Skip to main content

Charlotte talks about her career, her journey back to studying and her passion for creative writing

I am studying English at Lucy: I didn’t go to university after school but, having had a career in print journalism, I decided that this might be an interesting time to advance my knowledge of the written word in a different field, even if it reversed the usual order of doing things. So it was a career, followed by university, perhaps putting a slightly different perspective on the ways you can study.

I have always written fiction – though just for pleasure – and some people might, quite justifiably, say that journalism is quite often a form of fiction. My most inspirational mentors have been my favourite authors (probably Evelyn Waugh at the forefront) and a number of journalists who taught me invaluable lessons in how to write. Amongst these are: Avoid exclamation marks at all costs, unless it really is an exclamation, and even then, they are often quite unnecessary. Never use the word ‘whilst’. It is perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with the words ‘And’ and ‘But’ (though I have had to curb this habit in academic essays.) If you don’t know what the facts are, make something up (good for creative writing and journalism, but a definite no-no on a degree course.)

What would my advice be for someone else who wanted to try creative writing? I wouldn’t presume to give any advice except that if you like doing it, then do it, whether or not you have any hope of getting published. And avoid exclamation marks.

I was astonished to win the prize but felt really honoured and pleased. A real boost, especially just now, and it made me feel very much a part of the Lucy community.

My entry is, very basically, about a woman whose husband goes seriously mad. Or does he? Strange goings-on in his shed. Time and space disorientation. I am not entirely certain what it’s about myself: perhaps somebody else can explain? The idea just came to me, really out of nowhere, and there it was finally on the page (after a lot of drafts and revision).

I have always written and I hope I always shall. The satisfaction for me is in the writing and I’ll go on doing so whatever the outcome. Everybody wants to have that novel published, but most of us aren’t actually good enough – there are ten chapters of mine in a file under my desk, and that’s probably where they’ll stay, along with the rest of the saga when I’ve finally churned it out.

The 2021 Lucy Cavendish College Student Fiction Prize is now open for entries