Portfolio careers: author and lawyer

Amy Bird, creative writing student and author

Amy Bird, creative writing student and author

Amy Bird, Birkbeck creative writing student and author of Yours is Mine, discusses how her studies at Birkbeck helped her achieve a three-book publishing deal.

I decided to do an MA in Creative Writing to boost my prospects of getting published, both by honing my craft and making connections. The extra-curricular activities on offer, including public readings and the chance to review books, also excited me. Birkbeck was the perfect choice as I could study part-time. Even with an existing career as a lawyer, one evening a week for two years was eminently doable.

As my MA finishes, I have a three-book deal with Harlequin, through their new digital imprint Carina UK. My first novel, psychological thriller Yours is Mine, is out now.

The journey to publication with Birkbeck

Excerpts of Yours is Mine were what got me a place at Birkbeck. I remember sitting in Professor Celyn Jones’ study, being asked to defend the book, particularly the two female voices in the novel.  Were they actually just the same voice? Could I go further to differentiate them? And how?

Yours Is Mine by Amy BirdOver the two years at Birkbeck, I’ve re-worked the novel.  I didn’t use it for assignments, as Birkbeck encourage you to develop new work, but in the background I was tightening Yours is Mine, applying the tips I was learning from my tutors and classmates. That meant that when two opportunities came up through Birkbeck, I was ready for them. The first was the Hookline Novel Award, only open to MA students. I submitted Yours is Mine (under the title Identity Crisis) and it was one of five shortlisted. The second was a call for submissions from new digital imprint of Harlequin, Carina UK, which came through our course administrator. Carina UK loved my novel, and, to my delight, they offered me a three-book deal, which I accepted.

Applying the skills Birkbeck taught me

My first novel was published as direct result of opportunities that came to me at Birkbeck. I also believe that Birkbeck helped me make the most of those opportunities through the skills I learnt there. I spent two years having my work critiqued, analysed and vetted. For the first six months of this, I was also doing a course at Faber Academy. You get a lot of feedback and your skin thickens. I’d also had a short story selected for MIR10, the anthology written, edited and published by students on the Birkbeck creative writing MA, where I worked with the student editors. They were only student in name – uncompromising and very professional. This meant that when I started work with my editor at Carina UK, I knew how to respond to feedback and make appropriate changes swiftly and effectively.  The opportunities to do public readings and contribute reviews and blogs to Birkbeck Writers’ Hub also prepared me for the wider ways in which authors engage with readers.

Beyond Birkbeck

I started at Birkbeck with a career as a lawyer and aspirations to write. I leave it with a portfolio career as a lawyer and author. With my firm’s blessing, I’ve moved to a four-day week so that I can pursue both these avenues at a professional level. So, here’s to the next two books in the deal that I got through Birkbeck!

Amy’s short story, “The Upstairs Room”, is published in issue 10 of the Mechanic’s Institute Reveiw, launched yesterday (26 September 2010) and available from Amazon, local independent bookshops throughout the London area and from selected branches of Waterstones, and in e-book format from Amazon.


One thought on “Portfolio careers: author and lawyer

  1. What a great and inspiring story! I haven’t heard about her or her books before, so I’m definitely going to have to try to get my hands on some of them. Thanks for sharing this.

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