05 July 2016

Why take an online writing course? Let our students answer that…

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by Eli Keren Course News, From Our Students

Since the first of our online writing courses began in autumn 2013, a number of our online students have gone on to get book deals – David Barbaree, Catherine Bennetto, Alice Clark-Platts, Lisa Duffy, Jane Harper, Hannah McKinnon and Nicholas Searle to name but a few.

Originally, course tutor Christopher Wakling set out to replicate online exactly what he was used to delivering in person here in the London offices, but over the past few years we’ve come to realise that imitating our London courses isn’t necessarily the best way to make the most out of cyberspace. In fact, studying online comes with its own unique set of benefits that don’t apply to the London-based courses – in the same way the London-based courses have their own benefits that don’t translate over to the web.

Rather than trying to bend one set of courses to the other for the sake of consistency, we’ve put in a lot of work to make sure our online courses make the best of their style of delivery. This year we’ve reached the culmination of that work – starting from this autumn, our online courses will be based in our brand-new online learning platform, designed and developed specifically for the delivery of our own material.

But, of course, we would say all that – we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved –but what did our students have to say about our online platform:


What, in your opinion, is the greatest benefit of studying online?

Rosalind Yarde: ‘I live abroad and work full-time, balancing my professional life with family and home, so for me the greatest benefit of studying online is the opportunity to access a flexible course that I would otherwise not be able to attend.’

Constantin Polychronakos: ‘Tight deadlines are the best cure for writer’s block! With the hectic pace of my day job, the flexibility of an online course was the only way that I could sign up for a course.’

Melanie Harbinson: ‘The most useful aspect of the course for me was chatting online and sharing ideas with my classmates. It’s pretty scary stuff sharing writing for the first time ever (for me) or after a knockback from agents/publishers (for a few others), so it felt like a safe place. Also, without deadlines, we’d be pratting about with the same bits of the story forever – the course makes us move on and focus on something new.’

Anne McGrath:One of the greatest benefits of the online course was having the posts permanently up so that I could re-read them at leisure. I learnt so much about the craft of writing from going over and over all those discussion threads– trying to see how and why certain effects were achieved etc. I believe it has made me a much more conscious writer.’


Did you feel a connection with your classmates and tutor even without meeting them in person?

Catherine Higgins-Moore: ‘Absolutely. As a tutor, Lisa O’Donnell was very approachable. And although I never met my classmates in person, there was a strong sense of community in our group. In many ways I believe the physical distance allowed for more honest criticism. There comes a point when you’re getting serious about your manuscript when you don’t want people to dress up their responses.’

Sarah Linley: ‘We used Skype for our tutorials so it felt more like a face-to-face chat, and the group has kept in touch after the course and continue to support each other via social media and email.’

Kalika Sands: ‘I don’t care for social media (I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts ages ago), so I was a bit sceptical of the format of the Curtis Brown Creative course at first, but was pleasantly surprised by how quickly we all formed connections with our tutor, and with one another.  I really felt like I was a part of a welcoming, supportive and respectful community of writers.’

Felicity Brown: ‘Months since my participation in a CBC course concluded, many of my classmates and I have maintained an active online writing group, as if it had never ended, so there’s clearly some real connection there!’


What, for you, was the most useful aspect of taking the online course?

Sarah Linley: ‘Studying with Curtis Brown Creative is a commitment to your writing. It gave me the confidence and knowledge to take my writing to the next level and it was fantastic to have access to literary agents and industry experts.’

Rosalind Yarde: ‘The course was great. It taught me a lot and inspired me to have confidence in my writing. However, the most useful aspect for me was the access it offers to Curtis Brown and Conville and Walsh agents, along with the opportunities this affords.’

Kalika Sands: ‘My life is rather hectic, so having a sense of consistency really motivated me to stick with my writing. The course assignments and subsequent feedback were well laid-out, which meant I felt constantly engaged without feeling overwhelmed.’

Felicity Brown: ‘The most useful aspect for me was, I suppose, a rather uncool one to admit to: the space. The space to be insecure and to be creative and to be critical and not to alienate everyone while all that was going on! I’m terribly judgmental and yet comically sensitive to criticism, so I fear that in person I’d have given notes that were either saccharine or kind of harsh, and in receiving my own feedback I’d have been über-defensive or maybe just cried. The online aspect of the course gave me the space I needed to get the most out of everything. It meant that my feedback to others was better and that I got more out of theirs.’

Anne McGrath: ‘The international mix of classmates made it a very unique experience; I was able to ask research questions about an American character in my novel and get details of a setting abroad— as well as picking up useful tips from the “speech patterns” in posts, which has definitely improved my dialogue! Even if I posted at midnight I knew there was likely to be someone wide awake in South Africa or Dubai who would respond.’

As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our three- and six-month novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter.

Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.


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