Christina Bunce and Susannah Marriott explain how they started the Professional Writing Academy.
We met on a beach, which led to us working together in a university running a successful writing Masters. Between us, we had years of experience in publishing, writing, digital content development and online community management.
Because we came out of industry and were tech nerds, we were soon exploring how technology could help us deliver online writing education that would both develop new creative talent and help those creatives thrive as professionals.
We spent years exploring different learning theories and researching the science of how the creative brain works as we devised and developed a pioneering online learning model based on applied social learning. We launched the world’s first fully online MA in writing in 2009.
We became frustrated with the limitations of the university model – focused more on formal academic objectives than what our student writers wanted to achieve: a novel, a screenplay, a writing career. And we were aware how hard it was for aspiring writers who wanted to explore their potential and up their skills, but couldn’t travel to expensive workshops or give up a year and thousands of pounds to study for an MA.
We saw a different way of nurturing talent, so took the leap and launched Professional Writing Academy (PWA) at Christina’s kitchen table. Our vision was to create an accessible online learning community where writers could come to learn at MA level regardless of their background, level of experience and location — at a time of the day or night that suited them. We wanted to build a digital campus that allowed writers to make their own map and navigate to different destinations as they progressed their skills and built professional networks.
We assembled a very special team of like-minded experts: authors who could teach online (a rare breed), professionals from across the writing industries, editors, technologists and writing for wellbeing experts. All respected in their field, all invested in creating a vibrant, nurturing and productive digital campus for our learners.
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
Our first job was to devise, build and run an online learning academy for the publisher Faber and Faber. It launched in 2012 and has welcomed thousands of fiction writers through the door. Other clients soon followed, including narrative expert John Yorke, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy and others we can’t mention, all wanting to equip learners with the writing skills and professional knowhow to succeed creatively and feedback into the industry. We were soon delivering CPD writing training to lawyers, nurses, communications agencies, media production companies and people from all walks of life.
In 2021 we launched our ‘how can we help in a pandemic’ project, WriteWell – a community of learners using writing as a tool to boost mental wellbeing, based on the well-established science of therapeutic writing.
Our interactive, community focused skills-based online learning model was – and still is – unique. It’s also uniquely effective in delivering creative learning that sticks. Since 2009 we’ve developed the talent and launched the careers of thousands of novelists, screenwriters, brandwriters, copywriters and therapeutic writing practitioners.
We are now an international community – our learners hail from 84 countries and our team of teaching and tech staff are also all over the world — some we met on beaches, some on Twitter, and many are former students.
Since 2009 we’ve developed the talent and launched the careers of thousands of novelists, screenwriters, brandwriters, copywriters and therapeutic writing practitioners.
– Christina Bunce and Susannah Marriott
We know that success means something different for every writer. It could be a traditional publishing deal for a novelist or script editing skills that move you up the TV career ladder. 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.
We are proud to call ourselves pioneering online writing educators who have opened up the many benefits and opportunities that writing offers to people from all walks of life. We are constantly evolving in the light of student and client feedback and are proud of our reputation.
We remain determined to set the world to write.