Q&A | Malorie Blackman Scholarship Recipient Sandra Smith

Q&A | Malorie Blackman Scholarship Recipient Sandra Smith

4 July 2022
Posted in: News, Stories

— Congratulations to Malorie Blackman Scholarship Winner Sandra Smith

  • City Lit catches up with creative writing student Sandra Smith, one of the winners of this year's Malorie Blackman Scholarship for 'Unheard Voices' 
  • We find out more about her time at City Lit, winning the scholarship and her ambitions...

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’ve been following their writing adventures this year. 

Portrait image of Sandra Smith - Creative Writing at City LitPortrait image of Sandra Smith - Creative Writing at City Lit
Sandra Smith - Creative Writing Student at City Lit

Discover our Scholarship Programme.

The awards seek to support and encourage the creative and professional development of ‘unheard voices' at City Lit.

Discover our creative writing programme.

Learn to write stories, articles and poetry in the same college where big names in literature such as Malorie Blackman and Andrea Levy have trained.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your writing background?

A: I provide Parent Support in an Abbey Wood (South East London) primary school, but alongside this, I deliver creative writing sessions to Year Six students. It was whilst doing this I realised how much both I and the students enjoyed the sessions and made me think that whilst I could make stories up to order, I had never once written anything down. So, in essence, my writing journey is a dream long deferred which has only recently been realised.  


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Q: What role does writing play in your life?

A: Writing is a part of my life that is exclusively mine. It is not tethered by work or family commitments and whilst I do not have to answer to it as such, I try to factor at least one hour of writing into my day. It is double-edged – when the writing is going well you feel achieved, indeed accomplished, but at the same time, there could be that one sentence or word that eludes you and you spend frustrating hours or even days searching your mind for it.

Q: Who are your favourite writers and what stories have inspired you?

A: My absolute favourite book and author is The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. She has such a poetic, honest, hard-hitting style of writing with the stories she weaves holding a truth, especially for black women. Other authors of equal statue that I read are of course Malorie Blackman with Pig Heart Boy being the focused reading book for our Year 6 students. My other favourite authors are: Maya Angelou, Brit Bennett, Abi Dare, Monica Ali, Bernardine Evaristo, Angela Levy, Colson Whitehead and Dougie Stuart.

Q: Why did you choose City Lit?

A: In my imagination, I have been ‘writing’ stories my entire life, but it was not until 2019 they found their way onto the page. This was mainly because City Lit offers such a versatile timetable. I knew I was time poor on weekdays so the course by Natasha Bell 'Sunday Ways into Creative Writing' fitted perfectly into my schedule. I finished the course and immediately applied for Short story writing (intensive) with Jonathon Barnes, but mid-course the pandemic started so the live element had to stop. Courses then switched to Zoom, and I am of the belief that the range and diversity of courses rather than shrink, grew as I was able to attend many more bearing in mind I did not have to factor in travelling time.  

"This award is for children to know that where imaginations can be sparked, stories can be spun."

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Q: What courses have you studied at City Lit?

A: In the past two years the courses I have studied a number of courses at City Lit including Writing race and ethnicity with Maria Thomas, Reading for Writers: The short story with Vicky Grut and Craft focus: writing a strong story opening with Sophie McKenzie. 

Q: What made you decide to apply for the Malorie Blackman scholarship?

A: I applied for the Malorie Blackman scholarship because the tutors encouraged all the students to do so. I wrote the piece I submitted in August 2020 partly in response to the heightened political, social, and cultural experiences of that summer. I left it to ‘rest’ for a year but in that time whilst taking courses, I became more skilled in critiquing my work. So when I decided to apply for the scholarship, I was confident I could craft the piece so it would be a worthy entry.

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Q: What do you hope to achieve through the scholarship scheme?

A: I hope to become a stronger writer by diversifying my writing style and studying courses which I may not have considered beforehand.  

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