There comes a point in all our creative-writing courses when students stop jotting down tutors’ words of wisdom, critiquing each others’ novels-in-progress and experimenting with different tenses, and just sit and listen to the advice of the great writers that come in to visit them. There have been several of those moments recently in the two courses currently running in our offices. One group listened spellbound as Booker-winner Howard Jacobson was interviewed about his career by Curtis Brown CEO Jonny Geller, and there have been standout talks from Nathan Filer, Sarah Jasmon, Tom Rob Smith and SD Sykes.
A couple of weeks ago, it was the turn of bestselling author Jeffrey Archer to come in to speak to students on our Six-Month Novel-Writing Course. A regular guest of Curtis Brown Creative, Lord Archer always delivers an entertaining talk and – unlike our other visiting speakers – never leaves without setting the group some homework. The task he set was, as always, to write a short story with a beginning, a middle, an end and a full narrative arc in only 100 words.
Our 15 students rose to the challenge and, over the next few days, sent in some wonderful tales. Now Jeffrey Archer has chosen his three favourites. The two runners-up are as follows:
The bluesman put down his guitar, its strings still hot.
‘Boy, I’ve never heard anyone play like that,’ said the company man. ‘Come to the city and we gonna cut some wax. Make you like Chuck Berry.’
The bluesman kept his eyes to the floor. ‘Not without my kin.’
The company man looked over to the two black faces at the back of the shack. ‘Can’t bring them,’ he said. ‘The deal’s just for you.’
The bluesman shook his head.
At the back, one of the brothers whispered. ‘He can’t hold back forever.’
‘Nah,’ said the other. ‘He won’t.’
‘Father, I want to go to R.A.D.A.’
‘Nonsense – We lawyers go to Oxford. If they don’t want you, we can talk.’
Balliol College Interview.
‘Mr Johnson. It’s been a long day. Command our attention.’
He lifted his application, took his Zippo lighter out. Leaning over a metal bin, he lit the application paper and released the flaming paper.
The Dons stared open mouthed at the flames as he walked out of the room.
One said, ‘Gentlemen, I think we’ve just filled our last Law place.’
They nodded as one ticked, ‘Accepted’, and wrote, ‘See bin for application’.
And the winner is…
Keeping it real
‘Got it!’ Tom told his wife. ‘Romeo! Don’t like the director though.’
‘I want realism!’ said the director at the first rehearsal. ‘You, four eyes – no specs in Shakespeare. Get lenses.’
‘But I’m allergic,’ said Tom. ‘We’re only am drammers…’
At the fourth rehearsal, the director said ‘Lose a stone. Who’ll believe a porky Romeo?’
Tom’s sore eyes streamed.
‘Realism!’ barked the director.
At the last rehearsal, Tom said: ‘This poison scene, can you show me…. ’
‘Like this!’ The director struck a pose and drank. His eyes bulged; his legs buckled.
‘Real enough?’ said Tom.
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