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 Celestine Fraser, 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?
Obviously it was very flattering to have had the iconic Malorie Blackman read (and apparently, enjoy!) something I wrote, so that gave me some confidence to pursue my project. Choosing a ten-week course paced across a whole term was really helpful because it gave me structure and the momentum to commit to writing regularly. Writing fiction can be daunting and lonely so it was great to be able to bounce ideas and get support and feedback from other writers during our workshops in class. And in the most simple way, I feel like the scholarship has given me permission to make my writing a priority in my life, to let myself take it a bit more seriously.
What kind of writing projects have you been working on after winning the scholarship?
My main focus has been beginning to develop a coming-of-age novel with a young disabled protagonist - an idea I’d been playing with for years, but that I had never before felt I had the time or support to give a proper shot.
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 you’ve learnt?
So far I’ve completed the ten-week Starting Your Novel course, as well as a two-day craft focus on “Autobiography into Fiction”.
The craft focus workshop was useful to help kick things off and to give me some inspiration about how to turn some of my own experiences into fiction.
Then the “Starting Your Novel” course was hugely helpful in getting me started with my story. Our class was a really lovely group whose energy kept me motivated week after week. We learnt a lot about voice and dialogue, as well as the basic rules of story structure in the novel, which we can then choose to obey, or to break. I found the quick writing exercises especially useful as I’ve had plenty of moments when writing when I’ve felt completely stuck, but these helped to get ideas flowing again, and reminded me that there are always infinite directions you can take the scene or the story.
Which City Lit courses are still on your wish list?
I’ve already signed up for Developing Your Novel next term, which is the progression course for “Starting Your Novel”, and I’ve got my eye on a couple of craft focus workshops - like “Dialogue in Fiction” and Scenes in Fiction - which would help me improve on specific skills within novel writing. And in the final term, I’d love to learn more about the short story.
What advice would you give to other aspiring City Lit writers?
I think the only advice I can give at this stage is just to enjoy the process! During this awful year, I’ve found writing to be really therapeutic, a real meditation, so it’s been such a relief to set aside time where I can leave my body and this insane moment in the world to escape to someplace else in my imagination. So the advice I’m trying to give myself, at least, is to not fret too much about the final product and to just enjoy the process of writing as a meaningful end in itself.
What are your plans for 2021?
Next year my main goal is to finish a first draft of my novel. And for when that feels like too much of a mammoth task and I need some light relief, I’d like to finish writing a short romantic comedy script I’ve been working on for some time.