Aesthetica Creative Writing Award

In December 2020 I was thrilled to hear I had won this prestigious award. You can read the poem and an interview about writing it below.

if you’re being followed after Rachel Eliza Griffiths

choose who you want behind you, the person to tell you: you were followed, your footsteps dogged, you’re dead, you’ve been dead for some time and you’re just fine the dead way you are. Choose the person who tells you how it happened, who was there and what they said, and says let it go now. Someone you can tell about the mistakes you’ll leave, your mess of papers, the bills, the files, the easy photos and the difficult photos, the journals with all the bad things you wrote in the days when you were seriously down. This is the friend you can call on anytime without a word of explanation, the one you call after years of no contact and tell her this is what’s going on. She already knows what you need, maybe she’s been expecting your call. You say do you remember and she does, every second of it, so she knows why you can’t ask or won’t ask anybody else, why it has to be her, even if you never spent a Christmas together or went on holiday or shared a room or even if you have done all these things together. Choose the friend who knows it could be the other way round and you wouldn’t hesitate, you’d be clacking down your wooden stairs and out your door, no questions asked. And when you are trying to take yourself out of the world and they all lay hands on you and call you theirs, this person will take her hands away and let you go. She will tend all the things you love and knows she has already been thanked and loved and needs no more.  She loves you naturally.  She knows  you have been mid-air for some time.

Creative Writing Award Annual 2021

From the Aesthetica website:

Tamsin Hopkins is the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2020 Poetry Winner. We caught up with her to discuss the winning work, if you’re being followed.

A: When did you begin writing if you’re being followed, and where did you get the idea? How many times did you draft the piece before submitting; how did it change in the process?
 I began writing if you’re being followed about two months before entering the Aesthetica competition. I was working with ideas of intertextuality at the time. This poem arose out of the conflux of three things – the recent death of my mother (with whom I had a turbulent relationship), being in lockdown, and the discovery of Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ poem Chosen Family, which I used as a prompt. It’s a wonderful poem, striking for its urgency and honesty. If you’re being followed incorporates some text from Chosen Family, then takes it in a different direction with different thematic concerns.

The basic sense of the poem came in one go, but the poem underwent many re-writes almost to the point of obsession. I knew I was making something new and different from the prompt poem. In the drafting process, I was trying to be clear about what my ground was, how much grief for the difficult relationship with my mother I wanted to allow into this poem. Of course, in life as in poetry, we all stand on the shoulders of others. Sometimes those influences are stronger and it’s hard to clear their voices and allow your own for a while. I’m not always conscious of this battle, but I was in writing this poem.

A: The judge, Oz Hardwick, commented on the use of the long line; how did you decide the form of the poem?
 Looking back at my early drafts, I think I abandoned shorter lines early on after some unsuccessful versions with four-beat lines. I remember thinking I should stop imposing some vague idea of how it should look on the page and let it do its own thing. Which it then did. The longer lines seem to be the right container for what each line has to say, the emotional weight is allowed to run on through and beyond individual images. Also, you can get a sort of pulsing rhythm building up through the long line which I particularly like. One of my favourite poems for this is Momtaza Mehri’s poem Oiled Legs Have Their Own Subtext.

A: What poets are you most inspired by?
 This changes all the time as I tend to circle certain ground for a while and then move on. Old favourites are Caroline Bird and Pascale Petit, I know their work reasonably well. Both of them have exciting new collections at the moment which I am carrying around with me everywhere. Recently I have been very interested in the hermetic writing partnership between US poets Ada Limón and Natalie Diaz, and a new discovery for me is Lisa Robertson who is amazing for the way she uses the body in her eco-poetics. I’m also catching up on my knowledge of Louise Glück.

A: For you, what role do awards play in the career of a writer?
 That’s a tricky one. In some ways it’s tempting to say awards shouldn’t play a significant role in a writer’s career but that’s not really true. Like being accepted for publication, any external validation can be a relief, if only because it lets you know you are communicating. Writing poetry can feel like making handprints in a dark cave nobody will ever find. Or shouting in cupboards. You know you exist creatively when somebody reaches out to you. It’s wonderful. Also, a tax free cash prize is often extremely helpful to most writers.

A: What does it mean to win the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award?
I’ve never won anything before, although I’ve been shortlisted a few times. So the first effect of winning such a respected award is that I can’t stop grinning. I suppose going forward, I’m hoping winning the Aesthetica Award might strengthen my bio when I submit work in the future. Maybe an award like this is a helpful boost to emerging poets in overcoming the burden of anonymity when you don’t yet have a full collection out there.

A: What projects do you have planned for 2021? What are you working on?
TH: I have recently started a part time Creative Writing MA which takes up a certain amount of time. I’m concentrating on producing new work at the moment after a couple of years hiatus. Ideally a second pamphlet or a collection will come together at some point. I’ve also had another fiction project on the back burner for a while and I ought to do something about that before long too.

Follow @THopkinsPoet I

Submit to the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award | Order the 2021 Anthology

Shore to Shore – shortlisted for the 2020 Rubery Book Award

Just to prove some good things happened in 2020, my short fiction collection Shore to Shore was shortlisted in this competition for books published by Indie publishers, several years after it came out. The judge particularly liked the opening story Hani’s Baby. This was the full report:

Shore to Shore – Tamsin Hopkins
A collection of short stories with the theme of water (rivers, canals etc.) written with a commendable variation in style.  Some stories are about water, while others take place near water, and the idea is that the various flows of each body of water is a representative theme in each story. In the stunning opening story, Hani’s Baby, the eponymous hero flies a hot air balloon over the skies of Egypt, carrying the body of his still born son.  It was a vivid account of Hani’s predicament, trapped in a life of stultifying tradition and expectation, and the ballooning details give extra strength.  Good, entertaining stories.

Reading/ Launch of the Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction

CRSF cover pic


On 13th September 2018 I’ll be hosting the London launch of the Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction at 49, Great Ormond Street, London WC1N 3JL. Do join us for free drinks from 7pm, with readings 7.30-9,30 in the Music Room.

The anthology features new international writing from: Sarah Barr, Rowan B. Fortune, Maeve Henry, Tamsin Hopkins, Isabelle Llasera, Jane MacLaughlin, Kate Mitchell, Jez Noond, Bronka Nowicka, Diana Powell, Linda Ruheman, Omar Sabbagh, Gábor Shein, David Mark Williams, many of whom will be reading on the night.

Copies will be available to buy at the event and The Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction can be purchased online from:
You can also order it on the high street through any bookshop.


Process – my article on getting ideas, in The Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction

Ahead of the official launch of The Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction in Paris at the end of the month, here’s an extract from Tamsin Hopkins’ fascinating and revealing article in the Reviewinvestigating her approach to writing short fiction…

The article I wrote for The Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction is previewed on the Cinnamon website. I wrote about the disciplined adn the undisciplined approaches to stimulating creativity, and the use of Tarot cards in this process.

Front cover of The Cinnamon Review of Short Fiction


Curtis Brown article on Shore to Shore and the Edge Hill Prize Listing

Former student longlisted for top short story prize

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Though we concentrate on the novel on our creative writing courses in London and online, we’re equally passionate about short stories. Our Autumn 2011 student group – including published authors Tim Glencross, Kate Hamer, James Hannah and Annabelle Thorpe – brought out their own short-story collection The Book of Unwritten Rules last year. And now we’ve just heard that another former student – Tamsin Hopkins (above), who studied on our Autumn 2015 Six-Month Novel-Writing Course – has been longlisted for the prestigious Edge Hill Short Story Prize for her collection Shore to Shore.

Tamsin has some stiff competition for the prize – established authors such as Mark Haddon, Philip Hensher, Susan Hill, Penelope Lively and David Lodge are all also on the list – but it’s fantastic to see a former student in such illustrious company. The Edge Hill Prize is awarded annually by Edge Hill University for excellence in a published single author short story collection. The winner of the 2017 prize will receive £10,000, along with a specially commissioned artwork. And there’s also a £1,000 Readers’ Prize, which is awarded by creative writing students at the university. Previous winners of the prize have included Colm Tóibín, Claire Keegan, Chris Beckett, Jeremy Dyson, Graham Mort, Sarah Hall, John Burnside, Kirsty Gunn, and Jessie Greengrass, who won the 2016 prize for An Account of The Decline of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It.  

The final shortlist will be announced on 30 June, and the prize will be awarded at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August.

To buy a copy of Shore to Shore by Tamsin Hopkins, please click here.

For more information or to apply for a Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course, please click here.

Delighted to be longlisted for the Edge Hill University Prize for collections of short fiction

Thrilled to be on the same page as so many illustrious names. This is a great honour for a debut writer:

Organisers of Edge Hill University’s 11th annual Short Story Prize are delighted to announce the longlist for 2017.

The list includes well established authors such as Mark Haddon (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), Susan Hill (The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror and I’m the King of the Castle) and Helen Oyeyemi (Mr Fox and Boy, Snow, Bird) as well as up-and-coming writers.

Prize organiser and Professor of Short Fiction Ailsa Cox said: “As ever, the 2017 longlist features a varied and exciting selection of authors. We have entries from both well-known names and debut authors, including Claire Dean (an Edge Hill MA alumna). There is also a great age range, from twentysomething Danielle McLaughlin to two distinguished authors in their 80s, both Booker shortlisted (Penelope Lively, David Lodge). As ever, we have a strong contingent of Irish authors – including Daniel Boyle, David Park, Lucy Caldwell – alongside editor of the magisterial Penguin Book of the British Short Story, Philip Hensher.” 

The winner, to be announced at Edinburgh International Book Festival in August, will receive a £10,000 prize.

The Prize is the only UK-based award that recognizes excellence in a published short story collection and will also include a £1,000 Reader’s Choice award to a writer from the shortlist, and a further category for stories by Edge Hill University MA Creative Writing students.

This year’s judges are Thomas Morris (finalist, Edge Hill Prize 2016), Cathy Galvin (Director and Founder, The Word Factory) and Dr Rodge Glass (Reader in Literary Fiction, Edge Hill University).

The shortlist will be announced by 30th June with awards to be presented at a special event as part of Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

The 2016 award was bestowed on Jessie Greengrass for The Decline of the Great Auk According to One Who Saw It. The other shortlisted authors were Kate Clanchy, Stuart Evers, China Miéville, Thomas Morris and Angela Readman.

The longlist in full:                  

Light Box K J Orr (Daunt Books)

The Travelling Bag Susan Hill (Profile Books)

Raw Material Sue Wilsea (Valley Press)

A Primer for Cadavers Ed Atkins (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

The Glue Ponys Chris Wilson (Tangerine Press)

Vertigo  Joanna Walsh (And Other Stories)

Hearing Voices Seeing Things William Wall (Doire Press)

All That Lies Be-neath/What I Know I Cannot Say Dai Smith (Parthian)

Ferenji and other stories Helena Mulkerns (Doire Press)

He Runs the Moon Wendy Brandmark (Holland Park Press)

Treats Lara Williams (Freight Books)

Mr Jolly Michael Stewart (Valley Press)

Stations Nick Mulgrew (David Philip Publishers)

When Planets Slip Their Tracks  Joanna Campbell (Ink Tears)

Speak Gigantular Irenosen Okojie (Jacaranda Books)

Sandlands Rosy Thornton (Sandstone Press)

The Other World, It Whispers Stephanie Victoire (Salt)

The Parts We Play Stephen Volk (PS Publishing)

Damage Rosalie Parker  (PS Publishing)

Quieter Paths Alison Littlewood (PS Publishing)

Ritual, 1969 Jo Mazelis (Seren)

This is the Ritual Rob Doyle (Lilliput Press/Bloomsbury)

Gods and Angels David Park (Bloomsbury)

Shore to Shore Tamsin Hopkins (Cinnamon Press)

Dinosaurs on Other Planets Danielle McLaughlin (John Murray Press)

Blind Water Pass Anna Metcalfe (John Murray Press)

The Museum of Shadows and Reflections Claire Dean (Papaveria Press)

Aphrodite’s Kiss Rosemary Jenkinson (Whittrick Press)

Llama Sutra Melanie Whipman (Ink tears)

The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories Penelope Lively (Penguin)

Tales of Persuasion Philip Hensher (Fourth Estate)

The Man Who Wouldn’t Get Up and Other Stories David Lodge (Vintage)

Fen Daisy Johnson (Jonathan Cape)

Multitudes Lucy Caldwell (Faber)

Legoland Gerard Woodward (Pan Macmillan)

What is Not Yours is Not Yours  Helen Oyeyemi  (Pan Macmillan)

Hostages Oisin Fagan (New Island Books)

Wild Quiet Roisin O’Donnell (New Island Books)

Sunrise Sunset Tina Pasco (Fish Publishing)

The Pier Falls Mark Haddon (Vintage)

When Black Dogs Sing Tanya Farrelly (Arlen House)

Short Fiction – Making a Collection Part 1


What’s good, what’s bad and how brutal is it out there? Warning – not for the faint-hearted.

At some point most writers of short fiction will amass a sufficient body of material to consider making a collection of their own work, but what makes a good collection? How do you pull your work together in a way that will appeal to publishers and readers alike? How do you select the best stories to create a coherent collection? Is it enough just to put all the best ones together or is it more than that? What order should they go in? There are many questions to ask yourself when you think you’re ready and not many places to get good advice on this aspect of writing short fiction.

I ask advice on these and other related questions from frequent competition judge and founder of the Times EFG Short Story Award and Word Factory Director Cathy Galvin, and Salt Publishing editor Jen Hamilton-Emery – I hope you find their answers enlightening. They are surprisingly different. Some of these questions were recently put to the great short fiction writer Tobias Wolff in an interview for Paris Review (the link to the full article is at the end of this article) so here are some relevant quotes from a master on the importance of getting the order right and what you might be considering:


How do you go about ordering short stories in your collections?


Can you imagine putting “The Dead” at the beginning of Dubliners? No, you wouldn’t do that. You’re conducting movements and moods with the arrangement of a collection. Having said this, if I go back and look at a book two, three years after I’ve published it, I can’t remember exactly why I ordered it that way. And of course, after all the work writers do to organize their collections of stories or their collections of poems, that work is completely undone by the readers—


—who open it in the middle.


Right, open it in the middle because that story has a grabby title, or because they’re tired and about to go to bed and want to read the shortest piece. Readers skip around in collections, in a way they don’t in novels, obviously—except for those creeps who read the endings first. Let’s say I get a new William Trevor collection. I love his stories about schoolboys, and if the collection has one I’ll read that first. I skip around for the usual reasons: my mood, interesting title, length, all kinds of things. And then, eventually, if it’s a collection I really take seriously, I will read it front to back as the writer intended, trying to understand its form. If it seems thrown together, I won’t devote that kind of care to it. But with a writer like Trevor or Grace Paley I would absolutely pay attention to the order of the stories.


I’m glad you skip around sometimes. Glad to hear you don’t always respect the writer’s designs.


Well, writers need to remember that once the book leaves their hands, it’s not theirs anymore. It belongs to its readers, and its readers will make of it what they will.

When I was putting the stories together for my debut collection Shore to Shore, I originally had twelve stories of varying lengths to include. The collection is loosely linked by theme – the mythology of rivers, but the rivers are there to provide both the emotional and physical settings. The final version has eight stories, the others were rejected for departing from the mood of the others and, as it turns out now I look back – not enough death. When I planned the order of the final selection, I had two long pieces – ‘Cenotes’ (Mexican cave diving) at eighteen thousand words and ‘Sand Tranny’ (the Thames – transvestite river) at fifteen thousand. I knew I couldn’t open with these, so I put ‘Cenotes’ in the middle to form a sort of pivot or peak in the rhythm and ‘Sand Tranny’ at the end to end the book on a high as the ending is upbeat in that one. The opener was a hard choice but in the end ‘Hani’s Baby’ went first – a story set in modern day Karnak on the Nile, which I hoped would be an attention grabber. So far the plan seems to have worked. I do wish I’d included a couple of shorter pieces to use at readings though. I can only read extracts as it is – I’ll know better next time.

The wonderful Cathy Galvin would have saved me from such a lack of foresight  ̶  as the director of Word Factory and many time judge she has read more stories and collections than most. She is currently judging this year’s Edge Hill Prize and has previously judged the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered prize and the inaugural short story prizes for The London Magazine and Spread the Word. Her answers are very much from the point of view of pleasing the reader, an important aspect that can be easily lost in the rush to shove our best pieces under one cover.

What do you look for in a good collection of short fiction?

Quality of writing, authenticity and originality, taking emotional or linguistic risks – not what is “on trend” or currently celebrated. Good writing doesn’t need to be perfect and precise but it must be convincing. I confess to a weakness for the poetic in short fiction but not exclusively so.

I find continuing delight in the work of Adam Marek and Will Cohu, spotted when I started the Sunday Times EFG award and feel honoured to have been immersed in the work of David Constantine and Carys Davies as a judge.

As a reader, I want to share some of the time I have left on this planet inside the imaginations of writers who remind me about the fragility, despair, humour and beauty of our humanity – including Chekhov, Joyce, Beckett,  some of the authors mentioned already – and  I’m determined now to find more in translation.

What makes a great collection is it more than just a string of good stories, or is that enough?

There’s nothing wrong with a string of unrelated, individual stories appearing in a collection so long as that string is taut and what is suspended between the beginning and end of the book confidently holds the reader. Immersion in a variety of different worlds is one of the joys of short fiction.

There has been a recent vogue for collections of linked stories: we are told they are easier to bring to market. Some collections of this kind, I’m thinking of David Vann’s Legend Of A Suicide, which reads very like a novel. A great book.

Yet stories that seem to have no connecting thread throughout a collection but which plunge readers into a multiplicity of lives, landscapes and time-frames are a delight. Carys Davies recently won the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize – a general fiction prize that includes novels and short stories – with an outstanding and eclectic collection, The Redemption of Galen Pike, with not a link between them. This outstanding book also won the Frank O’Connor.  And who would dare to question the splendidly varied output of the current American master of the short story, Tobias Wolff?

Readers will respond to great writing: it’s as simple as that. I know when a short story writer has me hooked: they leave me wanting more and the stories feel effortless, authentic and emotionally true whether the style is as spare as Raymond Carver or as ornate as Angela Carter.

Many readers may already have had work published in an anthology and may be considering putting a collection together of their own work. How would you describe the differences, or different requirements for an anthology versus a single author collection?

I’ve just been reading Reader I Married Him, an anthology of short stories inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, edited by Tracy Chevalier. It’s a wonderful example of how one idea can produce a diverse book of stories that circle a theme and inspire radically different pieces. The benefit of such an anthology is that it can offer great writing by authors you have read and others you are new to – in my case, reading the book was my first introduction to Elizabeth McCracken – who took my breath away. The disadvantage is that the logic of such a big project can fray: some stories will seem to have little to do with the theme.

“Best Of” collections offer different rewards and challenges and are as inspiring as the editor who puts them together. In this respect, Salt has been lucky to have Nicholas Royle these past few years and Penguin lucky to have Philip Hensher.

Overall, I favour the single author collection as a way of sharing precious time with a writer whose mind and skill I want to take pleasure from.

Which are your favourite collections of short stories?

This list could change every day but for now.

Helen Simpson: Cockfosters.

Subtle witness to contemporary female life. 

Deborah Levy: Black Vodka

Now labelled a modernist. Whatever the label, she’s one of the best writers of her time. 

David Constantine. In Another Country.

Master of the authentic, of the considered line, of the movement of time.

A.L. Kennedy: All The Rage

The best collection of love stories I have read

Anything by Tobias Wolff – and a lifelong love of Edna O’Brien.


Jennifer Hamilton-Emery is a director and fiction editor at Salt Publishing. She was generous enough to share her experience on what an editor will look for and how to approach potential publishers although the list at Salt is currently full.

What do you look for in a good collection of short fiction? What makes a great collection is it more than just a string of good stories?

For me, the important thing is the standard of the stories. Sometimes collections are themed, which is fine, but not essential. It all hinges on the quality of the writing.

Are there differences between flash and longer short story collections?

No, I don’t think so, the same rules apply, but flash more unforgiving. Every word has to work or the story can fail.

How can a writer with a body of work know when their stories work as a collection?

They have to use their own judgement, there are no set criteria. 

How would you advise writers to place stories within a collection – best one first or last?

When I’m reading a submission I read the first, second and last stories. If one of more of these don’t work, then the submission is rejected. If these stories are good, I’ll go on to read more. So my advice is, put your best stories in these positions. People want to start and end their reading on a high.

Many readers may already have had work published in an anthology and may be considering putting a collection together of their own work. How would you describe the differences or different requirements for an anthology versus a single author collection?

Anthologies are often themed, so the editor has specific criteria in mind when selecting stories, but single-author collections needn’t be; they can be as eclectic as the author wishes them to be. It is always good to include stories that have been included in previous anthologies or magazines, or won prizes. This shows potential publishers that you have a track record of publishing and that someone else regards your work highly enough to include it in their book.

What are the reader expectations a writer should take into account when selecting and collating work of their own?

People want to read stories that are interesting – strong interesting characters and a compelling story line. Some people like twists in the endings, others don’t. Some like enigmatic endings, others don’t. I’d say the key is to have variety, but underpinned by a high standard of writing.

What are the mistakes you have seen in collections submitted to you?

The most common is having a small number of good stories propping up too many bad ones.

How can a writer know when he/she is ready to make a collection of their own work?

They have amassed a body of work that they believe is good.

How should writers go about approaching editors with their collections? Should they send in a selection or the whole thing? Do you like to have the collection pitched first?

Editors work if different ways. Some want to see the whole thing, but others want a sample.

What other advice can you give to writers trying to bring their work to publication?

Be aware many publishers struggle to sell short story collections and many don’t accept submissions except through an agent or personal recommendation, so always read publishers’ websites to find out if and how they receive submissions. Having your manuscript instantly rejected without being looked at can be disheartening

A word from the author on expectations and submitting a collection:

It was very difficult to get a publisher to contribute to this article and the author is very grateful to Jen Hamilton Emery for sharing her insights with us although Salt take very few collections and are not looking for unsolicited work.

My own collection Shore to Shore was accepted by Cinnamon Press for an available slot three years into the future. Also, I have recently interviewed Louis de Bernières for an article to be published later in the summer, and he says he has material for two short story collections for which he can’t find publishers. The old ‘story’ – they only want his novels. I feel the seed germinating of another article entitled Why the hell are we doing this?

Maybe that’s one for the autumn.

(This is the link to the fabulous Tobias Wolff interview):



This article was first published on The Short Story website

Short Fiction: Making a Collection, Part I








Ideas and Inspiration

Shore to Shore author Tamsin Hopkins discusses her own writing practice and asks three emerging short fiction writers how they approach catching and keeping the best ideas.


Emily Devane

Sarah Hegarty

Stuart North

Now up on The Short Story website:

Ideas and Inspiration, an Article on Short Story Writing by Tamsin Hopkins


Doing the Literary Headless Chicken – new title, dark days, Curtis Brown/ Joanna Brown

Just about half way through the Curtis Brown course.

If I thought I’d be half way through my novel, and I kind of did think I’d have made big inroads into draft 1 – I was v illusioned, now dis-illusioned. I still don’t have the full plot worked out yet, I don’t know what kind of book I’m writing – thought I did but I was wrong about that too, and I’m still re-working the first chapter. Naturally that will all change once I know what the hell I’m doing with this novel. So I’ll write the first chapter all over again, and almost certainly yet again, once I am vouchsafed that epiphany or rather – once I’ve actioned the AGENCY of my own epiphany and not been at all passive about it  (topical joke). I’m not calling the book Joanna Brown any more, it’s too Fay Weldon apparently, so that’s been strangled even before birth. I’ve got a new working title but I’m not ready to share that with the world just yet.

Touch of defensive hysteria – definitely.

Nanowrimo – oh please! Yes I wrote 30k words. Yes they were the wrong words.

Back to the drawing board – actually I’m getting a REALLY BIG drawing board, but more of that another time.

Calming/ helpful words of wisdom from visiting speakers and teachers – oh yes, thankfully. Here’s a pocket-sized summary of phrases that have reached me through the fug of panic, in the hope that it helps other doing the literary headless chicken:

Kate Hamer – The Girl in the Red Coat, Costa shortlist

Totally relaxed and charming. Waiting til later in life is not a complete disaster, letting the children grow up first and putting other things first before doing what you really want to do is alright because in publishing (unlike in television) it’s all about the book. The agency / passivity thing was the big one Kate had to crack too. Her agent, Alice Lutyens, had one big piece of advice- make sure you’ve got a really good plot. Well, I’m working on it.

Jeffrey Archer

It’s all hard work, nothing but hard work, e.g. it took 14 hours to write ten pages of draft 1 on one occasion, which is not uncommon. Also he does loads of edits and rewrites, up to 14. He has written 18#No1 bestsellers, out of a total of 24 novels – that’s a lot of rewrites.

The thing he’s most proud of is being thought of as an ace storyteller. Many writers concentrate on the craft of writing at the expense of the storytelling. (ie plot again)

Julia Rochester – The House at the Edge of the World

Don’t give up – Julia’s path to publication has been a long one, including publishers taking her book then going into liquidation.

Don’t run with an agent who doesn’t really like your book or who wants to change something fundamental about it.

From tutors:

Read scripts

I’m putting Caryl Churchill on my reading list right now. I will also frolic in the BBC Writer’s Room Script Library asap


Take The English Patient apart to see how the setting empowers the themes of the novel. This task will be v enjoyable, possibly ear-marked for Christmas.

Can’t wait.