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A novel outcome

"My experience at City has taught me that you never know how or when learning comes in useful. It’s always worth exploring new fields of knowledge and learning new skills because it opens your mind to other possibilities and not always in the ways you’d expect."

My name is Ed Woodcock and I’m a 39 year old Strategy Director at a brand and advertising agency called Aesop.

I wanted to do a short course because I was looking for a change of direction and because I had always had an interest in fiction and literature. In my view, The Novel Studio wasn’t really a ‘short course’ as it lasted a whole year, but it was taught in the evenings and at the weekends, meaning I could work while studying.

I chose City because it was the only institution in London I could find that offered me the kind of intense and group-based tuition I was looking for. The course was in its second year and had great reviews. I also liked the idea that there was a rigorous application process, meaning I’d be surrounded by talented people, who would inspire me to do better. 

I attended The Novel Studio course back in 2003. It’s a small seminar and work-shop-based course held over a year, two nights a week. The seminar element taught us the theory of storytelling and the workshop element allowed us to put our learning into practice. The relaxed, small group format meant we got to know our tutors and fellow students particularly well, creating a supportive environment that helped everyone get the most out of the critiques. And there were some useful practical elements that were invaluable to anyone looking to get published.

First and foremost, I am thankful to the course for the lasting friendships I made during my time at City. Those friendships are still going strong several years later. But the course has also been invaluable for my career. Whilst I suppose a ‘successful’ outcome would normally mean getting published (and many alumni have indeed been successful in that respect), I put what I learnt to use in a different way – to change careers. Because of what I learnt at City, I became a planner and copywriter at a branding agency and then some of the colleagues I met there decided to start a new agency based on the narrative theory and techniques I had learnt on my course. The UK Intellectual Property Office has even recognized our techniques and approach. So, the course proved ‘successful’ in ways I hadn’t originally imagined!

My experience at City has taught me that you never know how or when learning comes in useful. It’s always worth exploring new fields of knowledge and learning new skills because it opens your mind to other possibilities and not always in the ways you’d expect.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.