Archive for the ‘courses’ Category




new courses

Filed under: courses

After my Advanced Novel Writing course was such a success in November, I’ve booked a couple more dates. Here are some more details:

Saturday 26 May 2012, 10 am to 6 pm
Saturday 13 October 2012, 10 am to 6 pm

at RISC, London Road, Reading, Berkshire UK.

(Please note: each course is entirely separate and self-contained; this isn’t a series of courses, though of course you are welcome to come to both!)

This course will help you revise and polish your novel and get you ready to submit it to an agent or editor. It covers advanced conflict, pacing and story structure, writing your synopsis and putting together your submission package. Activities are a mix of discussion, workshopping, critique, and hard serious work (fuelled by cake).

The price includes my written critique of either the first page of your novel, the one-page synopsis of your novel, or your submission cover letter.

If you’ve finished or nearly finished at least one novel and are ready to take your work to the next level, this is the course for you.

Because groups are small, I am generally able to tailor the contents to the participants’ needs. Here are some comments from writers who have taken my courses:

I found the content excellent and your methods have encouraged me to keep going.

You are a truly inspirational teacher!

A brilliant and informative day.

You’re very good at encouraging students to find their own conclusions rather than just telling them the answer. I had a couple of big revelations about my WIP during the day that came out of exercises or conversations you had set up, but felt as if I’d completely worked it out for myself.

The price for the day is £80 per person, which includes tea or coffee and a sandwich lunch. There’s a £5 discount (so you pay only £75) if you bring homemade cake to share!

Groups are strictly limited to 11 participants, because the room only holds 12 people, and this time I haven’t forgotten to count myself.

If you’re interested in booking a place on this course on either of the dates, or if you have questions, please let me know by sending me an email, using the “contact” link on the top right of this page.

I’m also giving a few talks in the next few months—you can find these on my Events page, but I’ll try to flag them up here too as they come up.





Advanced Novel Writing course, or going it alone

Filed under: courses

On Saturday I ran an Advanced Novel Writing course. I’ve done lots of courses and workshops before but this one was different and special as it was the first one I’d organised and put on all by myself.

It was a big learning curve for me, being responsible not only for the course content and delivery, but also for getting the word out, taking bookings, finding the venue, sorting out catering, and sending out information. I was lucky this time, in that I didn’t have to advertise at all—the course was booked up within days of my merely mentioning it on Twitter. But everything else was 100% down to me.

This was slightly frightening, especially as I quickly realised that counting is not my strong point…I booked a room that held twelve people, thinking that twelve was a perfect number, and forgetting that including me, the room had to hold thirteen! I also somehow managed to not count myself and one other person when making bookings for dinner.

But it all worked itself out in the end and it was a great day. It’s a real treat to work with experienced novelists and everyone in the room had completed at least one full novel already. Because the course was all my own, I was able to tailor its content to the participants and worry less about the timetable and more about making sure everyone’s questions were discussed.

I’ve had some lovely feedback already:

‘It was just the right balance of chatting and working (so much so that the working didn’t actually feel like working at all!)…The course content was so helpful and the subjects we covered were all very valuable.’

‘It was so obvious that you love teaching’

‘I really enjoyed it, and it gave me lots of food for thought which is exactly what I’m craving at the moment. And what lovely people I met there! Writers, I find, are generally lovely, but this group were exceptionally friendly. You are a truly inspirational teacher!’

‘Fab, inspiring and fun’

Personally, I was completely fired up by the enthusiasm and love of writing in the group, and I’ve attacked my work in progress with a renewed fervour!

(If you’re interested in hearing about any future courses, do sign up for my newsletter, and/or drop me an email.)





Festival of Writing 2011

Filed under: courses

I interrupt my usual mindless chatter about shopping and gorgeous men to mention some things about the Festival of Writing 2011, at the University of York from 25-27 March.

I participated in this festival last year, when it was just starting up, and I was so impressed that I immediately told the organisers that if they’d like me back next year, I’d love to come. Fortunately, they invited me to come again, so I’m really looking forward to being there this March.

The Festival is a chance for writers to meet other writers, published and unpublished. You can also meet with agents and editors, and hear a wide variety of publishing professionals speaking and giving workshops. Aside from the formal events, there are some great opportunities for networking. There are also “Book Doctor” sessions, and one-to-one sessions with agents and editors, to give you a chance to pitch your work, or have it constructively criticised.

This year, the keynote speakers are author David Nobbs, agent Carole Blake, and publisher Patrick Janson-Smith, and there are workshops on every aspect of writing, from craft to genre to writers’ life to getting published. Writers Workshop are will be offering “next steps” free to three writers at the Festival who are talent spotted. The writers will be offered a free manuscript critique, free coaching or a free manuscript appraisal from Harry Bingham. Harper Collins Authonomy are supporting Authonomy Live talentcontest on Friday evening, with editor Patrick Janson-Smith on the panel. Last year’s winner, Shelley Harris, was offered representation by four literary agents in the room, and then went on to achieve a five-figure book deal.

I’ll be giving two workshops: an advanced-level workshop on Pacing (during which the Post-It notes will be out) and a joint workshop on Writing Romantic Comedy, with author Jane Lovering. I’m doing one-to-ones, too, but I believe they’re all booked already.

Bookings are still open. If you’re interested in learning more, visit the website at





the best books?

Filed under: courses, reading

I’m putting together a reading list for my Writing Women’s Commercial Fiction course, and though I’m choosing three or four books myself as course material, I’m thinking of including a secondary list of recommendations from writing professionals and keen readers.

Can you help me out? What’s the best commercial women’s fiction title you’ve read this year?

It can be a romance, saga, chick lit, historical, blockbuster…whatever area of commercial women’s fiction you prefer.

I’ve got a few criteria—I’d like it to be something published in the UK market, and I’d like it to be quite recent.

Leave your recommendation in the comments, or you can email it to me, or tweet it, or Facebook it…whatever you like. Tell your friends. Tell your mum. Tell your dog…oh, wait, dogs don’t read.






Cornerstones Writing Commercial Women’s Fiction course

Filed under: courses

CharneyManorI’ve been informed by the lovely Helen Corner that the deadline for the 10% discount for bookings on my Writing Commercial Women’s Fiction course is the end of next week.

It’s a three-day residential course, in the beautiful surroundings of Charney Manor, Charney Basset, Oxfordshire. The course covers character, structure, pacing, conflict, style and submitting your work to an agent or publisher. The actual content of the course is different every time because it’s tailored to the needs of the participants; you’ll submit your work, which will then be used as teaching and learning materials. You also end up with a detailed crit and a one-on-one session to talk about your work and your writing career, with either me or Helen Corner, the founder of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy.

I’ve led this course three or four times now and it’s absolutely inspiring, for me at least, and I hope for the participants as well. I keep in touch with a lot of the participants and it’s great to see them go from strength to strength in their writing.

This year, it’s from 27-29 September. You can get 10% off the price of the course if you book before 23rd July. Full price is £675 which includes tuition, accommodation, (yummy) food, and a guest speaker (usually an agent or an author).

Contact me or Cornerstones for more details.





the Festival of Writing in York

Filed under: about me, courses, writing

Saturday morning, after scrubbing my neck with vodka, I found myself on a train to York.

Now that’s an opening sentence, isn’t it? I mean, if you didn’t know the pathetic reason why I needed to scrub my neck? It gives you everything you need for the beginning of a story—the time, the place, the heroine, and a mystery.

I analyse this sentence in order to make it sound writerly. Because I was on my way to the Festival of Writing, which is a brand-new event starting this year. I was giving two workshops, one on Creating Character and one on Chick-Lit: More Than Shoes and Shopping. I was also doing some one-on-one consultations as a book doctor (I wonder what a book stethoscope looks like), and generally hanging out with other writers and industry professionals for a couple of days.

First, though, I got four hours to myself on the train. This is an incredibly rare event. I thought I’d do some work, but in fact I ended up mostly staring out the window, relaxing and letting my brain percolate in a leisurely manner over whatever it wanted to, and definitely nothing involving laundry, hoovering or what to cook for tea.

York was sunny, with daffodils nodding around the medieval walls, and my taxi driver assured me in broad Yorkshire that he wasn’t really a reader, in fact he’d only read four books, including the two he had to read for O-level. But he reckoned he could probably write a book as he had a sort of a gift with words. Such was my joy in the day that this only made me more cheerful, because it was clear that somehow I am so incredibly, unspeakably fortunate as to have the job that everyone wants.

I had a fantastic time. I missed Katie Fforde‘s opening speech (though I did get text message updates about it whilst I was on the train) but I did get to see her, and Sue Moorcroft, and also got to meet the fantastic Veronica Henry and Adele Geras. I met a very polite and charming young man who turned out to be Toby Frost, and I bought the first of his Space Captain Smith books to read on the train home. I had the great joy of discussing books with Barry Cunningham of Chicken House, I met agents Jane Judd and Oliver Munson. I made Helen Corner of Cornerstones squeal by showing her my shoes, and had the lovely experience of sitting next to Kate Allan as she signed copies of a book which I’d read in manuscript form. I thanked agent Lorella Belli for giving me one of the nicest rejections all those years ago. I got the real thrill of introducing an aspiring Mills & Boon author to two Mills & Boon editors. I had far too much to drink (as always) with my great mates Brigid Coady and Liz Fenwick, and I met so many friends, old and new.

But that’s name dropping—the most important part was meeting so many writers, published and unpublished, all of whom have an absolute passion for this job. The best moments of the weekend were probably the chance meetings, the word or two exchanged in a queue or at lunch or walking to and from somewhere where I just got to share the reality of being a writer, with another writer. Published, unpublished, veteran or just starting out, writer or publishing professional—everyone had that commonality, that they loved writing, and that they were there to take their careers to the next level, and also to help others to do so.

And that is what I came away with from York. The place was packed full of people who are very different from that cab driver. They all knew that you don’t become a writer through having “a sort of gift with words”. You need talent, sure. But more than that, you need passion. You need dedication. You need the brains to learn the skills and the humility to know when you have to improve them and the arrogance to know when you’re ready to share your words with the world. Mostly though, you need bloody, nerve-wracking, brain-straining and often body-wrecking hard work.

It’s worth it, though. Definitely.





Cornerstones women’s fiction course

Filed under: courses

I really shouldn’t be here–it’s sunny and warm up at the lake, and I just popped into town for a minute to buy the Fecklet some nappies and myself some hair bleach (priorities, darling)–but I have to post this for anyone who might be interested, from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy:

There are a few places left on our women’s commercial self-edit workshop 21-23 September at Charney Manor, Oxon, to be run by Julie Cohen. We only take about 15 authors and if you book by 21st July you’ll qualify for an early booking discount of £60. You’ll also be able to meet Broo Doherty from Wade & Doherty who will be coming for the agent talk. See below. Please email or call for a programme.
Telephone: 020 8968 0777

Wade & Doherty:
Broo Doherty has worked in publishing for the last twenty years. She has had a variety of different roles throughout the industry, having started as a production assistant at Victor Gollancz. She then moved to Hodder and Stoughton for a brief period, before joining Transworld as an editor for the Bantam Press imprint. Then she joined a literary agency as editorial director where she advised leading writers in the area of crime and women’s commercial fiction and learnt about agenting. Broo handles all genres, excluding children’s books, science fiction and fantasy, and horror, but particularly enjoys crime, commercial women’s fiction and selected non-fiction.

Thanks for the bon voyage wishes, and I’ll catch up with everyone soon!





Fecklet It

Filed under: courses, parenthood

I had a blast giving my workshop this morning. I’m doing a lot of workshops at the moment and it’s really good fun, especially when someone turns to you and tells you they’ve learned something. That is a total buzz. If you happen to have been to one of my workshops and are reading this now, go ahead and warm your poor instructor’s heart by leaving a comment below to say hi.

I’m giving a totally new workshop at a sixth form college on Monday, so I have to do some proper lesson planning for it tomorrow. I’m rather rusty at this. But I enjoy it.

cousin it and friendIn other news, I gave Fecklet a haircut today because he was seriously looking like Cousin It. This is a tricky job because he hates it and refuses to sit still and the scissors are sharp so it’s like dicing with death. The best way of proceeding is to sit him in front of the TV and sort of cut the hair by stealth from behind, though this doesn’t work so well with the fringe. Unfortunately I slipped a couple of times and cut a bit too much off, plus I couldn’t really reach the left side of his head, so it’s all a bit lopsided and in fact he probably looks just like Cousin It after being run over by a lawnmower. Poor kid.

Fortunately he doesn’t give a rat’s behind what his hair looks like and will most likely be rubbing porridge in it tomorrow anyway.


Top ↑