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Tom Sanderson, the Novel Studio

Tom Sanderson, a Novel Studio student and Service Manager at the Department of Learning Development, City,  University of London, is fulfilling his childhood dream and writing his first novel. Previously a short story writer, Tom graduated from City in 2008 with an MA in International Politics. He then worked in Geneva in human rights research, and today works pro-bono for NGOs such as openDemocracy and End Child Detention Now.

by Emily Pedder

Last year Tom applied to the Novel Studio, a course which offers 15 students the opportunity to work on their novels for a year. Six modules, taught by professional writers, guide the student through plotting, planning and researching, character development, pacing, narrative voice, revisions and editing. Entry onto the course is by portfolio of fiction and an interview, and competition is fierce. Tom was selected on the basis of his submission which the Course Director said was “very strong.”

Tom bases his characters on real life stories from refugees and asylum seekers, stories he has read about in academic reports and research. He tries to bring these stories to life in a new way: “There is much work being done in human rights,” he says. “But it tends to stay targeted to a certain audience. My goal is to make these stories accessible to a wider audience, in a format where the people behind the report become live.”

Writing a novel can be an intimidating challenge, but Tom says that the one-year course has kept him motivated: “The deadlines and group feedback sessions have been very encouraging and it makes you feel that you are not on your own, it takes away the loneliness in writing.”

One of the many benefits from the course has been the insight into the publishing industry: “We have to think about the commercial aspects of writing and target our writing too, this is very useful. The tutors are very skilled and experienced in the publishing industry and their feedback has developed the way I write and will help me with my writing even after the course has finished. Especially studying structure, it has really helped me to plan my novel and made me realise that I will complete my novel.”

With an impressive track record of published alumni, Tom may just become the Novel Studio’s first City employee to publish a novel.

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