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.
Last week we announced the three winners of the scholarship programme and we’ll be following their writing adventures this year.
Osob Dahir is one of the three recipients of the Malorie Blackman scholarship for ‘Unheard Voices’. We recently caught up with Osob to find out more about her City Lit experiences, winning the scholarship, and her future ambitions…
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your writing background?
A: Writing has been part of my identity and has helped me make sense of the world from an early age. I realised that, in order to push my craft further, I needed to be in an environment where I’d receive professional and constructive feedback on my work. That’s when I decided to enrol at City Lit.
Since making this decision, I’ve completed a variety of fiction writing courses at City Lit. This has helped me to grow in confidence and put myself forward for other opportunities, including applying for and being accepted onto Rewrite Academy, a writing programme for Black Women and Women of Colour who are working on completing their manuscripts. The community of writers that I have connected with whilst on the Rewrite Academy programme have become an integral part of my writing journey.
Q: What role does writing play in your life, and why is it important to you?
I’ve always been drawn to storytelling and the power stories have to transport, transform and recreate both real and imagined experiences.
Stories have also been a source of joy, and a way to connect with my history and heritage. One of my earliest childhood memories is sitting in my grandmother’s courtyard in Mogadishu and clinging onto her guntiino with excitement as she told us stories.
Q: Who are your favourite writers and what stories have inspired you?
A: I admire and feel inspired by the work of Toni Morrison and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. I also turn to their interviews and articles for motivation, discipline and to reflect on the answers they gave to questions such as who their audience is and why they write.
I’m currently rereading Toni Morrison’s Sula, which I keep going back to for its beauty, majesty and power. Each time I finish Sula, I miss it and want to read it again.
Q: What made you decide to study at City Lit?
A: I had been curious about City Lit’s Creative Writing Department for some time. When I began to explore it in more detail, I was impressed by the range of courses and the availability of evening and weekend classes.
I also realised that it would be difficult for me to progress my writing without receiving regular and rigorous feedback on my work. After my first course at City Lit, I felt inspired, motivated and found myself returning for more!
Q: What courses have you studied at City Lit?
A: The courses I’ve taken at City Lit include Short Story Writing, Starting Your Novel, as well as Craft Focus classes such as Mastering Descriptive Language and Scenes in Fiction. I took these classes in order to strengthen my writing skills, and I loved the feeling of experimenting with new techniques afterwards.
One of the biggest things I’ve learnt from my classes is that I don’t need to wait for inspiration to start writing. That the habit of writing regularly generates its own creativity. I have been amazed at what would sometimes come out from a timed writing exercise taking place in class.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have made talented friends from my City Lit classes, who continue to encourage and inspire me.
Q: What made you decide to apply for the Malorie Blackman scholarship?
A: The feedback I received on my work in Vicky Grut and Zoë Fairbairns’ classes gave me the confidence to apply for the Malorie Blackman scholarship. I also enjoyed the process of preparing my application and persevering with the story until I felt ready to submit it.
The idea that Malorie Blackman might read my work was a huge motivating factor for me because I have looked to her writing journey as a source of hope and courage. When I read that I had made the shortlist for the award, I was incredibly excited by the prospect of Malorie Blackman connecting with my work! It has been both humbling and rewarding to find out that my story has been selected.
Q: What do you hope to achieve through the scholarship scheme?
A: It’s really encouraging to be one of the winners of the scholarship programme, especially because there are so many talented and dedicated people at City Lit. I intend to use this huge boost as motivation to keep pushing forward with my writing projects.
One of the highlights of the scholarship programme is that City Lit’s Creative Writing Department will help me to construct a year-long programme that’s tailored to my needs. This is a unique opportunity to develop my craft with the support and oversight of experts. I have already gained so much from being a student at City Lit and I am looking forward to the opportunities that the programme will bring.