Tag: Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

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

City Writes Autumn 2022 – Call for Submissions

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone
Portrait of author Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

Author photo of Elizabeth Chakrabarty by Jason Keith

City Writes is a termly event showcasing the best of City’s Short Courses Creative Writing talent and this term, alongside the readers from the termly competition, we are extremely excited to welcome Elizabeth Chakrabarty as our alumna guest author.

Alumna of the Novel Studio, Elizabeth Chakrabarty is an interdisciplinary writer using creative and critical writing, besides performance, to explore themes of race, gender and sexuality. Her debut novel, Lessons in Love and Other Crimesinspired by experience of race hate crime, was published in 2021 by the Indigo Press, along with her essay, On Closure and Crime. In 2022 Lessons in Love and Other Crimes was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, and also shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize.

Elizabeth was also shortlisted for the Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2022, for her story ‘That Last Summer’ published in The Dinesh Allirajah Prize for Short Fiction 2022: Crime Stories by Comma Press. She was shortlisted for the Asian Writer Short Story Prize in 2016 for her story ‘Eurovision’ published in Dividing Lines (Dahlia, 2017).

Her shorter work includes poetry and creative-critical writing, and she has recently been published in Gal-Dem, New Writing DundeeWasafiri, and the anthology Imagined Spaces (Saraband, 2020), and in translation, by Glänta and Deus Ex Machina. She received an Authors’ Foundation Grant from The Society of Authors (UK) in December 2018, to support the writing of Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, and she was chosen as one of the runners up for the inaugural CrimeFest bursary for crime fiction authors of colour in 2022. She lives in London.

For your chance to read your work alongside this ground-breaking author, you need only send your best 1,000 words of fiction or creative non-fiction (no poetry, scripts or picture books) to rebekah.lattin-rawstrone.2@city.ac.uk by by midnight on Friday 18th November along with details of your current or past City Short Creative Writing Course.

Registration for City Writes Autumn 2022 event on the 14th of December at 7pm on Zoom is open now. Simply follow this link to sign up to hear Elizabeth Chakrabarty read from her fantastic debut, Lessons in Love and Other Crimes, alongside the competition winners to be announced later this term.

Full submission details can be found here.
We can’t wait to read your submissions and see you on the 14th December.

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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