Tag: short courses (page 2 of 3)

Getting to know you: Our winter short courses open evening

City, University of London were proud to host our winter Open Evening on Tuesday 10th December 2019.

Our Open Evenings are a great opportunity to visit our campus and meet out tutors – and this December we had a great turnout of guests, looking to find out more about all the evening and weekend courses that we offer at City. We offer light refreshments and some free gifts to take away with you.

City Short Courses also offers a range of taster sessions – 40-minute classes to give you a flavour of what it is like to study at City. We are hosting our next Languages Taster Event on Wednesday 15th January 2020. We will be running taster sessions in seven languages – Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Find out more and book your place on the webpage.

We have over 120 courses across subject areas – business, computing, creative industries, languages, law and writing. Next term starts Monday 20th January 2020, enrol online!

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

by Malcolm McLean

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

Freak Like Me, the debut memoir by Malcolm McLean

Freak Like Me, the debut memoir by Malcolm McLean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A taste of learning with City

City, University of London proudly hosted our first ever open evening and taster sessions event on Thursday 11th July 2019. Thank you to everyone who made the evening such a success and to all of our attendees – we hope that you found it interesting.

Throughout the evening we offered a series of 30-minute taster sessions in a select number of our short course programmes to give students a feel for what it is like to study a short course with us.

We started the evening on a high with a taster session in one of our most popular courses, Introduction to Programming with Python. Lead by programming expert, Philip De Grouchy, this session was packed out with young professionals looking to try their hand at coding.

Our digital guru, Elliott King, ran a parallel session in Strategic Digital Marketing, combining theoretical knowledge with step-by-step guidance on delivering online marketing campaigns.

Katy Darby lead an interactive session in Short Story Writing, for those looking to nurture their creative flare while Marian Wancio delivered a more practical course in Project Management.

Ping Chai, leading a Chinese Mandarin taster session

We also ran sessions in Immigration Law, Adobe InDesign, JavaScript Programming, Writing for Business, Writing for the Web, Curating & Exhibition Management, Japanese; and Chinese Mandarin.

Feedback from our attendees was overwhelming positive, with the vast majority stating that their questions were answered adequately by our staff. Our taster classes were also well received, rating the quality of the sessions highly.

However, there is always room for learning and improvements! As a result of our feedback, we intend to replace the current format with two separate events. In December 2019, we will be hosting a ‘meet our tutors’ open evening, an excellent opportunity to speak to our experts one-to-one about the wide variety of courses we offer at City. In the summer of 2020, we will be continue to run a full evening of taster sessions, offering a glimpse of what is it like to learn at City.

We will also be extending out taster sessions from 30 to 45 minutes to allow more time for learning. See the Visit Us section of our blog to find out more about our visitor events or book your place on our December open evening.

Ones to watch for 2018: Rising literary stars

By Emily Pedder

City’s short course alumni continue their literary ascent with two debut novels due out in 2018: Hannah Begbie’s Mother (HarperFiction) and Peng Shepherd’s The Book of M (HarperCollins).

Hannah Begbie

Hannah Begbie

Hannah studied on City’s Novel Studio where she also won the new writing competition. Her novel, Mother, developed while on the course, is a brilliant, and brutal, exploration of motherhood in the most complicated of circumstances.Hannah’s agent, Veronique Baxter has said that Mother “is a book you don’t forget in a hurry: unflinching, dark and deeply compelling, it moved me profoundly”.

Martha Ashby, editorial director at HarperFiction, said “Hannah’s writing grabbed me by the throat from the very first page and in her brutal examination of the roles that women play, her novel is at the same time both raw with emotion and deeply thought-provoking. I’m so thrilled to bring such a talented voice to HarperFiction.”

Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd

A former student of City’s Short Story Writing and Writers’ Workshop, Peng attended New York University’s MFA Creative Writing Program on a full scholarship, where she studied under Jonathan Safran Foer. Her fiction has appeared in Litro Magazine, Liars’ League, Cent Magazine, been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in the Weird Lies anthology.

Last year, the Elizabeth George Foundation awarded Peng a major grant based on an early draft of her novel and she was also a finalist for the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins 2016 fellowship. Peng’s debut novel, The Book of M, has been described by her UK agent  at Curtis Brown as “a virtuoso debut by an unparalleled talent…Shepherd has created a world filled with big ideas about mortality and self but it is the small intimate moments that pierce and stay with you long after you’ve finished reading”.

The Book of M is due out in June 2018. Follow Peng on twitter.

Mother is due out August 2018. You can follow Hannah on twitter.

Find out more about our writing short courses at City or read other success stories from our writing community.

Pre-order a copy of Mother

Pre-order a copy of The Book of M.

Working with writing: the art of collaboration

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

It’s often a challenge to move writing out of the silent room and into the shared space of publication and readership. The Novel Studio’s Working with Writing event was all about helping writers to think about how and who to collaborate with in order to enhance their creative practice and reach more readers.

Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney, both tutors on the City’s Novel Studio course, started the evening off by introducing us to the little-known literary friendships of two sets of famous female authors.

We learned that George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe critiqued and supported each other despite their geographical and spiritual distance; and that Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield had a passionate friendship that far surpassed the vitriol commonly used to summarise their relationship.

Through the continued development of their website Something Rhymed, Emily and Emma have learned of many more female literary friendships, inspiring writers to look to their peers for creative development.

Having heard of how to work with other writers, the author Heidi James and her editor at Bluemoose Books Hetha Duffy took to the stage to give us a masterclass in how to develop a creative and productive editorial relationship.

Hetha and Heidi worked closely together to edit Heidi’s novel, Wounding, which follows one woman’s search for identity, redemption and truth. This was a rare opportunity to see how an unpublished manuscript is developed and polished.

Heidi read compelling extracts from the manuscript and the published novel opening the floor to Hetha for explanations behind her reasons for, and ways of, requesting change. We learned that trusting in a shared vision for the end product, being receptive to criticism, ready to ask questions and try things out were all essential tools in a successful editorial relationship.

The evening ended in an exciting and in-depth panel discussion in which professionals and audience members explored the how, why and wherefore of collaborative writing practice. An inspiring and lively evening was enjoyed by all.

City Writes summer showcase

by Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

Set up to showcase the wonderful creative writing talent coming from City’s Short Creative Writing courses, City Writes held its second event on the balmy evening of the 12th July to an intimate and attentive audience in City’s Convocation Suite.

Katy Darby, our first competition winner, City Short Courses VL and one of the founders of Liars’ League, began the evening with her story ‘Knock Knock’. A dark and disturbing voice-piece, ‘Knock Knock’ presented the audience with the terrible notion of a baby speaking to its mother in the womb through a series of intense and painful kicks.

Next, we had Bren Gosling reading ‘Meatballs’. An alumnus of The Novel Studio, Bren’s story took us onto a bed in A&E where the protagonist pondered his relationship with his boyfriend while getting his anal cyst lanced. It was as funny and uncomfortable as it sounds.

Our final competition winner was Becky Danks who had just completed the Children’s Fiction course with Caroline Green. Her story, ‘The Anniversary’ was inspired by the painting of the same name and dealt with a couple trying to heal after the stillbirth of their first child. Beautifully poised between the two viewpoints, ‘The Anniversary’ was thought-provoking and quiet in its contemplation of grief and the possibility of recovery.

Our headline act was the wonderful Luiza Sauma, a short courses alumna who was reading from her debut novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, published earlier this year to great acclaim. The novel is set in London and Brazil and explores, through memory, that intense period of early adulthood, lived with such abandon and without the knowledge of the lifelong effects it may have. Heady with Brazilian humidity and the lure of memory, Flesh and Bone and Water unravels the mysteries of Andre’s early youth to great effect, bringing the beauty and heat of Brazil to life.Luiza treated us to a wonderful reading before selling and signing some of her books.

Please do get involved in the next City Writes. If you are an alumni with a novel to promote, get in touch via rebekahlattinr@gmail.com or if you would like to enter the City Writes competition and stand alongside our next professional reader (to be announced in September), the deadline for the Autumn City Writes competition is 17th November. The next event will be held on Wednesday 13th December.

Short course alumna to publish first book

By Emily Pedder

City short course alumna Luiza Sauma’s first novel, Flesh and Bone and Water, will be published by Viking/Penguin in February 2017. To celebrate her brilliant achievement, we asked her to tell us more about how she writes.

What got you started with writing?

I realised that I wanted to be a writer when I was around fifteen. It was an incredibly cheesy epiphany: I was reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road on a bus in north London, and suddenly the possibilities of literature opened up to me – you could experiment and you could write about anything, not just upper-class English people. I haven’t re-read the book since then, but I suspect it’s best experienced when you’re fifteen.

After that, I started writing obsessively: mostly diaries and a short-lived music zine, but also terrible poetry and fiction. After university I became a journalist and fiction fell by the wayside, but I returned to it in my late twenties.

What do you enjoy about writing?

The same things I enjoyed when I was a child: creating a world from scratch, and playing with characters, ideas and words. When it’s going well, it’s so much fun. David Foster Wallace said that writing used 97 percent of himself, while his other work used just 50 percent. I can relate to that – writing is so completely involving.

What do you find challenging?

The first draft is very challenging for me. I don’t like to plan too much, so it often feels like I don’t know what I’m doing – which is exciting, but scary. Like a lot of writers, I also struggle with procrastination and self-flagellation.

Which writers have inspired you?

I’m still inspired by some of my favourites from my teens, such as Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Ralph Ellison and Albert Camus, but also Toni Morrison, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Carson McCullers, Elena Ferrante, Junot Díaz, Edward St Aubyn, Marlon James, Colm Tóibín, Kazuo Ishiguro, Lorrie Moore and many others.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I usually write at the library, because I’m prone to laziness when I’m at home. I can write at any time of day, but I never do it late at night, because it exacerbates my insomnia. I just write on a laptop – nothing too unusual. When I’m out and about, I take notes on my phone. I don’t write much by hand; my handwriting is so terrible, I can barely read it.

Which writing courses did you do at City and what did you gain from them?

I got quite addicted to City’s courses – I did Short Story Writing, Writers’ Workshop) and Screenwriting: First Steps. They gave me a much-needed escape from my day job, a safe place to play with ideas and, more than anything, the confidence to carry on writing. I went on to do the Creative and Life Writing MA at Goldsmiths, which I loved.

How did you get your novel published?

For me, it was all about finding a brilliant agent; things moved pretty quickly after that. I had dalliances with various agents – some had approached me, others I had approached – before I signed with Emma Paterson at RCW last summer. She helped me to do a few edits and then submitted the book to publishers in November. I received a few offers and decided to go with Viking/Penguin.

What would your advice for a new writer be?

Don’t pay too much attention to ‘rules of writing’ and don’t take criticism to heart. All writers can benefit from editorial advice; no one is a perfect genius. Not even Fitzgerald; Susan Bell’s book The Artful Edit provides a fascinating insight into how his editor, Max Perkins, helped him to improve The Great Gatsby. You don’t need to take on board everyone’s ideas, though – just the ones that resonate with you.

Most of all, just get on with it. As Dorothy Parker said, ‘Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.’

What are you working on now?

I’m working on some short stories and also a second novel, which is completely different to the first. I’m still feeling my way through the story.

Have you given up the day job?

I’ve just left my day job, because I needed a break to focus on my second novel. It’s definitely possible to write and work full-time (not just possible, but necessary – you’ve got to eat!), but it can be challenging. I don’t think work is the enemy, though; even the dullest office is rich with drama. I’m sure I’ll be back at another job sometime soon, but for now I’m just going to enjoy writing.

2016 City Novel Studio competition winners announced

We are delighted to announce the winners of 2016’s City Novel Studio Competition.

In association with Christine Green Author’s Agency, the competition was open to unpublished novelists writing in any fictional genre for adults, but not non-fiction or fiction for children. Course Director, Emily Pedder, and Novel Studio Tutor, Emily Midorikawa, sifted through the numerous entries and have now made their final decisions. The winners are:

  • Dinea Smith
  • Lucy Smith
  • Lucy Underhill

The course director said the standard of entries for this year’s Novel Studio competition was very high. “It’s always difficult to choose winners in a competition like this, but our finalists all had very fresh, distinctive voices and each piece made us hungry to read more.”

Find out more about The Novel Studio on the City website.

Rewriting History: How Historical Fiction Works

By Emily Pedder

From Brooklyn to Wolf Hall, historical fiction is enjoying a boom moment. But how do you go about writing an historical novel? How ‘true’ to the past should a novelist be? And what can historical novels tell us about the world we are living in today? Last month we were given the insider’s guide to all this and more by two of City short courses’ star alumni: Anna Mazzola, author of The Unseeing, out with Tinder Press next month and Melissa Bailey, author of The Medici Mirror and Beyond The Sea, Arrow Press.

Both authors clearly shared a passion for research and saw it as one of the most absorbing parts of the historical novel writing. Both were also clear that the story had to take precedence: it didn’t matter how much research had been done, or how historically accurate the depiction of period might be, if the story wasn’t working the novelist had to go back to the drawing board.

There was also broad agreement on other characteristics of writing historical fiction. Anna spoke of the importance of giving voice to the voiceless and of uncovering voices from the past that hadn’t been heard before. Melissa highlighted the enjoyable difficulty in trying to imagine what her characters were thinking and feeling, and then imagining what was different about the way those characters might have perceived things at that time.

Well attended and with positive feedback after the event, this writing short course event gave us all food for thought. As novelist Andrew Miller put it, “at its best, historical fiction is never a turning away from the now but one of the ways in which our experience of the contemporary is revived.” Thank you to Anna and Melissa for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. For more info on our short courses, go to our website or follow us on twitter @cityshortcourses. For more on the authors and their books visit: Anna Mazzola and Melissa Bailey.

 

Digital training and the digital skills gap

by Dionisios Dimakopoulos

City Short Courses, part of City, University of London, worked with London digital agency MintTwist to create a study analysing the digital skills gap.

The study surveyed over 100 professionals who studied a digital marketing related short course with a goal to understanding:

  • Why they are seeking additional digital marketing training
  • Issues they are currently facing
  • What they hope to attain from studying a digital marketing short course at City, University of London.

We surveyed City Short Course students from 2007 – 2015. The group consisted of marketing professionals within SEO, content, social, advertising, web design and development.

“The biggest challenge in my industry is hitting the right digital marketing channels and maintaining our individuality against our competitors”

Edward Carter, SEO Manager, industry: Engineering and Manufacturing

The survey identified three key elements professionals listed as instrumental in them completing a digital marketing short course.

  • Digital’s constant state of change and evolution
  • The online competition
  • Training required to upskill internal resource on digital

Biggest issues for your company:

  • 15% – competitors
  • 19% – digital change
  • 26% – training, skills and internal resources

Biggest issues for your industry:

  • 16% – competitors
  • 16% – digital change
  • 6% – training, skills and internal resources

Find out more about short courses in digital marketing at City, University of London.

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