Tag: Peter Forbes (page 1 of 2)

Controlling the Narrative Non-Fiction

Peter Forbes on the success of City’s Narrative Non-Fiction short course

Author photograph of writer and editor Peter Forbes

Tutor, science writer and editor, Peter Forbes

For over fifteen years, City has run its Narrative Non-Fiction short course. For almost a decade, one tutor has been at the helm.  Peter Forbes is a science writer with a special interest in the relationship between art and science. He initially trained as a chemist and worked in pharmaceutical and popular natural history publishing, whilst writing poems and articles for magazines such as New Scientist and World Medicine.

He has written numerous articles and reviews – many specialising in the relationship between the arts and science – for the GuardianIndependentThe TimesDaily MailFinancial TimesScientific AmericanNew ScientistWorld MedicineModern PaintersNew Statesman and many others.

Peter is also an editor. As editor of the Poetry Society’s Poetry Review from 1986-2002, he played a major role in the rise of the New Generation Poets. He has edited three anthologies: Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry (Viking, 1999), We Have Come Through (Bloodaxe, 2003) and The Picador Book of Wedding Poems (Picador, 2012). His book, The Gecko’s Foot, about the new science of bio-inspired materials, was published by Fourth Estate in 2005 and was long-listed for the Royal Society Prize. Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage (Yale University Press, 2009) won the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Queen Mary University of London (2004-7) and at St George’s, University of London (2010-12).

“I loved science as a child,” Peter explains. “But fell out of love with it at university, so poetry took over for a long time. What thrills me about science now is that all of the naive questions I used to ask as a student – about the origin of life; about the development of form in living creatures – are well on the way to being answered, if they haven’t been already. I can’t resist trying to tell the world about all these discoveries.

“I owe my entree into teaching to the Royal Literary Fund (RLF). The RLF scheme involves one-to-one tutoring of university students and I discovered that I enjoyed this very much. It was through the RLF that I came to City. I then discovered that I enjoy teaching a class even more than one-to-one.

“Teaching is an animated, sociable activity, unlike the solitariness of a writer’s work. I enjoy seeing people grow in confidence. As everyone gets to know each other, our classes develop into a lively discussion group from which everyone learns from each other.

“The standard at City is high and many of the students have the potential to publish successfully. Success, though, requires more than talent and I try to inculcate the attitude necessary to cope with the frustrations and setbacks that dog any published writer’s life.”

Cover picture of Dee Peyok's book Away from Beloved Lover

Away from Beloved Lover by Dee Peyok

It would seem Peter’s advice has paid off. Alumni from the course have been phenomenally successful. This year alone sees the publication of three alumni books: Dee Peyok’s Away From Beloved Lover (Granta); Claire Martin’s Heirs of Ambition (The History Press); and Aniefiok Ekpoudom’s Where We Come From (Faber). (As Dee herself tweeted recently in response to Peter’s message of congratulation on her book: “Your class really set me on my path. I can’t recommend Peter and the course enough to anyone considering it.”) Other notable alumni successes include Ciaran Thapar’s acclaimed Cut Short (Penguin) (Ciaran now teaches his own course for City: Writing for Social Impact); Deidre Finnerty’s book Bessborough (Hachette); and Jack Price’s book on Stem Cell Therapy, The Future of Brain Repair (MIT).

Cover picture of Deidre Finnerty's book

Bessborough by Deidre Finnerty

So what’s the key to the course’s success? Peter explains: “In the first half of the course we work mainly with set topics and in the second half with the students’ own work. Besides the class sessions, every student gets individual written feedback on several assignments during the course. This is professional, hands-on editing that is hard to come by elsewhere.

“The 10-week course is an ideal format in which to develop your writing skills. The friendly, enabling environment of the class takes the sting out of the anxiety of offering up your thoughts for scrutiny. It is, in fact, a milieu that many writers, at a computer or alone in a library, pine for.”

Since the pandemic the course has been delivered online and can be joined remotely from anywhere in the world. Students have been known to log in from the UK, USA, India, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Ethiopia, Haiti, Uganda, and Malaysia. And from this term City are offering the course on two nights – Tuesdays with Peter and Thursdays with acclaimed writer and teacher Holly Rigby.

For more on the course visit the home page.

For more on our other writing short courses visit our page here.

The next course starts on 17 or 19 January.

City Writes Winter Warmer 2022

City Writes, our termly showcase event for the fantastic writing coming from City’s Short Courses, was a great way to begin the festive season this year. And don’t worry, if you missed it, you can read about it and see the recording, just scroll on.

This term we were incredibly lucky to have the brilliant writer and alumna, Elizabeth Chakrabarty with us to share her astounding, genre-busting debut, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First up were the wonderful readings from our talented competition winners, students and alumni of multiple short courses.

Nathaniel Ashley

Kicking us off, quite literally, we entered the world of animation with Nathaniel Ashley’s story, ‘Captain Proton vs. the Deviator’. An alumnus of the Short Story Writing course, Nathaniel offered some masterful shifts between imagined onscreen action and the humdrum of the day job that made for some great contrast as the protagonist tried to manipulate his action heroes in a dramatic fight scene.

Hugo Cox

We took a non-fiction turn next with Hugo Cox, alumnus of the Narrative Non-Fiction course. He took us on a half marathon with his piece, ‘Half Over’. Filled with all the circumspection and reflection one might hope from the sensory and mental overload that comes with the distance run, Hugo’s story is a journey well worth celebrating.

Isabelle Mouttet, joining us all the way from Trinidad and Tobago, and an alumna of An Approach to Creative Writing, took us on a mythical journey next. Her story, ‘The Myth Finder’, is a spell-binding account of researcher and adventurer, Miss Marks who goes looking for, and finds, Borges’ Aleph. Nothing is quite as you imagine it might be and even over Zoom the atmosphere was altered by Isabelle’s reading.

Tunde Oyebode

We went from myth to romance next as we listened to Writers’ Workshop alumnus, Tunde Oyebode read his sultry story of holiday desire, ‘Wants’. Set in the warmth of Positano, the longing of the protagonist, written in a tantalising second person, charmed the audience, leaving them longing to jump on a plane.

Alison Halsey

Alison Halsey, a current Novel Studio student, followed Tunde with an extract from her novel-in-progress, Agnes Gets a Lift. We went headlong into the mind of octogenarian Maureen, watching for the body of her recently deceased friend to be removed from her over-seventies residence home. There’s nothing like a bit of bleak comedy and the faces of the zoom crowd were creased in amusement.

Katharine Light

Our last competition winner was Novel Studio alumna, Katharine Light, whose story ‘My Arms Are Empty’ threw us into an intense encounter between old friends that prompts a discussion about motherhood and fulfilment. An extract from her novel, Me Too, the sequel to her debut, Like Me, which is planned for publication in 2023, the story lit up the chat with admiration.

After such excellent readings by our competition winners we were nonetheless eager to hear from Elizabeth Chakrabarty whose debut novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, inspired by experience of race hate crime, was published in 2021 by The Indigo Press. Shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, the work is an incredibly rich and hybrid creation.

 

Elizabeth, alumna of the Novel Studio (Certificate in Novel Writing as it was), introduced the book and gave us a short reading examining the complexities of approaching a novel based on real experience of ongoing race hate crime in the workplace. The reading was powerful and moving and it was a real honour to hear Elizabeth share her work and then go on to answer questions from host and City Short Courses’ Tutor, Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, and the audience.

Together we explored how Elizabeth developed the hybrid approach to the novel, her publishing journey, tips for writers and the merest hint of the work to come. The discussion was wide-ranging and fascinating. Thank you so much, Elizabeth for joining us!

What a way to end the term and the year. Thanks were extended to all the scintillating competition winners, to Elizabeth again, the audience, and of course to Emily Pedder, head of Creative Writing Short Courses.  Don’t forget to look out for City Writes next term. The competition will open again in the new year and watch this space for news on our next published alumni. As always, the display of talent at City Writes is a joy to witness. Merry Christmas everyone, and roll on more events in 2023!

City Writes Autumn 2022 Competition Winners Announced

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

We’re delighted to introduce our fabulous City Writes Autumn 2022 Competition Winners, who will be reading their work alongside renowned author and alumna, Elizabeth Chakrabarty, on Wednesday 14th December at 7pm. Register to join us here.

This term’s winners, chosen from our usual weight of entries are:
Author photo of Nathaniel Ashley

Nathaniel Ashley

Short Story Writing alumnus, Nathaniel Ashley is an author and freelance journalist who has written for Neon Books Literary Magazine, The Skinny and Massive Cinema. He runs the film and television blog Natflix and you can find him on Twitter @NateAshley10. Nathaniel will be reading his story ‘Captain Proton vs. the Deviator’.

Author photo of Hugo Cox

Hugo Cox

Hugo Cox. For fifteen years Hugo has been a freelance journalist covering property, housing and investment, mainly for the Financial Times; before that he was a mediocre actor. Encouraged by the Narrative Non-Fiction course, which he has just completed, he hopes to continue bumbling around after interesting topics beyond his day job, as well as kookier ways (or outlets) in which to tell his property stories. He is fairly useless without a looming deadline and very keen for tips on writing groups or classes to help maintain his newfound momentum. Hugo will be reading his piece, ‘Half Over’.

Author phot of Alison Halsey

Alison Halsey

Alison Halsey is a fiction writer and a former financial services professional, with a career lasting over 45 years. She has also served in many roles supporting charities with a focus on young people with disabilities. A student of The Novel Studio, Alison is currently writing her second novel, Agnes Gets a Lift, from which she will be reading the first chapter. She is currently also still editing her first novel, Minta Gets Everything Wrong, for which process The Novel Studio course is proving invaluable.

Author photo of Katharine Light

Katharine Light

Katharine Light. During her year on The Novel Studio at City, University of London, Katharine worked on her novel Like Me, which she plans to publish in 2023. It is the first of a series of novels about a group of teenage friends who meet up again in their late thirties. The short story ‘My arms are empty’, to be read at City Writes, is based on an episode in the sequel, Me Too. Katharine lives in London and fits writing around a full-time job and busy family life.

An Approach to Creative Writing alumna, Isabelle Mouttet. Isabelle was born and raised in Trinidad & Tobago and has been living in London getting her Master’s in Entrepreneurship. She is an avid reader and a hopeful writer who plans to pursue a career in book publishing. Isabelle will be reading ‘The Myth Finder’.

Author photo of Tunde Oyobode

Tunde Oyebode

Writers’ Workshop alumnus, Tunde Oyebode is a London-born Nigerian, based in East London. Working primarily as an Architect in North London, he is committed to delivering inclusive projects with high social and aesthetic value. Writing is a passion that he has developed in parallel with Architecture. His creative and essay writings explore human relationships and society and have been published in anthologies and magazines. Some of these writings include ‘Explosions,’ which was published in print in the 2021 Michael Terrence Anthology, ‘Wants’ published online in Stylist Magazine and ‘Riot,’ which is pending print publication in Obsidian Magazine in December 2022. Tunde will be reading his story, ‘Wants’.

After listening to tales of magic, wonder, romance, desire, film, work, running and death, you’ll be thoroughly warmed up to hear from our guest author, the wonderful Elizabeth Chakrabarty whose novel Lessons in Love and Other Crimes is a gripping and vital novel.

Don’t miss your chance to hear all of these authors and get in the mood for the festive season. Register here for City Writes Autumn 2022 at 7pm on Zoom. See you there!

Portrait of author Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

Guest alumna Elizabeth Chakrabarty, photo by Jason Keith

Writing Short Courses News Summer 2022

We’re incredibly proud of our writing short course alumni and tutors. Here’s the latest on their writing journeys.

Novel Studio Alumni

Following a six-figure pre-emptive bid, Bloomsbury will publish a new fantasy series by Emma Norry, The Fable House, in April 2023. Emma is the author of Amber Undercover for OUP and Son of the Circus, part of Scholastic’s Voices series. Fablehouse draws on her personal experiences as a mixed-race child and teenager growing up in the care system in Cardiff.

Elizabeth Chakrabarty’s debut novel Lessons in Love and other Crimes has been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.  She was also shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2022, and her story ‘That Last Summer’ was published in The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2022: Crime Stories by Comma Press. More recently she was a runner up for the inaugural 2022 CrimeFest bursary for crime fiction authors of colour.

Marissa Henderson has been awarded the prestigious Stuart Hall Foundation CHASE AHRC studentship for BAME Arts and Humanities Researchers for her PHD which will see the completion of her novel, Sugar Water, an exploration of a Caribbean-British family’s individual and collective.

Vasundhara Singh has published her debut novel, Mistress, Mother with Ukiyoto Publishers.

Author photo of Pauline Walker

Novel Studio alumna Pauline Walker

During the Pandemic, Pauline Walker set up The Amplify Project with fellow writer Patricia Crumper, a podcast which invites black writers for the stage, page and screen to talk about ‘themselves, their work, what inspires them and why they write.’ You can listen here. Pauline was also recently asked by The Guardian Saturday magazine to write a feature on the new era of Black British theatre.

Peter Forbes’ Narrative Non Fiction alumna Emma Bielecki’s piece ‘Eh-ALL-ing: Finding Poland in London’ (a former City Writes winner) has been published in Elsewhere. This is the third piece from Narrative Non-Fiction alumni to appear in the journal.

Cover picture of Cut Short by Ciaran Thapar

Writing for Social Impact tutor Ciaran Thapar’s book, Cut Short

Following rave reviews for his debut non-fiction book, Cut Short – including this from Nikesh Shukla: “An incredibly important look at the plight of Britain’s youth, delivered with clarity, honesty and an open heart” –  Ciaran Thapar (now a City tutor, see below) released his book in paperback in June.

Cover picture of The Tongue she Speaks by Emma Grae

Writers’ Workshop alumna Emma Grae’s novel The Tongue She Speaks

Cover picture of Natasha Brown's Assembly

Writers’ Workshop alumna Natasha Brown’s debut novel, Assembly

Katy Darby’s Short Story Writing and Writers’ Workshop students have been incredibly successful. Natasha Brown was shortlisted for the Orwell Political Book Fiction Prize 2022 for her debut novel Assembly, early drafts of which were workshopped in Katy’s class. Michael Mann, who published his debut Ghostcloud in 2021, has a story in The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories, due out in October. Ghostcloud will be published in the US this September with Peachtree Publishing. Helga Viegas’ novel The Arctic was “Highly Commended” by the Bridport Prize, one of five books selected from over 2,000 submissions. Emma Grae’s second novel, The Tongue She Speaks, will be published by Luath Press in October. Fiona Keating has been signed by prestigious literary agents Greene and Heaton to represent her debut novel Peking Pear.

 

 

Karl King published his debut novel A Spell of Murders in June this year. Roly Grant’s story ‘Dust’ was the Richmond borough winner in Spread the Word’s City of Stories anthology, published in June. Robin Vicary’s novel An Adoration of Beauty (2021) has been selling well. His new novel, How the Light Shines, also a historical thriller/romance, is being published later this month by The Conrad Press. Jonathan Evans published his novel The Revisionist in July this year. He has also written a free novella – Origins – which reached No. 1 in its Amazon categories in the US and UK and is currently No. 2 in Teen & Young Adult Historical Romance eBooks in the UK. Jonathan also published Queen of Mirrors, a book for teenagers about a girl who finds a magical Goblin in her schoolbag, and has relaunched his Epic Fantasy novel The Master of Carn.

Theadora Broyd was longlisted for her story ‘Her Perfect’ in the Liars’ League July competition. Theodora is now enrolled to do a PhD with King’s College London on immigrant identity in Franco-Algerians. Anna Dempsey’s story was commended by the judge in the Bath Short Story Award. Andrew Simmons got an honourable mention in the second round of the nycmidnight 100-word microfiction challenge. And last but not least, Erica Buist has been hired as one of six writers in Stockroom Theatre’s Writers Room. The first play she co-wrote, ‘How a City Can Save the World’, was recently performed in Sheffield and noted as “shockingly brilliant” in this review. Erica is starting the Cambridge Creative Writing MSt in September.

New Courses

Our new interactive Introduction to Branding, held over three consecutive Monday evenings, will explore a full introduction to making your brand a success – from identifying your audience to how to write ‘on-brand’ for press releases, social media and digital marketing. You’ll also learn the basics of how to brief designers to create ‘on-brand’ visual assets and logos. Run by Anna Tsekouras and Pete Austin from Anon Agency this promises to be a turbo-charged Brand Copywriting 101!

We’re delighted to continue to offer our new Writing for Social Impact course, taught by Narrative Non-Fiction alumnus Ciaran Thapar. Aimed at anyone who wants to learn strategic and creative ways of achieving real-world social impact through their writing, the course will explore how to conduct interviews, execute ethical and impactful storytelling, and provide a call-to-action for readers. See below for more details on the scholarship available for this course.

There are plenty of other options for anyone keen on one-day writing courses: our ever-popular Introduction to Copywriting with Maggie Richards is available monthly; while our Writing the Memoir course will be taught by the brilliant Anna Wilson next term, and our Writing for the Web and Digital Media continues to be run by the expert broadcast journalist Holly Powell-Jones.

Tutor News

Novel Writing and Longer Works tutor Martin Ouvry’s article ‘How creative writing courses benefit a writer’ is in the 2023 edition of The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook.

Writing for Children tutor Bryony Pearce was shortlisted for a CWA Dagger Award for a short story she wrote for an anthology called Criminal Pursuits. This anthology was written to raise money for the charity POhWER. She also has a book out on submission

Opportunities

Ciaran Thapar has initiated a scholarship for one young student (18-25) from a disadvantaged background to participate on his Writing for Social Impact course. Please contact the short courses team for more information on this opportunity.

All current students of Introduction to Copywriting, Writing for Business and Narrative Non-Fiction courses are eligible to submit an idea for a blog post for short courses. If the idea is accepted, and the written piece meets our standards, it will be professionally edited and published on the blog.

That’s all for now. Keep on writing and keep your stories coming into us. We love to hear what you’ve been up to. And huge congratulations to all our alumni and tutors. We’re so proud of you all!

For more on our writing courses, visit our home page here.

For more on all our short courses, visit our main page here.

City Writes Summer 2022 Competition Winners Announced

We’re delighted to announce the competition winners for 2022 summer term’s City Writes event showcasing the fabulous talent coming from City’s Short Courses. These wonderful winners will be joining debut writers and alumni of the Novel StudioAttiya Khan and Simon Culleton. You can register for the Zoom event on Thursday 7th July at 7pm here.

Our winners this term are:

Richard Bowyer

Richard Bowyer for his extract, ‘The Manton Ultimatum’.

Richard Bowyer is just completing City University’s Novel Studio course. The characters and setting in ‘The Manton Ultimatum’ are drawn from The White House, his novel in development. He likes to write about the nature of community and belonging, friendship and obligation, everyday heroes, inclusion and exclusion, and how decisions get made. Richard was born and brought up in Essex and now lives in West London with his demanding cat and understanding wife.

Jonathan Gallard

Jonathan Gallard for his story, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’.

Alumnus of the Short Story Writing course, Jonathan Gallard is a writer whose style and approach defies categorisation.  Mostly because he hasn’t written much, yet.

 

Orsolya Kiss-Toth for her extract from Nadi Leaves

Originally from Hungary, Orsolya moved to Leeds about 15 years ago where she lives with her partner. She is an HR professional and whilst she loves the challenges of her role, writing is something she’s passionate about.

Orsolya Kiss-Toth

She first joined a writing group in November 2020, is an alumna of the Writers’ Workshop, and her first novel, 24 Windows, was long listed in the Stylist Prize for Feminist Fiction 2021. She’s currently working on her second novel, Nadi Leaves.

Jordan McGarry for her creative piece, ‘The First Spring’.

Jordan McGarry

Jordan McGarry has worked in the screen industries for 20 years, initially as a journalist covering the industry, and then as a programmer, a producer and now as an executive. Jordan is endlessly interested in story, but more used to helping other people write theirs than telling her own. She is trying to be braver in 2022 (though will never be comfortable with writing about herself in the third person). She is just completing the Narrative Non-Fiction course.

Lia Martin for her story, ‘Church Bells’.

Lia Martin

Lia Martin is a Londoner completing her Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck University and was enrolled on City’s Short Story Writing course back in 2014. She started her career in the media but became a secondary teacher in 2015, working in both London and Norfolk-based schools. She now leads on English for a national network of schools and is currently working on a short story collection.

 

Su Yin Yap for her creative piece, ‘Notes on a Pregnancy’.

Su Yin Yap

​​Su Yin Yap is a psychologist and writer. Her work has been published in literary magazines and websites such as Popshot Quarterly and Litro Online, as well as various anthologies of flash fiction and creative non-fiction. She has written for the psychology section of the award winning Arts and Culture website Headstuff.org. She is currently working on a collection of essays. She is an alumna of the Short Story Writing course.

These fantastic authors will be reading online at City Writes alongside Attiya Khan and Simon Culleton on Thursday 7th July at 7pm. From village referendums through lost loves and historical feuds to the anticipation of life to come, City Writes Summer 2022 will be a night of readings to remember. You can register here. We look forward to seeing you there.

Spring 2022 City Writes Journeys Into The Clouds with Author, Michael Mann

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes is the showcase event for all the wonderful creative writing coming from City’s Creative Writing Short Courses. Combining the new voices of students and alumni with the work of published alumni, the event always brings excitement and intrigue and this term’s event had everything from healers through dealers, to feminist and Polish heroes, fabulous chickens, hallucinogenic frogs and of course a twelve-year-old boy working to escape a Victorian style workhouse in an alternative smog-filled London, the protagonist of published guest, Michael Mann’s middle grade debut, Ghostcloud.

We began the night with James Baxter reading an extract from his story, ‘The Drop’. James is an alumnus of the Short Story Writing course at City and he took us into the busy, chaotic streets of a foreign city alongside his English protagonist whose bag was filled with cocaine, wrapped in coffee paste to hide the smell. Leaving us tense and anxious, we were eager to find out what would happen next. It didn’t feel like it would be anything good.

Emma Bielecki, alumna of the fantastic Narrative Non-Fiction course, read next, remaking the familiar Ealing, into her father’s Polish ‘Eh-ALL-ing’. She tantalised our taste buds with Polish cuisine, giving us a picture of her father most at ease peeling a sausage, before expertly navigating us away from food towards the histories of her father and his Polish friends who had fled to London years before. The most topical piece of the night, Emma’s creative non-fiction was a brilliant example of how to take listeners and readers on a sensory and emotional journey to highlight different perspectives of the past that go on to alter our understanding in the present.

We took a fictional turn next, diving into the world of a young girl making money with her friend, in Sini Downing’s extract, ‘The Stink of Money’, taken from her novel. A Short Story Writing and Towards Publication alumna, Sini’s reading was an engrossing immersion into her character. We began by wondering how young girls could make so much money, and feared something darker than the unusual turn Sini introduced. Her protagonist is exhausted from healing people, her sister included. We were all hooked by the end of Sini’s reading.

Following on from Sini was Adam Zunker, another reader who, like Sini, was making his second appearance at City Writes. Adam has taken several short courses in creative writing at City University and he read another extract from his wonderful novel – just completed this week! – in which a young boy attempts to step into the Afterworld using the pus from the back of a sacred frog, a special stone, a fire and two circles. Revolting and transporting, Adam’s reading left us wanting to find out if his young character would be successful.

From frogs to chickens, we joined Alison Halsey next as she read from her novel, Minta Gets Everything Wrong.  Alison has just completed An approach to Creative Writing and she took us to the funeral of her character’s sister, to which the bereaved daughter with disabilities insisted upon bringing her chicken and slapping her half-brother round the head. A black comedy with a warm and informal narrative voice, Alison’s story had us all giggling and looking forward to hearing more.

Our final competition winner, Stephanie Donowho, alumna of Novel Writing and Longer Works, read us her story ‘Once a daughter of Eve’ next. Stephanie’s story took us into the mind of a child growing up in a Christian household, surrounded by Bible geeks, whose self-motivated exploration into less well read parts of the Bible led to finding two stories of women called Tamar, one of whom had to cheat a man into bed. A fascinating story of growing feminist awakening, Stephanie’s piece was a fabulous segue from competition winner to published author.

Our headline act, Michael Mann, read next. Michael is an alumnus of the Writers’ Workshop at City and began his debut, Ghostcloud, in that very class. A winner of Undiscovered Voices 2020 and the 2019 London Writers Award, Michael’s middle grade novel is set in the smoky, dark underworld of Battersea Power Station in an alternative smog-filled London. Michael read the opening of the book in which we met twelve-year-old Luke, struggling to shovel coal, trying to work hard enough to earn his escape back into the light of London and his family from which he was kidnapped. We met his kidnapper, Tabitha, and two of the other children suffering under her regime. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next. Click here to get your copy.

Michael then took part in a Q&A with Novel Studio tutor and City Writes host, Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, followed by questions from the audience. Michael helped us understand his inspirations, the development of the novel and how publication and the expectations of publishers has changed his writing practice. Generous in his sharing of tips and ideas for budding children’s authors, you can follow the whole discussion and catch up with our competition winners’ readings, by watching the recording of the event here. Michael was keen to remind the audience that he loves visiting schools. If you do have connections to a Primary School near you, you can contact Michael on mbmann@gmail.com

City Writes is a great space for sharing the creative writing talent that abounds from City’s short creative writing courses. Look out for the Summer event and if you are an alumni or current student, don’t forget to enter next term’s competition. We have two published alumni reading for us next term: Simon Culleton and Attiya Khan, both Novel Studio alumni, whose novels respectively are, Shadows of Fathers about a father’s battle for child custody across national borders and Ten Steps to Us that follows a young Muslim girl’s struggle to maintain her faith in her quest for love. Watch this space for further details of the event and the competition.

Watch the full event here.

City Writes Spring 2022 Competition Winners Announced

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

We’re delighted to announce the winners of this term’s competition who will be reading their winning entries alongside debut author, Michael Mann at this term’s virtual event on Wednesday, March 30th at 7pm. Register now to join them

Spring 2022 winners

This term’s winners (in alphabetical order) are:

James Baxter

James Baxter is a long-term resident of Hackney and has been London-based since graduating from the LSE in the early 90s’. His career has been spent in the media and film sectors, including a 15-year stint as a journalist and magazine editor. James founded the PR consultancy JBM in 2010 and the film production company Mean Time Films in 2012. He is currently writing his debut short story collection. He is an alumnus of the Short Story Writing course. He will be reading an extract from ‘The Drop’.

 

Emma Bielecki

Emma Bielecki, a Narrative Non-Fiction student, is a cultural historian who splits her time between London and nineteenth-century France. She has written about things that interest her (Bob Dylan, French Belle Epoque crimes serials, pet cemeteries) for outlets such as The Junket and The Conversation, as well as in fanzine form (at www.misfitsisters.com). Emma will be reading her nonfiction short, ‘Eh-ALL-ing’.

 

Stephanie Donowho

A student of Novel Writing and Longer Works, Stephanie Donowho is from Austin, Texas, where she worked as a video editor before moving to London in 2017 to pursue a Masters in Shakespeare Studies at the Globe theatre. She has acted in over a dozen plays, co-founded a theatre company, and currently works in financial services in London. Her work was published in Mslexia‘s 2021 anthology Best Women’s Short Fiction as a runner-up in the Flash Fiction competition. She will be reading ‘Once a daughter of Eve’.

 

Sini Downing

Sini Downing (Short Story Writing and Writers’ Workshop alumna) often finds her international experiences worming their way into her creative writing. The novel, from which her excerpt, ‘The Stink of Money’ is taken, and from which she will read at City Writes, was inspired by an intense 19 months living in downtown Baltimore. Now based in London, she is Head of Studio at a production company specialising in character performances for video games. She is currently seeking representation.

 

Alison Halsey

Alison Halsey is a fiction writer and a former financial services professional, with a career lasting over 40 years. She has also served in many roles supporting charities with a focus on young people with learning disabilities. A student of An Approach to Creative Writing, Alison is currently editing her first novel Minta Gets Everything Wrong, for which she feels she has far too much personal research material, resulting in an elongated editing process. She will be reading an extract from this novel.

 

Adam Zunker

Adam Zunker has taken several short courses in creative writing at City University and is working on his first novel, a fantasy story about death, faith and hallucinogenic frogs from which he will be reading an extract for City Writes. He has spent far too many years working in politics and journalism, though both have probably provided some grounding in creative writing. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

 

These fantastic authors will take you on a journey of frog-licking, London exploring, drug dealing, funeral attending (with chicken), feminist Bible reading, healing wonder. Reading alongside debut author, Michael Mann whose middle grade novel, Ghostcloud, set in the smoky underworld beneath Battersea Power Station, is causing quite a stir, this will be an unmissable event. Sign up here now! We’ll look forward to seeing you there!

 

City Writes celebrates its first non-fiction guest: Ciaran Thapar

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes is such a brilliant showcase for all the fabulous writing talent coming from City’s Creative Writing Short Courses and this Autumn’s Event was no different. There are always fascinating submissions from the Narrative Non-Fiction course run by Peter Forbes and this term we were able to celebrate some of the fruit of his teaching labours by sharing the work of Narrative Non-Fiction alumnus Ciaran Thapar whose book Cut Short: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City is an insightful, honest and eye-opening exploration of knife crime and youth violence in London.

As always we began with the competition winners. We went from an exploration of infidelity and class in ‘Salesman of the Year’ by Laurence Kershook all the way to a drunken groom in Grayson Anderson-Brown’s ‘Mum’s Yard’.

Laurence is an alumnus of The Novel Studio and his story set a sinister tone for the evening. As is often the case, a theme seemed to emerge across the winners’ pieces and this time it was an exploration of relationships from people at the end of their relationship journey, through those at the start, towards those whose more intimate relationships are with their art.

We hope Laurence will come back and share his novel, The Broygus, which is due out in mid-2022.

From a jail cell (you read correctly) to a house call, we heard from Pasca Lane next as she read her story, ‘Creature of Habit’. Her main character was desperate to get rid of a fox, to rid his home of the remnants of his ex-wife. A hilariously unself-aware character, Pasca delivered his perspective with aplomb.

Alan Gray, alumnus of the Short Story Writing course, took us on a first date, expertly navigating us through the complications of desire and that human need for connection in his story ‘Nice Meeting You’. There were some great moments of dialogue and a weighty, uncertain end on a sofa.

Another Short Story Writing alumnus, Stephen Kehoe, chilled us with the opening of his novel-in-progress, Defence Mechanism next. A speculative near-future in which the protagonist exploits public officials for some unspecified end, left us all reeling and eager to find out more.

Emily Shammar took us into the world of a blind woman at a picnic next. An alumna of An Approach to Creative Writing this extract from her longer work, ‘The Complicit’ was a thrilling and unnerving ride into uncertainty.

Novel Studio alumnus, Grayson Anderson-Brown gave us some sharply drawn characters next, in his extract ‘Mum’s Yard’ in which two brothers and a cousin try to salvage a wedding day currently not going to plan. They fail to keep the groom’s hung-over dishelvement from Mum, all summoned to her flat for a dressing down.

Mike Clarke was the last of the competition winners to read. A self-confessed City writing course junkie, he read ‘Spray Can Angel’, an extract from his novel-in-progress, Burnt Fingers, in which a female graffiti artist risked serious injury dangling from a fire escape to repair her artwork. Left dangling alongside the protagonist, the audience were hoping to see that novel in print soon.

The evening then took a turn towards non-fiction and the brilliant blend of narrative and sharp political commentary in Ciaran Thapar’s work, Cut Short: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City which was published by Viking UK (Penguin) in June 2021. Told through a mixture of character journeys based on real people and considered research and argument, the book draws a reader into the lives of those living with youth violence, gaining their empathy and understanding in order to help them see a path towards change.

Ciaran gave a short reading from Chapter Five in which Carl, a young school boy, is sitting in an isolation session at school and feeling worthless and depressed. In a Q&A with host, Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, Ciaran then spoke further about the themes of the book and his hopes for building more supportive communities for young people. He was an inspirational guest and speaker, providing much food for thought among the audience who were also keen to ask questions. If you haven’t read it, buy it here. Ciaran will also be running a short course at City on Writing for Social Impact, which if his book is anything to go by, will instigate further fascinating and thought-provoking writing.

To experience the event for yourself, watch the full recording now. What a great way to start the festive season with fabulous fireside stories and provocation to think of others.

City Writes Autumn 2021 Competition Opens 

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

This term’s showcase for the creative writing talent coming from City’s short courses may not be until the 15th December 2021 but we’re delighted to announce that Narrative Non-Fiction alumnus Ciaran Thapar will be our professional writer this term.

Ciaran Thapar is the author of Cut Short: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City, which was published by Viking UK (Penguin) in June 2021. As a youth worker in schools, youth clubs and prisons, Ciaran completed the Narrative Non-Fiction Short Course at City in 2016 in an attempt to tell stories about his work on the ground. Alongside completing mentoring and workshop facilitation with young people, he writes regularly for publications such as British GQ and The Guardian, usually about youth culture, race politics and rap music in the UK.

Cut Short has had a fabulous reception from people as wide-ranging as the writer Nikesh Shukla to David Lammy MP. Exploring the lives of different characters involved in Britain’s youth violence epidemic, Ciaran includes interviews and research that reveal a society fracturing along lines of race, class and postcode. Author Candice Carty-Williams calls it ‘A devastating and beautifully-drawn tribute to the young boys that the media turns into statistics of knife crime’.

For your chance to join Ciaran on the online stage, you need only send 1,000 words of your best creative writing, fiction or nonfiction (though no poetry or children’s fiction) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk with details of which short course you took or are taking. Full submission details can be found here. The competition is open until 19th November 2021 and entrants will be informed of the outcome of their submission by the 26th November 2021. We look forward to receiving your work.

In the meantime, those of you keen to hear Ciaran read from Cut Short, can register for the City Writes Autumn event on the 15th December 2021 here. There will also be a short Q&A with Ciaran so get a head start and buy his book in advance here. City Writes Autumn 2021 will be a fabulous way to start your festive season, thinking of others and sharing some wonderful stories. We can’t wait to see you there!

Ciaran Thapar

City Writes Summer 2021 Event Gives it 110%

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

On the warm summer evening of the 7th July, when most of the nation was preparing to watch the game that doesn’t need a mention, the fabulous students and alumni of City, University of London’s creative writing short courses were providing entertainment of a literary kind. With a fantastic group of competition winners, many alumni of Peter Forbes’ excellent Narrative Non-Fiction course, the audience were in for a treat that culminated in Alex Morrall reading from, and discussing, her debut, Helen and the Grandbees published by Legend Press in 2020.

Anne Manson began the evening with a haunting and gripping post-apocalyptic tale, ‘Bones’, about a father and child subsisting against all the odds on a small patch of land surrounded by toxic floodwater. An alumna of the Crime and Thriller Writing course with Caroline Green and the Short Story course with Katy Darby, Anne’s superb delivery was spell-binding and thought-provoking.

Susanna Morton – the first of our Narrative Non-Fiction alumni – read her minutely observed domestic drama next, ‘Regrowth’, where a couple struggle to communicate about lost money and time is marked by the slow progress of a dent in a nail growing from the cuticle to the fingertip. Quiet and precise, this unique glimpse into a couple’s life sent a visible hush through the zoom audience.

We heard from another Narrative Non-Fiction alumna next as Jen Metcalf read her fascinating account of a lost place and time in her personal Berlin, ‘Tentstation’. Reminding us of the wonderful ways in which writing can capture places and moments, and of the magical way in which each of us creates a unique understanding of the places in which we live – your city not ever quite being the same as mine – Jen transported us into a swirl of transient lindy hopping.

Alumnus Adam Zunker read next. Having taken both the Introduction to Creative Writing and the Writers’ Workshop courses, Adam shared an extract, ‘Mosquitto Gods’, from his fantasy novel-in-progress, taking us into the afterlife with his character. We tasted the goat droppings and felt the swirling winds of spirits passed on, making us eager to find out what would happen next.

Alex Morrall

Returning to the complex world of dating and relationships next, Helen Ferguson, Novel Studio alumna, read an extract from her novel, End Cuts. Poignant and carefully observed, the extract explored the main character’s relationship with Matthew, a man whose love was more potent and exciting when contained by brief time spans and a boring town rather than the glory of a child-free holiday in the Adriatic.

Glenda Cooper, our final Narrative Non-Fiction alumna, was the last of the competition winners to read and she took us back into the annals of English history with an extract from her novel-in-progress, The Heaven Born, an account of the scandalous life of her great-grandmother. We were skillfully placed right into the heart of a trial in which the woman in question, the ‘slut’ behind the crime, was sitting in the courtroom listening to all the gossip she’d generated. It was a striking end to an outstanding set of readings from the competition winners.

Having heard from the soon-to-be published, we were then treated to a reading from our professional alumna, Alex Morrall. Alex, who took a Freelance Writing short course with Susan Grossman, shared a passage of her debut, Helen and the Grandbees, published by Legend Press in 2020. We were introduced to Helen and learned a little of her history, exploring her need to escape difficult truths from her past and being given the origin of the term grandbees. It was an excellent way in to a discussion about the novel, a mother and daughter reunion that explores identity, race and mental illness.

Alex gave interesting and thoughtful answers to my questions, allowing the audience a chance to investigate some of the novel’s central concerns and the particulars of Alex’s writing practice. Inspired by her voluntary work, we were amazed that Alex is able to write in front of the television and that she has already written another novel and is halfway through her third. Go, Alex! We can’t wait to read the next one!

For those who haven’t read Helen and the Grandbees, you can get access to a 20% discount from Legend Press by going to their bookshop and entering this code at the check out: HELEN20. The offer lasts until the 12th July, so hurry!

If you weren’t able to attend on the night, don’t worry, we recorded the session and you can see it here. Don’t forget to watch out for future City Writes events and competition dates. If the City Writes Summer 2021 event was anything to go by, you can’t afford to miss the amazing talent coming from the creative writing short courses, so do look out for our Autumn event next term.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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