Tag: Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

Two Published Alumni Usher City Writes Summer 2022 into the Heatwave 

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

City Writes Summer 2022

Running since April 2016, it is a huge privilege to be involved in the fantastic showcase event for City’s Short Creative Writing Courses, City Writes. This term’s event was no exception. Held over Zoom on Thursday 7th July (our ears tuned briefly away from the politics of the day), City Writes Summer 2022 not only had two brilliant published alumni from the same Novel Studio cohort, Attiya Khan and Simon Culleton, it also made space for some wonderful new writing coming from the competition winners made up of current students and alumni. What a talented bunch!

 

We began with the competition winners. Jordan McGarry, Narrative Non-Fiction student kicked things off with a fantastic piece, ‘The First Spring’, about her recently deceased mother. The chat was filled with responses to her careful observations of grief and insightful turns of phrase. Her biography had told us she was planning to be braver with her work in 2022 and we hope this will mark the beginning of a habit as we all want to hear more of Jordan’s writing.

 

We headed in an entirely different direction next with a witty piece on community division, ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’, written and read by Short Story Writing alumnus, Jonathan Gallard. Giving us two perspectives and navigating the complex origins of divisive tradition, this was a wonderful piece of writing.

 

We returned to grief with the next reader, Orsolya Kiss-Toth. A Writers’ Workshop alumna, Orsolya read an extract of her second novel, Nadi Leaves, in which the main character confronts the studio of her recently deceased father and ends up painting her grief into a self-portrait in a way that mimics her father’s artistic process to moving affect.

 

Three times winner of the City Writes competition and another Short Story Writing alumna, Su Yin Yap read for us next. She gave us a non-fiction piece, ‘Notes on Pregnancy’ the form of which was much appreciated in the chat. Moving from facts about pregnancy to a personal account of their emotional and physical effects, the piece viscerally remembered what it feels like to be pregnant.

 

Recent Novel Studio graduate Richard Bowyer then took us into the world of satire with an extract from his novel, The White House. A hilarious letter to the prime minister called ‘The Manton Ultimatum’ had us all giggling as we contemplated the idea of one village in Essex forming an independent state. Roger Rowntree was a favourite character of the Novel Studio 2021/2022 cohort and he proved a hit with this City Writes audience too.

 

Following Richard, we listened to our last competition winner and Short Story Writing alumna, Lia Martin read her story about lost love, ‘Church Bells’. Such a sharp, witty, and painfully moving account of trying to process the end of a relationship. We can’t wait to read what Lia writes next.

 

The end of Lia’s piece marked a move into the second half of the City Writes event as we heard from alumni Attiya Khan and Simon Culleton. Both writers published their debuts in 2021 with exciting independent publishers. We heard two short readings and then moved into a Q&A.

 

Attiya Khan’s debut novel Ten Steps To Us

Attiya’s debut, Ten Steps to Us, is a Young Adult novel that readers have described as ‘the perfect teen romance that covers religion, romance and diversity’. She read the scene in which devout, hijab wearing, Aisha is saved from Islamophobic bullying at a bus stop by the handsome non-Muslim, Darren. Where would this encounter lead? Published by Hashtag Blak, this is a story you’re going to need to buy to get the whole story.

 

Simon Culleton’s debut novel Shadows of Fathers

Simon Culleton then read from his debut, Shadows of Fathers, published by Stairwell Books, about one father’s fight to stay close to his children in a journey across geographical, cultural and emotional borders. He took us into a difficult conversation with his children about where he had been and why he didn’t live with Mummy anymore. Had the children missed him? Why didn’t Mummy and Daddy get on anymore? When he said Mummy and Daddy got on the way that a cat and a dog did, things got complicated… Funny, poignant and moving, it was a great introduction to the complexities of the novel.

 

The Q&A explored inspirations, from Attiya’s desire to see Muslim young women represented in fiction in realistic, non-Islamophobic ways, to Simon’s need to show the father’s perspective in divorce proceedings. We looked at their publishing journeys from the courses they took to the agents that rejected them to the publishers that championed them. We explored what they had enjoyed most about getting their work into the public domain, what they were working on now and what their writing routines were like. Both Attiya and Simon had some fantastic tips for writers and spoke of how important it was to follow your passion in your work.

 

You can hear the full Q&A and all of the readings by watching a recording of the event here.

It was an inspiring night and I can’t wait for the next City Writes when we’ll be joined by the amazing writer and another Novel Studio alumna, Elizabeth Chakrabarty whose debut novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, published by The Indigo Press in 2021, was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2022. Look out for competition and event dates coming soon to this blog.

Novel Studio to Broygus: a bumpy but worthwhile journey

By Laurence Kershook

 

Thursday 11th October 2018: the first session of City, University of London’s 2018-19 Novel Studio course. Fourteen would-be novelists seated side-by-side around a table back in those distant days when people used to sit side-by-side around tables and not think anything of it: no masks, no social distancing, no worries; just a shared eagerness to take the first tentative steps that would eventually lead to us writing our novels and fulfilling our ambition to see them published.

 

Fast forward to Thursday 24 March 2022. The date when my debut novel, The Broygus, finally went on sale on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats. Between those two dates there’d been seven re-drafts, three editorial assessments, a global pandemic and around forty submissions to agents.

 

In common with so many people, I’d long thought about writing a novel, and had mulled over various ideas in my head and occasionally on paper about what sort of story I’d like to tell. But it wasn’t until my friend Jane, herself a Novel Studio alumna, told me about her experiences on this course that I thought, maybe this is the time. So, after submitting a sample of my writing and being invited to come along for an interview, I was in.

 

The things I learned in that year were a total revelation to me: the three-act structure, the character arc, the inciting incident… plot, sub-plot, synopsis … a whole new language to learn, and most importantly a powerful set of tools to acquire. I’m happy to say that ours was a friendly, supportive group; we all felt that we could safely share our writing efforts with each other in the workshop sessions, and give and receive feedback with openness and confidence.

 

What I remember most vividly is the week when it was the moment for our newly-developed plot synopses to be evaluated in one-to-one tutorials. When it came to my turn, my tutor Emma Claire Sweeney amazed and impressed me by going straight to the heart of my plot, putting her finger decisively on its weakest point and offering me an inspired suggestion that gave me the key to making the whole thing work. True, it meant I’d have to demolish the entire structure and start all over again, but she’d given me such a good idea that I was only too happy to take that on. And looking back, if I hadn’t been on that course, if Emma hadn’t made that suggestion, The Broygus simply wouldn’t have come to life.

 

By the end of the course my novel had pretty well taken shape, and after a second re-draft prompted by a meticulous line-by-line edit from Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone an optional extra and totally worthwhile I prepared my introductory letter and sent out the first of my forty submissions to agents.

 

Here’s where I have to admit that not one of my submissions was successful. There eventually came a point where I had to come to terms with the fact that, whatever its reasons, the publishing industry simply didn’t seem to want The Broygus. But after going through the stage, well-known to writers, where I thought about throwing my manuscript into the trash and taking up pottery or knitting, I regained my belief in The Broygus, together with a renewed determination to see it published.

 

In the third term of the course, the one that focused on the business aspects of the writer’s journey, I’d learned some facts about the publishing industry that had left me, frankly, uncomfortable. Top of the list: your novel must fit into an identifiable genre category. Is it a romance? A thriller? A family history? Is it YA, or speculative, or maybe post-apocalyptic? I learned that you need this clear genre identity so that an agent will consider taking you on, a publisher will know how to market your book and a bookseller will know which shelf to put it on. And then, publishers want readers to be able to identify your book with recent successful ones they may have read. Example:  “A love story for the young and free –– think Eleanor Olliphant crossed with Where the Crawdads Sing.”

 

None of this sat comfortably with me, and I found myself, whether rightly or wrongly, coming more and more to think of agents and publishers as the unassailable gatekeepers and arbiters of readers’ tastes. And I could see that my novel was doomed to failure because I was incapable of fitting it into any of those required categories. Or maybe there was another reason: maybe I should accept that it just wasn’t good enough. But that wasn’t the message I was getting back from the few carefully chosen, plain-speaking people I’d invited to read it.

 

What finally got me where I wanted to be was my introduction to self-publishing. Once considered very much the poor relation of the publishing industry and sadly it hasn’t altogether shaken off that stigma  it’s now accounting for a steadily-growing segment of the industry’s output. Acting on the advice of other writers who’d successfully gone down that path, I did some research and met with some industry people who had the necessary know-how. It’s via that route that The Broygus was eventually published, and so far it’s working out very well.

 

Of course, self-publishing isn’t entirely straightforward; in fact, there are definite drawbacks in contrast to the conventional agent-publisher route. But counter-balancing all of those is the very liberating feeling you get of being in the driver’s seat and in control of your own destiny –– and above all, knowing that it’s only on the judgement of readers that your novel will stand or fall. All I can say is, it’s working for me. And thanks, Novel Studio, for the essential part you played in enabling me to bring The Broygus to life.

 

 

About the author

Previously a teacher, education consultant and gigging jazz musician, Laurence  Kershook grew up and went to school in Hackney, East London. He completed his first novel, The Broygus, after graduating from City’s  Novel Studio.

Charting the history of a Jewish East End family torn apart by events spanning three-quarters of the twentieth century, his novel follows one family member’s determination to see the hurts healed and the conflicts laid to rest.

You can buy The Broygus in paperback or e-book.

If you are interested in applying to the Novel Studio, applications are now open for 2022/23 with a deadline of 29th April 2022.

 

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.

Starry night: Novel Studio Showcase 2021

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

Tuesday 15th June was a beautiful summer evening, perfect for sharing the dazzling work of our 15 Novel Studio 2021 students via zoom. The Showcase is the culmination of a year’s work on their novels and with genres as varied as satire, sci-fi, procedural crime and literary fiction, this year’s cohort promised a varied and tantalising programme of extracts from their work-in-progress.

This is the first year of the Novel Studio which has been run entirely virtually and it has led to a wonderfully diverse group with students joining us from India, France and America as well as the UK. The students have forged a tight-knit group, challenging each other in an incredibly supportive and encouraging manner, leading to some truly fabulous work being produced as we soon heard.

After running through the amazing list of published alumni, that grows year on year with names like Kiare Ladner, Harriet Tyce, Deepa Anappara, Hannah Begbie, Elizabeth Chakrabarty, Attiya Khan, Anna Mazzola and Greg Keen, we heard from alumna Harriet Tyce who introduced and funded the Novel Studio Scholarship in 2019, which provides one successful applicant from a low-income household with a fully funded place. We are delighted the scholarship is running again for the third time this year.

Harriet spoke with fondness about her time on the Novel Studio and all that it offered her in terms of structure and support. She also spoke of her sense of anxiety waiting to share her work at the Showcase and wished all the students luck. Hopefully they will all go on to have writing careers as successful as Harriet’s.

Nana Wereko-Brobby

With some thank yous to all the tutors, Kiare Ladner, Emma Claire Sweeney and Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, alongside our director Emily Pedder and the Short Courses team, in particular Laura Bushell, Robert Lastman and Sathya Mathivanan, we were ready to be transported into the various fictional worlds of the students starting with Nana Wereko-Brobby whose novel, Dark Heart explores one British Ghanaian’s journey into boredom, excess and murder. Reading from the first chapter, Nana gave us an insight into her character’s acerbic attitude to his daily life and relationships that left us wondering what else might be in store.

We went from London to a village in Tamil Nadu next as Deepa S. read from her novel, Nivya, a coming of age novel in which twelve-year-old Nivya must come to terms with a more complex understanding of her world and heritage. Narrated by Nivya, Deepa read us a passage that introduced her uncle’s latest business venture, the tuk-tuk Henry.

Freya Sanders

Freya Sanders took us into a young woman’s mind next when reading from her literary anti-bildungsroman, out of the sky. We learnt about the tragic death of Peter Gilbraith, a popular, high achiever whose death is all over Facebook. What will this mean for the character, her friends and the wider social circle? What importance do external achievements have in the face of death?

Michael Lawson

From Cambridge to British Airspace next, Michael Lawson took us into the mind of Blanche, an undead agony aunt and political agitator who died choking on a custard cream in an airplane sitting next to her best friend, Cilla Black. A hilarious satire sending up the British and their political system, Michael’s extract from Biscuits with Blanchehad the audience giggling in delight.

Scholarship winner Janice Okoh

We were dropped right into the action in a large house in Nigeria next as Novel Studio Scholarship 2021 winner, Janice Okoh, read from the beginning of her novel, The Killing Season. Olori’s daughter is missing. She went out with the bosses new British Nigerian wife who Olori does not trust at all. Where is her daughter? Who will help her find her? Certainly not the police, or so it seems. Leaving us on tenterhooks, reeling from the pithy phrases of Olori’s mind, we were transported into an entirely different character’s mind next.

Stephan Schmidt

Delving into the head of a young man who wishes he’d already written the Next Great American Novel, Stephan Schmidt shared an extract from his novel Abscondia in which his second person narrator described meeting a woman at a cafe in France. Seeped in skepticism and nihilism, will this woman mean anything for the unnamed narrator, or will it just be one more in a catalogue of disappointingly mundane events?

Rhiana Gold

We were transported into the near future next as Rhiana Gold read from her speculative fiction novel, Under the Surface. We joined her character, Stevie, at the hospital, there for her dying father, a father no one like her – a lab-born – usually has. What is a lab-born and how is Stevie different? You’ll have to wait for the full novel to find out!

Seema Clear

Seema Clear took a different look at identity and belonging next, as she read from her multigenerational novel, The Refugees, that explores the life of Vidya and her father who were some of the many Asians expelled from Uganda in 1972. Seema read from the opening of her novel in which Vidya is back in the family home in West London, tending to her father on his deathbed.

Lucy Blincoe

From one set of emotional waters to another, we travelled to the Cornish coast with Lucy Blincoe next as she read from her novel, Kernow. Susie is a Met detective on leave, taking time out from London after the death of her colleague ostensibly to spend more time with her teenage daughter, Nancy. Then Nancy finds a dead body washed up on the beach. Susie thinks the young man won’t be her problem to solve, but the audience all knew better.

Grayson Anderson

We were blasted into the distant regions of an alternative galaxy next as Grayson Anderson read from the first in a trilogy of science fiction novels, Until Time Runs Out: The Awakening. We joined Aluz as she attempted to persuade her superiors to let her keep a perfectly preserved body found on a long-dead planet while mining. Drawn in by the sharp dialogue and Grayson’s fabulous voices, the audience was left wondering about Aluz’s discovery and what it might mean for her future.

Catherine Till

Time traveling into the past rather than the future next, Catherine Till took us on a train ride as her character attempted to travel illegally across the border and out of Soviet-controlled Hungary, as she read from her novel, Behind The Curtain. Leaving us with our hearts beating in our mouths, fear sounding loud in our ears, we were left to imagine whether her character made it or not.

Back to London and the world of environmental protest, government cover-ups and organised crime, James Mott read from his novel, The Holloway Men next. He introduced us to his main character, DI Robert Bramadisso, just back from a year’s suspension whose first job is to babysit City boys. How could that possibly go wrong?

Vasundhara Singh

We went back to India next with Vasundhara Singh whose novel, mistress, mother, explores the lives of three women: the wife and mother, the daughter and the mistress. Taking us into a scene of shared memory and food, we followed each bite with careful and lyrical attention.

Nola D’Enis

Continuing the lyricism, we journeyed to a small French town next as Nola d’Enis read from her novel Doulun. We joined her for the opening pages as one of her characters, Judith, explored the treasures of her underwear drawer and revealed a little of the steely femme fatale that lies beneath the frills.

Rhydian Wynn Davies

Finally, we were thrown into a scene of rich drama as Rhidian Davies read from his novel, Role of Lifetime, in which his two main characters, ex-actor Oliver Molyneux and solicitor-agent, August Avery, talk about Oliver’s impending divorce. Both narcissists, the extract from this tragi-comic novel introduced us to a world where these men and their impulsive actions might take them into deeper water than either of them expected.

 

 

 

The readings ended with a fantastic revelation, taking the death knoll high and our emotions higher. With final thanks and reminders about students’ contact details in the chat and in the anthology now available here, the Showcase for the Novel Studio students 2021 was concluded with a marvellous dramatic flourish. Watch this space for news of these students’ future successes. Congratulations Novel Studio Cohort 2021!

 

The Novel Studio end-of-year student showcase

by Rebekah Latin-Rawstrone

This annual event is the culmination of a year-long course for budding novelists studying on The Novel Studio programme. Twelve students read extracts from their debut novels to a packed audience of family, friends and publishing industry guests.

The work spanned a huge range of genres and themes encompassing satire, crime, young adult and historical fiction, amongst many others, and exploring such diverse worlds as the Arab Spring and the murky dealings of Global Finance. Fresh, contemporary and resonant, the work drew admiration from attendees at the Performance Space, with Course Director Emily Pedder commenting on this year’s talent as ‘exceptional’.

Since the event several students have been approached by agents wanting to see more of their work. Watch this space for further news!

For more information on the course and its growing list of published alumni, visit The Novel Studio.

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