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creative writing

Man Booker Prizewinning author DBC Pierre to visit University of Stirling

November 12th, 2011 by prm | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Man Booker Prizewinning author DBC Pierre to visit University of Stirling
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Award-winning novelist DBC Pierre will speak on the University of Stirling campus on Monday 14th November in the Pathfoot Lecture Theatre. The 6:30 PM event – a reading, interview and Q&A session – is free and open to the public. The event will be followed by a book signing. Doors open at 6 PM, and no tickets are required.

DBC Pierre’s visit is supported by the university and the Booker Prize Foundation. This year, for the first time, Stirling was selected to be one of only five U.K. institutions taking part in the Booker Prize Foundation’s Universities Initiative. Our colleagues in the Creative Writing department have been instrumental in organising this initiative, which involved all first-year students at Stirling, regardless of their course of study, receiving copies of Pierre’s novel Vernon God Little. Students have consequently been invited to attend student-led reading groups discussing the book in the week before his visit.

Vernon God Little won the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction and – controversially – the 2003 Man Booker Prize. The Man Booker judges described it as a “coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm but also our fascination with America.”

Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice Chancellor, says: “I am delighted that the University is participating in the Booker Prize Foundation’s Universities Initiative. Created to introduce students to high quality, contemporary fiction, it allows students across our various disciplines to have a shared experience to encourage debate.”

The Insecure Life: a Writer’s True Story

November 6th, 2011 by Rachel_Chase | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Insecure Life: a Writer’s True Story
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Rachel Chase, MLitt in Publishing Studies student, reports on our latest Visiting Speaker:

Paula Morris, a fiction writer and lecturer at the University of Stirling, talked about the life of a writer—warts and all. And yet, even after detailing the hard aspects of such a career, she said, “I wouldn’t change what I do at all.”

Paula dispelled two central myths in her lecture: 1) an author’s career is one of complete isolation and 2) if you’re good enough, you’ll get published.

An author’s career is one of complete isolation . . . think again.

Although the writing itself may be isolated, Paula pointed out, a huge part of an author’s career is a collaboration—it’s all about relationships. The author must have important relationships with the agent, editor, rights buyer, publicist, readers, other writers, designers, and sales and marketing. Some connections are direct ones while others exist via the agent or editor. But all of these relationships are important.

However, a writer cannot rely on the publishing company to do everything. Increasingly, authors need to market themselves and their products. Paula, who has a background in marketing, finds it more productive to get up and do something to promote her latest titles than gripe about what the publishing company is or isn’t doing. The digital wave has not only rocked the publishing industry as a whole, but it has also put a burden on authors to have a digital presence. Blogs, websites, Facebook pages, and tweets all take time. Paula wisely advised to be careful what you say online. You never know who is reading.

The life of an author is a busy one. It is a life of constantly dealing with people who want something from you: answers to questions, a review for another book, a free book, a biography for an event, a manuscript read, an introduction to your agent, a lecture, and so on. Writers have much more to think about than simply writing books; they have to give interviews, visit writer’s groups, visit schools, appear at festivals, attend meetings with agents and editors, work with accountants, answer e-mails, update websites and blogs, attend photo sessions, fly to various parts of the world, organize book launches, visit booksellers, and much more. There may be many words to describe the life of a writer (busy would certainly be on the list), but “isolated” is not one of them.

If you’re good enough, you’ll get published . . . simply not true.

Books are a commodity and publishing is a business. It is the market that dictates whether a book sells or not, regardless of its intrinsic value. To be a published writer, you need luck, timing, the support of other people, and market forces in your favor. For an author, every new book is riddled with the fear that it could be his or her last book. “It’s an incredibly insecure life,” Paula said.

Yet despite the difficult aspects of making writing a career, Paula announced, “I wouldn’t change what I do at all.” It is a hard road but a rewarding journey for those who want to make writing a career. Thanks Paula for your insights! You can check out Paula’s website here.

Books make the world more real for us: Andrew O’Hagan on civic memory in Scotland

October 2nd, 2011 by Nuria_Ruiz | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Books make the world more real for us: Andrew O’Hagan on civic memory in Scotland
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Photo of Andrew O'Hagan by Jerry BauerOn 28th September 2011, award-winning writer Andrew O’Hagan arrived in Stirling to deliver a lecture on civic memory, which he called “An Argument on the Character of Scottish Culture”.  In equal measures thoughtful and amusing, he explored how our understanding of Scotland, and our own place within our home country, is dependent on shared memories and a common culture.

 The lecture was held at the macrobert, as part of the House of Words series in collaboration with Creative Writing at Stirling.

“Scotland”, asserts Andrew O’Hagan, “is a living workshop of the imagination”.  And this was really the unifying theme of his guest lecture on the nature of Scottish civic memory.  We Scots are bound by our imaginations and our unending need to understand what has gone before.  Through the Bell’s Whisky tagline, “Afore ye go”, via an unexpected invasion by the English, to finally praising the Scottish “confederation of the imagination” between its authors and readers, Andrew led us through the creation of a Scottish identity that says as much about its citizens as it does about the continuing strength of its creative industries. 

As a writer, O’Hagan of course emphasised the role of writing in civic memory.  A lovely idea was his perception of the theatre as a vision for how to live, particularly when our lives are becoming politically and economically harder.  But it was the story, the power of fiction, which underpinned his argument.  Mentioning James Kelman, Andrew described his body of work as the most crafted and true representations of Scotland – and for me, it struck home.  Kelman, of course, won the 1994 Booker Prize with How Late It Was, How Late, stoking controversy with his use of Glaswegian language and culture among more traditional critics.  But in Scotland, his book was an invocation of who we are; it was our language, our experiences and anxieties, put into words where it could not slip out of view.

A noteworthy observation, purely from a publishing perspective, was O’Hagan’s idea that Scottish civic memory actually finds its most forceful expression in the arts – Scottish plays, music, art and books are becoming powerful, punching above their weight in the cultural stakes.  In particular, books are playing a bigger role in making the world “more real” for us as Scots.  This led me to question what that could mean for the publishing industry in Scotland.  It might be easy to assume that the home of literary and fiction publishing in Britain rightly lies in the South East.  But as Andrew noted, Scotland is a nation whose stories are largely unwritten, and where our personal fiction and characters are as respected as our national history.  We may for many years have lived a verbal life, but this creation of a civic memory could see our stories, and the stories of those who came before us, power the publishing industry.  If Scottish book culture is on the ascendant, then Scottish publishing can become as commanding as the stories it makes and preserves. 

And everyone in Scotland, after all, has a story.

Núria Ruiz, September 2011

Launch of Bloody Scotland

September 16th, 2011 by Claire_Squires | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment
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Ian Rankin at the launch of Bloody Scotland

A starry line-up of crime writers gathered in Stirling’s Smith Museum & Art Gallery today to launch Bloody Scotland, an International Crime Writing Festival which will take place in Stirling on 14-16 September 2012.

Writers in attendance at the launch included Ian Rankin, G J Moffat, Stuart MacBride, Anne Perry, Lin Anderson, Allan Guthrie and Craig Robertson. Ian Rankin took to the floor to applaud this, the first Scottish literary festival to celebrate Scotland’s most popular fiction genre. And to prove how Stirling is a perfect location, he revealed that his next novel reaches its finale here…

The festival has support from Stirling Council, Creative Scotland, and will work alongside Stirling’s existing Off the Page festival, which we reported on last week. Excitingly for us, the festival is also organised in collaboration with the University of Stirling’s Creative Writing courses and the Centre for International Publishing and Communication.

We’ll be working with Bloody Scotland on Creative Friday, hosting masterclasses, workshops, and a publishers’ and agents’ forum. More details to come… and don’t go down any dark alleyways in the meantime!

Life in the Gutter…

December 30th, 2010 by Lauren_Hunter_Nicoll | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Life in the Gutter…
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A literary journalist (who shall here rename nameless) overhead at the Wigtown book festival bemoaning the fact there were ‘no good writers under the age of forty-five in Scotland’, and a frustration at a lack of literary magazines exhibiting new Scottish writing, were the key factors which propelled editors Adrian Searle and Colin Begg to establish Scottish literary magazine Gutter.

Both editors recently visited Stirling University’s Publishing Studies centre to share their experiences about establishing the magazine and to provide an insight into the world of publishing.

As graduates from the University of Glasgow’s Masters in Creative Writing course, both Adrian and Colin highlighted the fact that beyond being published in the course’s annual anthology there were few outlets in Scotland for the publication of new writing with the demise of literary magazines such as Cutting Teeth and Cencrastus.

Gutter was established to fill this void. With the proviso to promote new and exciting Scottish writing, the magazine showcases emerging and established writing talent side by side. Published twice yearly, with the first issue launched in August 2008, recently published writers have included Alan Bissett, Patricia Ace and University of Stirling Royal Literary Fund Fellow Linda Cracknell.

Plans for the future include the publishing of a Gutter anthology and the continuation of Gutter events. This year saw a Gutter event ‘McSex’ at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, a night which explored the tradition of eroticism in Scottish Literature – think smutty prose and nipple tassels (the smutty prose from the writers/nipple tassels on the burlesque dancer, although the opposite could have been interesting!), and events at the National Library of Scotland and the Glasgow Aye Write! Book Festival.

With the most recent issue full of stories from Scottish writers such as Louise Welsh, Zoe Strachan and Ewan Morrison I think that particular literary critic’s assertion was perhaps slightly misguided; there are certainly lots of good writers in Scotland under forty-five… Gutter is proof of that.

Lauren Nicoll