Tag: Novel Studio (page 2 of 2)

Bewitched: An interview with Shahrukh Husain

After teaching Shahrukh Husain back in 2004, Emily Pedder, Course Director of The Novel Studio, catches up with the successful author and City Short Courses alumna about her recently reissued book, The Book of Witches, and the relevance of the book for feminism today.

Shahrukh Husain is that rare breed: a prolific writer of screenplays, plays, fiction and non-fiction for both adults and children who also happens to be a practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapist. Her adaptation of Anita Desai’s Booker-nominated In Custody for Merchant Ivory productions won the President of India gold medal and received an Oscar nomination; her most recent work was screened on ITV this autumn in the six-part series Beecham House, set in India in the late 18th century. Her books have been translated into 17 languages including Estonian, Turkish and Korean, and in October 2019, Virago decided to reissue The Book of Witches, edited by Shah, for which she was asked to write a new preface.

In 2004 I was lucky enough to teach Shah on City’s Novel Studio (then the Certificate in Novel Writing). You may wonder why such a talented and successful writer would choose to go on a writing course. But Shah is unashamed in her lifelong pursuit of learning. ‘My family say I’m addicted to courses,’ she tells me at the kitchen table of her beautiful house in Willesden where we met last week to talk about her latest book and her long and interesting career.

I began by asking Shah how she had come to edit the original incarnation of The Book of Witches, first published in 1993: ‘I’ve always been passionate about fairy tales,” she told me, “and witches in particular…from childhood. I’d corner people and force them to tell me stories and I remember my parents saying: “You can’t just go up to people and ask them to tell you stories about ghosts!” Years later, Angela Carter wrote her book about fairy tales, (The Virago Book of Fairy Tales) and I just loved it. So, I found out who was in charge of the series, it was Ursula Owen at the time, and she told Ruth Petrie who was the series editor, who called back within about 10 minutes and said, (in those days there wasn’t any internet) “we’re commissioning you,” just like that.’ The book became Shah’s breakthrough as a writer, selling in eleven languages, and the first of four subsequent non-fiction books for Virago.

Virago’s decision to reissue the book, 26 years, later was influenced by the rise in interest in witches and their potency, particularly in relation to female anger and the #metoo movement. In her new preface, Shah brilliantly highlights the relevance of the witch today: ‘resilient, edgy, awe-inspiring and potent. She never disappears from our culture for long.’ At a recent sold out Virago Speakeasy event celebrating the book, Shah was joined by award-winning writer and fellow City short course alumna Imogen Hermes Gowar, to explore the power of the witch today.

Storytelling clearly runs through Shah’s veins. Though resident in the UK for most of her life, Shah’s childhood was spent in Pakistan where she spent hours listening to the adults telling stories: ‘my mother’s family weren’t academics, my mother and her mother weren’t even educated…they told stories and everything was embedded in history and culture…if they wanted to tell us off they’d tell a story and then they’d go on to explain or encourage us to ask questions, like ‘was she a real queen?’ It was such fun, I soaked it all up…’

This deep-rooted understanding of the links between stories, history and culture has continued to influence Shah’s work as a writer and her career as a Jungian psychoanalyst. All four of her books for Virago are themed around different aspects of womanhood and illustrate the universality of so many myths: Women Who Wear the Breeches, Erotic Myths and Legends, Temptresses, and The Book of Witches. As she puts it, they are all about ‘women and myths who’ve had a bad press, they’re all themed, so it’s about knowing that these things exist in every culture really…’

Not surprisingly for someone so knowledgeable about storytelling and narratives, Shah is passionate about the value of creativity and imagination in the lives of both adults and children: ‘‘I really want people to have imagination in their lives… I remember when my daughter was six, she came to me and said: “Mum everybody keeps saying there’s no such thing as magic but is there?” So, I said the funny thing about magic is that if you don’t believe it you never find out about it, so you have to believe it, and it’s the same with miracles…and I said to her we’ll go in the garden in the morning and I’ll show you, and I showed her the dew, we see it falling and it looks like a diamond, so that’s kind of a miracle. And she came back afterwards and said “I’ve been thinking about it. It’s not kind of a miracle, it is a miracle because actually that is a diamond…”’

The Book of Witches is published by Virago.

For more about Shah’s work please visit her website.

For more about City’s short writing courses, including the Novel Studio please visit.

 

City Writes Autumn 2019 Competition Winners Announced

City Writes Autumn 2019 Competition Winners Announced
Congratulations to this term’s winners of the termly City Writes Competition, showcasing the best creative writing talent from alumni and students of City’s Short Creative Writing Courses. The winners are: Harriet Atkinson, Kathrine Bancroft, Helen Ferguson, Bren Gosling, Shabnam Grewal, Andrea Holck, Revati Kumar, Shibani Lal, Natasha Mirzoian and Angus Whitty.
This term we are running a flash fiction extravaganza event to celebrate the Story Cities anthology edited by alumna, Rosamund Davies and tutor, Cherry Potts, as well as Kam Rehal.
The City Writes Autumn Event is on Wednesday 11th December at 6.30pm in the City 125 Suite, City, University of London. Tickets are £10 and include wine/juice. Buy them here now. City Writes Autumn Event 2019 is going to be storytelling gold. There are lots of authors and lots of readings, but they are all short flashes of brilliance guaranteed to scintillate and mesmerise.
We’ll be journeying all over the globe and into childhood memory, falling in love with mattresses, finding a deceased father in the scribbled margins of their old library, seeing snow for the first time, rethinking bonfire night, trying to look after milk and so much more. Don’t miss out, book now.
In the meantime, meet this term’s wonderful, festively large list of competition winners below.
Harriet Atkinson is a historian of design and culture, based at University of Brighton. Currently, she is writing a book about the design of British propaganda in the 1930s and 40s. Her book The Festival of Britain: A Land and its People was published by I.B. Tauris in 2012. She has written for a range of academic and non-academic publications. Harriet studied Narrative Non Fiction with Peter Forbes. Find her on twitter at @HRAtkinson1

For more than 20 years, Kathrine Bancroft’s career has been at the forefront of broadcast journalism, political and not for profit communications. She is currently a Public Engagement Manager for UKRI. An alumnus of City’s workshop and creative writing courses, Kathrine is currently a 2019/20 Novel Studio student and a creative writing volunteer mentor with ‘The Ministry of Stories’.

Helen Ferguson is a translator of Russian and German and writer based in Ely. Her work has appeared in Lighthouse Literary Journal and she is currently working on a novel with City’s Novel Studio.

Bren Gosling’s writing has been performed at The Pleasance, Arcola, OSO Barnes, Rose and Crown E17, Bloomsbury Festival and Brighton Fringe. He is an award-winning short story writer – Exeter, London Short Story Prizes; Highly Commended 2017 Brighton Prize. His play Moment of Grace – inspired by Princess Diana’s handshake on Britain’s first AIDS Unit – sold out at 2018 Bloomsbury Festival. Bren is a Novel Studio alumnus @BrenGosling

Shabnam Grewal is a Londoner who makes Radio and TV programmes. She is also a parent, a partner, a friend and a reader. A big reader. Shabnam studied on Cherry Potts’ Approach to Creative Writing course.

Andrea Holck is an American-born writer and former English teacher. She is currently on the MA in Creative Writing and Publishing course at City. Her writing has been featured in Popshot, Kairos Literary Journal and Run Like the Wind, a literary magazine about running.

Revati Kumar is based in North London, and took the Approach to Creative Writing course in 2017. She currently works full time as a doctor in the NHS and continues to write (non-medical) fiction in her spare time. 

Shibani Lal is an alumna of Katy Darby’s Short Story Writing course. Shibani’s short stories have been longlisted for the Bristol Prize, Cambridge Short Story Prize and the Fish Short Story Prize. She was also runner-up in the Asian writer prize, and her work has been published in anthologies in the UK (Dahlia Press, Linen Press). Shibani holds an MPhil in Economics from Cambridge University, and is currently working on a short story collection.

Born in Russia and of Armenian origin, Natasha Mirzoian moved to London when she was a child. While working in book publishing, she completed the Novel Studio at City in 2005. She then went on to gain an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths University. She lives in Kent with her family and is working on a collection of short stories.

Angus Whitty was brought up in South Africa towards the end of Apartheid, schooled in England, and spent his life moving between the two. He started writing at sixteen, and worked as a cub reporter for a newspaper at 19. He has studied journalism and film making and done a Masters in Anthropology. He works as a freelance journalist and invented a product for reading books called “Thumbthing”. Over the past 10 years he has used ocean plastic as a resource in design. Now living in Valencia, Spain, he is part of a weekly writing group who are trying to produce a booklet of language-exchange short stories. Angus studied at City ten years ago on a course called Towards Publication, now Writers’ Workshop. Find him on instagram/anguswhitty

With stories from the competition winners and from the Story Cities anthology, you’ll be getting more than £10 ticket worth. Sign up here while there’s still room.

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.

 

 

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

The Novel Studio alumna, Deepa Anappara, set to release debut book, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

By Emily Pedder

Deepa Anappara’s debut Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line has become one of the most highly prized sales at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

In a joint acquisition with Penguin Random House India, Chatto & Windus won the UK and Commonwealth rights after a hard-fought auction with eight other publishers. The novel will be published in the US by Random House.

Deepa has had an astonishing twelve months, winning the Bridport/Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for First Novel, the £10,000 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writer’s Award and the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize.

Novelist and judge of the Deborah Rogers Award, Anne Enright commented on Deepa’s debut:

‘This is storytelling at its best – not just sympathetic, vivid, and beautifully detailed, but also completely assured and deft…Not many writers can make it look this easy. What a privilege to be one of Deepa Anappara’s early readers. There are many more to come.’

Deepa took The Novel Studio programme in 2010. She says the course gave her “permission to write” and the support of tutors and fellow writers:

‘Reading the works of fellow students closely helped me approach my own writing in a more objective fashion. It was useful to listen to the ways in which others had resolved a particular writing dilemma, be it about finding the time or the discipline to write, pushing past the self-critical voices in your head, or a plot problem.

The sessions with tutors were helpful and inspiring – their feedback was exhaustive, constructive, and never hurtful. I always came away encouraged to try harder.’

For more information visit our short writing courses or have a look through our blog for more writing success stories.

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 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.

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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