The Man Booker Prize 2016

October 28th, 2016 by Aleksander Pęciak | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Man Booker Prize 2016
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The Man Booker Prize logoWho would have ever thought that one of the most prestigious British book awards may be given according to one, simple criteria: “the best novel in the opinion of the judges”? The uniqueness of the Man Booker Prize lies also in the jury which is not (as someone would predict) contained only of literary critics or professors of literature – but also readers reflecting multiple backgrounds: politicians, actors or journalists. Honesty and simplicity that is expressed in this prize seem convincing even for me, a rebel always skeptical to the tastes of highly regarded authorities. And it must mean something.

The general idea behind the prize is to encourage readers to read the winning book – and a true success of it can be measured by the increase of its sales. Every year since 1969 winners are granted with £50,000 for their books published in The United Kingdom, which makes it one of the richest prizes in the world. In addition to the main prize since 2005 there has been the International Man Booker Prize awarded to those whose work’s translations appeared in English. The money are shared between the international author and the translator of the book. The winner of the International Man Booker Prize was announced earlier this year – “The Vegetarian” by Korean author Han Kang, a story about woman embracing her idea of living “plant-like” existence, translated by Deborah Smith, a founder of non-for-profit Tilted Axis Press.

In 2016 we can be sure that satire is still alive. On 25th of October Paul Beatty became the first American winner of The Man Booker Prize. Two years ago the prize changed its rules and opened to authors from outside the Commonwealth, what makes his winning even more significant. His winning book, “The Sellout”, “takes aim at racial and political taboos with wit, verve and snarl”, and is, as described by judges, “a novel for our times”. Parodying racial stereotypes, Beatty presents the story of Bonbon, African-American living in Dickens, Los Angeles, and his struggles with accusation of reintroducing slavery and segregation in a local high school. The author has received the trophy from the hands of the Duchess of Cornwall. A victory of Paul Beatty is also a victory of small and independent trade publisher – Oneworld. Based in London and active since 1986, Oneworld presents novels advertised as “intelligent, challenging and distinctive”. I could not imagine better gift for the year of their 30th anniversary.

The Man Booker Prize for Paul Beatty is also a great disappointment for the raised hopes for Graham Macrae Burnet’s “His Bloody Project” published by Contraband, the crime imprint of Saraband. It was the bestselling novel on the shortlist and had the best recognition amongst its rivals. A Man Booker Prize would be the true icing on the cake – “His Bloody Project” translation rights in six countries as well as film and TV adaptation permissions were sold. The publisher is struggling now to meet the demands for the books.

But in the terms of the mission of the prize, we can easily say that it is completed – sales for all the nominated books has risen, which proves its real impact on the readership and readers’ choices.

Aleksander Pęciak, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 28th, 2016 by Aleksander Pęciak | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Aleksander Pęciak, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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14714667_270889713305960_2120405459746684928_n When I take a look back at my life I would never suppose that I will be here, in Stirling, studying what I am studying. No one would ever consider that this dyslexic, lazy and not eager to read and learn kid I used to be will be aiming to be a publisher in the future. But the only thing that has never changed is probably my ability to surprise people.

I was born in Wroclaw – one of the biggest and the most friendly and open cities of Poland, with colourful market square and architecture which variety proves its multicultural history. I would not mention it if it was not important to my story – such a rich environment really encouraged me to become sensitive and curious to the world’s wonders. I was never sure who I would like to be in the future and what would I like to do – but I always wanted to create and have an impact on people, sharing a part of me with them. I was writing prose since the first class of primary school (autocorrect in Word helped me with overcoming my dyslexic struggles). In secondary school I have developed my story-telling abilities as a game master for Dungeons and Dragons, in high school I have discovered my poetical potential, producing a new poem every day (a positive side-effect of the first heartbreak!).

Writing was always an important part of my life but I wanted to have another, more reliable profession as well. But which one? I never knew. A true plot twist and revelation appeared in my life when I left my high school for a university – Web and Digital Publishing programme in the University of Wroclaw has just been opened and I was successfully accepted as its student. The three years I spent there made me sure about what I want to do in my life and in which industry I want to work. I enjoyed my studies so much that I engaged in the other related activities and many students’ organizations.

Striving for another chance to develop myself I decided to apply to the University of Stirling which is known for excellent teaching and future career perspectives for the graduates. An opportunity to get to know the new market, new approaches, and new people seemed natural for me – a man always thirsty for the world. Now I am extremely happy to be here, especially regarding my irreplaceable classmates who teach me new things every single day. And I am sure that my choice was one of the best choices I have ever made.

What would I like to do after graduation? A tough question! I imagine myself working in academic publishing, as I always admired mission of the sector as their provide access to knowledge which let people – students, academics, professionals – grow. Also I see the endless potential of science since I have read “Little Science – Big Science” by John Derek de Solla Price.

But who knows how it will play out? Life has shown me that it is not always doing as I expect, but I am adaptable and open to every new experience.

You can follow my steps in the publishing world on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Katharina Dittmann, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 28th, 2016 by katharina_dittmann | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Katharina Dittmann, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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ProfileThe thought of going into publishing first crossed my mind when I was about sixteen years old. Books had been my constant companions ever since I could remember and I was, and still am, fascinated by the way stories can transport meaning and move people in so many different ways. Some of the books that initially made me consider this career path were J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (sorry for the cliché, but it’s the truth) and especially German authors like Cornelia Funke and Kai Meyer, whose beautiful language and exuberant imagination never cease to amaze me. So, in hindsight, a career in publishing seems to have been inevitable. Nevertheless, my decision to apply for the MLitt in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling was rather spontaneous.

During my last two years at school, the idea of working with books took a firm hold on me. However, I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to start a career in the publishing sector. Instead, I decided to follow my other interests, which were English language and literature, resulting in a degree in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Kiel in the far north of Germany. Over those four years in Kiel I considered several career paths, amongst others in cultural works, marketing and the museum sector. In 2015, I did an internship at a local museum where I was responsible for composing a small exhibition about scales and weights. Although the subject was “terra incognita” for me, I accepted the challenge, turning my time at the museum into a very valuable experience. It made me realise how much my studies have helped me in developing competences in areas such as research, flexibility, and self-management. Nevertheless, the part of me that wanted to work in publishing kept pushing itself to the fore. Books simply played far too big a role in my life to simply ignore that voice inside my head.

Luckily, when it was time to make a plan for my life post-bachelor, I got the chance to attend a seminar on editing held by the commissioning editor of children’s books of the Carlsen publishing house in Hamburg. He introduced us to the different departments involved in book publishing and gave us some insight into the editing process. This might sound cheesy, but it is thanks to him that I am here in Scotland today. His enthusiasm about his job is what inspired me to finally follow my dreams and apply for a master’s degree in this field. I am really excited about what the following year has in store for me. I can already say that I have made the right decision, meaning studying publishing in general, and doing it at the University of Stirling in particular.



Amalie Andersen, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 26th, 2016 by Amalie Andersen | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Amalie Andersen, MLitt Publishing Studies 2016-17
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I’m nprofot trying to brag but when I was a child the local book seller knew who I was. My friends would beg their parents to take them to Toys ‘R’ Us but I just wanted to go to bookshops. I always loved looking at the books and I would beg my mum to buy me books or stationery.

It was during my final year of studying English Literature that I began considering a career in publishing. I was studying in Stirling as an exchange student when I was first made aware of the university’s degree in publishing studies. Having never come across anything like it at home in Denmark, I was instantly intrigued.

Like many other English students, I was desperate to get relevant work experience when my semester in Stirling ended. It was therefore extremely lucky that I got an internship at a Danish publishing house. Here, I spent four months doing anything from copy editing, proof reading and translating to reading new scripts, managing the company’s social media and writing articles. I loved my time there and, very conveniently, I something I was good at.

So, the internship introduced me to the world of publishing and I am now in Stirling to learn even more. Right now, I am very keen on working in editorial but just a month into the course and I am already opening up to many more possibilities.

Visiting Speaker: Peter Dennis of Hodder Gibson

October 26th, 2016 by amandasarahbain | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Peter Dennis of Hodder Gibson
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Mention the name Hodder Gibson to anyone who was educated in Scotland and there are immediate flashbacks to countless hours spent revising with their past papers. So when Peter Dennis, Managing Director at Hodder Gibson arrived on Thursday afternoon, it was like a blast from the past for many of us.

Hodder Gibson is a small educational publisher based in Paisley, Scotland. Their editorial office consists of a small team which strives to keep up-t0-date with the market, by forming close working relationships with students, teachers and the SQA (with whom it exclusively publishes the official past papers for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher). Peter Dennis described educational publishing as an easily defined market, which is less of a gamble than traditional trade publishing, thanks in part to the SQA who publish exact lists of student numbers, however as it is a small market, it is important to get in first if you want to turn a profit.

For Hodder Gibson, their relationship with the SQA is mutually beneficial. The endorsement by the SQA permits Hodder Gibson to use the official SQA badge on the cover of their educational texts, resulting in increased sales for them and revenue for the SQA. However, due the growth of digital platforms and the availability of past papers online for free, Hodder Gibson have had to change their strategy in order to protect their income. Dennis described revision textbooks as an “anxiety” purchase and therefore it is no surprise that Hodder Gibson have expanded their range of products into practice papers and revision textbooks, thus competing with publishers such as Leckie & Leckie and Bright Red.

Like most educational Publishers, Hodder Gibson’s target market are school pupils in S3-S6, who have the required fear of examinations and suffering from the subsequent panic, want to buy revision materials. According to Dennis, teenagers who are desperate to get into their chosen university make up the majority of Hodder Gibson’s customers. There are currently 364 secondary schools in Scotland and Dennis himself believes that good relationships with schools are always good for business. Although Hodder Gibson sell direct to their customers via their website, the majority of their sales come through high street retailers (discounted at 40%). Dennis describes this discount as “too much of a sacrifice” and therefore the publisher is now attempting to generate the majority of its sales directly via schools (discounted at 20%). For Dennis and his team, price is important and it has to be right for Hodder Gibson and its competition.

Although sales are vital for Hodder Gibson, much of the publisher’s work goes into the creation of their texts. Dennis described commissioning as “begging, pleading and bullying” both experienced teachers and those who are newly qualified (exploitable) and eager to prove themselves, to create content for revision textbooks. For educational publishers creating content can be difficult due to the tight timescale and limited budget to pay busy authors. Dennis himself recounted sending sarcastic emails to authors who have missed deadlines, only to discover one author was about to give birth and the other was in ICU (he was bored and finished writing from his hospital bed)! Following the creation of content the majority of the editing and design process is done by freelancers in order to save money and because as Dennis himself describes, the job of a copyright researching is a very boring, “Sisyphean” effort. Printing can often be done abroad for a fraction of the price if publishers factor in the additional time needed for shipping.

Hodder Gibson is incredibly aware of the evolution of the digital market. Today’s students want options and it’s important for publishers to move with their market. Dennis believes that students are “suffering” in schools without Wi-Fi, given the social media landscape in which students find themselves. Hodder Gibson don’t want to just reproduce their print content in a digital format because students may not pay for it and the demand changes from subject to subject. Dennis firmly believes that the future of educational publishing is digital, so it’s no surprise that Hodder Gibson are striving, as always, to stay ahead of the market.

by Amanda Sarah Bain

Of The Famished Road and Literary Dreams — Ben Okri at University of Stirling

October 25th, 2016 by Otieno Owino | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Of The Famished Road and Literary Dreams — Ben Okri at University of Stirling
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Photography by Whyler Photos of Stirling -

Ben Okri in conversation with Liam Bell. Photo: University of Stirling/Jim Mailer

When Ben Okri walks into Logie lecture theatre, it’s the black beret I see first, ever present in photos of him. It makes me feel as if I have been in his company before; that same sensation you have when you meet someone popular, like a TV personality. A hush falls over the warmly lit, intimate space, as if Azaro, the narrator of The Famished Road, has cast a spell on the students and staff seated in a neat semi-circle.

It’s Tuesday 11th October 2016, the University of Stirling is hosting Nigerian novelist and Booker Prize winner Ben Okri on the 25th anniversary of the publication of his acclaimed novel, The Famished Road.  To mark this, the Booker Prize Foundation’s Universities Initiative has made available 1400 copies of the book to all first years; a number that I will later learn is symbolic.

Soon after, Prof Malcolm McLeod, Deputy Principal and Director of the Institute of Aquaculture gives the introductions, expressing gratitude to the Booker Prize Foundation and laying down Okri’s prolific writing career spanning over three decades with eight novels, collections of poetry and essays along the way.

Taking the stage, in conversation with Creative Writing Lecturer Liam Bell, it doesn’t take long for the audience to be transported by the magic of Okri’s insight.

“In Africa, everything is a story, everything is a repository of stories. Spiders, the wind, a leaf, a tree, the moon, silence, a glance, a mysterious old man, an owl at midnight, a sign …” he begins, reading an excerpt from A Way of Being Free. Then he jumps to another page.

I have always known this, have always experienced it back home in Kenya, in everyday life, in conversations on the daily commute, and in the stories of my grandmother. But this still strikes me as profound.

“Unhappy lands prefer utopian stories. Happy lands prefer unhappy stories,” he continues.

The conversation picks up from there, taking usual trajectory of literary conversations: Craft, process, editing oneself, writing and rewriting, the need to toil and discipline oneself in the act of creation.


Then it moves seamlessly to the magic of The Famished Road.

Published when Ben Okri was only 32, the book that would catapult him to worldwide fame is his third. He says it was several years of hard work, in which he had ‘dialogues of form’.

Pausing as if reaching for the right words, holding the tome in his hands, turning it from one palm to another he says, “I was in all kinds of states when I wrote this book. It was frightening writing it, working with logic that is not usual.”

And on the tone, which is at times playful, at times frightening and at times painful, he says, “I wanted a coalition of suffering and laughter and happiness, and to give a voice to the richness of African reality.”

But why can’t Azaro take off, go back to the land where he came from? The land in which he and other spirit children ‘floated on the aquamarine air of love’? Okri says: “That’s the miracle of the paradox of life.”

Perhaps that is why the Booker Prize committee of 1991 thought The Famished Road was the best novel of that year: the transcendental nature and fullness of its experience. Something that he’s felt more African writers need to embrace for their writing to achieve greatness

Okri says the book had sold about 2000 copies before the Booker came along, and looks over to his editor for confirmation. He’s told, no, not really. Only 1400 copies. The audience roars with laughter. And it strikes me that Ben and his editor have a rare relationship; one that has lasted for over 25 years and is still going. Editors and writers can, in fact, be lifelong friends.

Of the pressure that came with prize, the most difficult was shutting out the achievement and staring at a new blank page. Writing new stories, because that is the life of the writer. Okri winning the Booker opened up UK publishing for other black and ethnic minority writers, even though diversity is yet to be achieved according to a report by Spread the Word.

In the Q&A that followed, he amuses us by saying he writes while standing. And then it’s the end, the room empties, and Ben Okri signs books for audience members.

Like the last line in The Famished Road, ‘A dream can be the highest point in life.’ This feels like one.

Photography by Whyler Photos of Stirling -

Ben Okri chats with a student as he signs her book. Photo: University of Stirling/Jim Mailer


 By Otieno Owino

Barb Kuntova, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 25th, 2016 by barbora_kuntova | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Barb Kuntova, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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Czech Republic born, I previously studied at a university in the heart of Europe (Prague) and after a few years of not knowing what I was doing, switching universities as well as majors, I ended up with a degree in English Teaching. I’ve been teaching for over four years by the time I got my degree and so I felt it was time for a change – I like to try as many things in life as I can. After a bit of a research (mainly financial, not going to lie), I settled on Stirling. And I applied. And I panicked, cried, got onto everybody’s nerves, because I really wanted to get in and the admission process is definitely not a short and kind-to-your-nerves one.

Well, I got in. I’m here. And it is an absolutely wonderful adventure. Not only am I currently living in Scotland (it doesn’t rain as much as everybody promised, I’m disappointed), but I also have an insight into how books are made. And it’s not an easy process – at this point of the course, I have no idea how anybody does it. I think publishers are super heroes, otherwise I really don’t understand.

Personally, I’ve always leaned most towards copy editing or being a commissioning editor though I am now interested in absolutely every part of the publishing process. Although I am not the best at working with technology and software, the good thing is that this course teaches it all – so there is no point in thinking you can’t do something just because you’re lacking the skills at this very moment.  Right, I’ll stop trying to sell the course to you.

So I know I said that I change the direction of my life quite often. Though coming to Publishing Studies, I have a feeling I might stick around in the publishing sphere for a bit, before I become an explorer or grow a beard and run away with the circus.

If you want to have a peek at what a publishing student is up to in her free time feel free to visit my twitter, instagram, or blog. Warning: it really is all about books.


Therese Campbell, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 25th, 2016 by therese_campbell | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Therese Campbell, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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As clichéd as itProfile Picture sounds, my love for books began at a young age. As a quiet child, I was definitely a bookworm and could immerse myself in whatever book or story I was reading. My Mum – the English teacher – always encouraged me to read and helped me develop my love for literature throughout my childhood and teenage years. Being 17 and having absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I decided that studying books for 4 years seemed like a not-so-terrible idea and chose to do a degree in English Literature at the University of Strathclyde.

While I truly enjoyed studying literature during my degree, I began to ponder the processes and people behind the books but, at the time, had limited knowledge of publishing. For my dissertation, I was given the opportunity to interview playwright Chris Hannan, who had adapted Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment for theatres. During the interview, Chris spoke about his relationship with his editor and I realised how important the author-editor relationship was, as well as how influential the editor was to the final product. It was at this point, I began to consider a career in publishing, but I had no idea how to pursue it!

I was lucky enough to spend the end of my Honours year and the following months residing in Osaka, Japan. I eagerly trawled Japanese bookstores, amazed by their size and their eclectic range of books – none of which I could read, but I did enjoy looking at pictures of cats balancing oranges on their heads… one of the less disturbing books we found.

After returning from Japan and spending time working in the soul-destroying world of retail, I discovered the Publishing Studies course online and applied right away. I was over the moon to find a course which encompassed my interests but would also help me develop them in a more vocational sense. It’s been a challenge adjusting to student life again after time out, but the course and the opportunities it offers are certainly worth it.

Mike Tsipoulakos, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 24th, 2016 by michail_tsipoulakos | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Mike Tsipoulakos, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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Hi, I’m Mike fotor_147725168863698and I should tell you in advance that I hate describing myself and even more taking selfies. Anyway, I was born and raised in a small city in central Greece named Trikala, a place with lots of green areas, trees, cotton crops and of course hot temperatures during summer.

My adventure begins at the age of 18 when I left home to get a degree in Greek Philology. I did my undergraduate studies at the university of Ioannina while majoring in Linguistics. After graduating, I felt that my knowledge was still limited, so next year I got accepted at the Applied Linguistics Master at the University of Ioannina. My life seemed already predetermined. After a degree and master in Linguistics, the next step was a PhD which was actually my initial plan. But since I am here today, you already know that I didn’t follow THE PLAN!!

Spending 9 months in the army and having plenty of time for self discovery, I realized that a career as a Linguistics professor wasn’t what I craved for.  “What do you enjoy doing the most at this point in your life?”, I asked myself. The answer was easy, photography and books. OK, I love books and comic books a bit more. Books have always been a big part of my personal, student and later academic life, a tool for teaching through my own teaching sessions and of course a productive way of spending my free time. My first encounter with them begins at the early age of four when I developed a special enthusiasm for fairy tales and graphic novels, although I couldn’t read anything back then. Thank god I had the Audiobook called “mom”!

And here I am today, being a student at the MLitt in Publishing at the University of Stirling. The reason I applied for this master is the course structure of the programme, which is in accordance with my future aspiration in the field of publishing. I feel that the modules included, can give me an insight on how the current publishing industry works while equipping me with the necessary skills to pursue a career in it. Did I make the right choice changing my career prospects? Only time will tell but so far I say hell yeah!

After graduating from the Publishing Master, I aspire to work for a comic book company in the U.S. I know it’s difficult but I also know that I’m allowed to dream. So, keep dreaming and keep walking my fellow publishers! (OK, I stole the last line from the Johnnie Walker Ad but hey we’re in Scotland, so we’re allowed to talk about whisky!)






Jo Ripoll, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17

October 20th, 2016 by jo_ripoll | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Jo Ripoll, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2016-17
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student-profile-imageHi, I’m Jo, and no, my name’s not short for anything. I am born and bred in New Orleans, Louisiana in the US, where the cultures are varying and the food is flavorful. I’ve been fortunate enough in my 22 years to have travelled all over with my family, which instilled in me a love for adventure, new places and a fascination for other cultures. It is one of the many reasons that brought me to Stirling, Scotland for my Master’s degree.

Books and stories have always been a part of my life, but I have not always been on the publishing track. For most of my young adult life, I thought I wanted to be a social worker. That is, until my life took a sharp left turn right before I started college. As I reevaluated what I wanted to do with my life, I always came back to my books. That’s when I first thought about publishing as a career in an abstract sort of way. So, I got my Bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State University in English: Rhetoric, Writing and Culture, enhancing my reading and writing skills while uncovering an understanding of developing society through theory and linguistics courses. Also, my minor in Communication Studies allowed me to better my understanding of interpersonal skills and interactions, especially in a changing society that has become so computer mediated.

Most of my undergraduate years were spent peer-editing and proofreading fellow classmate’s writing, both academic and creative. The more time I spent copy-editing and proofreading, I realized how much I enjoyed helping to make people’s writing the best that it could be and building the bridge between writer and reader. My internship with Sophisticated Woman Magazine solidified my interest in publishing and editing and allowed me to get my feet wet in every aspect of the publishing industry. After my internship came to a close, I continued to work with them as a book review columnist.

I knew, however, that I needed to learn more to successfully break into publishing, which led me to the University of Stirling’s Publishing Studies program. Stirling offered me what no other school could: the chance to learn more about my chosen field in great detail while being able to live in this beautiful, magical place and interact with a largely international student body. This program has opened my eyes to consider every aspect of publishing and just fall in love with it (and books) that much more.