01 January 2019

Curtis Brown Creative’s 2018 highlights

by Katie Smart Events

We hope that you all had a lovely time celebrating the holidays and bringing in the New Year with family and friends. As 2019 begins we thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on our favourite moments of 2018 – from new book deals for our former students to launching new courses, it was an exciting year for Curtis Brown Creative …


We started the year with Polly Crosby winning a scholarship place on our Spring 2018 online novel-writing course taught by Lisa O’Donnell, funded by Felicia Yap – the bestselling author of Yesterday.

Master story-teller Jeffrey Archer dropped in to speak to students on our three-month course. Ever a popular guest speaker, his visit was a great treat for our students. Jeffrey will be coming back to speak to our students with his agent Jonathan Lloyd this February, applications for that 6-month London course are still open.


Award-winning author and CBC alumna, Jane Harper’s second novel, Force Of Nature, entered the Sunday Times Bestseller list at number 7!

Struan Murray, who took our London-based novel-writing course way back in 2013, was announced the winner of the Bath Children’s Novel Award for Orphans of the Tide.

Sam Palin, another student who took our course in Spring 2013, bagged a book deal with Bonnier in the US for his novel The Year I Didn’t Eat.


Jo Jakeman, a student from one of our online creative writing courses, wins a three-book deal with Harvill Secker (Her first novel Sticks and Stones was published in July 2018).

Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren were cast as the leads in New Line Cinema’s adaption of CBC alumnus Nicholas Searle’s debut novel The Good Liar.

And, Katie Smart joined the CBC Team as the new Team Assistant.

From left: Katie Smart (Team Assistant), Anna Davis (Managing Director), Jack Hadley (Courses Manager)

From left: Katie Smart (Team Assistant), Anna Davis (Managing Director), Jack Hadley (Courses Manager)


In April we reached a rather exciting milestone when Greg Chivers became the 40th CBC student to get a publishing deal. Greg took our three-month novel writing course in 2016, taught by Charlotte Mendelson.

Lesley Sanderson swiftly followed Greg as 41st student to get a commercial publishing deal with Bookouture for her psychological thriller, The Orchid Girls (out now), plus one further novel.

Rachael Blok – who took our 3-month novel writing course in London back in 2016 – became the 42nd published CBC student, landing a two-book deal with Head of Zeus. Her debut novel Under the Ice was published in November 2018.


In May we celebrated our 7th Birthday with the launch of our online writing challenge #WriteCBC.

We also launched a new writing scholarship funded by the globally-bestselling and greatly-loved author Marian Keyes!

Marian Keyes, Author


2018 was a great year for Kiare Ladner, in April she became HW Fisher scholar on our London-based novel-writing course. Then in June, with the help of Curtis Brown agent Cathryn Summerhayes, she landed a major book deal for Nightshift – the novel she was working on in class.

Rachel Marks, who took our 3-month online novel-writing course taught by Lisa O’Donnell back in 2016, had her debut novel sold at auction to Michael Joseph with the help of Curtis Brown’s Alice Lutyens.

Rough Animals by Rae DelBianco – a student who travelled over from the US for six months specifically to study on our London novel-writing course – is published in the US.


Jenny Quintana’s haunting debut novel The Missing Girl, wion the coveted accolade of Waterstones’ Crime Thriller of the Month (Waterstones’ past picks include Jane Harper’s The Dry).

Angela Chadwick’s debut was picked up by new Little, Brown imprint, Dialogue Books (XX is out now!)

Struan Murray became the 49th CBC student with a major book deal, orchestrated by Curtis Brown agent Stephanie Thwaites, for his award-winning novel Orphans of the Tide.



Champagne corks were popping in August when Ann-Marie Howell became our 50th former novel-writing student to get a major publishing deal. Her debut middle grade novel, The Garden of Found and Lost, will be published by Usborne in 2019.


Kiare Ladner’s short story ‘Van Rensburg’s Card’ made the five-strong shortlist for the BBC National Short Story Award. Listen to it here.

Liz Xifaras was announced the winner of the Marian Keyes Novel-Writing Scholarship and joined our 6-month online novel-writing course, taught by Lisa O’Donnell.

Julia Armfield, one of the VERY talented bunch of students on our second-ever London-based novel-writing course in 2011 (alumni includes Kate Hamer, James Hannah, Annabelle Thorpe and Tim Glencross, to name just a few) becomes the 51st CBC student to gain a commercial book deal for her short story collection Salt Slow and a debut novel.


sarah and dave drawing

In October we joined forces with children’s author-illustrators: Sarah McIntyre and David O’Connell (above), to launch 3 brand-new online courses on Writing and Illustrating Children’s Picture Books.

Mayowa Asaju was awarded the BAME Writing Scholarship for YA and Children’s Fiction, generously funded by former CBC student Sarah Quinn.

Clare Pooley’s The Authenticity Project was auctioned to publishers around the world – including exciting deals with Transworld in the UK and Penguin in the US – this made Clare the 52nd CBC student to get a commercial book deal!

Soon after, Ella Dove’s debut novel Five Steps to Happy was snapped up by Sam Eades, publisher at Trapeze (a Hachette Orion imprint).


Elliot Sweeney was awarded the HW Fisher Scholarship for his stylish crime novel-in-progress Brown Eyed Girl

Our very own Anna Davis appeared on BBC’s The Bottom Line to talk about novel writing the role of the literary agent. Listen here.

We also welcomed best-selling author of The Versions of Us Laura Barnett to the Curtis Brown Creative tutor team. Laura will be teaching our 6-month novel-writing course in London starting this February, applications are open now.

Only a few month’s after hitting the 50 milestone, book deals for Karen Cole and Eleni Kyriacou allowed us to end the year with 55 publishing deals for our students!


msystic scene with red chair in a winter forest

Finally, for the festive season we asked you to help us write a collaborative Big Winter Story as part of our #WriteCBC competition. We started out with a photo prompt (above) set by the wonderful Marian Keyes – and across eight days we invited writers to tweet potential episodes to create a Big Winter Story. The story we ended up with was wonderfully absurd, read the full story here.

2018 was a wild ride and we cannot wait to see what 2019 will bring us. Happy New Year Writers!

If you’re currently working on a novel, take a look at our selective entry novel-writing courses. Our spring 2019 novel-writing courses are currently open for applications: Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell or Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Laura Barnett

Or, if you’re writing YA or children’s fiction why not take a look at our selective entry online course for Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson.

We also run three short online courses at budget-price designed to help writers at different stages of their novel-writing journey: Starting to Write Your NovelWrite to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel – all starting in January 2019.

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