You are here

RSL announces masterclasses for 2011

RSL announces masterclasses for 2011

William Boyd, Ali Smith, Colin Thubron & Candia McWilliam

The Royal Society of Literature (RSL), in collaboration with the Booker Prize Foundation, announces a series of masterclasses for 2011.

The masterclasses will be given by four exceptional writers, two of whom - Ali Smith and William Boyd - have been previously shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and a third, Candia McWilliam, is a former judge. Also included in the programme is the award-winning British travel writer, novelist and President of the RSL, Colin Thubron.

The masterclasses are open to members of the RSL and non-members. They offer a unique opportunity for both established writers and newcomers to writing to learn what it takes to become a successful writer and to have their work professionally critiqued.

Two of the four events will be held in public libraries, to demonstrate the RSL's support for these libraries in the face of recent cuts to the arts and education, and to help show that the services that libraries can offer to their visitors can be increased and diversified.

Ion Trewin, Literary Director of the Man Booker Prizes comments: "The Booker Prize Foundation is delighted to be working with the Royal Society of Literature on such an impressive programme of masterclasses and is particularly pleased that they are taking place at various venues across the country. As part of its charitable programme the BPF already supports a number of initiatives aimed at promoting excellence in fiction writing and the RSL-inspired masterclasses are a worthy addition."

Colin Thubron adds: "With our Booker Prize Foundation partners we are giving masterclasses that are intensive, highly skilled and generous to students' individual needs. Few three-hour periods could be better spent."

Programme details

Ali Smith: Tell it like it is - the art of fiction

Saturday 12 March

Jubilee Library, Brighton

Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962. Her first book, Free Love and Other Stories (1995), won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award. She has also published a play, The Seer (2006), and her most recent collection of short stories is The First Person and Other Stories (2008). The Book Lover (2008) is a personal anthology of favourite pieces of writing gathered over the course of her life. Her novel The Accidental (2004) won the Whitbread Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction), and Orange Prize for Fiction. Her forthcoming novel, There but for the, will be published by Hamish Hamilton in 2011. Ali Smith regularly contributes to The Scotsman and the TLS.

Colin Thubron: Evoking the spirit of a place

Saturday 21 May

Somerset House, London

Colin Thubron, one of our most distinguished travel writers, is President of the Royal Society of Literature. In his latest book, To a Mountain in Tibet, (Chatto and Windus), he allows the personal to break cover in his prose for the first time. Making a ‘secular pilgrimage' to the holy mountain Kailas, his mind drifts to memories of his childhood, his sister, and his mother's recent death. His first book, Mirror to Damascus, was published in 1967. His latest travel book is Shadows of the Silk Road (2006), an account of his 7,000-mile journey along the route of the Silk Road. Colin Thubron is also a prize-winning novelist. His novels include Emperor (1978), set in A.D. 312 and A Cruel Madness (1984), which won the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award. He is a regular contributor and reviewer for magazines and newspapers including The Times, the Times Literary Supplement and The Spectator.

Candia McWilliam: Memory and imagination

24th September

Stockbridge Library, Edinburgh

Candia McWilliam was born in Edinburgh in 1955. Her first novel, A Case of Knives (1988), was joint winner of the Betty Trask Prize, and also won Scottish Arts Council Book Awards, as did A Little Stranger, 1989. Debatable Land (1994) won the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Italian Premio Grinzane Cavour for the best foreign novel of the year. In 1997 she published Wait till I Tell You, a collection of short stories. Her latest book is the critically acclaimed What to Look for in Winter (Jonathan Cape, 2010), a memoir about the experience of going blind.

William Boyd: Adapting words for the screen

November, date TBC

Somerset House, London

William Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1952. His first novel, A Good Man in Africa (1981), won the Whitbread First Novel Award and a Somerset Maugham Award. In 1983 Boyd was selected by Granta as one of the 20 'Best of Young British Novelists'. His has won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (An Ice-Cream War, 1982), the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Brazzaville Beach, 1990). The Blue Afternoon (1993) won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Fiction). Costa Novel of the Year Restless (2006) was followed by the sequel, a conspiracy novel, Ordinary Thunderstorms (2009). William Boyd is also a scriptwriter. He wrote the television screenplays for Good and Bad at Games (1983), Dutch Girls (1985) and Scoop (1987), as well as the screenplays for film versions of two of his own books, A Good Man in Africa and Stars and Bars. He also wrote and directed the First World War drama The Trench, first screened in 1999. A new radio play, the ghost story A Haunting, was first broadcast by BBC Radio 4 in December 2001. He wrote the screenplay for Armadillo (1998) when it was adapted for television as a four-part series screened by the BBC in 2001. His novel Any Human Heart (2002), a history of the twentieth century told through the fictional journals of novelist Logan Mountstuart, was adapted for Channel 4 in December 2010. William Boyd lives in London. He was awarded a CBE in 2005.

For further information contact:

Lucy Chavasse / Jane Acton

At Colman Getty /

Tel: 020 7631 2666

Notes to editors

• Classes are for a maximum of 14 people. Six places in each class will be reserved for Fellows and Members of the RSL

• Booking opens at 10am on Monday 31 January and closes at 6pm, on Monday 21 February, after which selection of places will be made by ballot

• Booking for the autumn classes will open on Monday 25th July and close on Monday 15th August

• Classes cost £30. Applications should email their name to Rachel Page, / Tel: 020 7845 4677

• The aim of the Royal Society of Literature is to nurture, celebrate and defend Britain's outstanding tradition of writing. To this end it organises public lectures and debates, makes awards to new and established writers, and campaigns for the encouragement and appreciation of authors.

The Society's greatest resource is its wide array of Fellows, encompassing many of the most distinguished writers of today. Among them are Chinua Achebe, Anita Desai, Seamus Heaney, Michael Holroyd, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Doris Lessing, V.S. Naipaul, Tom Stoppard and William Trevor. Past Fellows include Samuel Taylor Coleridge, W.B.Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy.

Although Fellowship of the RSL is by election, anyone can become a Member. Their events are open to all, and recordings of them are available as audio files on the website.

• The Booker Prize Foundation is a registered charity (no 1090049) which, since 2002, has been responsible for the award of the prize. The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation are former Chairman of Booker plc, Jonathan Taylor CBE (Chair); Lord Baker of Dorking CH; playwright and President of the Royal Literary Fund, Sir Ronald Harwood CBE; former Chair of the British Council, Baroness Kennedy QC; broadcaster, James Naughtie; biographer, Victoria Glendinning; writer, Baroness Neuberger DBE and former Finance Director of Rentokil plc, Christopher Pearce. Martyn Goff CBE, former Man Booker Prize administrator, is President of the Foundation and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne is a Vice President.