09 January 2014

What I’ve learned from my Curtis Brown Creative course

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by Antoinette di Michele From Our Students, Our Courses

As the applications deadline for our Six-Month Creative-Writing Course nears (all submissions need to be with us by midnight on Sunday 12 January!), former student Antoinette di Michele reveals why the course she took was such a life-changing experience.

I have just completed the Curtis Brown Creative Three-Month Creative-Writing Course. As with all great experiences, it was the people that made the course the extraordinary time it was. The bond our writing group formed, our ability to say things to each other honestly, our diverse reading and professional backgrounds, and our common interest in writing to a high, professional standard mean I have tapped into a living resource for inspiration, encouragement and reality checks that I can draw on for 2014 – and, I hope, all the years after that.

Overseeing it all, we had Anna Davis and Nikita Lalwani (as well as Norah, Alice and Rufus), and their guidance and generosity surpassed my expectations. Our classes with Nikita and Anna made me think and work harder. I’m grateful to call all these people who worked together for the Curtis Brown Creative cause my friend.

I’ve grown as a writer in ways specific to me. In regards to editing, I’ve learned lessons that keep me focused. When it comes to plot, I’ve learned how characters lead action – the key word is ‘lead’ (and the key word is ‘action’). I’ve grown in confidence in areas where I knew I had a natural strength; this helps the whole process. Once a week, I practice my pitch. The hair shines with combing.

The talks and discussions with guest speakers – agents, writers, editors and publishers – were engaging, open and honest. If you’re serious about improving your work, let alone getting published, there’s a wealth of information and food for thought. We met multiple times with literary agents from Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh; we met with international bestsellers at various and fascinating moments in their careers, with editors and publishers in an award-winning year.

The conversations have continued online, but here’s a taste of what we discussed. Max Porter of Granta Books told us to write the book that only we can write. Karolina Sutton suggested we read outside our comfort zones. Jojo Moyes and Sheila Crowley cautioned that if you’re trying to be current, you’re already late. We learned that creative collaboration is a fundamental part of what the industry is today. Writing that engages the reader is Jonny Geller’s priority. David Nicholls discussed his career path and writing process. Rosamund Lupton, Felicity Blunt, Sue Armstrong and Sophie Lambert fielded questions and gave us each feedback on our pitch. Kate Hamer said stick to the story. Joanna Penn said market yourself online. Clare Conville and Francis Bickmore of Canongate Books ran a masterclass. Clare stressed the editing process and voice. Francis had a migraine, but he couldn’t be stopped.

I’d say that’s all, but for my group it’s only the beginning.

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.

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