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Novel Studio Tutor's Success: Emily Midorikawa explores her long-standing literary friendship with Emma Claire Sweeney

Emma and I have been fellow tutors on City’s Novel Studio programme for the past three years, but, as many of our current students and alumni know, our friendship goes back much further.

by Emily Midorikawa & Emma Claire Sweeney

We first became close when we were working as young English teachers in Japan, back in the early 2000s. In the beginning, neither of us was brave enough to admit that she had a secret ambition to write books but, ever since we ‘came out’ to each other as would-be authors, we have been our friend’s main source of writing support.

One of the most enjoyable things about having a close friendship with another writer is the chance it gives you to watch their ideas grow from barely-there, flickering sparks to fully-formed stories. When Emma first showed me a draft of her novel, Owl Song at Dawn, I thought parts of it still needed work. But I was immediately captivated by the lives of its central characters, Maeve and Edie – twins who grow up together in a seaside boarding house and whose lives later take dramatically different courses.

Over the drafts that followed, and drawing on the kind of techniques that we teach in our Novel Studio classes, Emma found the best way of intertwining the modern-day and 1950s story strands of her book. Bit by bit, she honed the voices of straight-talking Maeve and lyrical Edie, whose musical speech patterns are both enthralling and hard-to-fathom.

Although I hope the writing advice I gave Emma along the way was helpful, I can hardly take credit for any of her amazing accomplishments. And yet, because Emma and I have been writing friends for so long, and because we have had so many conversations about her novel, I can feel that I am a part of the story behind the soon-to-be-published Owl Song at Dawn.

It’s a feeling I would not have been able to predict in the earliest days of friendship. Back then, I’d have assumed that, although I’d be pleased at Emma’s success, the achievement would have felt like a moment very much for her alone. Certainly, I could not have anticipated the great surge of happiness I experienced when Emma called me up on the phone to tell me that Legend Press had bought her novel.

But it turns out that this is another of the most enjoyable things about having a friendship like ours. You can share entirely in your friend’s celebrations because you were there for every step of the journey that brought them to where they are now.

Emma Claire Sweeney’s novel Owl Song at Dawn will be published by Legend Press in July 2016 and is available for pre-order now.

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