PWA founders Christina and Susannah

The story of Professional Writing Academy

Our founding directors Christina Bunce and Susannah Marriott explain how they started the Professional Writing Academy.

Christina Bunce
Christina Bunce

We met on a beach. Between us, we had years of experience both in publishing and developing online communities. Later we gained a decade of experience in teaching writing and educational technology as we set up the world’s first fully online MA in writing.

But we were frustrated with writing education. Universities were all about formal academic objectives rather than what the student wanted to achieve. And there was little on offer for writers who just wanted to get things written and were unable to travel to expensive workshops or give up a year to MA study.

We saw a different way of nurturing talent, and together we started the Professional Writing Academy (PWA) at Christina’s kitchen table. Our vision was to create an accessible place online where writers could come to learn regardless of their background, level of experience and location — at a time of the day or night that suited them. And to offer a learning path that allowed writers to make their own map and navigate to different destinations as they progressed.

It was at London Book Fair that we took our first leap of faith. We tracked down the CEO of a company we wanted to work with just as he was leaving, bike helmet in hand. With nothing but an idea, we managed to convince him we had everything in place to make PWA work.

It paid off, and with the support of our first client we began to assemble a very special team of like-minded people: tutors, editors, technologists, holistic therapists, all of them practising writers and editors, all of them lovely people. We only work with people we like and who share our vision. That creates a really vibrant, nurturing and productive atmosphere for our students.

Our vision was to create an accessible place online where writers could come to learn regardless of their background, level of experience and location — at a time of the day or night that suited them.

– Christina Bunce and Susannah Marriott

As interest in our courses began to build, so did the realisation that we couldn’t give PWA the attention it needed while working full-time in other jobs. Despite our faith in the company, we were both sole breadwinners with young families and it was a huge risk. After agonising discussions — involving plenty of gin — we decided to hold hands and leap into the unknown.

5000 students and 40 courses later, here we are. Our sleeper trains to London soon turned into planes to India, and course participants from all walks of life starting meeting as a community in our online classrooms — completing writing assignments and critiquing each others’ work up mountains, under tables in war-zones, or while flying for business across the world.

Our team of teaching, marketing and tech staff are also all over the world — some we met on beaches, some on Twitter, but most were our students.

We know that success means something different for every writer. That could be a traditional publishing deal for a novel. But it could also mean finding the courage to express something in words for the first time, or learning a skill that makes a practical difference at work. Among our success stories is the bestselling work of literary fiction of 2016, the author who secured her first publishing deal at 60 and the 18-year old who shared her short stories for the first time.

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Meet your Core team

Christina Bunce

Christina Bunce

Christina Bunce is a writer, educator and academic.

She has experience of university teaching, online learning and digital content strategy and production.

She has developed stories in many forms: as a journalist, author, magazine editor, digital content producer, online community builder — and nurse.

Inspired by the potential of technology to increase accessibility to learning for people at all levels and from all walks of life, Christina has been developing new ways of teaching writing for 15 years.

Before founding the Professional Writing Academy with Susannah Marriott, Christina devised, produced and managed online and face-to-face university undergraduate and postgraduate courses in writing, as well as apps and ebooks — all the time keeping a close eye on how the industry was changing and building a network of industry-connected advisors and talented tutors.

She’s had an eclectic career, but her focus has always been on helping people tap into their inner resources to achieve the best they can — from staying alive to escaping a dull career, to publishing a bestseller.

She considers herself fortunate to work with an amazing group of people, all established writers in their field who share that most elusive of abilities: the skills and desire to nurture talent.

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