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EXPERT FEEDBACK, PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE...
a generous appraisal of the experience that reassured the editor and audience alike that NAW was moving in a useful direction. From then on, the many skills that went into making Ion such a success as literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation also benefitted The National Academy of Writing.
Ion Trewin was a perfect fit for the Academy's approach to passing on knowledge about how to write, whatever the genre. As first a literary journalist, then an editor of fiction and non fiction, Ion was steeped in an appreciation of readerly needs. In the tumult and egoism of creation writers can sometimes forget that writing is only one part of the process - despite (or because of) his parallel career as a biographer Ion was an expert at balancing the sometimes conflicting desires of reader and writer.
As a veteran of the literary industry, and someone who chose not to go to University, Ion was in sympathy with NAW's pragmatic approach to getting words on the page: theories and curricula may help justify academic credits but don't always contribute to the writing of interesting books. Knowing how language works, and re-writing sentences and paragraphs as often as necessary, provides a more reliable pathway to compelling literature.
It has been a privilege to know Ion, and in particular to play (and lose) at the annual game of trying to provoke an indiscretion about the Man Booker prize. The only criticism of a Booker contender I can remember was the complaint as much of a keen gardener as a sharp literary critic - Ion was astounded that a shortlisted novelist could feature a garden with plants in flower so obviously out of season.
The National Academy of Writing has been immensely fortunate to have a literary figure of Ion's stature to offer such welcome and good-humoured wisdom. We shall miss him.
‘After my initial shock, I felt pathetically grateful.’ Nigel Farndale, Sunday Telegraph
Over several years NAW has developed a live public edit which is a unique literary and Creative Writing event. Richard Beard, the Director of The National Academy of Writing, edits texts of up to 2000 words submitted in advance by members of the audience.
The NAW Public Edit is modelled on the Conservatoire Masterclass for trainee musicians. In high-level music schools, a trainee violinist or trombonist will be offered a public lesson with a visiting professional. The principle is that all practitioners encounter similar problems – same for writers as musicians - so an edit for one is an edit for all.
The NAW, founded by writers, aims to communicate how writers actually get their books written. Writers look closely at specific pieces of writing, their own, and when it comes to published narrative prose most writing is re-writing. And then re-writing again.
The NAW Edit is usually followed by a talk or interview with a guest writer, who discusses whatever techniques help get the words on the page. This is not a reading. Writers who have appeared alongside the NAW Public Edit include Kazuo Ishiguro, Linda Grant, Kevin Barry, Minette Walters, Sir Michael Holroyd, Alison Moore, Iain Banks, Jojo Moyes, Keith Ridgway, Evie Wyld, Alan Hollinghurst and many others.
The next open NAW Public Edit will be hosted by Writers and Artists on 16th June at Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP. The guest writer will be Christie Watson, whose novels Tiny Sunbirds Far Away and Where Women are Kings have been widely translated. She won the Cost First Novel Award and the Waverton Good Read Award.
Audience reaction to previous NAW Public Edits:‘So useful’, ‘sharp analysis’, ‘excellent’, ‘particularly useful’, ‘invaluable advice’, ‘disciplined/rigorous’. ‘very rewarding’, ‘lots of helpful stuff about language and character etc, with a level of insight and precision that is bloody breathtaking’, ‘great’, ‘excellent feedback and points made’, 'really useful and hugely enjoyable.'
Free Word Centre, London, every Wednesday evening (6-8.30pm) from 8th April to 10th June. The course is for six writers only.
This course is suitable for writers who have early drafts of novels, novel chapters or stories that they wish to improve through detailed attention to the text. Writers of narrative non-fiction are also welcome to apply.
Writers on the course will benefit from the unique NAW Public Edit, workshops, presentations and visits from a leading agent and a senior publisher.
NAW offers 50% off the course fee for one successful applicant with a child under 5, and a 10% reduction for members of the Society of Authors. Please include this information with your application.
Applications can be made by sending 3000 words of narrative prose (fiction or non-fiction) by email to NAW Director Richard Beard by the deadline of midnight 13 March 2015. Places will be allocated to six applicants on Wednesday 18 March 2015.
'The process has one principle: to focus on the text and what follows is insightful, constructive and above all practical ... thorough, thoughtful and generous.' The Huffington Post
Full details of this NAW 10-Week Course, including fees and how to apply, can be found here.
Pembroke College in Cambridge. The NAW Director Richard Beard will demonstrate the unique NAW Public Edit on stories or novel extracts submitted by members of the audience, followed by an interview with guest writer Deirdre Madden. Deirdre Madden has twice been shortlisted for the Orange Prize, and her most recent novel is Time Present and Time Past.
The first 10-week course of 2015, to be held at the Free Word Centre, London, is for six writers only and will take place every Wednesday evening (6-8pm) from 8th April to 10th June. The course is suitable for writers who have early drafts of novels, novel chapters or stories that they wish to improve through detailed attention to the text.
Writers on the course will benefit from the NAW Public Edit, workshops, presentations and visits from a leading agent and publisher. Agents who have visited previous courses include Nicola Barr from Greene and Heaton, and Imogen Pelham from Aitken Alexander. Recent publishers include Francesca Main, Editorial Director at Picador, and Jane Lawson, Editorial Director at Transworld/Random House.
Full details of the course can be found here.
In July and August NAW returns to Pembroke College in Cambridge for the third annual Pembroke College - National Academy of Writing Summer Programme. This is a residential course that takes place over four weeks in in the beautiful and inspiring setting of the College. The intensive combination of lectures, supervisions and seminars emulates a Cambridge term, with the difference that every class is given by a working writer - the programme concentrates on the practical challenges of creating compelling writing, whatever the approach or genre.
This year the invitational lectures will be given by a range of internationally prize-winning novelists and writers, including John Boyne, author of The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, Deborah Moggach, novelist and screenwriter for the Oscar-nominated Pride and Prejudice, A.L.Kennedy, winner of the overall Costa Book of the Year Award and M. John Harrison, author of the Light trilogy and winner of both an Arthur C.Clarke Award and the Philip K. Dick Award.
More details about the summer school can be found here, including details of how to apply. The course is open to all.
The first hour is the unique NAW Public Edit. Everyone attending this event may submit a text of up to 2000 words, in any genre of fiction or non-fiction. Two texts are chosen at random and distributed to the audience in advance. Novelist, non-fiction writer and NAW Director Richard Beard will then publicly edit these texts, working on the principle that writers face similar challenges and an edit for one is an edit for all.
In the second hour, novelist and short story writer Kevin Barry will talk about his process as a writer. Kevin Barry has published two collections of short stories, and the novel City of Bohane, winner of the 2013 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His eagerly-awaited new novel, Beatlebone, will be published in 2015. At Southbank with NAW, Kevin Barry will be taking the 'pen or word-processor?' question seriously. How do writers get the work done? What does it take to fix the words on the page?
On November 4th in Pembroke College, Cambridge, the novelist Alan Hollinghurst will be doing something similar. Alan Hollinghurst is the author of five novels, including The Line of Beauty, winner of the 2004 Man Booker Prize. The Cambridge event will also feature the NAW Public Edit, focusing on two texts submitted by the audience. The Southbank event in London is open to all, and tickets are available here (£15, Concessions 50%). The Cambridge event is open to members of the National Academy of Writing and Cambridge University.
At both events plenty of time is allotted for questions, a rare opportunity to ask brilliant writers direct questions about how they actually write.