29 August 2013

Under pressure

Frances MerivaleFrances Merivale
by Rufus Purdy From Our Students, Opinion

Here’s another inspiring piece from one of Curtis Brown Creative’s students. Frances Merivale was one of the 15 students offered a place on our first six-month course, taught by Christopher Wakling, which concluded at the beginning of July.

A novel is about as long as your intestines. It can get in a real mess. We carry it around all day; feed it and empty it, and put up with the cramps. It takes guts to put your insides on display, but Curtis Brown Creative is a good place to do it.
Fifteen of us have recently finished the latest six-month novel-writing course. Now we’re back on our own with our books in various states of jeopardy. I applied back in February, thinking even if I got a place there was no way I could take it. I had a draft of a novel but also a year’s freelance contract with the UN Refugee Agency, a two-year-old son and no childcare. But then I was offered a place and there was no way I could turn it down. Writing is hard but one thing is harder: not writing. So I took the place. My husband promised to help out, my mother promised to help out.
A couple of weeks in and my mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Three months later, I got pregnant and had to drag myself to every class ready to throw up all over the Curtis Brown boardroom.
My point being: life comes with pressures and every writer has them. But pressure gives writing urgency. In a crisis I cared about two things: my mother being OK and writing. Life is short and books matter. As my coursemate Chris Jackson said in a previous post on this blog, we could all be doing worthier things – such as the surgeon who saved my mother’s intestines from exploding. But we’re not. Or if we are, they are probably driving us to distraction.
I am grateful to Curtis Brown for valuing writers and for setting up this platform for those of us who have not yet got our books out there. Like exercise, writing requires energy – to make the time, to use the time, to push on when your pulse is weak. Haruki Murakami likens it to long-distance running: ‘To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm.’
The argument that creative-writing courses homogenise writers has always seemed a mad one to me. It would take one heck of a dictator to bend and mould 15 independent voices into any similar kind of shape. Instead, this course gave feedback and fuel. It made me feel there is always further to go.
Ultimately writing is not all about publication; it’s about books. Curtis Brown is in the business of making books and it was exciting to see inside. You can’t write without reading – and no book would exist if writers did not put their guts out there. So we put them out there. Who knows what will happen next?

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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