Kamila Shamsie gave a class on writing the unfamiliar at Somerset House.

Top Tips

  1. Writing has to be about discovery – don’t limit your ideas of what you’re allowed to discover.
  1. Keep in mind what Colum McCann once said – rather than writing what you know, write towards what you want to know.
  1. Never underestimate what can be achieved by the combination of research and imagination
  1. There is no such thing as a singular experience of a place, a time, an event, a gender. Think about how your characters live through what is happening to them rather than attempting to write the definitive account of any experience.

Reading list

The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

The Hired Man – Aminatta Forna

Ice Road – Gillian Slovo

The Wasted Vigil – Nadeem Aslam

In the Orchard, the Swallows – Peter Hobbs