Writing Gender Violence

December 18th, 2017 by Diane Hill | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Writing Gender Violence
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In November, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Writing Gender Violence event at the University. Organised as part of Book Week Scotland, the event also coincided with 16 Days of Action to eliminate violence against women, running from the 25th of November to the 10th of December.

A crowd of us gathered in the Pathfoot Dining Hall, and at the front where a panel of four women visiting speakers who dedicated their time for this event. Technically, there was only three present in the room as the fourth was on the other side of the world. Thanks to a computer and a webcam, however, three became four. The panel was made up of crime writer Alexandra Sokoloff, author of the Huntress Moon series that goes against the norm with her female serial killer antagonist in her crime series. Then, there was Madeleine Black, author of the memoir Unbroken, a true depiction of the devastating aftermath of rape and the journey of forgiveness. Next was Lydia House from Zero Tolerance, a charity that campaigns to end men’s violence against women by promoting gender equality and challenging attitudes that normalise violence and domestic abuse. Lastly, there was Lorna Hill, a Ph.D. creative writing student from the University of Stirling who has written a crime novel focusing on human trafficking and domestic abuse. This was our panel.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this event when I first sat down in the chair, however, my attention was captured throughout. Like myself, I don’t think many people have thought about the notion of writing gender violence. Even as a former journalism student, I had not given this issue much thought. However, what was made very clear to me throughout this event is that writing gender violence is a current, ongoing issue today. From Madeleine we learned that due to the very graphic details contained in her real life story, it was rejected 25 times before it was finally published, and even then there was some effort to tone down the graphic descriptions told throughout her story due to the fear that it could deter potential readers. The fact that someone would try to tone done the details of this story is baffling. Why would you try to dilute the true story and horror of the rape of a young woman? It would take away the true purpose of the story, to connect with others who had gone through similar experiences and to show them that they have a voice and that they have the right to be heard. This is Madeleine’s purpose for writing. She doesn’t see it as story writing but as story healing. Lorna also agreed with this. She also highlighted the importance of these voices being heard.

It is not just the publishing industry that struggles to grasp the importance of writing gender violence; journalists and the media are also responsible. Lydia House highlighted this. She explained the work her charity does to try and educate those in positions, such as journalists, to communicate with large amounts of people. They give them the skills to better equip themselves when reporting violence against women. Again, as a former journalism student, I cannot recall one instance where we were taught how to properly report such stories. We weren’t taught these skills and looking back, this is very surprising. Lydia highlights just how important a story’s language and pictures are to the representation of the article as a whole. They could inadvertently silence the voices of the women who deserve to have their stories told. Zero Tolerance offers journalists a Handle with Care guide that can help them when reporting these kinds of stories. They also offer a free range of photos that can be used to better represent the different crimes of violence and the victims, as the violence committed against women is not limited to just physical violence.

Moving on to Sokoloff, she wanted to create a character, a female serial killer particularly, to turn the tables, and the violence, against men. She wanted to explore the questions as to why women don’t commit serial murders, and why do men commit this kind of violence and women don’t? Women can be serial killers, but they normally don’t have the sexual aspect to the crimes compared to men. In the end, she creates a powerful character. Sokoloff highlighted that this kind of character, or story, couldn’t have been written ten, or ten fifteen years ago. Attitudes to these kinds of crimes have changed and people want to read about people’s experiences. One only needs to look back at the Weinstein scandal to see this.

Overall, this event highlighted the importance of writing about gender violence, and also the need for there to be a better understanding in certain industries in how to better handle this issue. Progress is being made, but as Madeleine said, there is still a long way to go to challenge the attitudes regarding wring gender violence. This event was informative and very insightful, and I would have recommended it to everyone.

Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell

December 9th, 2016 by nicole_sweeney | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Guest Speaker: Liam Murray Bell
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Today’s guest speaker is Liam Murray Bell, published author and Creative Writing lecturer here at Stirling University. His first book, So It Is, was published inImage result for so it is liam murray bell 2012, followed by The Busker in 2014. Both books were published by Myriad Editions, a Brighton-based publisher who focus on debut authors. Myriad is partly funded through the government, and they aim is to take a new author and establish their career. Bell stated that he chose this publisher with great care, as his first book So It Is was also his PhD thesis, and so wanted to ensure that the critical aspects of the work remained. Bell also stated the importance of face-to-face meetings with his publisher. His editorial process took around six months, and involved many different meetings with his editors.

Bell also highlighted the importance of reviews in newspapers like The Guardian, as they led to a spike in book sales. When So It Is was shortlisted for Scottish Book of the Year, this too had a massive effect on the sales of the title, and was hugely rewarding for a debut author. Bell stresses the importance of reviews, and events at book festivals for a new author. He tells us it was extremely rewarding to have an interview in The Herald (particularly because his parents read it). Bell’s contract for So It Is also stated that Myriad would take a look at the manuscript for his second book. They agreed to publish it, and Bell states that the advance for the book was not particularly large, and he was only able to work on the manuscript full time due to funding from the English Arts Council.

Bell also related to us the benefits of working with a smaller publisher. Working with Myriad for The Busker meant he could be involved with other aspects of the book – including the cover design. The publisher commissioned an artist to do three different designs, and Bell’s opinions were taken on board when choosing which one they would use. While discussing the editorial process for The Busker, Bell highlights the difficulties that can arise. The editor and the author must have a good relationship in order for the process to go well.  The edits take several months and not everyone necessarily agrees. He stresses  that a good editor should point out or discuss what the problem is, and allow the author to find the solution by them self. If the editor was to fix it themselves, it would not be cohesive with the rest of the book. He tells us that one of the hardest parts of the editing process is that as an other, you have to try and open your mind to discussion, not just automatically tell the editor they’re wrong. Bell argues that a good editor should question every single aspect of the book. This forces the author to justify each character and aspect of the plot, ensuring the book is the best it can possibly be.


The terrifying experience of drawing in public

December 8th, 2016 by michail_tsipoulakos | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The terrifying experience of drawing in public
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https-%2f%2fcdn-evbuc-com%2fimages%2f25635246%2f79986262757%2f1%2foriginalThe Edinburgh Comic Art Festival took place in Summerhall Venue on 26th and 27th of November, and of course I couldn’t miss it. The whole exhibition offered a variety of visiting speakers, free workshops to test your artistic capabilities, and panels with Scottish and British comic book artists displaying their work. And if you are a geek like me, all these things hold an extra value!

For this story, I will share with you the experience I had while participating in the quick-draw activity. As the name itself states, quick-draw was one of the many activities where you actually had to draw different images on a drawing surface, as fast as possible. Our instructors were Mr.…. and Mrs.…... Ok I admit it; I was late and missed the part where they introduced themselves. For our convenience, let’s call them Mr. Tall (for obvious reasons) and Mrs. Red (due to her bright red hair). 20161204-963567316_editedThe whole activity was designed for people who are new to drawing, for others with some existing experience, and for those who are TERRIFIED by it, like me!

The participants had to experiment with a range of different materials like white or coloured paper, different sketching pencils, markers with several colour options, while using different techniques, to explore the way real life illustrators create their work. The motto of our two wonderful instructors (Yes I’m talking about Mr. Tall and Mrs. Red) was: “You don’t need any fancy equipment to draw your hearts out. Some white paper and a black pencil and your empty canvas will transform into a work of art”. The first thing we had to do was draw a funny face. “Draw a line here and here, and there and remember, don’t push your pencil too much” Mr. Tall said. He made it look so effortless which by the way, wasn’t! I had to try really hard. The end result after 15 minutes of drawing and connecting lines looked like an uglier version of Mr. Potato from Toy Story. And yes, Mr. potato is already ugly enough! The first session was officially over with not much success.

Next stop, Nature! How to draw trees and flowers with a few easy techniques. Instructions followed again, this time by Mrs. Red. Initially, it seemed easier than drawing a face. Well it wasn’t, especially for someone who can’t draw a straight line, not even with a ruler. My picture was a complete disaster. Probably something that a 3 year old would draw. When Mrs. Red saw my picture, she was literally speechless. I managed to give the world talentless a whole new meaning. I’m quite sure that if we lived in a fantasy world, where Mrs. Red was the queen, she would have ordered my immediate incarceration, to prevent me from creating new abominations! All jokes aside, she was super cool and funny, and despite her initial shock, she was all smiles and compliments.

fotor_148081045839063Finally, for the third and final task, we had to draw anything we wanted. I decided to go with Doctor Strange. Since I had a cover of him in my bag, I didn’t have to search for my inspiration. The end result was quite tolerable. Finally, after all this time, I managed to draw something! Even Mrs. Red complimented me for my effort! And that was it, almost 45 minutes later, the quick-draw activity was over. The purpose of this workshop was to gain confidence in developing your own drawing skills. Did I become the new Dali? Hell no! But I had a great time, met interesting people who are equally bad at drawing, and finally had the chance to use a range of materials and techniques utilized by professional comic book artists. Now that I’m equipped with all this knowledge, I feel super ready for the Edinburgh Comic Con festival in February.

CAPITAL SCI-FI CON, here I come!!!

Visiting Speaker 13/10/16: Jonny Gallant from Alban Books

October 17th, 2016 by Alice Laing | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker 13/10/16: Jonny Gallant from Alban Books
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13872919_10153621715627121_7098822134678477676_nSometimes all you can do is laugh…if only to stop yourself from crying. At least that is Jonny Gallant’s approach to looking back on any and all of the mistakes that he has made in his career.

From working with Cannongate in 2004 (when publishing was made easy from the sales of Life of Pi) to Walker Books, Alma Books, and St. Andrews Press, Gallant has found himself in the role of Managing Director of Alban Books.

Alban Books is the UK distributor for eleven Christian publishers outwith the UK. Most of the publishers they work with are based in the US with others in Europe and Israel. For a relatively small company  they have 7000 active titles under their care, with an average RRP of £23.55. With a team of five people marketing and selling over 500 titles per year, working with 400 trade accounts, 400 libraries, 700 academics, and 600 reviewers Alban Books know how to keep themselves busy.

Gallant himself knows how to grab the attention of a room full of publishing students, managing to inspire laughter throughout his visit by being candid about the mistakes (or, as he colorfully referred to them, f**k-ups) he has made in his career thus far and offering us a few lessons along the way.

Lesson 1: Always double check the zeros on your shipping forms to avoid sending the entire print run to Australia.

Lesson 2: Learn how to spell ‘Stationery’ and always believe the person with two degrees in Literature from Oxford University on the spelling of ‘Stationery’.

Lesson 3: There’s an odd amusement to be found in witnessing 800 people enthusiastically agree to your redundancy.

Lesson 4: Brexit is a sh*tstorm that is causing Gallant’s publishing related misery as he tries to safely make it through, with Alban Books relying heavily on their backlist, which accounts for 88% of sales. However, there is always Pope Frances, who is likely responsible for 10% of their sales, to be thankful for.

Lesson 5: When one door closes, a better one will more often than not open – mainly if you accept invitations for coffee.

Lesson 6: Always question why people don’t blink at spending £3 for a greetings card, but expect a 250+ page book to be £6.99.

Gallant did an excellent job at showing a room full of post graduate students that you shouldn’t fear making mistakes, as there are always opportunities and a lesson to be learnt. Time spent worrying about what could go wrong, or even what has gone wrong, is time wasted and there’s not a lot of time to spare in the world of publishing and distribution. It’s not too clear how Brexit is going to continue to affect Alban Books and the rest of the industry, but one thing that is clear is that ‘Visiting Speaker Day’ is fast becoming a class favourite and we’ve been left with very high expectations – no pressure.

by Alice Laing

Beautiful Gift Books

January 12th, 2015 by Leia Forster | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Beautiful Gift Books
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Something that has always caught my attention in book shops is books with wonderful production value; thick paper, glossy images and gold embossing. If a book has gold embossing, I need it in my life. While run-of-the-mill paperbacks can be great purchases if you’re an avid reader, when it comes to giving books as gifts I feel there’s a need to choose something a little more special. If like me you are at a loss for what to buy someone this Christmas, read ahead and behold the beautiful gift books of my choosing.

The Barnes and Nobles Leatherbound Series



An affordable and wonderfully produced collection of books. Ranging from the classics to science fiction and non-fiction, you can tell a lot of thought has gone into the cover designs for each individual book. With an extremely reasonable RRP price of £25 a book, there’s no reason not to have several of these on your shelf. Many of the editions have several books within their pages, and the quality of production almost makes you feel bad for paying so little. The image to the right is just one example of the illustrations that can be found in these books. This particular one is from Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.


Mister Finch, Living in a Fairytale World

 mr finch 5For anyone interested in quirky art, this is the book for you. Mister Finch is a textile artist from Leeds who creates fabric fairytale creatures ranging from huge bees to dead canaries. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to have cat sized moths in the world? Mister Finch has.

This book showcases the best of his work with wonderfully photographed, glossy full colour images, and the cover could be considered art itself with the intricate metallic embossing.

mr finch 3mr finch 2










 Folio Society & Gollancz H.G.Wells Classics

H. G. Wells Set [3 Vols] Classics of Science Fiction The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds - Folio SocietyThe Folio Society prides themselves on their extremely high standards of book design and production. Amongst my favourites is this collection of H.G.Wells Classics complete with illustrations. This lovely edition is however out of print, but can be still be found through online retailers with a price tag of around £65.

If that’s a little over budget, Gollancz published a series of cheaper but equally as charming H.G.Wells books. This edition of The Shape of Things to Come was recently featured in the hit TV show, The Walking Dead.

 classic collection hgwells

These are just a few of the many particularly special books in circulation that could make fantastic gifts. If these aren’t quite what you were looking for, I hope this post gives you the inspiration to find something suitable for that book-loving friend or family member.

Interning at Freight Books

June 1st, 2014 by Clemence Moulaert | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Interning at Freight Books
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During my second semester as a student of the MLitt Publishing programme I chose to take the Publishing In The Workplace module. Publishing students hear this time and again: your best chance of working in the publishing industry is to get an internship and, well, work in the publishing industry. After applying to various publishers in Scotland I was fortunate to be offered a part-time editorial internship at Freight Books.

LookupGlasgowPocket_270.270A fairly new imprint of Freight Design, one of Scotland’s leading communications consultancies, Freight Books focuses on publishing ‘high quality fiction for an English-speaking readership’ and also produces Gutter magazine for new fiction.

My email correspondence with Robbie Guillory, Assistant Publisher, was surprisingly informal, and the welcome I received on my first day at the office was much the same: the small team, no larger than a dozen people, was friendly and inviting; there reigns a quaint, café-like atmosphere in the office, which is located on the third floor of an old building in Glasgow’s Merchant City. On the second floor landing a painted sign on the wall says ‘Keep going, gas masks will be provided at the top’. Panting, I made it to the top floor. ‘Where’s my gas mask?’ I asked Robbie, who laughed.

My first task was both simple and terrifying: I was handed a freshly printed typescript and asked to copy-edit it. I was given a sheet with proofreading marks and the Freight Books style sheet, then left to my own devices. Gradually the nerves subsided (‘What if I ruin this beautiful typescript and they hate me and make me leave?!’) and I began to really enjoy myself.


Over the course of nine weeks I copy-edited typescripts, read through the slushpile to pick out the ‘wows’ from the ‘mehs’, bonded with Archie, the office dog, prepared a couple of author contracts and wrote a few introductory lines for an upcoming publication. Not once was I asked to make coffee (but I was frequently asked if I wanted a cuppa, which is always nice).

The most exciting part of this internship was to look at the AIs (Advance Information sheets) and see a couple of titles in there that I copy-edited. In a few months’ time I will walk into a bookshop and those books will be there on the shelf. And I’ll have the privilege of saying I was part of the fantastic team that made them happen.

The experience I gained from this internship will reflect on my CV and, most importantly, I gained heaps of confidence and feel enthusiastic about applying for jobs in the Scottish publishing industry.

(photo credit: Freight Books)