When I proposed ‘Fact or Fiction’ to Central Saint Martins in 1997, the response was “we’re better known for our visual side, but let’s offer it and see what happens”. My first course was sold out, and nearly all my courses since then have been too. Lucky me! I love teaching and I truly believe that in order to be a good teacher I must be a good student. I’ve learned so much from my students, and from the challenge of answering their unpredictable questions. In the process of finding answers, I explore, articulate, and discover.
In those early days, only some students had online addresses, few universities offered degrees in creative writing, and publishers were often unwilling to receive typescript submissions by email—agent or no agent. So much has changed since then. Digital communication has flourished. The traditional book business is in a state of constant disruption. More and more corporations like to talk about ‘storytelling’. More and more individuals want to share their personal stories through social media and self-publishing. You can’t go for a walk without stubbing your toe on a writing masterclass, academy or retreat. The creative writing industry is booming. Just when people generally want to read… less.
Why should anyone read your story? Is it enough to have had a miserable childhood or an unusual ancestor / experience / hairdo? What about the craft? Is it about writing, or is it about being published?
Or is it about your very being? For me, an impulse turned into a compulsion turned into a long slow existential revelation. How many books did it take? How many rejections, deals, launches, retreats, agents, publishers, readers, critics, students…? How much research, thinking, observing, dreaming, writing, editing (and editing, and editing)? I can’t say this simply enough: creative writing is profoundly good for you.
Elise Valmorbida is the author of novels Matilde Waltzing, The TV President and The Winding Stick. Her non-fiction work, The Book of Happy Endings, has been published in four languages: English, German, Korean and Serbian. Her short stories have been published internationally. Elise won the Trailblazer Award (Edinburgh International Film Festival) for her role as producer and script consultant of indie Britfilm SAXON. She wrote ‘The Making of a Guerrilla Film’ story which was published with SAXON the screenplay. She teaches creative writing at Central Saint Martins and Arvon. She is currently writing a non-fiction creative writing guide, and an Italian historical novel.
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