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Fact-based Storytelling Short Course

Key information

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Covid-19 update: The learning doesn’t have to stop, join our online community. We will be delivering courses remotely until further notice. Live tutor support and virtual lessons will take place during advertised teaching hours. The classes are taught in small groups, so you’ll get lots of support from your tutor. Book now.

Enrol on our Fact-based Storytelling short course and benefit from a series of workshops to develop skills and techniques to create engaging non-fiction pieces.

Why choose this course?

Have you ever thought of writing that memoir, opinion piece or cookbook?  Using your expertise in any field - economics, science, art, sport - to inform and and inspire others? Or maybe compiling a record of the crisis we are all living through, for your children and for theirs?

Now is the perfect moment to Join City’s Fact-Based Storytelling course.  Journalist, novelist and film writer Marcelle Bernstein shares a lifetime of writing experience to help you tap into your creativity.  Even if you’ve never written before, you’ll find this easily accessible course stimulating, thought provoking – and fun. Marcelle encourages you to observe and empathise, to question everything, to think like a writer.  And writing is where you can make sense of the world, now more than ever.

Course overview

As a report from the world – a mix of experience, observation, memory, opinion and hard fact – narrative non-fiction can be more dramatic, vivid and moving than any work of fiction. And like fiction, crafting your story is vital.  Reporting, research, plot techniques, theme and tone of voice are your tools.  Understand how to structure, plan your progress, build dramatic tension. Learn how to create character and instil a sense of place and time.

Over twelve weeks you will look at the way narrative drives different genres including memoir, biography, travel and food writing.

The course centres on providing support and ideas via discussion and feedback for your own specific projects.

  • “ Marcelle is an insightful and superb Wordsmith and Teacher. She took my work to a whole new level, way above my expectations. ”

    Yvonne Gill

    Former student

  • “ Your classes are mega! ”

    Tony Snow

    Former student

  • “ The course is fantastic for anyone who wants to write non fiction articles through to book length works. The tutor Marcelle Bernstein was incredibly supportive, encouraging and creative, our small class was the perfect place to workshop our pieces, get critical feedback and learn more about the craft of writing. ”

    Liz Appleby

    Former student

  • “ This second narrative non fiction course lined up wonderfully, and in a nicely contrasting way, to the first. It’s been a real opportunity to use the next series of workshops to consider not just lessons learned from the first term but we have, crucially, begun to expand our own narratives and, within that, our own voices. The support that we’ve had from Marcelle and from each other has been warm and sincere. I’m so glad I did it. ”

    Hazel Edwards

    Former student

  • “ Marcelle is hugely enthusiastic and a very positive and nurturing teacher with a wealth of writing experience to share. She is always ready to give constructive feedback to help writers improve. I would have no hesitation in recommending this course. ”

    Dr Claire Davies

    Former student

  • “ This period with you has been key…I can’t thank you enough for your ideas, encouragement, positive energy and enthusiasm. ”

    Imogen Morizet

    Former student

What will I learn?

What will I learn?

Over the course of five Saturday classes on the Fact-based Storytelling short course, you will learn how to:

  • Structure your writing;
  • Plan your progress;
  • Build dramatic tension;
  • create character;
  • instil a sense of place and time.



Prerequisite knowledge

No specific qualifications are necessary (apart from fluent spoken and written English

English requirements

Students should be fluent in written and spoken English.

Teaching & assessment

Teaching & assessment

There will be no formal assessment. Teaching will be through discussion and exercises and your work will be shared with the group for discussion and input.

Recommended reading

Recommended reading

There will be no formal reading list. Students will look at extracts from a variety of texts during the course. But the following books would all provide valuable understanding of the skills required to write longer projects:

  • Bad Blood Lorna Sage  Fourth Estate
  • A Natural History of the Senses  Diane Ackerman Random House
  • The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion   HarperCollins
  • The Snow Leopard Peter Matthieson   Viking Press
  • Complications   Atul Gawande   Macmillan
  • How to Cook a Wolf   MFK Fisher Daunt
  • The Emperor of All Maladies Sidhartha Mukherjee   HarperCollins
  • Julie and Julia Julie Powell  Little,Brown
  • Wild Swans Jung Chang  HarperCollins
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
  • Giving Up the Ghost Hilary Mantel  Fourth Estate
  • Required Writing Philip Larkin  Faber & Faber
  • The Midnight Watch David Dyson St Martins Press
  • In Cold Blood Truman Capote Random House
  • Stet  Diana Athill Granta

Tutor information

  • Marcelle Bernstein

    Marcelle Bernstein is a novelist, non-fiction writer and journalist. Her newspaper life began on The Guardian Women's page, then the Daily Mirror newsdesk.  As a staffer on the Observer Colour Magazine she profiled musicians, artists, actors, writing in-depth interviews ranging from Jean Rhys, Agatha Christie and Roald Dahl to Dusty Springfield. About her non-fiction book Nuns, Publishers Weekly said 'brilliant' and The Times 'a marvellous book'. Many best-selling novels followed. Sadie won an Arts Council award; Body & Soul became a television drama series starring Kristin Scott-Thomas, won a Silver Bear and a BAFTA nomination; Sacred & Profane was filmed with Gérard Depardieu as Pacte du Silence. She is currently writing about an abusive marriage.

    Marcelle's books are translated into 23 languages.  She writes for major newspapers and magazines world-wide including The Observer, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Washington Post and Saga Magazine.  She has taught Creative Writing and Media at the University of Greenwich.

    Marcelle appears on TV and radio and at festivals.  She is now a Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and runs bespoke writing workshops, all with an emphasis on Creativity.

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