Curtis Brown agents are closely involved with our courses as tutors and speakers.
Our author-tutors are published writers with great track records. Our guests are top authors and publishers.
Our courses are intense, practical and packed with content. We won't waste your time or ours.
Curtis Brown launched its creative-writing school in 2011 as a way of reaching out to new writers, helping them to write their best and get smart about the industry. We started out by running three-month courses for aspiring novelists in our London offices. These days our courses still focus on writing your novel, but we also now offer six-month courses for writers who want to study with us for longer – and online courses with flexible hours so that writers with restrictive schedules or those in different time zones can take part from all over the world.
I’m proud to say that over the past few years, many of our alumni have gained deals with major publishers. Some of our former students have written international bestsellers, others have won prizes and several more have gained representation with literary agents and are working to edit their novels for publication. Yet more are still working away, often with the support of their former Curtis Brown Creative cohort. It’s great to see how many of our alumni stay closely in touch with their student groups long after their courses end.
Our approach to teaching creative writing is very practical. You can apply to study with us at any stage of writing your novel and (unlike some of our competitors) we don’t try to suggest that writers should take ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’ courses with us. One good course should give you all you need.
The Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh literary agencies have always worked closely with their clients to help them develop and edit their work. Now the writing school lets the agents help writers at a much earlier stage of the process, sharing insider knowledge to help students get ahead of the slush pile. Literary agencies are famously inaccessible; we felt it was time for a change.
Why take a creative writing course?
We don’t remotely subscribe to the idea that writers have to take a creative-writing course to get published. Many writers are extremely self-sufficient and don’t need workshops or writing peers, or any of it. But some writers at one time or another want a little support, some astute editorial guidance, a group of good readers, a chance to try things out and get feedback. We think good creative-writing courses can be really helpful to them. The best courses will also help writers to figure out what to do with their finished work, and how to get an agent and a publisher – and nobody can do that better than we can.
What a good creative writing course can and can’t do
No course can teach someone how to write. A good course can help a writer identify their strengths and weaknesses, and teach them how to play to their strengths. Courses often help authors improve their prose style, line by line and word by word, but a really good course should also engage with the writing project as a whole, asking: What is the writer trying to achieve here? Is it working on its own terms? A great course should help the author to realise their own, unique ambitions.
Why choose Curtis Brown Creative?
Right now, writing schools are multiplying like mould on jam. So why should you go with us?
- We’re a leading literary agency and have shaped authors careers for more than 100 years: Yep, we’re the people who find new talent in the raw, shape the work up editorially, sell it with conviction in many markets and formats, and then work with the writer, building their career over many years. We have a lot of expertise to share.
- Our agents are closely involved with our courses: The writing school gets fantastic support from Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh’s teams of literary agents. Many of the courses feature our agents as course tutors. The agents also come in to give one-off talks to our students, with practical advice about how to get published. They’re always interested to meet the students and find out what they’re writing.
- We invite our students into our offices: Lots of our courses take place in our offices in central London, offering a direct and unique insight into the workings of the agency. Our online students also get a chance to spend time with the literary agents via online agent-days.
- Tuition from professional authors: Many creative-writing courses are taught by ‘authors’ who are actually no such thing! It seems that anyone who’s once had a story or an essay published in an anthology or who has themselves done a creative-writing course can set up as a tutor or ‘writing mentor’. While some of the universities seem to value masters degrees and PhDs in creative writing more than a strong publishing track record when it comes to hiring lecturers. At Curtis Brown Creative we’ll have none of that. Sure, our tutors have teaching experience. They’re also authors of real, commercially published books. And we choose tutors who respond fully to writing in different genres, respecting our students’ intentions rather than trying to push them in directions they don’t want to go.
- Excellent guest speakers: In addition to hearing from the course tutors and our agents, we want our students to meet publishers and major authors. We schedule as many visiting-speaker sessions into our London-based courses as we can. The talks are fascinating, frank and full of industry insights and writing tips. Often we have a Curtis Brown or Conville & Walsh agent introducing one of their author-clients or an editor they frequently work with, so our students can learn not only about writing and publishing but also about the relationships between author, agent and publisher. These sessions are a great chance to ask the questions you’ve always wanted to ask and to make valuable contacts.
- Our students are taught in groups of no more than 15: We believe you can’t run good writing classes with more than 15 students in the room. We never take more than 15 students for either our London-based courses or our online courses. Frankly, when it comes to the online courses, that’s very unusual – lots of creative-writing schools seem to think it doesn’t matter how many students study together in online courses. We work hard to ensure our online courses carry the values of our face-to-face courses and we consider that high-quality peer groups are just as important online as in person.
- One-to-one tutorials: Our courses – both in London and online – include one-to-one tutorials with tutors and occasionally with our agents (see course details). These offer students in-depth feedback on their work and the chance to focus on the areas where they most want help.
- Selective entry: For all of our courses, we ask applicants to submit a sample of their work-in-progress with their application, and we offer places to those whose work we think is the best. We think individual students get a better experience when they’re part of a really strong cohort producing great work. And to those who are not offered a place: don’t be discouraged. We’ve had quite a few great students who didn’t gain a place on a CBC course the first time they applied, but who have come back and applied again with stronger material and won through. In fact, one of our former students who’s now a published author applied to us three times before he gained a place on one of our courses.
- No strange hierarchy of courses: We firmly believe that a talented writer with a great idea for a novel can glean everything they can usefully learn from one good course. We deliberately do not offer a range of courses for writers to move from one to the next because we consider that a waste of your time and money. We don’t think there’s any such thing as an ‘advanced’ or an ‘intermediate’ novel-writing student. A writer who’s just starting out on their first-ever chapter can actually be as close to completing a publishable novel as someone who’s editing their third draft.
- Courses packed with content:We want our courses to be as useful as possible for our students. They are carefully planned and structured with input from the agency to make sure we deliver the best teaching and offer value for money. We’ve talked to people who’ve taken courses elsewhere and have remarked on how baggy the experience was and how the energy levels sagged mid-course. We’ve also heard tell of egotistical author-tutors who waste their students’ time by banging on ceaselessly about themselves. We don’t want that ever to happen on our courses. And we rejoice in the fact that we don’t have to shape our courses to deliver on academic criteria irrelevant to aspiring authors or to fit with the needs and specifications of university departments. We have the freedom to make our course content practical and relevant to our students. Our courses – both in London and online – all include:
- Practical classes on key topics, such as how to construct plot and how to write convincing dialogue.
- Homework linked to the teaching topics and to students’ work-in-progress. Writing exercises are worked on at home and brought into class – or for the online courses, uploaded for sharing with tutor and group on our secure educational site. Some of the best work is showcased on our website.
- Focus on the work-in-progress, using teaching and homework exercises to home in, wherever possible, on each student’s individual needs. For example, in relation to a teaching topic on narrative point of view, we might ask them to take a scene from their novel-in-progress and rewrite it from a different viewpoint.
- Writing Workshops are a classic feature of all good courses; our writing workshops enable students to get feedback on sections of their work from tutors and students. We run our workshops strictly to ensure that feedback is constructive and positive, and that everyone participates fully. Students can put specific questions about their work to the tutors and the group, and feedback is delivered both in discussion (whether that be face-to-face or online) and in individual written responses. We believe that students benefit from reading and commenting on the work of others as well as through receiving comment on their own work. The process of delivering feedback helps to develop the inner editor.
We care about our courses. We work hard to make them as good and as useful as possible to our students. We work hard to find talent and help develop it. Not everyone who comes on one of our courses will end up with an agent and a publisher (no one said this was going to be easy). But we can help you get the best out of your writing. We offer courses that are brilliant and memorable. So contact us. Share your thoughts, doubts, aspirations. Ask us questions. We’d love to hear from you.
Who We Are
Anna Davis, Director
Anna is the founder and Director of the Curtis Brown Creative writing school. She is the author of five novels, published around the world in 20 languages: The Dinner, Melting, Cheet, The Shoe Queen and, most recently, The Jewel Box. She is currently working on her sixth. Anna has worked for Curtis Brown for more than a decade as a literary agent and has served on the management committee of the Association of Authors’ Agents. Previously she was a lecturer on Manchester University’s MA in Novel-Writing, and has also led many other writing workshops for organisations such as the Cheltenham Literary Festival and Ty Newydd. A former Guardian columnist, Anna has been the recipient of the Arts Council of England’s Clarissa Luard Award (2001) and an h.Club 100 award – presented to the most influential, innovative and interesting people in the creative and media industries.
Rufus Purdy, Editor
A former travel, food and lifestyle journalist, Rufus’s work has been published in The Times, The Guardian, The Observer, The Financial Times, Condé Nast Traveller and The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, among others. Before joining Curtis Brown Creative in 2012, he was editor of Family Traveller magazine and – from 2007 and 2009 – edited the Mr & Mrs Smith guidebooks and website. Away from the agency, he also runs boutique-publishing company Bristlebird Books and is working – very slowly – on a novel. He is interested in working with new, exciting writers via the Curtis Brown Creative courses and other events.