City Lit launched the Malorie Blackman ‘Unheard Voices’ Scholarships in 2019. The programme provides three annual awards worth up to £1000 each to fund study within the City Lit Creative Writing department. The awards seek to support and encourage the creative and professional development of ‘Unheard Voices’, and can be used to fund courses within the City Lit Creative Writing department. In May 2020, we announced the three winners of the scholarship programme and we’ve been following their writing adventures this year.
We recently caught up with Beena Nadeem, one of the recipients of the scholarship programme, to find out more about her current writing projects and how the scholarship has helped her so far.
How do you feel that the scholarship has helped you so far?
The scholarship has been wonderfully inspiring. It’s enabled me to focus on specifics I was unsure about and expand into other areas I was curious about. I’ve undertaken courses on novel plotting, scene setting and children’s writing – and they’ve enabled me to shirk that silly guilt I have about writing being an indulgence, and to take it more seriously. And I am.
What kind of writing projects have you been working on after winning the scholarship?
It gave me the courage to apply and do something I’ve always wanted to. I went for the very competitive Faber novel writing course and am now doing that too. It’s been wonderful at helping me power through the novel I’m writing. If it wasn’t for City Lit, there’s no way I would have deemed myself worthy. I’ve penned a draft of a children’s very early sticker book for a publisher. Who knows if it will make it to the shelves, but it’s been a lot of fun.
Which City Lit courses have you completed this year and can you tell us a little bit more why you’ve chosen these courses and what your highlights have been?
I’ve just started a children’s writing course with Andrew Weale, he’s a wonderfully encouraging writer and tutor.
Novel plotting and Developing your Novel, both with Jonathan Barnes. I also did a shorter course on Scenes in Fiction, which was a helpful weekend course which helped me navigate when to expand scenes and how, when necessary, to move them along – helpful!
What advice would you give to other aspiring City Lit writers?
Keep on writing. Carve out moments in those quiet corners of life – when the kids are still in bed, before work, when you’re waiting for someone, in between those dreaded Zoom calls, in the bath, on the bus… snatch those moments before they pass you by. Little moments add up into something you can look back on and build upon.
What are your plans for 2021?
Finishing my novel - I’m 65,000 words in, and trying to find the time around work, family and other issues is quite tricky. I, like many, have had some additional challenges this year, but it’s that old adage about making you stronger.
I’m really keen to get this novel completed. And would also love to write for children too. Two very different strands. And read more. A lot more. Make time for those things. And continue to work too. I’m really looking forward to our new life out of lockdown and will absolutely make the most of it. I’d also love to attend some literary festivals. And who knows - perhaps return to an old favourite City Lit class that started me off on this journey in the first place; Christina Dunhill’s creative writing course. Lots to look forward to.