Creative Writing Fiction Prizewinner 2021

Christiana Curtiss talks about the process of editing her first publication with Black Pear Press. The prizewinning novella will be launched 3rd May at the Hive Library, Worcester.

How did you feel when you found out you had won the prize?

I was surprised because I submitted two opening chapters of a novel for my dissertation, and I had assumed that a short story would be better received as a whole and complete piece for publication. I fully embraced my chances of sabotaging my shot at winning when I decided on my project so I’d stopped considering it as a possibility. After the disbelief died down, it was validating to feel as though the snippet I’d submitted had done its job of selling the further story, or was at least judged at face value as being good enough to win.

What has the editing process been like so far?

I made use of the momentum to finish the first draft of the entire novel during my third year, so I have a lot of work to do. The first chapter has been almost entirely re-written following feedback I’ve received since submitting it for my dissertation, and every week I make sure I get some time in the evenings or weekends to edit at least a few chapters.

I met with Tony, Polly, and Rod from Black Pear Press and agreed how much of the book I would submit to them, and this chunk has since been edited and sent and I’m waiting on hearing back about their own edits and feedback. I’m excited to receive it because I love editing. I love being able to take a step back and shred and tweak and smooth out the rough parts.

Why did you choose Creative Writing at the University of Worcester?

For once I wanted to do something I was passionate about and knew I would enjoy, rather than just hustling to survive. I devoured books as a kid and I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, but all it’s meant is hard drives full of first drafts that I never followed up on. I wanted to push myself to develop and hone my skills, and maybe actually get published, and to do that I needed to be in spaces where I would be challenged and receive feedback. Worcester also had the best open day of all the universities I visited, which helped me feel confident in my decision.

What was your favourite aspect of the course?

Being introduced to poetry. I’d never engaged with it before and experiencing it in a classroom setting let us debate and discuss and dig into the craft. Having tutors who were published poets was amazing (I have all of Ruth’s pamphlets on my bookshelf) and I joined the UniSlam team for three years running thanks to Jack’s passion for spoken word. It was all new for me. I wouldn’t describe myself as shy, but getting up on stage in front of strangers to talk about my feelings was pretty wild. It felt like the opposite of acting/performance, and it was a big step out of my comfort zone. I feel better for it. Learning to be so trim and succinct in poetry made my prose better.

Any advice for new students?

Make the most of it. Take up opportunities for new things. Ask for help. Choose the prompt you wouldn’t usually choose. Share your work and get feedback. Get enough feedback to see unanimous patterns emerging and embrace the areas where you suck. Work on them. Know when to filter the noise so you can focus on what is helpful to your vision. Read the pieces set for you and read more. Absorb all the weird and wonderful things and sleep on it.

What are you doing now and what are your writing plans?

I’m currently a Legal Secretary at a law firm to get some experience in the legal sector while I consider my options of doing a Graduate Diploma in Law and further Bar training. Research I did for my writing in contemporary settings led me here – my eyes were opened to things I’d been ignorant about and I saw an area that used my skillset. My writing plans are to keep writing. I get my inspiration from engaging with the world around me and it’s a part of me that’s never going away. I was put on this planet to do dumb shit and write books, and I’m all out of dumb shit.

To find out more about studying Creative Writing at the University of Worcester please get in touch.

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