previous students of a City Creative Writing Short Course. Our guest reader for next term is Harriet Tyce whose debut Blood Orange will be published in February 2019 and has been toasted as the most talked about thriller of 2019. Harriet was a criminal barrister for ten years before starting her writing career. A graduate of the Novel Studio in 2010, she is now part way through a PhD in Creative Writing at UEA. The next event will be held on the 9th April 2019 and tickets will go on sale next term. Details of the upcoming competition can be found here.

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.

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.

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.

Down memoir lane

By Kamila Zahno

I recently retired from a very active life as a freelance public and voluntary sector consultant and decided to take part in  City’s Narrative Non-Fiction short course.

I had planned to write my memoirs and needed inspiration and structure. I could not find many non-fiction writing courses in London and was glad when I came across this one. The fact that it was offered by an established institution gave me confidence in the quality of education I would receive.

The best thing about the course was the logical structure employed by the tutor, Peter Forbes. He covered a lot of ground in just 10 two-hour classes.

Peter was very organised in his approach, yet there was room for comments by other students. The tutor would read and critique our work and put it up on the overhead so we could all discuss the points raised. He also sent us his slides after each session. These were invaluable as they included a plethora of reference material.

Even with limited time for student interaction due to the intensity of the course, I got to know some of the students quite well. We were all so different with a myriad of writing styles! I learned a lot from our sessions, particularly from the writing tips and examples from selected books.

The course exceeded my expectations. It was very practical and the notes were excellent. We had plenty of varied assignments. In addition, the tutor gave us information about further editing and mentoring help we could get as well as tips on publication.

Throughout the duration of the course, I was able to write my synopsis and book proposal, which was a great start to my memoir. I am now halfway through my manuscript and have submitted 2,000 words to an anthology of the ‘mixed race’ experience of families. This has now been accepted for publication.

This short course provided me with the skills to write my memoir as well as encouragement from both the tutor and fellow students that my story was interesting to a wider audience.

The next step for me is to finish writing my memoir and find a publisher!

Kamila did finish her memoir and has now published it as Chasing Ghosts.

Peter Forbes’ Narrative Non Fiction course runs termly as part of our non-fiction writing course offering.

Consultant on the road to re-invent himself as legal writer with a journalism short course

By Richard Firth

I took City’s short course in  Freelance writing: How to get published in print and online course.

I decided to do the course because, like most of us, I am a newspaper reader and was curious to know how journalists operate. I would like to reinvent myself as a legal writer. I felt that the course would buttress my ambition.

I chose City because I had previously attended an evening class here on public speaking and was impressed with it. But also, my father had been an engineering undergraduate at City between the World Wars so I liked the idea of visiting his alma mater!

It was, of course, important to me that City is a reputable institution. It also offered a valuable bonus – access to a good library.

What I enjoyed the most about the course was the ability to hear of the experiences of past and present students.

I’d describe my course tutor, Susan Grossman, as energetic, dogmatic, kind-hearted… She made sure that all of us could contribute to the class. She was very skilful in teaching practical skills, something which, I know from my own practical experience as a teacher of legal drafting, is very difficult.

The course fully met my expectations – I learnt something new in every session.

As for relations with fellow students, my advanced years (67 and a quarter) were not an impediment!

Although I’ve not yet been able to apply what I learnt on my course directly, it helped me to formulate my arguments and win them!

Richard Firth is a lecturer, writer and consultant on derivatives. In the past he has held positions of Senior Consultant at Linklaters LLP, Hong Kong and Director-Legal at Barclays Capital.

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