Catriona Cox, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012

December 4th, 2011 by Catriona_Cox | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Catriona Cox, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012
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I’m from Ireland, I did my BA and an MA at University College Cork. I heard about the course through  a friend of a previous student. It has taken me two years to finally sort myself out and get here but I  think it’s a great year to have managed it. I simply love books and that is mainly why I am came to Stirling. Linguistics was the original plan but the job prospects were not very amazing; I’ll always have a keen interest though and my knowledge in that area can only help and sure I may combine the two in the future.

Read it. Live it.

December 4th, 2011 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Read it. Live it.
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‘What is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?’ – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Black text on white paper has been the format of the book for centuries. The ebook mirrors the same format on a screen with few enhanced versions featuring related multimedia content. Readers must use their imagination to experience the story beyond the text on the page. But what if instead of reading the book, you could live it?

Simon Meek and Tern Digital, a subsidiary of Tern TV, attempted to do just that when they developed a digital extension of their popular children’s show on Channel 4, KNTV, in 2008. The site offered what Simon calls ‘a window into the world behind the show’. featured character profiles, games, videos, and The Potato – ‘State-Approved News and Gossip’ from KNTV’s fictional land of Slabovia. Later, the idea to capitalize on the social networking scene came with the creation of Slabspace, a digital world in which members could enter the world of Slabovia. Slabspace offered Slabovian identities, jobs and a theatrical community to further involve the fans of the television series and website. While the project only lasted 18 months, and Slapspace showed the potential of a television station’s digital department and encouraged Meek’s interest in interactive storytelling through multimedia.

In 2009, the gaming company Quantic Dream released the video game ‘Heavy Rain’, creating an interactive storytelling platform. ‘Heavy Rain’ has four main characters embroiled in a mystery with the central theme ‘How far would you go for the one you love?”. The game’s plot is dictated by the manipulation of the characters by the player. Players can explore their environment, steer dialogue and control the characters during dramatic action scenes. If a character dies as a consequence of the player’s decisions, gameplay will switch to another character’s perspective and the story continues. ‘Heavy Rain’ turned the reader into the writer, taking control of the narrative to shape its conclusion. While the game did better than expected and led to an emphasis in plot and story, Meek admits the constant evolution of the video game development process is often not conducive to good storytelling. So how do you tell a good story and inspire audience interaction?

This is where Digital Adaptations comes in. Digital Adaptions, a new company with Meek as Executive Producer, seeks to transform the storytelling process by creating the entire narrative as a multimedia project. The concept is simple: generate a physical representation of the plot, setting, and characters of a novel and let the audience immerse themselves in the story. Their first project, John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’, set for release in 2012, uses details from the novel to build the environment of London in 1914. The reader is given the opportunity to witness the events and follow the plot of the novel through the eyes of Richard Hannay, the main character of the espionage thriller. The player can take time to explore the environment, including Hannay’s personal quarters, constructed through details found in the novel. The dialogue of the novel is recreated using voice actors from the Citizen’s Theatre, recorded as they acted out the book in play form. Digital Adaptations maintains player interaction through the illusion of control; however, unlike ‘Heavy Rain’, the player only controls the character within the bounds of the original plot and completes key events to reach the conclusion.

‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ is built on the idea that a reader desires something beyond the traditional feeling of reading a novel from a page, with Digital Adaptations spear-heading the movement to expand the storytelling experience. Whether they are successful in their venture or not remains to be seen, but the enthusiasm of the class during Meek’s visiting talk bodes well for the project.

Many thanks to both Simon Meek and all of the visiting speakers this semester.

Alicia Rice

DBC Pierre – Vernon God Little

December 2nd, 2011 by Emma_Dunn | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on DBC Pierre – Vernon God Little
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On the 14th November DBC Pierre came to speak at the university about his Man Booker prize winning novel Vernon God Little. This event was organised as part of the Booker Prize Foundation; whose aim is to promote high quality fiction and encourage debate among students. Stirling was one of just five universities in the country selected to take part in the initiative.

Vernon God Little won the Man Booker prize in 2003 and has been described as ‘original, engaging and fantastically well constructed’ by Sarah Waters from the Daily Telegraph’s Books of the Year.

The novel is told from the point of view of Vernon Gregory Little who is accused of a high school massacre which killed sixteen students. As the blame increasingly falls on him his plan is to run away to Mexico.

DBC Pierre was born in Australia before moving to Mexico where he spent most of his later childhood years. He would often travel across the border to the US where he saw ‘the same divides applied to the richest country on earth.’ He was inspired to write the novel after seeing an American teenager on TV, being put into a police car after a potential high school shooting. It made him feel angry about our culture and society and made him question if this ‘kid’ could really be fully responsible.  For Vernon God Little his starting point was ‘what kind of fucking life is this?’ He used his experiences as a teenager in Mexico; growing up at a time when the US still seemed innocent and how children with guns shattered this illusion.

During the talk DBC Pierre read a short extract from his book in a slow South American drawl and then opened up the floor for questions.  Are we supposed to believe everything Vernon says? Yes, he is writing from the point of view of most teenagers where the world is black and white, either fantastic or dire, there is no in between. Growing up in a media saturated society, fed on Jerry Springer and Oprah – Vernon is a product of his society. When thinking about the voice we must be mindful that Vernon is an adolescent – parents are the enemies, or at that age they should be.

In terms of how he constructs a plot; his method is to make a huge meticulous plan which he lays out in an Excel spreadsheet, with carefully constructed sub-plots, and then goes away and does something completely different. He ‘jumps in the deep end and tries not to drown.’ His advice to writers is to write without structure, without proper spelling and grammar even, to just write in all kinds of moods and frames of mind, and even though most it will have to be edited out, there will be something there to work with. It is easier to edit than to write great things first time round – ‘go in and do carpentry.’ And whatever you do, do not show a first draft to anyone. Does he feel he has become a writer since winning the Man Booker? DBC Pierre left this open to debate proclaiming ‘you learn to write the book you are writing – it doesn’t mean that you have learnt to write.’

Emma Dunn, MLitt Publishing Studies 2011-2012

December 2nd, 2011 by Emma_Dunn | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Emma Dunn, MLitt Publishing Studies 2011-2012
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I decided to do a degree in publishing after working at Newcastle city library for a number of years. It is a very overused phrase but I’m going to say it anyway – I love books! I always have done from a young age and can’t imagine a better job than deciding what goes into print. I still get excited by bookshops and feel that even though we are moving into a digital age, physical books are more important than ever in a world overrun by digital devices. I am very interested to see how e-books will change the publishing landscape and think that it is an exciting time to be a new publisher.

I looked at a number of different universities before deciding on the University of Stirling. This one by far had the better programme, fantastic staff and the most beautiful campus. I wanted a postgraduate degree that was specific and vocational and that will hopefully lead directly to a career.

I love children’s books and one of the most exciting aspects of the MLitt Publishing Studies is being able to do the publishing project which involves making a publishing dummy using new, or out of copyright work. This gives you the chance to take something you are interested in and be solely responsible for the design, editing, production, and then the  marketing, selling and distribution as though it were a real book. I have enjoyed what we have done so far and I am looking forward to the rest of the year.

Saltire Society Literary Awards 2011

December 1st, 2011 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment
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Alasdair Gray's award winning A Life in Pictures

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, has this year been one of the judges for the Saltire Society Literary Awards. The Awards were made today in a ceremony at the National Library of Scotland. She writes here about her experience of being a judge:

For a while now, I’ve had a research interest in literary prizes. I organised a conference on the topic in 2003, at which James F English gave a keynote lecture which would eventually end up as part of his impressive book on cultural awards, The Economy of Prestige. I’ve also written about literary prizes, including in my book Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain. In this, I traced the role of literary prizes in validating books, establishing authors’ careers, promoting literature, and – all important to the publishing industry – selling books.

More recently, I’ve been acting as the administrator (this year, with the able assistance of  MLitt in Publishing Studies student and intern Helen Lewis-McPhee) for the DeLong Book History Book Prize, which the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing runs, and wrote a blog for them about literary prizes over here. Back when I worked at Hodder & Stoughton, I had the responsibility for submitting our books to prizes (and I remember our excitement when William McIlvanney won the Saltire Book of the Year Award for The Kiln.)

But this year for the first time I’ve been acting as a judge, for the Saltire Society Literary Awards. This has meant, since June, reading over 100 books for the First Book of the Year and the Book of the Year. As you can imagine, this proved both a fantastic experience and a challenge, to the point where I actually felt physically sick from reading so many books at one point. (Don’t worry – I’ve recovered and am reading again.)

Today, we made our awards: to Luke Williams for his brilliantly assured debut novel The Echo Chamber, and to Alasdair Gray for his wonderful A Life in Pictures. Awards were also made for the Scottish History Book of the Year to Emma Rothschild for The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth Century History and for the Scottish Research Book of the Year to James McGonigal for Beyond the Last Dragon: A Life of Edwin Morgan. His publisher Sandstone later celebrated with deluxe chocolate brownies, I hear.

The experience of judging literary prizes is always going to be slightly different from that of analysing or commenting upon them, but nonetheless the two awards I was involved with backed up some of my knowledge about how they work. Luke Williams’ publisher Hamish Hamilton confirmed after the ceremony that they’ve brought forward the release of the paperback of his book to capitalise on sales. Fancy a prize winner for Christmas? (I’d recommend it!)

And then: controversy! The judging panel had decided (unanimously) to award Alasdair Gray the Book of the Year. However, just before the ceremony, we found out via his publisher Canongate that he had decided to refuse the award. We quickly reconvened and – although we had a very fine shortlist (including one of my favourites, A L Kennedy’s The Blue Book) – we decided (as reported it) to refuse the refusal. Will this refusal end up having a greater publicity impact than accepting? We’ll see. There’s almost bound to be an article in the Scotsman about it tomorrow…