Writing and Enterprise: industry informed curriculum
The BA (Hons) English & Creative Writing level two module, Writing and Enterprise, was designed after consultation with industry experts who bemoaned the lack of professional skills in creative writing graduates from other institutions. The principle challenge facing the teaching team was how to blend crafting skills with the professional real-world skills which are so necessary to a successful career in the industry. It was decided to devise a form of assessment which encompassed both and that was supported by a series of guest speaker ‘training’ sessions ranging from literary agents and editors to journalists and novelists. The students examined the path of becoming a professional author, including how to present work to literary agents and how to network with people in the industry.
Whilst the traditional routes for acquiring a literary agent still exist today (i.e. the submission of a synopsis and three sample chapters), the teaching team recognised that there are many other ways to get noticed as a writer. An increasingly popular and effective method involves attending book festivals where agents frequently have stands from which they give aspiring authors the chance to pitch their work to them. A typical 5-minute slot will involve giving an agent an ‘elevator pitch’ (a two-sentence summary of the novel they are trying to publish). If the agent thinks it sounds promising, they will ask for a longer pitch (usually about a paragraph, again ‘selling’ the book). If still interested, the agent will ask the author to read the first couple of pages and might then ask the writer to send three chapters for consideration.
A new assessment in this module was developed that requires students to deliver their elevator pitch, longer pitch and first page of their work to the examiners, followed by a 2,000-word sample chapter(s). Students are now graded according to the standard and effectiveness of the pitches, the quality of the creative work and their professional presentation. This innovative form of assessment enables students to acquire real-world skills which industry professionals respect and recognise.