Narrative Non-Fiction  Short Courses

This Narrative Non-Fiction evening course aims to give writers confidence in their ability to deliver good, clean prose, to develop their use of vivid metaphoric language, and to structure effectively both long and short works. Beginning with set exercises and moving on to the student’s work, the class becomes a workshop in which the students benefit from sharing each others work as well as receiving guidance from the tutor. The requirements of editors, agents and publishers are explained. Non-fiction of all genres (memoir, biography, travel, history, science and politics) is welcome.

The aim of this Narrative Non-Fiction course is to encourage and inspire, through group discussion and individual exercises. Detailed individual feedback and editing of some of the assignments is a special feature of the course, with the aim of teaching students how to edit and judge their own work. Guidance will also be given on how to prepare a book proposal.

Short course tutor Peter Forbes talks enhancing and taking your writing skills further with Narrative Non-Fiction.

Course Information

Start DateStart TimeDurationCostCourse CodeApply
Monday 3 October 2016 18:30 - 20:30 10 weekly classes £275.00 CS1220 Apply Now
Monday 16 January 2017 18:30 - 20:30 10 weekly classes £275.00 CS1220 Apply Now
Tuesday 2 May 2017 18:30 - 20:30 10 weekly classes £275.00 CS1220 Apply Now

Tutor Info

Peter Forbes is a science writer with a special interest in the relationship between art and science. He initially trained as a chemist and worked in pharmaceutical and popular natural history publishing, whilst writing poems and articles for magazines such as New Scientist and World Medicine.

He has written numerous articles and reviews, many specializing in the relation between the arts and science, for the Guardian, Independent, The Times, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Scientific American, New Scientist, World Medicine, Modern Painters, New Statesman and other magazines.

He was editor of the Poetry Society's Poetry Review from 1986-2002 and played a major role in the rise of the New Generation Poets. He has edited three anthologies: Scanning the Century: The Penguin Book of the Twentieth Century in Poetry (Viking, 1999), We Have Come Through (Bloodaxe, 2003) and The Picador Book of Wedding Poems (Picador, 2012). The Gecko's Foot, a book on the new science of bio-inspired materials, was published by Fourth Estate in 2005 and was long-listed for the Royal Society Prize. Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage (Yale University Press, 2009) won the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing. He was Royal Literary Fund (RLF) Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London (2004-7) and at St George's, University of London (2010-12). He is currently RLF Fellow at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

English Requirements

Applicants must be fluent in written and spoken English.

What will I learn?

  • Deliver tightly constructed prose for all occasions;
  • Analyse critically your own and others' work;
  • Plan research in libraries, archives and online;
  • Build a publication profile;
  • Negotiate the changing markets for non-fiction;
  • Develop your subject and write a publishing proposal.

Teaching and Assessment

There is no assessment, but the course aims to teach students how to edit and judge their own work through exercises, both individual and in small groups, where reading aloud encourages group discussion. The aim of this course is to encourage students in their writing and offer them the chance to improve their skills. Guidance will also be given on how to prepare a book proposal. Guest speakers may include Julie Wheelwright, director of the MA in Creative Writing (Non-fiction) at City, University of London, and also an editor/publisher with tips on how to get published.

Recommended Reading

Suggested Reading:

Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers - a documentary account of a Mumbai slum, written novelistically.

Edmund de Waal, The Hare with the Amber Eyes -  a personal quest memoir.

Jeanette Winterson, Why be Happy When You Could be Normal - personal memoir.

Robert MacFarlane, The Old Ways - rhapsodic, highly literary nature writing.

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - the story behind a dramatic and terrible medical story and much more, the writer's relationship with one of the family coming centre-stage.

Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff - pioneer text of the New Journalism that spawned creative non-fiction as a genre.

Robert Pirsig,  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - philosophic polemic/personal narrative intertwined.

James D. Watson, The Double Helix - pioneering work of telling science like it is.


Guy Deutscher, The Unfolding of Language (Arrow Books). Revelatory book on the evolution of language. It will never look the same again.

John Whale, Put it in Writing (out of print but available very cheap from Amazon if you're quick).

Keith Waterhouse, Waterhouse on Newspaper Style (Revel Barker). Don't be put off by the title. All writers will enjoy Waterhouse's pithy take on language.

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoot and Leaves (Fourth Estate). The classic that manages to make punctuation entertaining.

Application Deadline: