A message from creative writing tutor, Helen Brain:

Helen_Brain_Creative_Writing_Tutor_lbA big thank you to all my students for working so hard. It’s been great watching you develop your skills in the basics and advanced creative writing courses as well as in Write a Book for Children. There have been some remarkable stories of publishable standard coming out of these courses, and I take my hat off to all of you. Completing an online course is always a real achievement.

On a personal front, I’ve been writing extensively for Nalibali – a story program for pre-schoolers throughout Africa. Our stories are turned into scripts and broadcast on the radio for children who don’t have ready access to books. I’ve also written for Fundza, an exciting initiative that delivers serialised short stories to young adult commuters via cellphone.

Last year I teamed up with Dr Nicky Webb, an ex student in my Write a Book for Children course, and we developed a new series for 8-12 year olds called Vets and Pets. It’s been published by Human and Rousseau, and we’ve just delivered the second manuscript.

2014 has seen some of my best students ever, and as always I’m blown away by the talent out there. Here’s to 2015, and another year of hard work and successes. Helen Brain


A message from Afrikaans novel writing tutor, Wilna Adriaanse

Wilna_Adriaanse_lbAan al my hardwerkende studente van 2014:

Baie dankie dat julle my met julle stories vertrou het. En ook met grepe uit julle lewens. Dit is vir my ‘n voorreg.

Ek waardeer julle toewyding en die feit dat julle bereid was om te leer. Dit is egter ‘n wedersydse proses, want ek leer ook by julle.

Hartlik geluk aan almal wat vanjaar julle onderskeie kursusse voltooi en geslaag het – ek hoop dis net die begin en dat julle nog groot vreugde uit julle skryfwerk sal put.

Aan almal wat nie hulle kursus kon voltooi nie – om watter redes ook – moenie dat dit julle keer om te skryf nie.

Baie dankie ook vir julle geduld wanneer ek nie so spoedig kan reageer nie.

Ek groet julle met die woorde van die enigmatiese Ernest Hemingway:

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” Wilna Adriaanse


Greetings from our novel writing tutor, Alex Smith

Dear Students,

Alex_Smith_letterboxIt has been an extraordinary year of outstanding work by students who are working on some amazing and diverse novel projects with huge potential. As a novel writing and literary short fiction tutor it has been a privilege and a joy to encounter students’ wonderful imaginations manifesting in thrilling, enchanting, chilling, moving and insightful stories peopled with an array of  truly fascinating characters.

In terms of the basic grammar and advanced grammar for writers courses, it is always inspiring to tutor students who are working hard to improve, hone and polish their writing skills, after all, words and grammar are a writer’s only tools for transferring what is in her or his head to the page in order to communicate with a reader.

As a writer, it has been a rewarding year for me too: my fifth novel ‘Devilskein & Dearlove’ was published in June in the UK and in South Africa, and it has recently been nominated for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal, which is said to be the oldest and most prestigious children’s book award in the UK.

Warmest wishes for a happy vacation and may 2015 bring fresh inspiration and many hours of happy writing for us all.  Alex Smith


Novel writing tutor David Jester’s message to his students:

David-Jester-LB - CopyI’ve had a very eclectic range of students this year and have enjoyed working with all of them. They’ve all had different styles and many come from different backgrounds, but they share a common love for the written word and a desire to improve their writing.

This was my first year at the college after being drafted by Nichola at the beginning of February. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my students and their levels of ability, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Some of my students are very close to the standard required not only to be a published author, but to be a successful freelance writer. There are niggles, oversights, mistakes and messy writing, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed and that’s what these courses are here for.

I was at a similar standard myself a few years into my writing journey and although it took me a decade to get to where I am today, this was because I didn’t have the tuition or the guidance that the Write a Novel course can provide. I learnt from my own mistakes and I grew very slowly as a writer, but these students have the same potential as I had and they can grow much quicker.

It has been a very interesting and educational year for me, and I hope my students feel the same way.

Personally, I have kept myself busy both with freelance work and with my books. I have worked on comic books, film scripts, animation and more, and although these were mostly paid jobs where I received little input (and no royalties) following production, I am currently in discussion with several publishing houses to produce some of my new books and reproduce some of my old ones. I began as a self-published author and that’s what put me where I am today, but it can be a tiring, lonely and uncertain business, and sometimes you just need a publisher to take some of the strain.

I am still an advocate of self-publishing, and these deals might not even happen (there’s no point in handing over your royalties to a publisher if they can only do what you can do yourself) but with freelancing and tutoring work, I rarely have the time to publish and promote my own books, so a change is needed. Still, if there are any students out there that want to make the leap into self-publishing, I would be more than happy to offer some advice. Best wishes, David Jester


Tutor for the Writing Books for Children Course, Philippa Werry:

Phillipa-Werry-lb-v1Thanks to my students on the Writing Books for Children course for all their hard work. I am always impressed by how much time and effort you put into your study, especially when many of you are juggling paid and unpaid work, family commitments and busy households. I’m also fascinated to see how the same exercises and assignments in each Module can elicit such different and wildly imaginative responses.

Well done to you all and best wishes for a happy and relaxing Christmas and a New Year full of exciting writing projects. Philippa Werry


An end-of-year message from novel tutor, Andrew Salomon:

Andrew-Salomon-lb - CopyWe all know time flies. At the beginning of the year this is something we are peripherally aware of but not concerned with at all. But at the end of the year, this obvious detail becomes an indisputable reality, along with the startling sense of ‘Where on earth did the time go?’ I thought I still had oodles of opportunities to paint the house, to learn how to surf or to speak Spanish, to finish that novel…

But instead of lamenting time’s speedy nature, for the rest of 2014 and beyond I would like to be less concerned with time: instead I’d like to focus on writing and on doing so regularly. Stephen King advises us not to wait for inspiration; rather show up to write every day and the muse will know where to find you. This is something I habitually need to be reminded of, and by reminding you of it, I hopefully get to reinforce this habit within myself. It’s a habit worth cultivating: writing isn’t always easy, but there is joy in the process, and there can be considerable pleasure in the results, too.

2014 is almost done and dusted. Forget what you didn’t do. Look at what you did achieve and feel happy about it. Then power up that computer and get the words down. No matter if they’re rough; once you have them on the page you can polish them.

Through tutoring I’m truly fortunate not only to teach, but also to learn. It’s been a real pleasure to work with all of you in 2014. Thank you for your hard and creative work, I salute your courage and enthusiasm. Andrew Salomon


Short Story Writing tutor, Ginny Swart

Ginny_Swart_Short_Story_Tutor_lb - CopyHi to all my students – you romantic, chilling, horror, hilarious, and twisted short story writers!

It’s been interesting and often exciting to read all your assignments and watch as your writing talents have developed over the past year. I look forward to reading a lot more in 2015. Keep your keyboards going over Christmas because that’s when inspiration for your next story might strike. Cheers, Ginny Swart


Parting words from the Poetry Department’s Fiona Zerbst:

Fiona-Zerbst-lbDear Students

Writing poetry is a deeply personal journey full of revelations. Every year, I am reminded of all the different reasons why people write – to recreate joy; to cope with depression; to find a counterpoint to their academic studies; to remember they are more than their jobs; to learn a new way of using language that will allow them to discover more about themselves. Whatever your reason for writing, be assured that it is valid, since poetry is as much about self-discovery as it is about art.

As always, you have taught me a lot about the wellsprings of poetry as you work through the mechanics thereof. It has been a great pleasure to tutor all the wise, intelligent learners who have signed up for An Introduction to Poetry.

With regard to my own work, my editor in the UK, Douglas Reid Skinner, has indicated he will be bringing out a volume of my selected poems in the not-too-distant future. I have also been listed on the Centre for African Poetry website: http://www.centreforafricanpoetry.org

Wishing you all a delightful festive season and a happy, successful 2015. Fiona Zerbst


Novel writing tutor, Fiona Ingram, has this message for her students:

Fiona-Ingram-lbI have really been fortunate in my students. They constantly surprise me with their creativity and unusual story angles. I am also so proud of their hard work, their commitment to their chosen projects, and their determination to learn and improve upon the nuts and bolts of their writing. I also am very proud of my students who have continued to write despite life-altering changes and family sadness. Well done to all of you and I can’t wait to see your finished novels. Fiona Ingram

A message from creative writing tutor, Sonny Whitelaw:

sonnywhitelawlbIt’s always exciting seeing students’ work arrive in my inbox, because each submission reveals a world filled with imagination and potential. This year has been one of special achievements and milestones, of novel and short story students graduating and returning as advanced students, some being published and others winning awards. I am constantly impressed by the ability of students to take each new module to the next level, find their way out of deep dark plot holes, chase after characters who have wrested control of the story from them, and weave tangled threads into cohesive prose. It’s a pleasure and a privilege working with every one of you.

I too have had a busy year, working with 300 high school students and scientists to run the award-winning Nina Valley Ecoblitz, and then designing and editing a 250-page full colour book written in conjunction with over 100 (mostly) primary aged students. The book has just been launched thanks to the Department of Conservation with much fanfare and food to celebrate Conservation Week. The PDF version is free (http://ninavalleyecoblitz.com/2014/11/moko), and well worth a look, for the children’s creativity, like yours, is inspirational.

Have a fantastic Christmas and may your muse keep your ideas flowing in 2015. Cheers, Sonny Whitelaw