Another year over; a new one just begun – John and Yoko could just as easily have been singing about creative-writing courses as eliminating global conflict. And though we at Curtis Brown Creative had a wonderful 2016, we’re looking forward every bit as much to the new year.
First, though, let’s look back to those heady early days of 2016 – when we were flocking into cinemas to see Kung Fu Panda 3 and reeling from the news about David Bowie. The Observer’s annual New Faces of Fiction round-up on 10 January featured former Curtis Brown Creative students Janet Ellis and Nicholas Searle, whose debut novels The Butcher’s Hook and The Good Liar were published the following month. Three more debuts by ex-CBC students followed: The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe in April; Time After Time by Hannah McKinnon in June; and He’s Gone by Alex Clare in August. And we also saw second novels from alumni Alice Clark-Platts – whose detective DI Erica Martin returned in The Taken in November – and Jessie Burton, who in June followed the bestselling The Miniaturist with The Muse. Jessie even found time to announce she’s now working on her first novel for children.
And those ex-students who didn’t have books out in 2016 were equally busy. Back in January, Kate Hamer was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award for The Girl in the Red Coat; and Lisa Williamson – whose novel The Art of Being Normal was the bestselling Young Adult hardback debut of the previous year – not only won The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, Older Category, in March but was also nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the YA Book Prize (as was our Writing for Children course tutor Catherine Johnson for The Curious Tale of the Lady Caraboo).
Even away from publications and awards, we at Curtis Brown Creative had a particularly busy 2016. In February, we held our third Discovery Day event at Foyles Bookshop on London’s Charing Cross Road – giving hundreds of aspiring authors the opportunity to sit down and pitch their novels to literary agents from Curtis Brown and C&W. And we launched our first-ever anthology of students’ writing – The Book of Unwritten Rules – at Waterstones Piccadilly in April, which featured short stories by our Autumn 2011 3-month novel-writing group’s four published authors as well as nine rising literary stars. We also had visits from, among others, Renee Knight, David Mitchell, Adele Parks and SJ Watson – all of whom came in to speak to students on our novel-writing courses in London.
The big news, though, was the launch of our very first Starting to Write Your Novel course in May. This £200 online course for all-comers – as opposed to our longer courses, in which we select the 15 most talented writers from a pool of applicants – attracted unprecedented numbers of students, many of whom took to the blogosphere to talk about it afterwards. Such was Starting to Write Your Novel’s success that CBC director Anna Davis is now developing the notes, videos, tasks and resources for two more budget courses that we’ll be launching in 2017.
And that’s not the only exciting thing happening in Curtis Brown Creative’s world next year. Book-wise we’re looking forward to the 12 January UK launch of The Dry by Jane Harper, who studied on our Online Novel-Writing Course. It’s already been a bestseller in Australia, film rights have been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon and Curtis Brown has sold it around the world into over 25 languages. Several other debut novels from our former students will also be published in 2017: How Not to Fall in Love, Actually by Catherine Bennetto (26 January); The Deposed by David Barbaree (4 May); The Salt House by Lisa Duffy (13 June); Friend Request by Laura Marshall (27 July); and Maggie’s Kitchen by Caroline Beecham (also 27 July). There’ll also be a bookshelf-full of second and third novels from CBC alumni out next year. All About Mia by Lisa Williamson (out on 2 February) is sure to be as huge as The Art of Being Normal, just as The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer (16 February) is eagerly awaited by those who loved The Girl in the Red Coat. But keep an eye out, too, for Before the Dawn by Jake Woodhouse (26 January) and Hoffer by Tim Glencross (23 March), which is already drawing comparisons with Evelyn Waugh.
Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s a good one…