My biggest news for a long time is that I am, with some regret, leaving the National Academy of Writing.
It has been a ball, it has been hard work and it has been nearly three years of my life, three of perhaps the hardest, all told, with certain personal circumstances. And now it is over. As of today.
It's time, I know that. The commute to Birmingham was a bitch, I can't stress enough how I hated it. I worked hard to get to know the writing and publishing community there but I always felt like a bit of an imposter in their midst and family life in Nottingham meant I couldn't get to nearly as many book launches and events as I would have liked. I also wanted to focus back on my writing, as it wasn't drifting as such, but it had ramped down pacewise by some level. So, yes, it was time and I will miss it very much. I will certainly miss my colleagues at Birmingham City, as well as members of the NAW board, who were the ultimate support network and never let me down. I will miss Birmingham, which is so much nicer than you think, and all the good folks there who took me into their hearts and helped me do what I was trying to do. I'd like to say a huge thank you to all of those people here. You know who you are.
The best thing about it has been the students. At times the worst thing about it has been the students too, but I won't dwell on that. (Or elaborate. No!)
Mostly I want to celebrate who they are and what they have achieved. I'm really proud of them. They're good writers because we chose them carefully, and each had to spend a week on our campus in Birmingham to prove themselves before they were allowed to proceed with the course. That's a big deal; giving up your life for a week to study on course that might not have you in the end. That's commitment and commitment, in the end, is what turns someone who can write into someone who can get published.
I truly believe the student body at the academy is unique. They are self-starting, managing and initiating their own projects, full of ideas to make the course experience better and enrich their own learning. They read, and consider fiction written by other people deeply, as well as their own. They work hard. They have all, without exception, come on leaps and bounds since they started the course (even those who do not know it yet).
Below I've detailed everything they've done so you can see for yourselves. I think their achievements are exceptional. I'm inspired by their energy and motivation and expect big things of academy students in the coming years. I'm looking forward to reading reviews of their books in the Guardian and Independent and telling everyone that I taught them.
So far, my teaching career has produced just one star, Bradley McIntosh of S Club Seven fame. As I taught him maths, I cannot claim to have contributed nearly as much as the Brit school, where he went after I knew him. But I did give him his first commendation (or accommodation, as he called it at the time) and I always smiled when he danced into the classroom.
I like to think of my writing students in a similar way. The success is theirs; entirely down to blood, sweat and tears. But I always smiled when they danced into the classroom.
PS You can buy a copy of their brilliant and very professionally produced anthology Finding a Voice here. Thanks to Imprimata for all their efforts and help with this.
NAW Student Achievements – as of March 2009
Published short story in Birmingham words pamphlet ‘Perfectly Formed’
Published short story in anthology ‘Original Skin’
Winner of SCRIPT Games playwrighting competition - one of five plays (ten minutes in length) chosen for to be performed at the B'ham Museum and Art Gallery directed by ex-BBC producer Kate Chapman (22 Nov 2008).
'Growing up on lard' published in The Map of Me - Decibel Penguin anthology (Nov 2008).
Contracted as writer by Franklin Watts Publishing for two titles in a newly created series (The Crew) for reluctant readers. The title of Tina's first book will be - 'Day of the Dog'.
'Aston Manna' (15 minute film) shortlisted for Screen West Midlands/UK Film Council funding for DIGISHORTS project.
Storytelling leader at Herefordshire Council's DESTINATION CHINA - Easter festival 2009
Short film script 'Lychees and Bingo Ball's' (an adaptation from own short story) has been chosen along with four others by the BBC Writers' Room who ran a competition BBC Bites in March 2008, looking for stories by or about the British Chinese community. The Writersroom are now looking for partnership funding to produce all five short films.
Featured on BBC Video Nation
Completed 2 feature length scripts - "Walls Between Us" and "Don't Miss It - Live Suicide Tonight!" and also a short script - "Divine Intervention" which has made it through the first cut of the British Short Script Competition. There were 1500 entries and they've made the first cut to just over 400.
Federay has had a story published in literary magazine ‘Bad Idea’
Made third round of the Verity Bargate Award for play "Pull to Standing"
Audio play produced by the BBC which can be found here
Made the top 20 in the Screenwriters’ Festival 2007 Fever Pitch competition and had his script sent to channel 4 for consideration.
Three issues of ‘Writing Tips’ broadcast in Litopia podcast to over 4500 listeners.
Completed work for Scholastic Children's Books on an ARG (Artificial Reality Game) for MG Harris's Joshua Files book series. Richard adapted the story from an original idea by MG Harris and co-authored the content of the game with her, which involves: blogs, interactive websites, video diaries, scripted dialogue, and a live event at the game's climax on the 27th March.
Longlisted (last 25) in the Happenstance International Short Story Competition (Feb 2008)
Bobbie has now left the course, but will be publishing her first novel 'Truth Games' with Cinnamon Press this summer. She has also had another novel 'The Real McCoy' serialised, and short stories published and performed.
Robert won the Button Bridge Books short story competition.
Published short story in Birmingham words pamphlet ‘Perfectly Formed’
Published ‘Olympic Mind Games’, a young adult novel, which made the heady heights of Amazon top 500 after a very well managed marketing campaign.
Shortlisted for Impress First Novel Award, run by Impress book and University of Exeter’s Centre for Creative Writing for his novel ‘The Spaniard’s Wife’. This was also longlisted (25) in the Jane Wenham-Jones 'wannabe a writer?' competition.
Presented the awards at the Worcestershire Teen Book Awards 2007 ceremony at Droitwich Library on April 24, 2007.
Sold 7000 copies of 'Olympic Mind Games' to a financial services company in America called Mutual of Omaha. Mutual of Omaha sponsors the 'Break-out! Swim Clinics' which tour the USA finding and coaching new swimming talent and they are giving each participant in the program a copy of my book. Has now sold more than 9000 copies of OMG in the UK and USA.
'The Speed Trap' won a Writers' News competition and it will be published in the May 2009 edition of the magazine. (Robert has also been shortlisted for this prize three times previously.)
Rachel has had first person articles published in the Guardian and Sunday Telegraph. As part of "Open Mouth Productions" she wrote, directed and performed show "Love, Honour and Obey" (four character monologues) in Hebden Bridge – it was a sell out and very well received.
Short poem ‘The Film’ published in issue 19 of Aesthetica
Wrote a series of introductions for 501 Great Writers - A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of Literature.
Finished her first novel 'Little Time Bomb'
Rena’s play ‘Baby's Wedding’, about a Korean mother who is in competition with her best friend to see who can marry their respective daughters off first, was shortlisted for the Yellow Voices play writing competition, run by the Yellow Earth Theatre. Shortlisted playwrights had the chance to meet the directors of the Birmingham Rep, the Young Vic and the Soho Theatre.
Rena also deserves a special mention for her participation in NAW projects. She has been part of teams in a number of projects, and co-ordinated two showcase events and various workshops. She's done an excellent job on everything she's been involved with.
Gabby has finished her children’s novel ‘Elemental Heroes’ and is now seeking representation for her book.
Publication of article in the Times
Commission and reading of story at the Vice Chancellor’s installation December 2007.
Other publications have included My Orphean Underworld in Sesame, Meat, which won first prize in the BCU Free Word competition, and Private Lives, a regular column for Crave magazine.
Sophie's latest short story has been published by New Fairy Tales
Sophie blogs here, and about books here.
Anna May Mangan
Article in the Sunday Times October 28th 2007 ‘Proud to be a Pushy Mother’
Has now published two features in the Mail on Sunday You magazine, one in Saga, came second in the Prima short story competition in November issue and placed second in the international Sean O'Faolain Prize.
Had an audio piece broadcast on Resonance FM
Completed 2nd draft of novel and is now looking for representation.
Completed 2 feature film scripts - received interest from UK funder and director for one, German director and producers for another.
Commissioned by Bertelsmann to write and record a series of 39 stories for children, plus a series of scripts for animation
After a stint finding his feet at many open mic and spoken word events, James jointly founded Wrote Under Publishing, a non profit co-operative in Birmingham. He edited magazines and promoted gigs, and in 2007 he was one of the ‘three’ in Wrote Under’s first publication, ‘The Underground Three: Three Go Mainstream’, a collection of poetry and prose. James’s performances have included experimental music and acting as well as poetry, and he has performed at many arts venues, including the opening of Eastside Projects gallery.
Kathleen Dixon Donnelly
Kathleen is a Senior Lecturer in public relations, in the Birmingham City Business School, and has received a RoLEX grant from the university's Center for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning [CETL] to develop an interdisciplinary course in public relations with the School of Media. This will expand the teaching of writing to students studying business degrees.
Finding a Voice
The following students were published in our annual anthology, Finding a Voice:
Bobbie Darbyshire, Robert Ronsson, Lucy Fussell, Fiona Joseph, Bruce Johns, Rachel Pickering, Eveline Williams, Gabby Bulmer, Sophie Ward, Ryan Davis, Rena Brannan, Tina Freeth, Gemma McErlean, Kathleen Dixon Donnelly, Nick LeMesurier, Elizabeth Nichols.
The following students took part in our June show:
Sophie Ward, Robert Ronsson, Edmund Bealby-Wright, Mike Morrison, Bobbie Darbyshire, Bruce Johns, Tina Freeth, Geoff Mills, Richard Howse, Rena Brannan.
Our prizewinners were: Bobbie Darbyshire (Fiction), Sophie Ward (Screenwriting), Tina Freeth (Enterprise) and Robert Ronsson (Professional Development).
The following students took part in our showcase at Birmingham Book Festival:
Federay Holmes, Bruce Johns, Tina Freeth, Rob Ronsson, Edmund Bealby-Wright, Carol Burns, Roger Noble, Fiona Joseph, Dave Ewer, Geoff Mills, Nick Le Mesurier, Bobbie Darbyshire, Sophie Ward, Rena Brannan
The following students took part in our showcase as part of the December course day:
Fiona Joseph, Rob Ronson, Geoff Mills, Federay Holmes, Mike Morrison, Roger Noble, Sophie Ward