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We’re pleased to announce that Emma Harding has been awarded the HW Fisher Scholarship for her novel-in-progress When I Love You I am Sick. Emma has won a fully-funded place on our 3-month novel-writing course taught by Charlotte Mendelson in London. Emma is the seventh talented writer of limited financial means to study on one of our selective entry London-based creative writing courses with their fee fully-paid by HW Fisher & Company Chartered Accountants.

When I Love You I am Sick is a love story that unfolds in the idiosyncratic world of Ingrid, a compulsive doubter who begins to uncover the shocking truth of the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death.

At CBC we were impressed by Emma’s witty and compelling narrative voice. We’re thrilled that she’s joined our Spring novel-writing course.

Emma told us: ‘I feel extremely lucky and thrilled to be on this course. The opportunity to listen and share with fellow students whose common goal is to make every single one of our novels the best it can be is really felt in every session. I owe a huge thank you to the generosity of HW Fisher, and to Charlotte Mendelson our brilliant and encouraging tutor, and the Curtis Brown Creative team for selecting and inviting me.’

The CBC team would like to thank HW Fisher for their ongoing support of our courses through this scholarship program, which has been running since Autumn 2015. The HW Fisher sponsorship of CBC started when Andrew Subramanium, a partner in HW Fisher’s media group, working with an impressive roll-call of writers, musicians and artists, got talking to CBC’s MD Anna Davis. That first conversation, over three years ago, quickly led to the development of a scholarship programme that has funded two students per year ever since.

Here at CBC we are dedicated to finding talented writers and helping them to get the best out of their novels. It’s very important for us to find writers through scholarship programmes who would not otherwise have been able to take our courses, and we are absolutely delighted that two of our previous HW Fisher scholars have already gone on to get book deals. Our spring 2018 scholar Kiare Ladner had her debut novel Nightshift snapped up by Picador whilst she was studying with us. And our scholar of 2016, Louise McCreesh, now has a deal with Hodder & Stoughton for Cracked, the novel she was writing on the course.

Take a look at the scholarship places we currently have open for application here.

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Today we’d like to tell you about the Creative Future Writers’ Award –  a national writing competition open to short fiction writers and poets, run by national arts charity Creative Future, who work with talented and under-represented writers and artists.

The award was founded in 2013 – and this year invites creative-writing entries on the theme of ‘HOME’ from under-represented writers who feel their opportunities are limited due to mental health issues, disability, health or social circumstance – the full eligibility criteria are set out here. In the poetry category you can enter a maximum of 300 words; while in prose you can submit up to 2,000 words. The awards will include cash prizes and some great writing development opportunities, as well as publication in the award anthology. Curtis Brown Creative is delighted to be contributing a Gold Prize Award of a free place on one of our 6-week online novel-writing courses (worth £200) to one talented writer who shines in the category of ‘Prose’.

The Creative Future Writers’ Award competition is open until June 2, and will be judged by a panel that includes author Kerry Hudson, poet Anthony Anaxagarou and Curtis Brown literary agent Catherine Cho. For full details of eligibility criteria, prizes and Terms and Conditions please visit the Creative Future Writers’ Award website here.

To find out more about the competition and about how Creative Future works with under-represented writers, we caught up with two of last year’s prize winners, Ava Ming and Jade Cuttle:

What has winning a Creative Future Writers’ Award meant to you, and how it has impacted the direction of your writing?

Ava: (2018 Commended for Fiction) Winning an award, as well as being published, is always a kind of validation. A stranger has taken the time to read, appreciate, award and publish what you’ve written. Being validated as a writer in an ocean of writers is a wonderful feeling.

Jade: (2018 Gold Award for Prose) It’s actually the first time I’ve managed to write anything longer than a song, which made it an even greater surprise when I heard I’d won Gold. Winning this prize has definitely encouraged me to probe my curiosity for story-writing further.

What do you feel is different about the writing experience for under-represented writers? What do you feel under-represented writers need most?

Ava: I’ve led many writing workshops for young, unpublished writers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Initially they write about what they commonly read and what they commonly read tends to be stories from the dominant culture. They state that ‘this is all that’s out there, so that’s what publishers want.’

When I explain that they can write about whatever they want, including their own cultural background and experiences, and that writing your own truth makes you a better writer, these young writers feel liberated. That freedom, however, is a two-sided coin, the flip side being that they don’t expect to see their books on the shelves believing no-one outside of their community is really interested in black stories.

They often haven’t heard of the late Andrea Levy, Courttia Newland or Marlon James. More high-profile black writers like these, writing about black experiences, would have a great impact on black and under-represented writers.

Can you tell us a little about your winning entry and why you think it was chosen by the judges?

Ava: ‘The Walk In’ is about a soul abruptly ripped from its body due to an untimely death and, after hanging around for several millennia, becoming desperate to walk into a new, willing body in order to live again. I challenged myself to inject humour into a fairly grim  subject to make the story fun to read and unpredictable. I think the judges chose it because it was different.

Jade:  ‘Hearts for Sale’ is a surreal story set in a supermarket that sells human hearts. With hearts being produced on an industrial scale, factories are churning out bulbous cheeks of beating tissue faster than you can blink. The story comments on capitalism, materialism and mass-production with a cynical and somewhat comical tone. It’s also a comment on greed and bad romance as one customer comes in and orders far more hearts than they need. I guess it probably caught the judges’ attention because it’s so wacky!

Do you think more visible action is currently taking place in the writing world in issues of diversity and representation?

Ava: Yes I do, but sadly I also think this is a case of ‘same script, different cast.’  Initiatives promoting inclusivity come around every few years. They can be a great spur, unearth some fantastic writing and writers of potential – but once they end, writers who felt that they finally had a seat at the table can find themselves on the other side of a closed door. The door may have a glass panel so they can still see what’s going on, but essentially, they’re no longer part of the process.

Jade: I’ve been lucky to have been selected to join the Ledbury Emerging Critics Programme which was founded last year to encourage diversity in poetry, open to dedicated BAME poetry critics in the UK. I’ve also been asked to write for publications like the Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Poetry Review and many others as a direct result of being selected for this brilliant scheme. The intensive workshops, one-to-one mentorship and critical feedback has really helped to hone my craft, and develop a professional reputation.

Do you have any advice for young under-represented writers at the beginning of their journey?

Ava: Don’t ask for a seat at the table, build your own table! The publishing world is so different to when I started and publishing houses had all the power. Now, it’s easier to publish your own work your own way. External validation is nice, of course, but that can come from your growing army of readers.

In addition, build your craft. Don’t expect to create a masterpiece the first time you write. Show the world, publishers or whoever you want to see your work the absolute best of you. I re-drafted my story somewhere between 30-40 times and most long-term writers will agree that’s the norm. Write every day and push yourself to keep improving.

Jade: I’d encourage all budding writers to embrace the ‘risk-taking’ aspect to creative exploration! Don’t be daunted by conventions.

What would you say to an under-represented writer who is thinking of entering the competition?

Ava: I would say; “what are you waiting for?” And, “don’t leave it till the last minute!” Give yourself time to edit and re-draft your story. Follow the rules, there’s no reason the judges should make an exception for you. Have fun with what your write. Try to write something you would really enjoy reading.

Jade: Go for it! I managed to win Gold by submitting my very first story which was written because I’d seen the competition advertised, so it’s never too late to start.

How do you feel about the Creative Future Writers’ Award theme this year – ‘HOME’? How would you tackle it?

Ava: It’s great to see the competition is always moving forward, giving writers a chance to be seen, heard and read. In terms of this year’s theme, ‘HOME’ I would think through all of the usual ideas, stereotypes and clichés, then discard them – allowing space for something original to filter through. Then I’d pick whichever one of these new ideas resonates the most, begin there and see where it takes me.

Jade: Stay tuned… I might just be entering again!

The Creative Future Writers’ Award competition is open from now until June 2, and is open to all writers of poetry or short fiction who identify as under-represented due to their identity, disability, social or other circumstances. For a full explanation of what is meant by under-represented groups click here. For full prize details click here.

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Curtis Brown Creative by Hannah Mary Mckinnon - 4d ago

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the U.K., grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. Hannah took our six-month online novel-writing course back in 2014. Her third novel Her Secret Son will be published next week, to celebrate Hannah shares with us the writing advice she wishes she could give to her younger self …

With my third book, Her Secret Son, set to be published on May 28, 2019, my fourth in the editing stages, and my fifth being plotted, I’m often asked if I have advice for aspiring writers. Do I ever! It took me four years to get a book deal, and during that time I made a number of mistakes, some of them cringe worthy. Here’s a list of things I wish I’d known from the start.

1. Rules are rules (part 1)
When drafting my first novel in 2011 my mantra was “I read, therefore I can write.” Turns out I was wrong, at least back then. Who knew when it comes to writing stories, there are important rules other than good grammar? Uniform points-of-view, consistent use of tenses, avoiding dreaded clichés… Authors heed these rules so discreetly readers may not notice, but agents and editors will when they’re broken. Free, online resources for writers are but a click away.

2. Don’t look back…until you get to the end
At the very beginning of my writing journey I’d write a paragraph and edit it, write another and edit that, too. It was exhausting, not to mention slow and disheartening. I’ve since realized my very first draft isn’t meant to be close to perfect (or shared). It’s a skeleton, the bones of the story, something to work with. I no longer waste time editing a paragraph I’ve just written, and which may not make the final cut. Consequently I’m writing stories faster and more efficiently than ever.

(Want more tips about slaying your first draft? Read my previous CBC blog post here.)

3. Lip-service is the enemy
It’s reassuring and encouraging to get positive feedback (and sometimes the one thing that’ll keep even a seasoned writer going), but if it’s the only input sought, opportunities to improve could be missed. Having people read your work is daunting, but sharing it only with friends and family—who may not want to upset by pointing out plot holes, lacklustre character arcs, and saggy middles—will be counterproductive in the long run.

4. Writing group wonder
I was two years into my writing journey before I joined a local writing group, and I wish I’d done it sooner. Having them critique my stuff was eye-opening in itself, but critiquing theirs and listening to others give feedback on different pieces taught me just as much about their writing as it did my own. The other benefit? Meeting kindred spirits. I’m no longer in that writing group, but five of us get together regularly and have developed a close bond, celebrating each other’s successes and milestones along the way.

5. Going pro
While writing groups are fabulous support, sometimes we need an even more critical eye to look over our work. Professional editors give structural feedback on plot, scene setting, consistency, characters, pace, dialogue, voice, etc., all of which help shape and polish manuscripts, getting them ready for querying and submission. Yes, these are paid services, and yes, the feedback can feel overwhelming, but in my case it was invaluable.

6. Take a course, stat!
It took me weeks to apply to Curtis Brown Creative’s six-month online novel writing course after I’d seen it online, and I submitted my application a day before the deadline. That decision was one of the best I could’ve made early on. The course had a profound effect on both my story-telling abilities and my confidence as an author, making me more structured yet more creative, and breaking bad habits I’d picked up along the way.

7. Sometimes it’s about who you don’t know…
One of the biggest surprises about being an author is how helpful and interested people are when I’m conducting research for my novels. While writing Her Secret Son, I needed to speak to the police (including a detective and a forensics specialist). I also had to connect with a family lawyer, a school board and a coroner. I didn’t know many people in upstate New York where the book is set, and searched online. Without exception, every single person was happy to assist, giving me information and pointers to make my story more authentic and genuine. All I needed to do was ask.

8. Rules are rules (part 2)
Polished manuscript. Professional query. Perfected synopsis. Everything’s ready to go… Time spent researching agents, tailoring query letters to each one and following their submission guidelines is a wise investment. Some agents only want a query letter, others a query, a synopsis and the first three chapters, thousand words, or ten pages. Making a good first impression by delivering exactly what they’ve asked for is easy, and yet not something everyone does.

9. Patience
Not my strong suit since I was a kid. While seeking an agent (and subsequently when my novels went out on submission) I had to frequently remind myself a “no” in publishing is faster than a “yes.” Agents and publishers receive hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts each year, so patience is a great asset.

10. Know when to do a Frozen…
“Kill your darlings!” can be sound advice. We get too attached, fall too much in love with our characters, plot and story, even when everyone else tells us it’s “just not working.” If one person says so I’d recommend not giving up, it’s a subjective business, after all. However, if everybody echoes the same feedback, it’s time to listen, saving yourself both time and effort by pivoting your story, or letting it go and writing something else.

11. …but also never, never, never give up!
Countless times I wanted to give up on my first book, thinking I’d never bag an agent or be offered that elusive book deal. The road to being published is littered with the corpses of fictional characters other writers abandoned. Some of them were worth fighting for. I’m glad I went to battle for mine.

You can pre-order Her Secret Son here.

If you’re currently working on a novel and are interested in the writing course that Hannah Mary took our next Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell is currently open for applications.

Or, you can take a look at all of the creative-writing course we currently have available for enrolment or application (in London or online) here.

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Welcome to the next in our series of Curtis Brown 120 blog posts, these blogs include exclusive interviews with authors, agents and publishers; writing tips; industry insights – and much more besides.

This week the Curtis Brown 120 team asked commissioning editor at Trapeze, Orion – Katie Brown – about her path into the publishing world, the types of books she’s looking for now and the advice she has for writers …

What was your route into publishing – where did you start?
I started out as a publicity assistant at Riot Communications, a small arts and culture agency set-up by two former Penguin employees. It gave me a broad insight into different areas of publishing – adults and children, fiction and non-fictions, prizes and charities as well as books and authors – and I loved the variety it offered in terms of my day-to-day work. I then moved in-house to Headline, where I spearheaded campaigns for Neil Gaiman, Mary Berry, Sarah Winman and Eowyn Ivey. After two years, I decided I wanted to make the move into editorial, and I am now commissioning editor for fiction at Trapeze, Orion.

What was the first book you commissioned?
Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis, a glorious novel about a woman who receives a letter from her first love, dated the day he disappeared 12 years before. It’s this wonderful heart-wrenching mystery, that’s funny and depicts friendship in all its honest nuance, but I also loved the exploration of social disparity, poverty, the disenfranchisement of the young, and mental health.

What’s your favourite debut novel?
Oh god, can anyone actually answer this?! If put on the spot I’d have to say The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I adored the dark magic and glamour of it, and the feeling of never having read anything like it before. My other, more obvious one, would have to be Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Read more.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read widely and as much as you can,  but don’t compare yourself. Write as often as you can, regardless of how hard or difficult you find it. Know that finding it laborious to get words down on the page does not make you a bad writer.

Which book do you always recommend to others?
Depending on the person and their tastes (I know this isn’t one but these are all books I constantly recommend!)

A Mad World, My Masters by John Simpson

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (obvs)

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (double obvs)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

A Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by  Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

What is your pet hate in submissions?
Comparative titles that don’t make sense!

Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine?
Death in Terry Pratchett’s discworld series.

What was the last book you read?
Technically a submission but the last book I read for pleasure was Folk by Zoe Gilbert / last book I listened to on audio was The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.

What book is totally overrated in your view?
I don’t know about overrated but I certainly won’t ever be reading Jordan B Peterson’s book.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?
I never EVER feel guilty about reading anything, and no one else should either.

What is your prediction for the next publishing trend?
Crime books that aren’t as dark and don’t focus on a murder etc, but rather centre around ‘victimless’ crimes. Something that basically merges the uplit trend with the appetite for a crime caper.

‘Millennial Lit’ – books like Queenie, Normal People and Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love have established a platform and I think we’ll see more fiction especially like this, especially in the commercial sphere.

What are you looking for in a debut?
I am quite voice-led, so with all my books I’m looking for a fresh, captivating voice.

In terms of genre, I have a few things I’m looking for:

Reading group historical that tells me something new and has a fresh premise, perhaps around a true historical event.

Something with a hint of magic that firmly sits in the reading group area of the market.

High concept crime.

Find out about the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize.

Read more Curtis Brown 120 here.

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Welcome to the next in our series of Curtis Brown 120 blog posts, these blogs include exclusive interviews with authors, agents and publishers; writing tips; industry insights – and much more besides.

This week the team caught up with bestselling author Alice Feeney whose second novel, I Know Who You Are, comes out in paperback today. Read on to discover Alice’s writing routine and her stellar advice for aspiring authors …

How did you get your debut published?  Did you have an agent?
I still don’t understand how I managed to get the best agent in town. Jonny (Geller) read Sometimes I Lie in June 2016 and agreed to represent me. After almost ten years of rejections, that was a pretty big moment in my life. We worked on the book for a couple of months, then he sent it out to publishers that September. Everything that has happened since is like a dream I didn’t dare dream come true.

Sometimes I Lie was published in the UK in March 2017. It was an international and New York Times bestseller, and has been sold in over twenty countries. Ellen DeGeneres is currently turning it into a TV series with Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and I still have to pinch myself on a regular basis.

It took me a long time to find an agent and become a published author, but I think it just goes to prove that it’s never too late and you’re never too old to follow your dreams, the secret is to never give up.

What’s your favourite debut novel?
My favourite debut in the last couple of years is The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. It was such an original, brave and brilliant book, and I loved it.

How do you start your writing day?
I function best first thing in the morning. I write in my garden shed with my dog, a giant black Labrador who is scared of feathers. He keeps me company, and takes me for walks when I need a break.

The shed is cosy and warm (once the heater is on) with a desk, a comfy sofa and a few of my favourite things. It’s also quiet. I do not understand people who write in cafes, I think they might be an alien species.

It might not sound like much, but it is where I am most happy, and when I step into the shed each morning, it’s like disappearing inside another world.

If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Try not to worry so much, everything is going to be OK.

What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
Read a lot

Write a lot. (Ideally a book that you would want to read).

Never give up.

Which book do you always recommend to others?
On Writing by Stephen King. I’ve read it a few times, and there is an audiobook version now too. He narrates it himself, and it’s like listening to your favourite teacher giving you the best advice whenever you need to hear it.

How do you relax when you are not writing?
I read and drink too much wine.

Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine?
Matilda, Wonder Woman and Hermione Granger.

What was the last book you read?
The Wych Elm by Tana French. It’s also my favourite book so far this year.

What book is totally overrated in your view?
I always think that if you don’t have anything kind to say, it’s best to say nothing at all.

Do you have any writing rituals – and can you tell us what they are?
I never tell anyone about a book until I have finished writing it, not even the title, I think it’s bad luck. I buy a bottle of champagne when I start a new novel, put it in the fridge, and don’t open it until my agent says he likes the book (which can be up to a year later). I wear lucky socks when writing, even in summer, and I always have a Kit Kat at 3pm.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?
There is no such thing, all reading is good!

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We are thrilled to announce that the major US agency ICM Partners is to join forces with us on a special six-month online novel-writing course starting this September – providing 15 talented writing students with a unique opportunity to connect with literary agents from both the US and the UK and to glean knowledge and industry insights from both US and UK publishing perspectives.

ICM Partners has been working with the Curtis Brown agency for over 10 years on the UK and translation rights representation of its stellar list of authors. We are hugely excited to have Heather Karpas and Zoe Sandler – both literary agents at ICM in New York – joining our upcoming 6-month online novel-writing course, with the shared mission of discovering and developing exciting new writers …

Heather Karpas has been at ICM Partners since 2012, building a client list of adult authors in narrative nonfiction, commercial and literary fiction, pop culture and poetry. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Middlebury College in Vermont.

Zoe Sandler joined ICM Partners in October 2011, building a list of author clients working on fiction and nonfiction, books for kids and for adults. Prior to joining ICM, Zoe spent three years at an academic press in North Carolina, after graduating from McGill University in Montreal.

Applications are now open for the six month-online course which will run September 2019-March 2020 – taught by Commonwealth-Book-Prize-winning author Lisa O’Donnell.  Students with financial hardship can apply for the fully-funded scholarship being provided by bestselling  author Jane Fallon (the scholarship winner can choose between this course and the London-based six month course).

The students for this course will be selected from among applications received by the CBC team on the basis of quality of material from their novels-in-progress.

Heather Karpas and Zoe Sandler will be taking part in two ‘agent days’, giving feedback to students on their pitches and answering their questions on publishing and writing – and at the end of the course, students will have the chance to share the openings of their novels-in-progress and their synopses with both the US and UK agents. To find out more and apply, here.

Our MD Anna Davis, says: “I am so thrilled that Heather Karpas and Zoe Sandler are going to work with us on this course. Our online creative writing courses are inherently international, with many writers participating from across the world – but the involvement of ICM Partners gives us a new and brilliant opportunity to specifically reach out to talented US writers – as well as offering fascinating insights into the US market for all of the students who’ll be taking part.”

Heather Karpas and Zoe Sandler say: “We’ve long admired the work that CBC does with emerging writers, and the remarkable success of the program. We are thrilled to participate and help expand its reach into the US market.”

Find out more about all of the course we currently have on offer for enrolment or application, in London or online, here.

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Melanie Cantor is represented by Curtis Brown’s very own Felicity Blunt. Melanie’s debut novel Death and Other Happy Endings comes out this June Transworld (UK) Penguin (US). The novel is a heartwarming read which explores one women’s journey as she deals with her terminal diagnosis – If your life was going to end tomorrow, what would you do today?

Here Melanie discusses her path to publication and offers her guidance to aspiring authors on how to choose the right course.

I’m going to come clean with you.  I’m an addict. It’s odd really.  I don’t have an addictive personality.  I thought my first would be my last.  But that’s what all addicts say, isn’t it?  So yes! I’m a writing course addict.  It happened by stealth.  After the first one I thought, enough! How much is there to learn?  But then the second one became inevitable and after several years of trying to get published, I realise there is no end to the learning.  Ever!  Even when you finally make it (Death & Other Happy Endings, Bantam Press 13 June).

It all began with Google – doesn’t everything? Back in 2007, I typed in writing courses, scrolled down the long list and thought: how about writing courses abroad?  That was how I ended up in France.  My first course was in a beautiful location with only two other writers.  The tutor was accompanied by her husband.  Turns out this was her friends’ house with the friends (charming folk and she a great cook) still in residence.  I listened to rules and arcs and acts I could barely comprehend, learning more about the strange machinations of this woman’s marriage; the tensions, the drinking, the bad driving.  It was fascinating but not what I had in mind.

The following year, still grappling with arcs and acts, I thought to apply for a more serious course: one held in Oxford, led by a marvellous man called Jem Poster, a one man lesson in articulacy managing never to say ah or um in a sentence. This proved to be a highly informative week. Held at Corpus Christi College, it allowed me a taste of Oxford student life, (so very privileged) and invigorated my writing ambition.

That was when I thought I was done.  I didn’t feel I should do any more courses.  I felt I must be stupid if I needed more.  Until it dawned on me: I could take as many courses as I needed.  It was my choice.  My purse.

From quick fix weekends to a remarkable retreat in France, each experience offered something different. I met amazing like-minded people, I learned more than about arcs, acts and marital failure. Even one of the less stimulating weekends gave rise to a student sharing something so simple and valuable it made the pointlessness worthwhile: send your manuscript to your Kindle. After that, I was hooked.

So, on the basis of this, if you’d like some course tips from a hardened user, then:

  • Choose your courses carefully. They are not cheap.  If they are, you should ask yourself why.  And if the person leading is a debut author who had his first manuscript picked up which then went on to become a bestseller and a movie, he might be a jammy bastard but he won’t necessarily be a teacher.
  • Understand that you are more likely to fail than be like the jammy bastard. Accept that failure is part of your path.  It will make you a better writer and a more appreciative author.  If you’ve found your true passion, someone will eventually find you.  Never give up!
  • You have chosen to be a writer. As such, you are putting yourself out there, laying yourself open to criticism.  Accept this.  You will probably be asked to read your work aloud, several times if you’re on a long-term course.  Don’t be coy.  Go for it.  Be proud that you’ve made it to the table.

CBCers.  Enjoy the ride.  It’s going to be a bumpy one but hang on tight and it will be worth every crazy, frustrating, exhilarating twist, turn and cliffhanger.

Pre-order Death and Other Happy Endings.

If you’re looking to dip your toe in the water of writing courses we run six-week online courses designed to help writers at different stages of their novel-writing journey, enrol today: Starting to Write Your NovelWrite to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel.

Or, you can check out all of the courses which we currently have open for application or enrolment here.

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We have an exciting opportunity for a Senior Manager, Courses and Operations to join our team at a time of growth and development. Reporting to and working closely with our Managing Director, you will be responsible for managing the delivery of our rolling programme of courses and the operations of our day-to-day business. You will also play a key role in developing new projects, brokering and managing partnerships and representing the company and its values.

Required Experience and Skills

You’ll have a background of working in publishing or literary agenting, higher education (creative writing/literature), arts administration or journalism. You’ll be a creative thinker with commercial nous; a sensitive and highly literate communicator with excellent administrative skills, a passion for books and literature and an interest in the creative arts more generally. You’ll have a strong commitment to customer care and the customer experience. You’ll be adept in Excel and Powerpoint.

Desirable experience:

  • Experience of line-managing staff
  • Editorial experience and/or experience of writing professionally
  • Budgeting and running P&Ls

You’ll be based at our central London offices in Haymarket as part of a team of five permanent staff (plus freelancers) and will be working with Curtis Brown Creative’s tutors (all published authors), students, the Curtis Brown and C&W book agents and some of their clients, and – via social media and online – the wider world of writers.

This is a full-time role – or potentially four days per week (subject to discussion). Salary will depend on the level of experience.

Original Talent embraces diversity and seeks to promote the benefits of diversity in all of our business activities and to develop a business culture that reflects that belief.  We welcome applications from all members of society irrespective of age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, colour, race, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief.

To download the full job description and benefits package here: CBC Senior Manager

For further information, please email a CV and salary expectations

jobs@curtisbrown.co.uk and please ensure that you put Senior Manager – Courses and Operations, Curtis Brown Creative Ltd in the subject line of your email.

The closing date for applications is Thursday 16th May 2019.

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This month we’re celebrating not one but TWO birthdays … It’s the 8th birthday of Curtis Brown Creative, and the first birthday of #WriteCBC – oh yes it is! So, for those of you who’ve been taking part in our monthly Twitter writing competition for the full year, help yourselves to a virtual slice of cake (don’t worry, #VWG – it’s a big birthday cake – plenty for all of you!). And to those newcomers out there, you couldn’t have picked a better time to join in! Here’s a blog with information about how to play and the prizes you can win. Oh, and when you post your task up on Twitter, do make sure you use the hashtag #WriteCBC and tag us @CBCreative – otherwise we might not see it …

Our very special birthday guest for this edition of #WriteCBC is the wonderful Kate Hamer – who took a Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course in London way back in our very first year. Kate wrote her first novel with us, quickly gaining representation with Curtis Brown literary agent Alice Lutyens and a publishing deal with Faber. The Girl in the Red Coat became an instant bestseller on publication, and was shortlisted for many prizes including the Costa First Novel Award and the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger. It has since been followed by The Doll Funeral, and, on this very day – 2nd May – by her third novel Crushed – so actually it’s a kind of birthday for Kate too! We are delighted to welcome her to #WriteCBC.

So, let’s find out what Kate has in store for you all …

Kate’s writing tip:

Stuck for ideas? Take a look at the fairy tales and myths that have been with us so long they’re practically part of our DNA. Powerful tales like Red Riding Hood and Snow White have much to teach us about story arcs, archetypes, and who we are …

This is great advice from a writer whose own work is steeped in fairy tales – most obviously in The Girl in the Red Coat. You wouldn’t even need to have read the novel to guess the Little Red Riding Hood influence, I’d say. But if it’s not already clear from the title, readers of that book will quickly encounter Carmen, the enigmatic, dreamy little girl at the heart of the story, who goes wandering off with a man who purports to be her grandfather …

When I asked Kate if she was consciously evoking the folktale in her novel, she told me it was “certainly floating round … Although I didn’t realise quite how much until I’d finished the first draft.” She went on to tell me, “Snow White informed The Doll Funeral – there’s a mirror in it and Ruby [the protagonist] goes into the dangerous woods after being cast out of home.” And now Rapunzel is in Crushed, says Kate – though more subtly …

Kate very much feels that fairy tales and myths find their way into your unconscious – and from there they can make their way through into your writing, without your even trying. Today, though, she’s going to ask you to play with a fairy tale or myth very consciously …

Kate’s writing task:

Take a fairy tale or myth & use the beating heart of it to write a short scene in a modern context. FYI I’m not looking for Cinders or Medusa to appear – I’d like you to find inspiration from a story passed down across the years to create your own

Kate Hamer is far from the only writer to draw on the stories that run deep through culture. The recently announced 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist includes two mythical retellings inspired by the Odyssey and the Illiad, Madeline Miller’s Circe and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls. Last year, Kamila Shamie’s Home Fire – a modern-day Antigone – won the Women’s Prize for Fiction. In 2016 Colm Tóibín retold Greek mythology in the acclaimed House of Names and 2014 saw the publication of Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird – another Snow White retelling. Further back there’s Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, based on the fairytale The Robber Bridegroom – and inevitably we should raise our hats to Angela Carter …

But yes – now it is your turn. We’d like you to use a fairy tale or a myth as inspiration for a little tweet-length scene. You can use characters or situations from a work-in-progress, if relevant, or you can invent something wholly new. Your scene can be an opening – but it doesn’t have to be. It can also be from the middle or end of a story or novel – so long as it makes use of a myth or fairy tale – ideally recognisably so – and provided it’s a good read in and of itself.

Just to clarify absolutely – we want your character and your story in this exercise. You’re not just moving the fairy tale or myth into the modern day – we’re asking you to invent your own story, inspired by its well-known forebear.

Also, try to avoid fairy tale cliches: we don’t want “once upon a time” or “they all lived happily ever after”. Give us something fresh.

AND for this birthday tip and task, we’d also like to invite illustrators and writers of children’s picture books to join in:

If you like to write children’s picture book texts, then you can write this tweet-task as you would in a picture book for young children, and put #PB at the end (as well as including the #WriteCBC hashtag).

And if you’re an artist, tweet us your illustration (whether it’s full-colour or a black and white sketch) of a scene from a fairy tale transposed to the modern day. 

For the artists taking part we have a special guest judge, author-illustrator Marie Voigt! In keeping with this month’s theme Marie’s first picture book Red and the City is a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Good luck everyone, and we’re looking forward to finding out which tales and legends are the ones that inspire YOUR writing …

We run six-week online courses designed to help writers at different stages of their novel-writing journey, enrol today: Starting to Write Your NovelWrite to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel.

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Welcome to the next in our series of Curtis Brown 120 blog posts, these blogs include exclusive interviews with authors, agents and publishers; writing tips; industry insights – and much more besides.

This week, the Curtis Brown 120 team caught up with CB’s very own Felicity Blunt. Felicity represents a wide variety of brilliant authors from the Daphne du Maurier estate to Rosamund LuptonRenee KnightTammy Cohen and Curtis Brown Creative alumna Laura Marshall. Read on to find out what advice Felicity has for her younger self and for aspiring authors …

What was the first book you sold?
It was Rosamund Lupton’s Sister, which was bought by the lovely Emma Beswetherick of Piatkus. We were all great believers and advocates of the book but what happened on publication was incredible, life changing and transformative. And gave me an utterly unrealistic impression of how publishing a book worked…!

What’s your favourite debut novel?
See above, Sister and Rosamund are both so deeply embedded in my career and both still reflect so much of what I look for in a debut writer. But also, To Kill a Mockingbird.  I loved that book as a teenager and still do.

If you could tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
My professional self? As a young agent I was always so nervous of doing the wrong thing but you only ever have your instincts – and it starts with what you like and want to sign. You can’t take something on because you ‘think’ it should be big because of trend or another author’s success etc. You just have to follow what you love and that passion will be the cornerstone of your representation. I think also don’t be afraid of a disagreement, but always offer the other side respect even when pushing your point. That respect is what will allow you to work collaboratively together after the issue is settled!

My personal self? Enjoy every minute.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Keep a diary / note book– all those thoughts you have that are random in the moment can be so significant on the page. It’s also really hard to remember the weather in June when it’s October. Or what it’s like to be 20 when you are 40. Or even 23. Everything changes, time passes, what you put to paper has a permanence that memory doesn’t.

Always, always edit your work exhaustively. You must interrogate it. Do this on a hard copy also. It makes you read the book in a very different way and you WILL see things you have previously missed on a computer screen. Be okay with taking time away from it also, distance can be so so helpful.

Stop looking at your phone. If your head is permanently down you are observing nothing.

Which book do you always recommend to others?
A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Both novels experiment with time in the most amazing, inventive and revealing ways. Time is so often ignored as the constant that must be addressed in novels. It’s crucial to pace, to moving the story on and to how you want your reader to understand your story. There are so so many different ways to manipulate or use it to your advantage as a story teller.

What is your pet hate in submissions?
Erm, bad writing?!

Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine?
Scarlett O’Hara. She was shameless. A true survivor.

What was the last book you read?
About 7 submissions. But I’ve just started Beautiful Ruin by Jess Walter.

What book is totally overrated in your view?
Genuinely don’t think I have an answer to this. Just because I don’t like something does not mean it is overrated because millions/thousands do. Reading is utterly subjective. That’s it’s pleasure.

What’s your guilty reading pleasure?
Not sure I’ve ever felt guilty for reading! I’d happily read anything. I’m genuinely not snobby about books. I’d romp through a romantic novel and then dive into a classic.

What do you think will be the next trend in publishing?
Diet books? Speculative historical? I don’t pretend to know. I think when a publisher decides to make a book an event book and puts everything behind it then they can absolutely make a bestseller, and in doing so they can create a tentpole in whose slipstream other books can be published and in so doing we have a trend. But I suppose I am wary of trends. As when you talk of Du Maurier, Heller, Atwood etc I’m note sure you think of them as part of a trend. My hope is that we as agents can help find writers we can allow to be individual.

What are you actively looking for at the moment?
Good stories, well told. I love speculative fiction, I love literary fiction, I love commercial fiction, I love YA/Crossover, I love thrillers, I read anything and everything and my list reflects that. It’s my greatest joy in what I do.

To find out about the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize, click here. 

To read more Curtis Brown 120 blogs, click here.

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