Covid-19 update London-based courses to return this autumn, with safety still our top concern – find out more here.

X

Breakthrough Novel-Writing Course for Black Writers

Deep-dive into your novel on this intensive five-day funded course with expert tuition, a strong peer group, and advice from agents and publishers.

COURSE DATES

Feb 8 2021 - Feb 12 2021

The Breakthrough Writers' Programme

A fully funded opportunity for 15 Black writers

Online/Zoom

Take part from wherever you're based

Selective Entry

We offer places to the most talented applicants

Overview

This five-day intensive Zoom/online novel-writing course is jam-packed with workshops, tutorials and advice from industry professionals. This is a course for people who are serious about writing a novel, and it will act as an inspirational catalyst and help exhilarate your writing journey. If you’re a Black writer starting or working on a novel and you want to join a group of 15 talented writers for dynamic discussion, expert tuition from two experienced author-tutors, and a chance to connect with leading agents and publishers, we want to hear from you.

Across the week you’ll use our online Learn platform and join Zoom discussions to participate in live workshops and teaching sessions with your tutors and fellow students. You will also attend an industry masterclass with Karolina Sutton and Felicity Blunt from Curtis Brown alongside Sharmaine Lovegrove (Publisher, Dialogue Books) and Ore Agbaje-Williams (Editor, Borough Press). After the course ends, you’ll be offered a one-to-one tutorial with a literary agent who has read the first 3,000 words of your novel.

Tutor

Jacob Ross, Author

Jacob Ross is a novelist, short story writer, editor and anthologist. Ross tutors Narrative Craft internationally. His crime novel, The Bone Readers, won the inaugural Jhalak Prize in 2017. His literary novel Pynter Bender was shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers Regional Prize and selected as one of the British Authors Club’s top three Best First Novels. Ross's collected short fiction, Tell No-One About This, was listed by the 2017 Bocas Literary Prize among the best Caribbean fictional works.

His most recent crime novel, Black Rain Falling, was published in spring 2020.

Jacob Ross is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Associate Fiction Editor at Peepal Tree Press.

Laura Barnett, Author

Laura's first novel, The Versions of Us (2015) was a number-one bestseller, it has been translated into 24 languages, and was shortlisted for Debut of the Year at the British Book Awards. Her second novel, Greatest Hits was published in 2017, with an accompanying soundtrack album by the musician Kathryn Williams. She has taught creative writing for Guardian Masterclasses, delivered a TedX talk on originality in fiction, and worked as a writing mentor for the charity Arts Emergency. She is also a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University's Writing School.

WHAT DOES THIS COURSE GIVE YOU?

curtis brown creative writing task
Curtis Brown Creative learning portal

Writing Workshops

Led by Jacob Ross

You'll get a dedicated workshop centring on the opening 3,000 words of your novel-in-progress with your tutor and the group, to take place on Zoom, plus feedback notes from your tutor. You'll be offering constructive comment on the other students' work.

Teaching Sessions

Interactive and practical lessons on the craft of storytelling

Each day, either Jacob Ross or Laura Barnett will be leading a teaching session focusing on topics to help you develop your novel-writing skills using a group discussion on Zoom, plus writing tasks to work on and share on our Learn platform.

One-to-One Tutorial

Talk about your novel in-depth with Laura Barnett

You'll get a 40-minute, one-to-one tutorial with Laura Barnett via Zoom. You'll discuss your synopsis and your intentions for your novel as a whole. Laura will also have read your 3,000-word opening.

Curtis Brown Creative learning platform forum

Student Forum

The hub of our online courses - find your writing community

We have developed a bespoke learning platform exclusively for our students. Here you can give and receive feedback, and discuss the teaching topics with your fellow students and tutor.

Resources & Notes

Comprehensive teaching notes and reference materials which are yours to keep

You’ll get access to additional resources and teaching notes, including advice on writing a synopsis and agent letter.

Pitch Workshop

Practise your elevator pitch with literary agents

We'll give you advice on how to pitch your novel effectively, and then Curtis Brown agents Karolina Sutton and Felicity Blunt will give individual written feedback to all students.

Industry Masterclass

Join a live video chat with top UK literary agents and publishers

Students will take part in a special 90-minute video webinar with top UK publishing professionals: Curtis Brown agents Karolina Sutton and Felicty Blunt alongside publishers Sharmaine Lovegrove (Dialogue Books) and Ore Agbaje-Williams (Borough Press). They will discuss what their roles are in a writer's journey and answer your questions about agenting and publishing.

Literary Agent Tutorial

Intensive one-to-one discussion of your novel-in-progress

In the weeks following the course all students will get a 45-minute one-to-one on Zoom with a Curtis Brown or C&W literary agent. They will read the opening 3,000-word extract from your novel-in-progress plus your synopsis and discuss your work in detail with you, as well as giving advice on your next steps.

Helping you connect with agents

Send your novel to us when it's ready

When you've finished writing your novel, the Curtis Brown Creative team will help you connect with agents at Curtis Brown and C&W – just email us and we're here to help.

THE BREAKTHROUGH WRITERS’ PROGRAMME

This course is part of The Breakthrough Writers’ Programme, which offers opportunities for under-represented writers, funded by the Curtis Brown Literary Agency and its agents.

Applications for this five-day course are open to all Black writers over the age of 18, working on novels in any genre of fiction aimed at adults.

Please note – this intensive course, including all Zoom classes, takes place live in UK daytime across each of 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th February. If you are not able to attend at this time, take a look at our mentoring programme and/or the scholarship places on our longer online courses, which offer flexible study-time.

Masterclass speakers

This course features an industry session with literary agents from Curtis Brown and leading publishers.

Application Process and Eligibility

Our selective application process means that you will be writing your novel in a peer group of 15 students working at a high level. Many of our former students have found their trusted readers with us – and form strong working friendships with classmates which go on long after the course is over.

This fully funded five-day novel-writing course is open to Black writers over the age of 18. In particular we would like to encourage applications from Black writers on low income, or with caring responsibilities.

Applicants must have one of the following categories of ethnicity: Black African; Black Caribbean; Black Other; Mixed – White and Black Caribbean; Mixed – White and Black African; or Other mixed background (to include Black African, Black Caribbean or Black Other).

Our form asks you to make a statement about your ethnicity and the reason you deserve this fully funded opportunity.

Please upload your application via the form at the end of this page. If you encounter any problems during the application process or have any more questions about the course, please email cbccourses@curtisbrown.co.uk for assistance.

Course Schedule

Day 1

Teaching from Jacob

Monday 8 February

10am11am – Zoom classroom session: Course welcome, with Jacob Ross, Laura Barnett, Anna Davis and Jennifer Kerslake. Introduction to course + students will introduce themselves and their novels one by one.

11am-11.30am – Jacob introduces an icebreaker writing exercise for the students to complete on the Learn platform.

11.30am-12.30pm Students work on their icebreaker writing exercise and post it up on the Learn platform. They will also post up their introductions to themselves and their novels so everyone can refer back across the week. Students are encouraged to comment on each other’s work and chat online on the platform.

12.30pm–1pm Jacob and the group reconvene on Zoom to talk about the writing exercise.

2pm3pm – Jacob and students reconvene on Zoom for workshops. Jacob leads the discussion and gives his thoughts on each of the 3 students’ work for approx. 20 minutes each.

3pm – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform, by posting comments and notes they have made on the pieces of work.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students with Laura – 40 minutes each, by Zoom: these will be set at agreed times after 3pm.

see more

Day 2

Teaching from Laura

Tuesday 9 February

10am–11am – Zoom classroom session: Laura introduces the topic of the day with some teaching on Zoom – then sets a writing exercise.

11am-11.30am – Students post their exercise on the Learn platform and engage in discussion on each other’s work.

12.30pm-1pm – Laura and the group meet on Zoom to talk about the writing exercise and issues arising from it.

2pm-3pm – Jacob and the students reconvene on Zoom for workshops. Jacob leads the discussion and gives thoughts on each of 3 students’ work for approx 20 minutes each.

3pm – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform, by posting comments and notes they have made on the pieces of work.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students with Laura – 40 minutes each, by Zoom: these will be set at agreed times after 3pm.

see more

Day 3

Teaching from Jacob

Wednesday 10 February

10am–11am – Zoom classroom session: Jacob introduces the topic of the day with some teaching on Zoom – then sets a writing exercise.

11am-11.30am – Students post their exercise on the Learn platform and engage in discussion on each other’s work.

12.30pm-1pm – Jacob and the group meet on Zoom to talk about the writing exercise and issues arising from it.

2pm-3pm – Jacob and the students reconvene on Zoom for workshops. Jacob leads the discussion and gives thoughts on each of 3 students’ work for approx 20 minutes each.

3pm – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform, by posting comments and notes they have made on the pieces of work.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students with Laura – 40 minutes each, by Zoom: these will be set at agreed times after 3pm.

see more

Day 4

Teaching from Laura

Thursday 11 February

10am–11am – Zoom classroom session: Laura introduces the topic of the day with some teaching on Zoom – then sets a writing exercise.

11am-11.30am – Students post their exercise on the Learn platform and engage in discussion on each other’s work.

12.30pm-1pm – Laura and the group meet on Zoom. Laura talks to the group about the pitches they will be posting for the agents to read, and answers their questions.

2pm-3pm – Jacob and the students reconvene on Zoom for workshops. Jacob leads the discussion and gives thoughts on each of 3 students’ work for approx 20 minutes each.

3pm – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform, by posting comments and notes they have made on the pieces of work.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students with Laura – 40 minutes each, by Zoom: these will be set at agreed times after 3pm.

see more

Day 5

Pitching, Agents and Publishers

Friday 12 February

10am – The students post up their pitches for the agents to see. The agents – Karolina Sutton and Felicity Blunt – will comment on these during the morning.

10am–11am – Jacob and students join Zoom for workshops. Jacob leads the discussion and gives his thoughts on each of the 3 students’ work for approx. 20 minutes each.

11am  – Students are encouraged to continue the workshop of the 3 students’ work on the Learn platform, posting comments and any notes they made on the three pieces of work.

One-to-one tutorials for 3 x students with Laura Barnett – 40 minutes each, by Zoom: these will be set at agreed times in the morning.

2.00pm – 2.45pm – Conclusions session with Jacob and Laura on Zoom. Course round-up and confidence-building.

3pm–4.30pm – Industry Masterclass – Karolina Sutton and Felicity Blunt from Curtis Brown and publishers Sharmaine Lovegrove (Dialogue Books) and Ore Agbaje-Williams (Borough Press) will talk to the group about what they look for in a debut novel and answer questions on the agent’s/editor’s roles and the publishing landscape. They will give each student the chance to talk about their work and give verbal feedback in a supportive environment. Hosted by Jennifer Kerslake.

 

see more

Applications now closed

If you are eligible to join this fully funded course, we welcome your application. Please apply with the first 3,000 words of the novel you’d like to work on during the course, and a synopsis of no more than a page (both need to be in the same document, as you can only upload ONE file in the application form). The CBC team will select 15 students based on the quality of the writing sample provided. The deadline for applications is midnight, end of day Sunday 10 January, and we will respond to applicants by Thursday 14 January.

Not quite ready?

Enter your email to receive updates and reminders about this course. We will also subscribe you to our weekly newsletter for writing tips, agent advice and news about our latest events and courses.