Classes, reading groups, mentorships and salons 


‘Critical reading, critical writing’


‘CRITICAL READING, CRITICAL WRITING’ is a six-month course for both writers and readers. It is for everyone who wants to develop a deeper understanding of novels and how they work. It looks into the techniques of novel writing, the tricks of the author’s trade, and the decisions and craft that go into making a fantastic book.

We’ll be looking at six classic novels from an editorial perspective. We’ll talk about the choices writers have made in putting them together, look at structure, world-building, imagery – as well as all those other bits of glue that hold a book together. We’ll sometimes talk about the stories behind the books and the act of creation. Sometimes, too, we’ll just sit back and marvel at the talent of the people we’re discussing. You can learn a lot from Don DeLillo, for instance. And Penelope Lively. And if you're as touched by genius as they are – well, we’ll be very glad to have you in our class.

Importantly, we’ll always surprise each other. These are novels, after all, and a big part of the fun will investigating be our own reactions to them and how we approach these marvellous creations as readers.

‘Critical reading, critical writing’ is a course that will teach you a lot about technique and craft and the hard work that goes into books. It’s also one where we'll be able to have wider discussions about ideas, meaning, artistry and all the things that make great writing so special.

Further information 

The ‘Critical reading, critical writing’ course will be taught be Galley Beggar co-director and Guardian journalist Sam Jordison. Places will be limited to 20 people per class, and the course will run for a six-month period, with six classes to a course (running for two hours per session). For the autumn course (beginning November 2018), the books we’ll be studying are:

  • White Noise by Don DeLillo (Class 1)
  • Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively (Class 2)
  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje (Class 3)
  • The Bottle Factory by Beryl Bainbridge (Class 4)
  • Lucia by Alex Pheby (Class 5)
  • Title to be chosen by the class (Class 6)

Fees and places. The course cost is £150 and spaces are limited to 20 people.* To read more and book a place on the course, click on the links below:

*Low-earner spaces. One place per course will be made freely available to a writer on a low-income. We do not ask for proof of income or any other information (we want to respect your right to privacy), and in the first instance you should simply email, with ‘Critical reading’ in the subject line. Do be advised that these sessions, again, will be offered on a first come, first serve basis, and are likely to fill up swiftly.