Creative and non-fiction writing: student success stories

Learn more about the fantastic accomplishments of City Lit's writing students

City Lit's writing students frequently go on to further study or publication. Below, you can read a selection of our students' many and varied accomplishments.

If you have a success story of your own, we'd love to hear from you! Let us know more at


Segun Afolabi studied creative writing at City Lit. His first novel, Goodbye Lucille, was published in 2007 and won the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award. He has also been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2005.

Anna Burns studied writing fiction at City Lit. She won the 2018 Man Booker Prize for her novel Milkman.

Isabel Costello studied creative writing with Christina Dunhill. Her debut novel Paris Mon Amour was published in 2017 and is available in paperback, ebook and audio.

Abby Crawford studied creative writing with Sue Healy. Her story Leg User won the 2019 Perito Prize. 

Gary Donnelly studied creative writing on one of City Lit's online workshops. His debut crime thriller Blood Will Be Born was published by Endeavour Media in 2017. An audio version will be released by Isis Publishing in 2018, spoken by actor Stephen Armstrong. Award-winning crime novelist Adrian McKinty described the book as “brilliant” and Gary as “an exciting new voice in Northern Irish noir.”

Jean Ellis attended an advanced writing workshop with Mary Flanagan. Her book Goodbye, Burma, based on real events, was published in 2017.

Alice Fitzgerald attended intermediate and advanced fiction workshops at City Lit. Her debut novel, Her Mother's Daughter, was published by Allen & Unwin UK in April 2018. Charity Norman writes: "It's been a long time since I found a book so utterly engaging and enveloping [...] I raced through it, so immersed that it kept me up half the night."

Anna Hope studied short story writing at City Lit. She has published three novels with Doubleday (UK) and Random House (US). Expectation (2019) was described in the Observer as "[d]evastatingly perceptive and emotionally wise [...] deserves to feature on many a book prize shortlist this year." She also teaches creative writing and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Essex.

Tasha Kavanagh studied writing for children with Lou Kuenzler. Her first novel, Things We Have In Common, was shortlisted for a number of awards, including the Costa Book Award. Browse courses taught by Tasha >

Jameen Kaur studied creative writing with Linda Quinn. Her story 'Once We Were Warriors' was shortlisted for the 2019 Guardian 4th Estate short story prize. 

Andrea Levy studied creative writing at City Lit. She was the acclaimed author of five novels, including Small Island, which won the Whitbread Book of the Year, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and has been adapted for television. In 2016, Andrea was awarded a City Lit Lifetime Fellowship in recognition of her commitment to adult education in the UK, and the huge inspiration her writing and career provides to City Lit students. Watch her interview with City Lit's Principal Mark Malcomson >

Sarah Mackey studied short fiction at City Lit with Zoe Fairbairns and others. Her story "Mrs Peacock and the Broad Bean Baby" won first prize in the 2017 Ilkley Literary Festival short story writing competition, and her story "Forget Me Not" won third prize in the 2017 Bath Short Story Award.

Paul McVeigh studied fiction at City Lit. His debut novel, The Good Son, won the Polari Prize and the McCrea Literary Award, and was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize and other prizes. Paul co-founded the London Short Story Festival and is associate director at Word Factory.

Nicola Monaghan studied creative writing at City Lit with Julie Casterton. She is now a successful novelist whose books include The Killing JarStarfishing and The Okinawa Dragon. She has won a Betty Trask Award, the Authors' Club Best First Novel Prize and the Waverton Good Read. She also writes short stories, scripts, articles and comics.

Janet Olearski studied writing fiction at City Lit. Her short stories are widely published, she has written a number of children's books, and founded the Abu Dhabi Writers' Workshop. Her most recent publication is a short story collection, A Brief History of Several Boyfriends.

Sally O'Reilly studied writing fiction at City Lit. She has published the books How To Be A Writer: The definitive guide to getting published and making a living from writing and Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady. She has also written many short stories and maintains the blog How to Be a Writer

Anne Patterson studied courses on writing fiction and creating your author platform online. Her debut novel, Yes, was published by Silvertail Books and shortlisted for the 2018 Society of Authors McKitterick Prize.

Salma Siddiqui studied creative writing with Jonathan Barnes, Caroline Natzler and Conor Montague. Her first novel, The Migrants, was published by Platinum Press, an imprint of Leadstart Publishing, in 2018. 

Victoria Selman studied creative writing with Barbara Marsh and Courttia Newland. Her first novel, Blood for Blood, was shortlisted for the 2017 Debut Dagger Award and is a Kindle #1 bestseller. Her second novel, Nothing to Lose, was released in March 2019. She won the 2013 Full Stop Short Story Competition and co-hosts the true crime podcast Crime Girl Gang

Luke Tredget studied in our advanced critical workshop for creative writers. His debut novel, Kismet, was published by Faber in 2018. Luke joined a panel on contemporary prose fiction as part of City Lit's 2018 festival of writing.

Learn more about writing novels and short stories at City Lit >

Writing for stage and screen

Harrie Dobby's short play The Gap was chosen as part of City Lit’s Page to Stage programme in 2014 and went on to a production at The Cockpit Theatre, London and the New York Fringe in August 2015.

Oliver Kendall studied playwriting with Dawn King. His play A New Dawn was performed in October 2019 at the King's Head Theatre and Union Theatre in London. 

Michael O'Sullivan studied playwriting with Dawn King. His playlet Time to Think was highly commended by the Green Curtain Theatre in their competition Leaving: Stories of Emigration, and was performed at the Irish Centre in Camden Town in 2019. Listen to an audio recording on the Green Curtain Theatre's website >

Emma Pitt studied television screenwriting with Jim Hill. This led to an MA and she is now a professional writer. Her short film The Ballad of a Haunted Man stars Shane Attwooll (Legend, Dark River), Helen Lederer (Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie) and Eliza Leonard (Scratch). 

Samuel Sims studied playwriting with Dawn King. He is managing editor of A Younger Theatre and his work has been published in The Stage, QX and Sister Magazine

Matilda Velevitch studied screenwriting and novel writing at City Lit. Her first play, Three Mothers, was produced at the Waterloo East Theatre in 2017 and won the Isle of Man Arts Council Prize 2017 and The Octagon Prize 2017.

Natasha Zierhofer studied playwriting at City Lit. Her horror comedy play Sex Magick opened the autumn 2018 season at the Barons Court Theatre.

Learn more about writing for stage and screen at City Lit >


Peter Ebsworth studies poetry at City Lit with John Stammers. His poems have been published in magazines and journals including the Spectator, and he is a founding editor of South Bank Poetry Magazine, which began publishing in 2008. Watch his Student Story here >

Nicole Lee studied poetry with Barbara Marsh. Her work was longlisted in the 2017 National Poetry Competition.

Lesley Sharpe studied poetry with Martina Evans. Most recently her poems have been shortlisted for the London Magazine Poetry Prize (2016), Bailieborough Prize (2016 & 2017), Aesthetica Creative Writing Award (2017), and Bridport Prize (2017). They have also been long-listed for The Poetry School/Nine Arches Press Primers 2 mentoring scheme (2016) & Cinnamon Press Debut Collection Prize 2018. She is also a co-founder of Lodestone Poets, a new quarterly Poetry event.

Learn more about writing poetry at City Lit >

Children's writing

Malorie Blackman OBE studied Writing for Children at City Lit in the late 1980s. Since then, she has written more than 50 books and was named as Children’s Laureate in 2013. Her books for children and young adults include the Noughts & Crosses series, HackerPig Heart Boy and Boys Don't Cry. In 2015 she was awarded a City Lit Fellowship. In 2016 she was awarded a prestigious Association of Colleges (AoC) Gold Award after being nominated by City Lit. She is patron of our Malorie Blackman Scholarships for 'Unheard Voices' >

Peter Bunzl has studied fiction, poetry and screenwriting at City Lit. His book Cogheart was Waterstones Children’s Book of the Month in August 2016.

John Condon studied writing for children with Lou Kuenzler. His first publisher book, The Wondrous Dinosaurium, was published by Maverick Arts in 2018.

Jane Elson studied children's writing with Lou Kuenzler. Her books - including How To Fly With Broken Wings and A Room Full Of Chocolate - have won the Shrewsbury Book Award, the Hillingdon Book Of The Year, the Peters Book Of The Year, the Calderdale Book Award and the Weald Book Award. She has also been shortlisted for the Dudley Book Award and the Harrow Book Award.

Ciara Flood studied children’s book writing with Lou Kuenzler. She has now published two picture books and spoke at City Lit’s 2016 literary festival. 

Jo Franklin studied children’s writing with Penny Kendal. Her first children’s book, Help, I’m an Alien, was published by Troika Books in 2016. Browse courses taught by Jo >

Zehra Hicks studied children’s book writing with Lou Kuenzler. She has now published five picture books and spoke at City Lit’s 2016 literary festival. 

Lou Kuenzler studied children's writing at City Lit. Since then she has written many popular books for newly fluent and middle grade readers as well as picture books. She has also written for Cbeebies television. Browse courses taught by Lou >

Tracey Matthias studied writing for children with Penny Joelson. Her fantasy triology Assalay was published in German by Erika Klopp Verlag and Tracey is currently self-publishing an English edition. Night of the Party, her YA political thriller, was published in 2018 by Scholastic. 

Sophie McKenzie studied writing for children at City Lit. Her first teen thriller, Girl, Missing, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2005. Since then, she has published many more teen thrillers as well as two teen romance series, books for younger children and, more recently, a number of standalone crime fiction novels for adults. Browse courses taught by Sophie >

Beverley Sanford studied writing for children with Lou Kuenzler. In 2011 she was a BBC Writer's Room finalist. Her books The Wishing Doll, Amazing Racing, Social Superstars, Remember Rosie and Silent Nation are published by Badger Learning.

Learn more about writing for children at City Lit >

Non-fiction and journalism

Claire Bullen studied food writing with Nikki Spencer. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Table with Jen Ferguson, was published in 2019 by Ryland Peters & Small. 

Anthony Gladman attended an introductory journalism course with Susan Grossman. Using the pitching skills covered on the course, he was subsequently able to achieve his goal of having a feature published in Ferment Magazine

Ben Gray studied sports journalism at City Lit. He now writes for the website 101 Great Goals.

Ceri Jones studied food writing with Nikki Spencer. She now runs her own blog, Natural Kitchen Adventures, and works as a freelance chef, cooking teacher, food & recipe writer, and yoga retreat chef.

FoodPunk Joe is a freelance food writer who runs his own blog and is a contributor to and Food & Drink News. He studied food writing at City Lit with Nikki Spencer.

J. Jason Mitchell studied creative non-ficiton with Paul Laffan. in March 2017, he published an article in the London Review of Books about his expeeriences aboard a rescue vessel in the Mediterranean, working with German NGOs.

Lara Newson studied creative non-fiction with Paul Laffan. Her non-fiction has been published by TSS

Rachel Steinberg studied sports journalism with Charles Runcie and was subsequently accepted onto the sports journalism NCTJ course at News Associates.

Sumayya Usmani got her first taste of food journalism in a workshop with Nikki Spencer. She was resident food writer for the Guardian in February 2016 and has published two memoir/cookbooks. She has returned to City Lit for talks, launches and taster events. Read our 2017 conversation with Sumayya >

Andy Wasley studied travel writing with Susan Grossman. In the weeks following the course, he had two travel writing pitches accepted - on Japan and the Pennine Way - for a UK LGBT magazine and a US backpacking magazine.

Dr Abby J Waterman studied creative writing at City Lit. Her memoir, Woman in a White Coat, was published in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Biography Prize and the Wasafiri Memoir Prize.

Learn more about creative non-fiction at City Lit >

Learn more about writing journalism at City Lit >

Between the Lines

Every year a selection of students' work is published in Between the Lines, City Lit's anthology of creative writing. Find out more and learn how to submit your work >

We'd love to hear from you!

Are you a former or current City Lit student who has gone on to further study or publication? We would love to hear from you and include your story on this page! Please do let us know further details by getting in touch at

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