Jasbinder Bilan

 Alumni profile 

Course studied: MA Writing for Young People
Graduating year: 2014

Jasbinder won the Times Chicken House Prize in 2017 and her debut, Asha & the Spirit Bird, was published with Chicken House Books in 2019. Asha & the Spirit Bird has since received a Costa Children's Book Award (2019).

It was among The Guardian's best children’s books of 2019 for all ages and featured in the BookTrust’s Great Books Guide 2019. In 2020 Asha & the Spirit Bird was a Times children’s book of the week and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal.

Jasbinder is currently working on her second novel, another magical adventure set in the Himalayas, which will be coming out later in 2020.

"It was wonderful to meet real writers for the first time and to be part of a supportive writing community."

Why did you choose to study MA Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University?

I had always wanted to be a children's author ever since I was young. This was the moment I decided to do something practical about it. Before embarking on the course I had only written short pieces of fiction and I certainly hadn't shared my writing with anyone else. It was a present to myself at a significant birthday so that I could take a step towards my childhood dreams.

What were your highlights?

The whole course was amazing and allowed me to explore my creativity in a nurturing, critical environment. It was wonderful to meet real writers for the first time and to be part of a supportive writing community. The course tutors knew exactly what it was like to go through the same process as me and they were so inspiring and endlessly generous with their comments, encouragement and vision for my work in progress.

How did the course support your steps into industry?

The course is so well-balanced in giving you both the creative opportunities and knowledge about the business side of the industry. I felt that I left the course with a very realistic view of the steps I needed to take in order to become published. The highlight of this aspect was the Anthology. To be given a platform where industry specialists were going to see your work without having to take the usual route of submission was such a wonderful opportunity.

"The best thing about the course was..."

The fact that I developed into the sort of writer I wanted to be with the support of the community from Bath Spa. And of course the fact that my work-in-progress became a published book through lots of hard work and by taking the advice of tutors, which was to never give up. Steve Voake particularly famously said that your time will come – it's just that it hasn't happened yet – this is so true and gives real encouragement at points when things aren't always going well.

"I'm most proud of..."

My debut Asha & the Spirit Bird winning the Costa Children's Book Award.

"My advice for current students..."

Decide on the story that only you can tell, a story that sits in your true heart. Don't try to copy things that have already been done. Keep focused on your story and keep going because if you don't, when your time comes you won't be ready.

"I recommend Bath Spa because..."

It's a wonderful course with amazing tutors. You'll enjoy every moment and you'll never forget your time there. It's the best!

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