13 January 2018

A tutor’s story: When you’re told your creative writing student has a book deal

Christopher Wakling
by Anna Davis Guest Blog, Our Courses, Student Successes,

Christopher Wakling has taught many creative writing courses  for CBC, both in London and online. A quick bit of adding up shows that Chris has been the tutor of more of our published alumni than anyone else on the team – including Kate Hamer, Nicholas Searle, Lisa Williamson, SD Sykes, Catherine Bennetto – and most recently Maria Realf and James Hall. As any of our tutors will tell you, it’s a fantastic moment when you hear that one of your students has got a publishing deal. Few know more than the tutor about the writer’s highs and lows on their journey from page 1 to publication. When we hear of a student’s success, it gives us a thrill that’s something akin to ‘proud parent’. So, over to Chris Wakling … 

I was running on a treadmill, headphones in, listening to Dog Days are Over – it’s motivating! – and the end was in sight. I upped the pace. Just another two hundred metres or so to reach the arbitrary finish line. But before I could get there the music cut out.

My phone rang. A number I didn’t recognise showed on the screen. Forget that, I thought, and then – but what if it’s one of the kids?

I jumped off the treadmill, panting heavily, and pressed answer.

For a minute I thought the heavy breathing in my headphones was my own, transmitted back to me, but it wasn’t. The caller was also gasping, beside himself in my ear.

‘Who’s … this?’ I managed.

‘It’s … X!’

X was a student on the last CBC course I’d taught – not their actual name, obviously …

‘X!’ I said.

‘I … have … some … thing … to … say,’ said X.

‘Say … it … then.’

‘My … my …’


The whirring of the gym wasn’t helping matters, and that, combined with the fact I dislike speaking on the phone in public, meant I was now in the men’s changing rooms, locking myself in a toilet.

‘Your … what?’

‘… book!’ said X.

‘Your … book …’

‘Just … sold … in …’

‘… in? …”

‘The … U … K …’


‘The … U … S … A …’

‘Amaz …’

‘And Germ … an … y’

‘… ing’


‘Jes …’

‘It … al … y’

‘… us’



‘Can …’

‘I … get … the …’

‘… a …’

‘Pic …


‘… ture’.

In short, X’s book had done quite well, as it thoroughly deserved to do. And I was delighted for him, as I always am, when a student of mine has any success, big or small. It’s a transformative moment, having worked for months with a student in the classroom or online, to hear that they have got all the way – beyond finishing a draft, itself a huge feat, through the unending editing process, past finding an agent even – to finally secure a deal. It doesn’t happen to everyone who deserves it, of course, but it does happen, and the focus of CBC is very simple: we up the odds, making publishing success more likely – however marginally – for all our students. Course participants emerge better writers and readers, and that in itself is a worthwhile outcome, but we don’t shy away from our students’ publishing ambition. We get behind it. We home in on the specific things they need to do to improve their chances. We help.

To date 38 CBC students have sold their novels to publishers. I’ve taught 18 of them. I expect to add to their number on the forthcoming course.

To find out more and apply for the six month novel-writing course in London taught by Chris Wakling, click here

Or you can check out our six month online course, or three month online course on writing YA and children’s fiction.

Or enrol on a £200 six-week online course: Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel, or Edit & Pitch Your Novel.

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