Creative Writing at Central Saint Martins

At the start of this calendar year I decided that I wanted to learn something new. I’m a sucker for a good evening class and love to have an outlet for my creativity, so I had a look at the short courses on offer at the University of the Arts London. I should point out here that, as an employee (London College of Fashion is one of the six colleges that make up UAL), I can occasionally get free places on short courses. However, I have an annoying tendency to choose courses that are very popular and so never have free staff places available. The first one I ever did was a Fashion Journalism course that always sells out, so I had to pay the course fees (less a 10% staff discount) and book quickly before it sold out. Happily, that course turned out to be worth every penny and freelance journalist Paul Tierney was an excellent tutor.

The course that caught my eye this time was Creative Writing – Fact or Fiction – Beginners at Central Saint Martins, taught by published author Elise Valmorbida. Of all the creative skills I’ve learnt, I have never once thought about writing as one, which is odd when you consider the amount of writing I do! For me, writing had always been a factual thing; I’d done academic writing, journalistic writing and blogging, but never fiction. It turns out this course is EXTREMELY popular so I had to decide quickly what I wanted to do… which was book it, obviously. The course is labelled as being for over 18s (adult themes, woo!) and the website describes it thus:

How do we transform experience and imagination into compelling prose? These eight-week courses are designed to develop your creative skills and confidence to write. Here is an opportunity to explore your powers of expression in a critical but supportive environment. Weekly assignments and group discussions will help you to refine your craft, strengthen your narrative voice and understand your audience. Personal tuition and advice will address the writing process, from getting started to getting published. And all the stories in between.

Sounds awesome, but a bit scary when you’ve never done anything like this before. I turned up for the first class with the specified ‘something to write on and something to write with’ and wondered what was going to happen. I won’t go into detail here, as not knowing what to expect meant I was able to challenge myself more, and I wouldn’t want to deny anyone else that opportunity if their brain works in the same way mine does. Suffice to say, Elise turned us from a group of nervous strangers into a supportive writing group that we could trust to give useful feedback. Although this blog isn’t usually a place for fiction writing, I was pleased with a lot of what I wrote during the course and so have decided to share some of my homework here over the next few weeks. To get us started, here is a tiny one. A saga, squeezed into a mere 50 words.

From penny buttons to Percy Pigs
Marks met Spencer. One shop became many. When Marks Jr and Mr Sieff took over, wholesale agreements were made; St Michael was christened. Quality was the aim. Britain thrived… M&S on every high street. As the century ended, St Michael faded. Now a soft porcine confectionery is the future.

Image via Fredrik Rubensson‘s Flickr photostream.

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