Alumni Profile: Amer Anwar (MA, Creative Writing)

Amer Anwar graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck in 2010. His recent novel Brothers in Blood was featured in The Times Books of the Year 2018, Guardian Best Books of the Year 2018, Crime Time Best of the Year and was the winner of The CWA Debut Dagger award. We spoke to Amer about his time at Birkbeck and what he’s been up to since graduating…

Photo by Steven Joyce

Your time at Birkbeck…

I had a great experience at Birkbeck. I started out doing an Introduction to Writing Fiction course through Hammersmith & Fulham Adult Education. It was my first attempt at writing fiction since the beginning of high school and I really enjoyed it. The course was Birkbeck affiliated and the tutor said, if anyone wanted to pursue it further, to apply to Birkbeck, which offered a range of further Creative Writing courses. That’s exactly what I did, enrolling on a 2 year, Certificate in Creative Writing (which is now the BA Creative Writing, I believe) and then onto the MA Creative Writing too. It was in the second year of the Certificate Course, when I’d chosen to continue with Fiction, rather than the Poetry or Drama options that were also available, that I wrote and workshopped the first chapter of my novel – the chapter that would go on to win the CWA Debut Dagger and secure me a literary agent.

Throughout my time at Birkbeck, I was working full-time, so there was no way I would’ve been able to do a normal full-time course or even a part-time one that required a full day or two at university, so the fact that Birkbeck offers such excellent courses that are available in the evenings, was essential for me to be able to fulfil my ambitions. And I really loved everything about it. The standard of teaching was second to none and the breadth of age and experience in the classes meant that there was a much more diverse range of fellow students to learn from and with. The whole atmosphere was informal and comfortable but everyone was there to learn and work, which was a very enriching experience. It was also fun and enlightening to socialise after class and talk about writing and books with everyone. All in all, it was a fantastic experience.

Your experience since leaving…

Life since graduating from Birkbeck with an MA in Creative Writing has been a bit of a rollercoaster. All through the MA, I was working full-time, studying part-time and also working on finishing a novel. As I was already working on the novel when I started on the MA, everything I learned was geared towards helping me write and complete it, so I was very focused on what I wanted from the course. Even after I graduated, I took everything I’d learned and applied it directly to my work. I continued to learn and tried to improve as a writer.

After I left Birkbeck, I was very focused on finishing the novel. It took 8 years, all told, to finally finish it, and then a further 2 years to land a publishing deal. My debut novel, Brothers in Blood, was published in September 2018 and I am currently working on a follow-up, which is due out at the end of 2019.

Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar was published in September 2018 and is available to buy on Amazon.

Alumni wisdom…

General advice would be, if you’re thinking about undertaking a further course of study around a full-time job, seriously consider applying to Birkbeck. That’s exactly what it’s set up for and it will be such a rewarding experience – academically, personally and socially.

For Creative Writing students especially, I’d say, have an idea of what you want to get from the course when you go into it. That way you can gear your learning towards helping you realise your end goal. For myself, it was to write a crime thriller. I knew that from the outset and so I was able to use everything I learned on the course to further my progress with that novel. In the longer term, finish your first draft. It’ll be hard and a long slog at times, but once you finish it, whatever shape it’s in, you’ll have a complete draft of a novel. That’s a real accomplishment. Once you have that, you can edit and improve it. And, perhaps most importantly, if writing is what you really want to do, never give up. Keep working at it and you’ll get there. If I did, so can you.

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2 thoughts on “Alumni Profile: Amer Anwar (MA, Creative Writing)”

  1. I have long planned to get my poetry published, and perhaps the time has come for me to do something about it. I am more interested in producing a slim volume rather than separate poems in poetry periodicals, which is what I hav done at intervals so far. Do please let me know how to go about it. I’d like this to be connected with Birkbeck.
    Many thanks for your help.
    Nadia Bishai, Ph.D. London.

    1. Hi Nadia
      Thank you for your comment and a very Happy New Year!
      With regards to your publication query please contact the creative writing department directly who may be able to assist you. It might also be worth checking out Mechanics Institute Review, a literary reviews which was founded at Birkbeck, they accept submissions annually.
      Creative Writing/English Department –
      MIR –
      Hope this helps!
      Birkbeck Alumni Team

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