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Stirling

Bloody Scotland 2014 Programme Launch

June 8th, 2014 by Stevie Marsden | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Bloody Scotland 2014 Programme Launch
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photo (10)Stevie Marsden reports on the launch of this year’s Bloody Scotland festival:

Wednesday 4th June saw the launch of the third Bloody Scotland festival, Scotland’s first and only literary festival dedicated to celebrating crime fiction from all over the world, which will take place from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st of September this year.  The intimate lunch time unveiling of this year’s programme was held at Tolbooth, Stirling where Dom Hastings, the festival manager, commented on the diversity of the festival’s proceedings with events ranging from live talks from best-selling and world-renowned crime writers Ian Rankin and Kathy Reichs, to a discussion about the representation of women in crime fiction hosted by the Glasgow Women’s Library and a play re-enacting the trial of notorious serial killer Peter Manual to be held in the fitting setting of Stirling Sheriff Court.

As well as putting together a fantastic programme every year, which not only promotes Scotland’s extraordinary love for crime writing but also encourages crime fiction lovers from all over the world to visit Stirling, one of Scotland’s most historic (and haunted!) cities, the Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing festival is unique in that it actively encourages crime fiction fans to become creators of crime fiction.

Since its conception, Bloody Scotland has had a strong commitment to finding and promoting the next generation of crime writers.  Even before the festival programme was launched, the Bloody Scotland Short Story Competition was open for submissions.  This competition – the winner of which receives £1,000 and a
weekend pass to the   festival – is open to all previously unpublished writers from all over the world. short story comp I’m lucky enough to help in the co-ordination of the competition, and it’s really exciting to see undiscovered authors get the opportunity to have their work read by a worldwide audience; last year’s winner was US writer Mindy Quigley who won a landslide public vote for her story ‘The Best Dish’.

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Not content with inviting the world’s crime-lit-enthusiasts to try their hand at writing short fiction, the festival weekend opens with a day of Crime Writing Masterclasses held at the MacRobert Arts Centre at the University of Stirling on Friday 19th September.  The day is full of enlightening and insightful workshops, allowing budding crime writers to spend time refining their writing skills under the guidance of best-selling authors and experts in the publishing field.  This year’s line-up of writers and publishers includes Christopher Broomkyre, Helen Sedgwick, Craig Robertson and Sara Hunt to name but a few!

As if all this wasn’t enough, Bloody Scotland also holds its annual ‘Pitch Perfect’ event on Sunday 21st September.  Sponsored by the Open University Scotland, this competition allows aspiring novelists to pitch their idea to a panel of publishers for the chance to gain invaluable feedback from experts in the field.  This year’s panel includes Alison Hennessey, Senior Crime Editor at Harvill Secker, Krystyna Green, Editorial Director for Constable & Robinson crime fiction and Tricia Jackson, Editorial Director at Pan MacMillan.  Last year’s ‘Pitch Perfect’ event was brilliant, and it was fascinating to hear some of the ideas for (as yet!) unpublished work and the feedback that the specialists in the field had to offer.

What all of these events show is that the Bloody Scotland festival is not just an amazing opportunity for readers and writers to come together in a celebration of all things crime-lit related, but it is also a brilliant occasion dedicated to inspiring the next cohort of  crime writers.  Bloody Scotland, along with the University of Stirling’s Creative Writing team, the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication and Open University Scotland, actively encourages attendees to get involved in crime writing, arguably making Bloody Scotland one of the most inspiring literary festivals in the world.

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Aija Oksman, MLitt Publishing Studies 2012-2014 (PT)

November 26th, 2013 by Aija | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Aija Oksman, MLitt Publishing Studies 2012-2014 (PT)
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My interest in publishing stems from being read to when I was a child, growing up in very literary oriented surrounding and having done my undergraduate in Literature and Linguistics at the University of Salzburg. My time in Edinburgh is split between the MLitt Studies, my two jobs and volunteering for Rock Trust. I enjoy being busy, I enjoy putting my gathered skills in actual use and I look forward to be part of publishing world.

I have lived as an expatriate (so far I have lived in Finland, Belgium, Ireland and Austria) for over thirteen years, I have developed a new appreciation for my own language as well as for translated literature. Therefore, my personal interests have been developing towards literary agency and marketing, as well as minority and international literatures – so the ultimate dream would be to be able to find my place in the world where I could combine most of that. That, or alternatively I could open my own little restaurant, with walls covered in bookshelves. Food for the tummy and mind.

Bloody Scotland Masterclass – Agents’ and Publishers’ Panel

October 7th, 2013 by Aija | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Bloody Scotland Masterclass – Agents’ and Publishers’ Panel
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One of the perks of this year’s Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival in Stirling was the opportunity to hear the best of the field offer advice to hopeful writers on the process of writing, publishing and whatever comes in between.

The Agents’ and Publishers’ panel was lead by Claire Squires, director of Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication on September 13th. The panel discussed what happens after the next hopeful front list bestseller has been written and when the author seeks to have the manuscript accepted either by an agent or a publisher.

Taking part in the panel were Jenny Brown, of Jenny Brown Associates, and David Shelley, of Little Brown. Jenny is equally inspiring and intimidating for an aspiring literary agent such as myself, having opened her agency in 2002 after years of formidable experience, not forgetting being the founder of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. If that’s not enough, she and her associates have become the biggest literary agent in Scotland and one of the leading agencies in UK, with international reputation.

David on the other hand represents the other hurdle in the writer’s way towards bestselling stardom – the publisher. David, who has worn many a different hat under the general title publisher has not settled for one particular job title – he also guests as an editor for a few selected authors within Little Brown, including Val McDermid and Mitch Albom (and yes, JK Rowling too, but let’s focus on other exciting aspects of David’s career, shall we?).

Jenny launched right into the session by emphasising how crime writing is still the fastest growing genre in the UK (and one of the leading internationally), with approximately 30% of the book market. David agreed – crime writing is definitely the most commercially growing genre that is remarkably consistent despite other market or trend fluctuations – fluctuations we know all too well that publishing is harshly dependent on. As the trend moves on, so will the publisher.

Both Jenny and David agreed that trends are nearly impossible to keep up with; what is “hot” right now could very well be over by the time you have the manuscript of a bestseller that nicely fits into that pigeonhole all finished and ready to be pitched. Trends move on faster than anyone can write, and rather than focusing on fitting into that niche, both Jenny and David emphasised, an aspiring writer would do well to focus on being passionate and finding your own voice, your niche, rather than doing lavish imitations of others’ work. Jenny also – to my great pleasure – emphasised how translated crime writing is breaking the barriers and entering the UK market. David remarked upon the cold realism of marketing; it is nearly impossible to bring out a title that is based on the same basic idea as one published before. There is no space in the market for two great Fife based detectives, but there might be space for one great detective from Fife, and the other from – why not – Stirling. How you present your setting is what makes you, as a writer, unique.

Classic crime is being brought back as well as being retranslated. Foreign authors are intriguing, whereas deceased writers are proving to be some of the toughest competition to the wave of new writers. One particularly interesting piece of advice that David provided for budding writers was to imagine further than one novel. He has found himself attracted to authors who can envision at least a couple volumes of a series, can explain character traits and subplots beyond that one particular event in the novel they are currently pitching. A good series of novels with an ever-evolving character can very well be the key to cracking your way into the crime-writing scene.

Claire led the discussion to the actual publishing process; what channels are there for new writers? How can one get their manuscript read, represented and subsequently published? As expected, both David and Jenny agreed on this point strongly; get an agent. It is nearly impossible to break into publishing without being professionally represented. Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts so agents act as a quality control filter for publishers. Jenny emphasised having manuscripts edited by a professional freelancer – never submit anything you are not absolutely sure is the best it can be. And this is doubly important for self-publishing authors.

Be confident, know your trade, know your next few steps and especially – know whom you are talking to when making a pitch. Let your story do the talking. It is even more advisable to target your agent and publisher. Do your homework – know whom you are pitching to and make sure they know why you have chosen them. Or perhaps if you’re desperate and unsure of your manuscript, a box of chocolates never hurts – doesn’t necessarily help either, but definitely never hurts.

Claire opened a topic that is much debated in publishing circles – self-publishing. Jenny explained how self-publishing allows more control and can lead to enticing a wide readership, which in turn encourages word-of-mouth and reviews before landing under the ears or eyes of an publisher. Self-publishing allows the writer to test the waters and to cater for the readership before attempting to break into the market. Although, writers would do well to note, that if you have already published something on the internet, the good bet is that a hopeful publisher would prefer to publish something completely new from you – or perhaps offer you a series deal. David did mention how even editors browse through self-publishing platforms – such as Authonomy – as you never know what you might find.

The panel concluded with questions from the master class participants; one particularly memorable was one lady from the master class, who has a number of novels (18 to be exact) published online but no one had yet approached her nor returned her numerous attempts to contact agents and publishers. Jenny’s initial reaction was to enquire what does she believe an agent could do for her that she cannot do herself? What indeed. To leave on a hopeful note, Claire asked both David and Jenny to give the master class some final words of inspiration. David encouraged the budding writers never to give up, as the first book published is rarely the first book written, and to especially venture into other avenues than traditional forms of publishing – digital, self-publishing and the like can prove to be a writer’s saviour, enabling an initial point of contact, enticing on its own merit. Jenny emphasised the necessity of wide reading, because all that we read will feed into what we write, how we write and how we present ourselves. There is hope for everyone.

Talis S. Archdeacon, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013

January 16th, 2013 by tsarchdeacon | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Talis S. Archdeacon, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2012-2013
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Most people reading these student profiles already know what a dynamic and fascinating industry publishing is, with never-before-imagined possibilities and innovative new technologies at every turn. There’s no need to tell you how a profound love of stories in all forms – fiction and non-fiction, long and short, in books and magazines – irresistibly draws us all into the world of publishing.

I started my career as a journalist about six years ago in Riga, Latvia. I moved up quickly and within a few years found myself editor-in-chief of the largest English-language newspaper in the Baltic States. After that I ran a local second-hand bookshop and attempted to launch a new publication – an entertainment listing service in three languages. Though that idea soon failed (I didn’t really know at that point how to deal with the many challenges of a start-up publication), my interest in publishing had been piqued and I was eager to get myself into the industry proper.

But how? I tried applying for a few jobs in a few different countries, but my disparate and tangential experience made it difficult. My academic degrees were unrelated to the field. I needed something to tie it all together.

The publishing programme at Stirling is the ideal way to do just that. I joined the master’s degree programme to help transfer my related skills in journalism and bookselling to publishing and to learn about the rapidly evolving market.

This is one of the most exciting times in history to be in publishing. We, the publishing students of today, are at the very forefront of these changing times and are nearly ready to take our places as the industry leaders of tomorrow.

Beck Hansen’s Song Reader

November 14th, 2012 by Blake Brooks | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Beck Hansen’s Song Reader
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Beck Hansen is a music artist with many strings to his bow. In a career which has spanned almost twenty years, Hansen has experimented with various genres such as folk, rock, country, and rap, and the artistic forms he has assumed are also numerous; from refusing to sign exclusive label deals in order to record two contrasting albums at once, releasing singles mixed with video game soundtracks, to remaining a highly sought-after producer. Needless to say, avant-garde doesn’t cover it. However, his latest project further pushes the boundaries of modern concepts of music. In December Hansen will release a twenty track ‘album’ entitled Beck Hansen’s Song Reader which will be published only as sheet music. Sold unrecorded, this is an album in its most primal form; musical scores to be deciphered and created by each individual. Musicians may see a challenge while others may consider the album a prized collectible, but those who just want to hear Beck’s latest album may find it frustrating to learn they may need to pick up a ukulele in order to do so.

In America McSweeney’s will publish The Song Reader, while UK publisher Faber will be profiting from this experimental project. The album will retail in the UK at £18.99, more than your average album or book, and it is uncertain how well it will sell. Undoubtedly the experimental form will alienate much of Beck’s audience; a fanbase he has built since becoming the pin-up boy of the underdog, stoner generation in the 1990s. While some may appreciate Hansen’s experimentalism they may not be willing to pay for something they ultimately may not use and it is unlikely anyone unfamiliar with his work will be converted by it.

However, the album does pose some interesting questions about what music is and the possible role of the publisher in music production. In order to make the idea desirable and more than mere concept, the publisher has worked hard to ensure the album is aesthetically pleasing.  Marcel Dzama, who has previously collaborated with Hansen on his album Guero, has illustrated some of the album alongside others, creating a book where each song is illustrated in a beautifully individual style. The fonts used vary from page to page to compliment the illustrations, and thus every song has its own persona. This means anyone who buys The Song Reader is not merely purchasing an album but twenty skilfully crafted pieces bound in hardcover, with an elaborate Edwardian cover design that is homage to classical musical manuscripts. Preview images have been released on McSweeney’s website, and what is clear is Beck’s commitment to his vision of a modern tribute to an old style.

The release of a half page score of the song Do We? We Do prompted a flurry of videos and audio clips online of fans playing the song, interpreting it as everything from punk to a ballad. More recently McSweeneys released a page long sample of the song Why?, building on the interest in the Do We? Wo Do sample. These previews are a good marketing move on behalf of McSweeney’s, allowing musicians to integrate with the album even before its release. The sharing of these on sites such as Tumblr and Youtube raises the albums online profile  and is essentially free publicity. Expanding on this, McSweeney’s has announced that tracks and samples can be submitted and shared via an official page which has just launched in anticipation of the albums release. This further raises the album’s profile and simultaneously that of the musicians contributing to the project. However, it also crucially provides a platform for those who wish to hear the songs but cannot play them themselves.

Beck’s high profile sells itself, so The Song Reader may not be such a high risk for McSweeneys and Faber. As Hansen has not released a full album of his own work since 2008, anticipation for a new project has been growing steadily. Although early online reactions to The Song Reader were largely negative, there has been a more positive response since the early release of the Do We? We Do and Why? samples, and pre-release orders of signed copies at $50 sold out in a couple of days. It cannot be denied that McSweeney’s have taken on a complicated and innovative project, with a convoluted audience that may be hard to target. However, the early release of song samples, pre-release sales and previews of the artwork has created a buzz that may mean the project is more popular than early reactions would have anticipated. The clever song-sharing marketing scheme on The Song Reader website allows give-it-a-go musicians a way to be involved, while fans of music as an art form may enjoy the aesthetic of a project that has been beautifully and brilliantly designed. Although The Song Reader is unlikely to be as popular as a recorded album, for a concept it may prove surprisingly successful.

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.

Sara Gardiner, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012

November 24th, 2011 by Sara_Gardiner | Posted in Student Profiles | Comments Off on Sara Gardiner, MLitt in Publishing Studies 2011-2012
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I am a postgraduate student studying MLitt in Publishing Studies at University of Stirling, Scotland. My undergraduate degree was in English Literature BA(Hons) at University of Hull from 2006 – 2009. I originate from Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire and have wanted to be a part of the publishing industry since I began university in 2006. Knowing that this would be difficult to achieve in Hull, I ventured into an exploration on the web looking for the best course to take to get into the industry. Stirling was my number one choice and I have not regretted it! The course is amazing and has taught me that you really have to live and breathe books and be passionate about what you are doing to succeed.

I have met many amazing people over the last few weeks and I hope that this is something that will continue to happen. I want to wish everyone good luck on the course – I know we have lots of tough and also brilliant times ahead of us!