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Wednesday 3rd November 2021 at 1pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has teamed up with book industry experts, Writers and Artists, and Bloomsbury Publishing, to offer two free places on an upcoming, exclusive Finding Your Voice writing course.

The course, targeted at helping new writers build their confidence and explore their personality on the page, will be led by top creative tutors Natalie Young and Alex Hammond.

Up to 20 places are available on the six week programme, and no previous formal writing experience is required to sign up. Two free places will be made available to writers from Northern Ireland.

To enter the Find Your Voice Competition, you must send either 1000 words of original fiction, creative non-fiction, or 10-15 lines of poetry. Your submission could be something in development or a piece that shows your writing at its best. Entrants will be judged by award winning writer and the Arts Council’s Acting Head of Literature Paul McVeigh.

Speaking about the competition Paul said:

“This course is a brilliant opportunity to learn some new skills that will really help to elevate your writing and also gain insight into the publishing world. We are delighted to be working with Bloomsbury Publishing and the organisation Writers and Artists, who produce the industry bible, the ‘Writers and Artists Yearbook’. This offer of two free course places for writers from or based in Northern Ireland really is an exceptional opportunity to benefit from the experience and knowledge of first-class tutors. The Arts Council wants to help all writers develop their careers, and in particular, this opportunity allows us to support those at the very early stages of their writing life. We are accepting entries across all genres and I’m very much looking forward to reading the submissions.”

Finding Your Voice has been designed to offer creative support and is suitable for writers of fiction and creative non-fiction. All participants will be provided with a collaborative space in which to develop individual writing styles and book ideas, with the course therefore perfect for writers either in the embryonic stages of a writing journey, or for those with a completed draft but aware of the need to further interrogate their work and/or regain creative momentum.

With help from a diverse list of contemporary authors including Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Strout, Guy Gunarante, Claire-Louise Bennett, Owen Sheers, Yann Martel, Stephen King and Ocean Vuong, as well as a live Q & A with award-winning London-based novelist, Ayisha Malik, participants will work with the creative tutors to develop their writing and shaping their identity on the page.

Students will be encouraged to write as much as they can, both in the form of free-writing and through structured writing tasks, to be used as a starting point for further workshop discussion. Each evening session will run from 7-9pm, making it ideal for those with full-time jobs and other commitments.

Judge: Paul McVeigh
Paul McVeigh recently edited The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working-Class Voices, a collection that brought together 16 published writers and 16 new voices to write about their experience of being working class in Ireland. His novel The Good Son, won The Polari First Novel Prize and he is twice winner of The McCrea Literary Award. He wrote plays and comedy, with his shows touring the UK and Ireland including the Edinburgh Festival and London's West End. His short stories have appeared in The Irish Times, Faber's Being Various and Kit de Waal's Common People anthologies, on BBC Radio 3, 4 & 5 and Sky Arts. Paul was fiction editor at the Southword Journal, co-edited the Belfast Stories anthology and co-founded the London Short Story Festival.

Course Tutor: Natalie Young
Natalie Youngwas born in London. Her first novel, We All Ran Into the Sunlight, was published by Short Books in 2011 while Natalie was working as the Arts editor for Prospect magazine. Before that she was a journalist with The Times. Her second novel, Season to Taste or How To Eat Your Husband, was published by Tinder Press in the UK in 2014 and by Little Brown in the US and was translated into several languages. Natalie toured with the book in the UK and in New York and took part in the Edinburgh and Cheltenham Literary Festivals. Season to Taste is now being adapted for film. Since then Natalie has worked as a literary consultant, editor and mentor, and works with Bloomsbury through the Writers & Artists website, and also as the facilitator for the SO:WRITE Women Writers group with Artful Scribe. She continues to explore new forms in her writing and has been the recipient of a grant from the Royal Literary Fund and two awards from Arts Council England. Most recently she received a Work in Progress award from the Society of Authors and the Authors Foundation for her third book. She loves the process of developing works in progress and is comfortable working with writers across all genres with a particular interest in adult literary long fiction, novellas, short stories and the prose poem.

Course Tutor: Alex Hammond
Alex Hammond has worked in publishing for most of his professional life, and there's nothing he likes more than talking to an author about their book, diving into the pages, and helping them identify any issues that might be holding their story back.

Alex holds a BA (Hons) in American Literature with Creative Writing from UEA, an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Lancaster, and is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Southampton. After completing his MA, Alex worked at Rogers, Coleridge & White literary agency, working with authors such as Zadie Smith, Philip Hensher, Nick Hornby, Sandi Toksvig and Joe Dunthorne.

Alex joined Cornerstones Literary Consultancy in 2014, managing editors, assessing new author enquiries, and scouting for agents. He maintains a close relationship with Cornerstones, and also works directly with authors at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Conferences, and at A Chapter Away writers’ retreats.

Guest Writer: Ayisha Malik
Ayisha Malikis author of the critically acclaimed novels, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, The Other Half of Happiness, and This Green and Pleasant Land. She was a WHSmith Fresh Talent Pick and Sofia Khan has been a CityReads London book. Her children’s books include a re-telling of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and The Seven Sisters. Ayisha is winner of The Diversity Book Awards and has been shortlisted for The Asian Women of Achievement Award, Marie Claire's Future Shapers' Awards and the h100 Awards. Her fourth adult novel, The Movement, is to be published in spring 2022.

Full terms and conditions as well as details of how to enter can be found at:

Please note, entrants must be born or reside in Northern Ireland. The closing date for entries is midnight on Sunday 5th December, 2021 and winners will be announced no later than week commencing 20th December, 2021.

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