Founding tutor, Marina Kemp, on how the Ink Creative Writing Teaching Philosophy came about:
Three years ago, I was working as an editor in a major publishing house – but I was also trawling the internet for a writing course. Like many people, I wrote shyly and privately, sometimes believing that this was something I could really do but at other times totally unsure. I wanted to enrol on a course so that I could create a proper space in my life for writing, rather than lending it only the odd snippet of time – only then, I felt, would I be able to know whether this was something I should pursue.
It was then that I realized nothing out there was offering exactly what I wanted. Creative writing teaching was largely conducted in group-based classes, offering very little individual attention or feedback when I read the fine print. I found mentoring programmes that were based principally on individual instruction – but they were all online, which I felt would preclude the full level of engagement and commitment I wanted from a course. As an editor, working myself to bring out the very best in writers’ books, I felt very strongly that it is only by developing a really focused, collaborative relationship with my writers that their work can truly be improved upon and honed.
Finally, I chose to do an MA so that I could benefit from individual focus, in person. Whilst much of it was excellent, I couldn’t help thinking that there must be some different way: a way for writers to get one-to-one, face-to-face guidance without giving up their day job or all their spare time to enrol on a postgraduate degree. And I kept returning to the conviction that the traditional relationship between an editor and a writer would be key to the kind of solution I had been looking for.
And so I dreamt up the Ink Academy programme. In my work as an editor, both in a publishing house and free-lance, I have honed a method I believe really works: a six-month course that is bespoke to you, focusing purely on your writing, fitting around your life. It combines the personalised attention you get in an online mentorship with the collaboration and interaction you get on a course or masters programme, all whilst delivering the highest level of meticulous editorial care. It really works – read the Testimonials below to see how it has helped other writers. And you don’t have to give up your day job – or social life – to do it.
Why we believe one-to-one tutoring is so important:
Every writer is different. Some respond better to softer critical feedback; others like blunt, devastating honesty! Some write in great torrents of words, finding themselves with a huge word count that then needs cutting back and pruning into shape; others spend three hours writing just a few sentences, constantly re-reading and re-writing as they go.
On top of that, every book is different. What might work wonderfully for you when you’re writing a novel might be counter-productive when you try your hand at memoir, or a short story collection. Some books are beautifully written but rambling, others pacy but rough-hewn.
That’s why I really don’t believe that a one-size-fits-all approach to writing can work. We tailor each Ink Academy course closely and carefully, not only to you and your writing habits, strengths and perhaps shortcomings – but also to the particular project you’re embarking on. Perhaps you’ve written a whole first draft and want to rework it; perhaps you’re just starting out on your manuscript, with only the vaguest idea of what form it might take. Either way, in our introductory assessment we will discuss with you exactly what you want to get out of the course, what kind of book you envisage yourself ending up with, and what you find motivates or demotivates you.
Many Ink alumni have referred to my approach as ‘literary therapy’ – and in many ways, it is. I’m not just an editor, not just a tutor – I’m also your sounding board, here to help you address any problems and questions you have as and when they arise, and to give you genuine support throughout the very exciting – but daunting – process of writing a book.
The value of face-to-face:
The Ink approach works because it is based in a real relationship that develops between tutor and writer. That relationship is crucial for many reasons.
First, it ensures that the tutor can tailor your course as closely as possible to suit you, your needs and your writing. Second, it encourages creativity through genuine rapport and collaboration. Third, it fosters openness and trust – which are essential when you’re sharing something as deeply personal and often private as your writing. Finally, getting to know each other guarantees a much higher level of commitment – not only our commitment to you, but your commitment to your own writing, to your deadlines and to our ongoing feedback. This is not a one-sided relationship, an editor simply sending you a batch of feedback and then going his or her own way – it is an ongoing, committed, collaborative conversation.
In a world in which so much communication is faceless and online, Ink attaches very great value to face-to-face contact and meetings in person. Yes, there are video calls, Skype and Facetime – but they still involve a remove. The laptop or tablet screen is a psychological barrier – as are technical difficulties like internet downtime, echoes, time lags and frozen cameras. In person, face-to-face, there is the full guarantee that both parties are concentrating fully on the discussion at hand. The Ink method fosters a trusting, supportive, responsive, engaging and engaged editorial relationship.
What else makes the Ink course different from what’s out there:
1. It’s entirely flexible. If you enrol on a group-based course, there are – naturally – fixed start and end dates, and regular fixtures to add to your diary. But your life isn’t necessarily regular, and most courses therefore won’t fit easily into your life. Ink Academy is different. Since the meetings are just between you and your tutor, you can schedule them to fit around your myriad other commitments.
2. There’s just you, just your writing to think about. Of course, we might find it beneficial to look at and discuss a literary work that informs or complements yours, but we will look at them only in relation to your writing. Every minute of every meeting you have is dedicated entirely to your work.
3. There is a fixed timeframe to the course – six months – which means meetings will not take place any further apart than every three weeks. That is for two reasons – first, because we believe deadlines are key to motivation. Writing a book requires real commitment, hard work and focus.
Second, greater regularity of meetings is instrumental to keeping your writing project fresh in your mind. We don’t encourage a situation in which you write 5,000 brilliant words for a meeting and benefit from intensive discussion with us – only to let the dust settle on the project in the long wait until the next meeting. By keeping our meetings regular, your writing project will keep whirling around in your mind at all times. Some of your greatest literary breakthroughs might come when you’re wandering down the cereal aisle, or stepping out of the shower – but only if your writing project is allowed to occupy a proper place in your everyday life.
We should add that we are wary of courses that promise you will finish a book in a specific timeframe – you just might, if you work exceptionally fast, but most people don’t. Six months is, however, certainly long enough to write a lot, and add real depth to your writing. Your needs and ideas will change and develop significantly in that time.
Why we also offer Group Workshops and Author Masterclasses:
Writing can be a lonely pastime. Whilst individual focus is the lynchpin of the Ink method, we also recognize that meeting up with fellow writers, receiving praise for your strengths and constructive feedback on your weaknesses, and swapping notes on the joys and pitfalls of writing can be a rewarding way to supplement that approach.
Many writers starting this course will struggle with sharing their writing with others – you might find the idea of a Group Workshop overwhelmingly scary. But on the contrary, workshops can really help to build your confidence. By sharing your work with a small, supportive group of fellow writers, under the guidance of a tutor, we think you can benefit from boosted confidence and also learn from your own ability to critique and appreciate others’ works-in-progress.
The Author Masterclasses are a chance, in an intimate group of fellow writers, to envisage writing from the perspective of a published author. Each Masterclass will focus on a particular theme or element of the craft of writing – memoir, say, or characterization, or plot – but also on the author’s personal experience: what they find most challenging, most helpful and most rewarding about their career. You will come away equipped with practical tools to apply to your own writing – and a real insight into the process of finding an agent, and getting published.
Ink Academy was founded in 2016 by Marina Kemp and Claudia Medlam.
Want to know more?
Read our Testimonials to see what other writers have to say about us.
Read our Course Overview to find out what’s involved in an Ink Academy Course.
Read our FAQs for answers to everything from where the sessions are held to what the application process is.
Contact us if there’s anything else you’d like to know.