Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reader in residence becomes Booker Prize judge

Stuart Kelly • photograph © Chris Scott, www.chrisdonia.co.uk
The Edinburgh Napier MA Creative Writing programme's reader in residence, Stuart Kelly, is one of five judges for the 2013 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

The Booker is one of the famous and prestigious literary prizes, with the judges' choice attracting worldwide attention. Next year will be the 45th year for the £50,000 prize. It was won in 2012 by Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies.

The other judges are BBC broadcaster Martha Kearney; biographer and critic Robert Douglas-Fairhurst; author, broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes; with award-winning author Robert Macfarlane as chair.

Stuart Kelly has been reader in residence for the MA programme since it launched in 2009. His unique role includes devising personalised reading lists for students and offering research advice.

A former literary editor of Scotland on Sunday and guest curator for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Stuart is author of The Book Of Lost Books: An Incomplete Guide To All The Books You'll Never Read and Scott-Land: The Man Who Invented A Nation.

The MA Creative Writing programme congratulates Stuart on his exciting new role as a Booker Prize judge, even if it means we might see a little less of him over the coming months...

More success for MA students and alumni

Students and alumni from Edinburgh Napier's MA Creative Writing programme are breaking new ground in the literary world. A new arrival has just won a national contest, while a recent graduate has been selected for a prestigious mentoring scheme.

Catherine Simpson only graduated from the course in September, but has certainly been keeping busy. She's among 39 writers shortlisted from more than 700 for the Asham Award, a short story contest that publishes the top twelve entries alongside established authors in an anthology.

It's just been announced that Catherine is one of ten people receiving a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust [SBT]. She will get a grant of £2000, mentoring with an experienced author and much more. Catherine's the first graduate from our course to receive this much-prized award.

"I feel like Cinderella after her fairy godmother turned up," Catherine told the SBT website. "It's wonderful to know I'll be supported for the next year and the writing life will be a less lonely place."

Anni Telford only joined the course in September as a first-year part-timer but her writing is already gaining plaudits. Her flash fiction, The Pauli Exclusion Principle, won the Stork Press Mini Short Story Competition. You can read her winning entry here.

The abstract Christmas story was Anni's first contest submission since starting the MA. "It's only wee, but fingers crossed may be the first of many," she said on course Facebook page. "Huge thanks to Sam [Kelly, the MA programme leader], her advice on the edit was superb."

Monday, December 10, 2012

MA Creative Writing: ...hello Merchiston

Today the MA Creative Writing programme at Edinburgh Napier University moved into its new home at the Merchiston campus. Above you can see D68 - the shared office of programme leader Sam Kelly and part-time lecturer David Bishop - waiting to be unpacked. Below, all the crates.

Below, the office ready for action. Under that, Sam gives writer-in-residence Ken McLeoda tour of the new accommodations. At the very bottom, the view out the office window of historic Napier Tower which stands in the middle of the Merchiston campus...

Friday, December 7, 2012

MA Creative Writing: Goodbye Craighouse...

Today was the MA Creative Writing programme's last at the Craighouse campus of Edinburgh Napier University, so I took some photos of rooms we were vacating. [Above is my office, below are two views of the Writers' Room and beneath them is the office of programme leader Sam Kelly.]

Hard to believe it's four years since Sam and I were hired to invent the programme, get it validated, market the course to prospective students and open our doors to the first cohort - all in 2009. Since then we've taught three full-time cohorts and two part-time cohorts.

Come Monday we'll be based at the Merchiston campus, in refurbished digs. It'll take us a while to get used to the new digs, no doubt, but change is a constant so we'll be embracing that. In the meantime, it's a fond farewell to Craighouse. You served us well...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Student and alumni success stories

We're pleased to applaud successes by several of our students and recent alumni - in fact, we're having trouble keeping up with them on this blog.

Second-year part-timer Frances Hider has been rubbing shoulders in print with Liz Lochhead, Alisdair Gray, Alexander McCall Smith and our first writer-in-residence, James Robertson. All of them have contributed to My Favourite Place, a project by BBC Radio Scotland and the Scottish Book Trust celebrating beloved locations in Scotland.

Frances Hider reads at the West Port Book Festival, photo © chrisdonia
Frances had her piece about Edinburgh's Waverley Railway Station selected from hundreds of entries for inclusion in the book. She gave a reading of it during the West Port Book Festival and even found herself giving an impromptu Q&A about the project. Frances developed the piece through her mentoring sessions on the MA course - you can read it for yourself here.

Recent alumni Barbara Melville is the new writer-in-residence at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, a world leading research centre in Edinburgh that studies stem cells, disease and tissue repair to advance human health and acts as a centre for public engagement.

"I'll be there three days a week," Barbara says, "writing, researching and reflecting on my own work. I'l l also be participating in creative outreach projects to help communicate science to the general public."

Recent graduate Laura Denham made her print fiction debut in Scottish magazine Octavius with a short story written in our Genre Fiction module. Reviewer Calathumpian says Laura's story Mockingbird "gets under the very skin of its reader, creating a dreamscape of damp unease that perturbed me for hours after", while Scots Whay Hae! describes it as "rich as anything I've read this year".

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Intrusion longlisted for Wellcome Prize

Edinburgh Napier's new writer-in-residence Ken MacLeod has been longlisted for the £25,000 Wellcome Trust Book Prize, awarded to fiction or non-fiction work on the theme of health, illness and medicine.

Intrusion is one of only five novels among fourteen books on the longlist. Others include crime writer Peter James and bestselling author Rosie Tremain.

Wellcome Trust director of Medical Humanities and Engagement, Clare Matterson, describes the longlist as an excellent, extremely diverse selection.

"These books challenge and entertain the reader in equal measure, and crucially make us reflect on the impact medicine has on our lives."

Ken's reaction to the news? "Well chuffed," he said via Twitter.

The shortlist is being announced October 11, and the winner on November 7th. Everyone on the Creative Writing MA has their fingers crossed for Ken!

Read about the longlist here, and about the Wellcome Trust Book Prize here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ken MacLeod is our new Writer in Residence

Ken MacLeod photo © Chris Scott
Multi-award winning author Ken MacLeod aims to inspire the next generation of genre fiction writers after being appointed Writer in Residence at Edinburgh Napier University.
The science fiction specialist, described by one critic as the ‘modern day George Orwell’, will provide guidance and advice to students on the university’s innovative MA in Creative Writing course.

“I’m delighted and honoured to be chosen for this amazing post,” says MacLeod. “Over the years I have been hugely impressed with the quality and commitment of the creative writing students, and by the theoretical depth, practical focus and wide knowledge the lecturers and course leaders bring to it.”

One of the most respected authors in British science fiction, MacLeod has won three Prometheus Awards and numerous accolades from the British Science Fiction Association. 

His thirteen published novels have ranged from hard SF space operas like The Star Fraction (1995) to his much-acclaimed new novel Intrusion (2012), described as ‘thoughtful, plausible and scary’ by the Sunday Telegraph and as a ‘disturbingly real socialist dystopia’ by the Guardian. 

Former literary agent Sam Kelly - who runs the MA course alongside acclaimed screenwriter and author David Bishop - says MacLeod’s appointment is perfect: “Ken has tackled many of the biggest ethical and political dilemmas of our age, through artistically ambitious speculative fiction. His work closely reflects our commitment to intellectual radicalism and genre writing.”

She adds: “The role of the writer-in-residence is to challenge and inspire the teachers as well as the students and it’s a great privilege to be able to house our chosen influences on campus.”

The year-long writer in residence role was created in 2010, with Scots novelist James Robertson first in the job, following a major funding gift from The Binks Trust. MacLeod will succeed Doctor Who writer Robert Shearman, who has described his year in the post as one of huge pride.

“My principle joy at Edinburgh Napier has been watching how the writers interact,” says Shearman, “seeing how the enthusiasm for one person’s project can inspire someone else’s. I’ve watched the students grow in confidence and can’t wait to see what the new friends I’ve been working with are going to write next, next week and in the years to come.”

MacLeod, who was born in Stornoway, says it’s a pleasure to be next in line: “James Robertson and Rob Shearman have left me giant footprints to step into. I look forward to the journey with trepidation and excitement.”

The novelist will spend an average of two days a week at Edinburgh Napier mentoring MA Creative Writing students. The course was the first in Britain to offer a specialist module in writing for graphic fiction. It also embraces genre writing, especially science fiction, fantasy, horror and crime writing. 

Edinburgh Napier takes an innovative approach to the training and support of Creative Writing MA students, replacing traditional workshop-based teaching with one to one mentoring. The Times called the programme ‘a radical departure in creative writing’. The course also has a unique reader-in-residence post, currently held by Scottish literary editor and author, Stuart Kelly.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Students and graduates appearing at the 2012 Edinburgh International Book Festival

Students and graduates from Edinburgh Napier's innovative Creative Writing MA are making multiple appearances at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this month.

Four of them will be featured in Story Shop, a showcase for new writing talent where local authors read their work on stage from 4pm at the Spiegeltent in Charlotte Square. Recent graduate Matt Nadelhaft appears on Tuesday August 14th, while fellow graduate Ever Dundas is on Wednesday August 22nd. Current student Sean Martin reads the next day on Thursday August 23rd, with fellow student Catherine Simpson appear at the final Story Shop showcase on Monday August 27th.

Last year graduates from Edinburgh Napier's Creative Writing MA formed Illicit Ink, a group that hosts regular themed prose nights across the city. Now Illicit Ink will be making its book festival debut in the late night Unbound strand, also in the Spiegeltent. Graduate Ariadne Cass-Maran will be among the writers performing Magic Words, an evening of readings, storytelling and stage magic that starts at 9pm on Wednesday August 15th.

Best of all, the Story Shop and Unbound strands are free! Go here to find out more about attending the festival.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Graduate published in New Writing Scotland 30

Congratulations to former MA Creative Writing student Ever Dundas, who has a story published in noted anthology New Writing Scotland 30. Every year NWS publishes the best short fiction from established and emerging writers, with many leading authors among its contributors.

Ever's contribution is 'Pure', a story she originally wrote for an assessment while studying part-time for her MA at Edinburgh Napier University. She graduated with Distinction last year, having been one of the course's original cohort when it launched in 2009.

Read all about Ever's writing here or see her unique photography here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Robert Shearman: "Writing is a bit of a sod"

Robert Shearman wrote Doctor Who: Dalek, the Hugo Award-nominated TV episode that revived the malevolent metal monsters. His short story collections have won both a World Fantasy Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. He's also an award-winning dramatist for theatre and the writer of numerous radio plays. In this special guest-blog he talks about being Writer-in-Residence on the MA Creative Writing course at Edinburgh Napier:
"Writing is, it has to be said, a bit of a sod. There are mornings I wake up, and remember I’m a writer, and the cold chill of that is enough to make me pull the duvet back over my head. It’s the only job in which the better you get at it the worse you realise you are. I started out twenty years ago, all cocky and ambitious, and a little bit rubbish – and the greatness I expected was just above my head out of my grasp.
I’m in my forties now, and I can knock together words with a little more proficiency, and I can see more clearly just how little I’ve yet achieved and how far I still have to go. I fully expect that when I’m ninety-five my prose will be the best I will ever craft it, and my ideas will strike the right balance between wit and pith – and the self-knowledge it will take for me to have got there will reveal just how bloody awful a writer I really am. 
Some days writing seems like the second worst thing in the world. And the first thing, annoyingly, would be not being allowed to write at all. So I grit my teeth and get to it and moan about it under my breath – moan quietly, too, for fear that someone might hear me and take it all away. 
The problem is that writers feel like frauds. When I pick up a book, any book that’s not by me, and I see all those pages filled with words, all that prose neatly laid out and looking so confident, I can’t but help believe there must have been something mystical that made it happen. And every writer I know, deep down, suspects that there’s some magic formula that makes it easy for everyone else... except him. Look at all the photos on those dust jackets. Look at how those authors smile! They know something we don’t.

So you can understand that when I was offered the residency at Edinburgh Napier I felt a certain amount of guilt. How could I tell people how to be a writer when after all these years I was struggling to work that out myself? And if I could feel like a fraud writing in my bedroom, with no one but the cat to judge me, how much worse would it be around a couple of dozen students all keen and eager and wanting to change the world?
On the first day of term I went to the introductory talk given by Sam Kelly and David Bishop, and I tried to look confident and accomplished, and I nodded sagely at the things they said. Inside I felt queasy. Because Sam and David were talking about the high standards expected for the course, the way that the students wouldn’t be mollycoddled, how they would be pushed and be required to push themselves. They were all given the opportunity to leave, right there and then, with no shame. No one took it.

I would have. I really would. And that was my first understanding of how Edinburgh Napier worked. It requires a certain kind of courage. And the students I would be working alongside would be braver than me. Really, it’s hard enough some days just to write. But to write, and to be accountable for that, it’s another matter entirely. I’ve always been very suspicious of writing courses, because so often they seem to promise the earth – or, at the least, fame, glory, and publication. In essence, they offer their students that magic formula we all know doesn’t exist but suspect still somehow might.
Edinburgh Napier starts by asking you a question, and it’s an important one, and the one that artists don’t ask of themselves often enough. ‘So what?’ You’ve got a nice little idea for a story. Nice little plot, nice cute characters, nice turns of phrase. You’ve got a metaphor in mind for chapter three you’re itching to use, it’s so clever! So what? Because if you can’t answer that, there’s no point to it. Filling the shelves of a hundred thousand bookshops there are stories that have already been published – and if you can’t find some justification why your own deserves to be beside them, it won’t deserve to be.
If that sounds scary, it’s because it is. If it sounds harsh, it’s missing the point. The greatest gift you can lend a writer is the hope that what they’re working on might actually matter. What sets Napier apart is its emphasis upon the way that writers should assert themselves and find projects that define them: that’s the reason why we pull the duvets over our heads, it’s not the fear that the words are going to bite us, it’s the fear that all that effort has not a scrap of point.
Napier refuses to puts its students on to some easy conveyor belt to publication, smoothing out all the quirks and individuality. Napier doesn’t see that the purpose of story is some optional extra you graft on to course work once you’ve learned how to do good grammar and pretty structuring. I realised that what Sam and David had told me was perfectly true – that the selection process for the MA course was very rigorous, and that the students on it all had something so much more promising than a bland understanding of how language works. With these students, they might actually be offering something new.
And I would meet with them. I would see how they would wrestle with their ideas sometimes, trying to force them to be ever more ambitious, to get the most out of them they could. And I would go to my office, and I would try to exact the same standards on my work. I would sit down and start a new story, and find answers to that question: ‘so what?’
I decided that if they were going to work so hard then the least I could do was work hard too. I set myself a task. I would write a short story each week of my residency, and post it upon a blog for all the world to see, and the stories would directly bounce off conversations I’d had with students inside and outside the classroom, and they would be inspired by what inspired them.
As Writer in Residence the one thing I could do was write – and give them a demonstration that there was someone out there doing the same thing as they were. Prone to the same doubts and paranoias, and prone to the same bouts of laziness. To strip away the mystique. To show that what they’re doing is what all writers do, word after word, paragraph after paragraph, every single day.
Sam Kelly and David Bishop are an unlikely duo. Sam is small and excited and so burns with enthusiasm that in the classroom you can sometimes almost hear students’ minds pop with inspiration. Sam at first focuses upon the theory of writing, delighting in Derrida and psychogeography, and trains the student to see their work in a new context, as something which either embraces or challenges other disciplines. David is dry, thoughtful, and very funny – he approaches the business of writing with a fierce practicality that is the fruit of a career in television, books and comics.
It’s the way their two different styles work in synthesis that gives such flavour to the course. And right beside them, lurking in the Writers Room with its overflowing shelves of extraordinary literature, is Stuart Kelly – and Stuart has read just about everything in the world, has an opinion on it, and can tell anyone preparing their own novel what else to read for further insight and direction. I’ve been trying to catch Stuart out for nearly a year with obscure literature I think he might not have heard of; I can’t do it; I give in.
And I’ve seen how the students have grown in confidence. – No, let’s stop calling them students now, let’s say writers, because that’s what they are: they’re not working merely towards graduation, they’re working for something much bigger and bolder. Writing is essentially a solitary pursuit. No matter how much we plan, or discuss it, or offer support for others, the actual graft of it always is some single-handed combat with a blank screen and a bucketload of words. But it can never be truly solitary, because then we’d leave the reader behind; writing is a form of communication, after all, and if we get stuck just talking to ourselves why should anyone want to listen? That’s been my principle joy at Edinburgh Napier – watching how the writers interact, seeing how the enthusiasm for one person’s project can inspire someone else’s.

As it has mine. I came to Napier rather arrogantly worrying what I could give to the students. I never much thought about what I would take from them. What they’ve given me is a new fearlessness. A mind more open to new ideas and approaches. A greater sense of purpose. And a feeling that what we’re all doing in this job, silly as it may be, self-indulgent as it is, does truly matter. Yes, it’s still a sod. But I stare the sod into submission now with pride. And it’s with pride I’ll look back on my year at Edinburgh Napier. I can’t wait to see what the new friends I’ve been working with are going to write next, next week, and in the years to come. I’ll be there, writing alongside them."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

2012 brochure for MA Creative Writing programme at Edinburgh Napier University

We've just tweaked the brochure for our MA Creative Writing programme, and here's a sneak preview. It features a wonderful quote from multi-award-winning writer Robert Shearman extolling the virtues of our MA:

"There's no writing course that leaves students more inspired, or sends out writers more inspiring."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Graphic fiction: no spandex required

Edinburgh Napier University are offering a taster session for Graphic Fiction on 27 June, as part of its open doors event for their MA in Creative Writing.

The MA is run by Sam Kelly and David Bishop. Kelly has a formidable track record in publishing and is running a taster session on experimental writing at the event. Bishop, running the graphic fiction taster, is a former editor of 2000AD, and mentored quite a few souls, notably the comic artist Frank Quitely. The combined skills of Kelly and Bishop have produced an MA which is unique in its very usefulness, and the graphic fiction specialism is the first of its kind in Scotland.
We spoke to Bishop about this specialism, and about the future of comics in mainstream literature.
“Publishing and academia are now giving graphic fiction the attention it deserves. Both fields have woken up to something people around the world have known for decades – that comics are not just for kids or superhero enthusiasts.
“The unholy trinity of Maus, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns got graphic fiction noticed back in 1986, but it’s taken more than twenty-five years for those breakthrough successes to become embedded in the culture of publishing. Need proof? Look at the rise of publishers like SelfMadeHero and Jonathan Cape’s graphic novel imprint; Comica at the ICA and the Observer Graphic Short Story Prize; the crossover success of Persepolis, The Walking Dead and Alice in Sunderland.
“There is now significant academic research into graphic fiction narrative by the likes of Dr Mel Gibson and Professor James Chapman, both of them publishing scholarly book and papers. The Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University teaches writing for graphic fiction as a vocational skill, but within the context of a course that promotes innovation and academically rigorous learning. Graphic fiction is here to stay – no spandex required.”
Graduates from the course praise its practicality and its application to the real world. Aly Mathers specialised in Graphic Fiction, and his comic script Necrophenia has now been optioned as a screen play. Ariadne Cass-Maran, our own Creative Director, is also a graduate of the programme and Graphic Scotland would not exist without the support of Bishop and Kelly.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to write for comics, this is the time, and place, to do it.

[Reposted with permission from the Graphic Scotland site - many thanks!]

Friday, June 1, 2012

June 27th: MA Creative Writing opens its doors

The Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University has been called 'a radical departure' by The Times newspaper, and 'a life changing experience' by recent students.
Come along on Wednesday June 27th to discover how we could help you make writing your career.
Our Open Doors Event features taster sessions that give you a flavour of our unique approach. You'll have the chance to quiz current students about their experiences, tour the creative writing suite, and ask the staff anything you want to know.
This event also offers the exclusive opportunity for a one-to-one consultation with reader-in-residenceStuart Kelly, and finishes with a special performance by writer-in-residence Robert Shearman. You can order your ticket(s) here.

Here's the schedule:
5.30 Arrive for tea and coffee
6.00 Introduction to MA Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier
6.20 Taster session: writing for graphic fiction with David Bishop
7.00 Taster session: experimental writing with Sam Kelly
7.45 Q & A with staff and current students
8.15 Drinks
8.30 Reading by Robert Shearman, writer-in-residence
9.00 Close

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Big Easy comes to Edinburgh Napier in July

The University of New Orleans' low residency MFA is bringing its hugely popular creative writing summer school to Edinburgh Napier University in July. Part of UNO's study abroad schemes, it immerses students from across America in the rich arts culture of Scotland's capital city. More than 100 emerging writers will be participating in classes and workshops during July, based at the Craighouse campus.

The MA Creative Writing team at Edinburgh Napier is delighted to host the UNO summer school again, after the success of its first visit in 2011. Lecturer David Bishop will run workshops in writing for the graphic novel. The MA's reader-in-residence Stuart Kelly is teaching a course in creative non-fiction, while programme leader Sam Kelly hosts a career development conference.

Other classes and workshops offered during the summer school focus on fiction, screenwriting, playwriting, non-fiction and poetry. Scottish literature and culture are the focus for a series of lectures, while translation skills and the literature of New Orleans are covered in other classes.

"We're delighted to welcome back the study abroad students and the team from UNO," says Sam Kelly, programme leader for Edinburgh Napier's Creative Writing MA. "They brought a unique atmosphere to the Craighouse campus last summer. We can't wait to see them again." More information about the UNO Writing Workshops in Edinburgh can be found here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

MA students excel in 2012 Threshold International Feature Writing Competition

A current MA Creative Writing student and a recent graduate have won recognition in the 2012 Thresholds International Feature Writing Competition. Graduate Ever Dundas is among ten shortlisted entrants for her essay, Lick My Words: Angela Carter's 'The Erl King'. Current student Sean Martin was among 15 highly commended entrants for his essay, Breece D'J Pancake - A Short Life in the Hills.

The contest challenged writers to explore a single short story, a story collection or profile a short story writer. It attracted entries from around the world, making the fact that two of the top 25 came from Edinburgh Napier's MA Creative Writing course all the more remarkable. The overall winner will be announced on April 25th - we have our fingers crossed for Ever.

This is far from being the first success for either writer. Earlier this month Ever won the enLIGHTen photographic competition, and her short story Connect was a runner-up in the 2010 Edinburgh University science fiction competition. Last year Sean won the 2011 Wigtown Poetry Competition, an accomplishment for which Edinburgh Napier can take little credit - poetry is not an option on our Creative Writing MA!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Our MA Creative Writing students on the BBC

Students at Edinburgh Napier's MA Creative Writing course appeared on the BBC TV show Politics Scotland today [April 1st], taking part in a unique experiment. Historians have discovered that a spring said to grant enhanced creative abilities is piped into one particular area of the Scottish capital.

Bruntsfield and Morningside - also known by the postcode EH10 - are home to several international bestselling authors including Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and [until a few years ago] JK Rowling. The area is also home to the Craighouse campus where our Creative Writing MA is based.

Eight students and programme leader Sam Kelly were filmed for the experiment. If you're based in the UK, you can watch the results for the next week by clicking this link. Unfortunately, the clip isn't viewable from outside the UK, and will go offline in seven days. In the meantime, enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Three keys skills taught at Edinburgh Napier

Teaching is almost over for the third year of our MA Creative Writing course at Edinburgh Napier. The current full-time cohort and our second-year part-timers will soon be embarking on their major projects, while places are filling up fast for the new cohort due to arrive on September 27th.

After three years, a trinity of core skills have emerged as absolutely vital. Conquer these and your writing will be so much the better. We've even used the Keep-Calm-O-Matic website to create a poster naming them. Want to master this trinity? Apply - links are top right of this page.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Full Nine Yards

Current MA Creative Writing student Catherine Simpson did not, alas, win the Mslexia Novel Writing Competition. But getting on the shortlist of twelve from hundreds of entries is no small feat, and earned her an invite to a networking event with agents and editors in London this summer.

Nine writers from the shortlist have formed a blogging collective called The Full Nine Yarns, with Catherine among them. Go here to read her first post and discover how long it takes to defrost a frozen human body. Yes, really.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coming to America - Sam Kelly at AWP 2012

MA Creative Writing programme leader Sam Kelly is going to America next week for the 2012 AWP  conference. She will be representing our course and Edinburgh Napier University at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs' annual gathering, which this year is being held in Chicago.

Sam will be in the windy city from Wednesday February 28th until Sunday March 4th talking about our innovative MA in Creative Writing, its unique focus on genre fiction, and discussing how we've replaced the traditional workshop with a new and innovative approach to teaching.

Anyone attending the conference who wants to discover more about our acclaimed MA programme can email Sam now - s.kelly@napier.ac.uk - to arrange a chat while she's in Chicago. Find out why The Times newspaper in London called our course "a radical departure" in creative writing.

News about our course is spreading worldwide. In three years we've attracted students from the United States, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Italy and Finland. Edinburgh Napier is taking applications for the 2012/13 academic year, and we've already offered places to four US students.

If you're not going to be at AWP in Chicago, you can find out more about our course by checking the links on the right hand side of this blog. If you want to apply, click either full-time or part-time, depending on which version of the course will best suit your needs as a student.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Prize-winning writers & editors visit Genre Fiction class

Genre fiction gets ignored or sneered at by most Creative Writing MAs - not Edinburgh Napier. Our course puts genre fiction at the heart of our teaching. In fact, there's an entire module devoted to it.

To make sure our students are up to date with latest developments in this field, we have guest speakers who specialise in writing, publishing and editing genre fiction.

Last week's class welcomed crime writer, agent and publisher Allan Guthrie, who won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel Of The Year in 2007. This week we have Lee Harris, editor for the much-acclaimed Angry Robot Books line coming to talk science fiction and fantasy.

Next week anthology editor and Dead By Dawn film festival boss Adele Hartley is coming to talk horror with our students, completing our set of four major genres.

If genre fiction isn't your thing, we also offer specialist modules in writing for graphic novels, creative non-fiction and screenwriting. But poetry is not an option.

Edinburgh Napier student one of 12 shortlisted for Mslexia Women's Novel Competition

One of our current students has been shortlisted for the Mslexia 2011 Women's Novel Competition. Catherine Simpson is among a dozen writers in the running for a first prize of £5000, with the winner announced soon.

The competition was open to unpublished female novelists writing fiction in any genre for adults or young adults. The judging panel features Booker-nominated novelist Sarah Waters, literary agent Clare Alexander, and broadcaster Jenni Murray.

It's believed more than 1000 novels were entered, so reaching the top 12 is well worth celebrating. Getting shortlisted is another success for Catherine.

Her short story Mercy Boo Coo was among the winners of Family Legends, a competition run by BBC Radio Scotland and  Scottish Book Trust last year.

The story was published in an anthology called Family Legends. Catherine read Mercy Boo Coo aloud and was interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland's Culture Cafe in May. You can read Mercy Boo Coo here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New trimester - new guests, new challenges

Trimester two is already underway for this academic year on the MA Creative Writing course at Edinburgh Napier University. That brings a lot of new challenges for our current cohort, but also the prospect of fresh faces in this trimester's bevvy of guest speakers.

This week we welcome writer Jane Purcell to talk about abridging and adapting the work of other scribes. Jane used to work at Random House Children's Books, but now spends a lot of her time crafting scripts for radio, where abridgment and adaptation are commonplace. [You can read more at her blog Freelance Mum and her Twitter feed.]

Jane will be talking to the cohort for a module with the rather cumbersome name Narrative Practice - Vocational Skillset. Essentially, this module looks at key skills for working with other people's narratives - their stories, their characters, their prose. These skills can earn writers money while polishing their own magnum opus.

As well as abridgement and adaptation, the module also looks at writing for pre-created worlds, ghost-writing [with another guest speaker, Richard Havers], fiction editing, reviewing [with our reader-in-residence Stuart Kelly], and the vital art of networking.

For the dark arts of networking we'll be welcoming back Adrian Mead, whose session on building your own unique platform as a writer was nicknamed Adrian Mead's Fight Club by the class last year. You can see Adrian in action in these video podcasts hosted by the Scottish Book Trust.

[We highly recommend Adrian's book Makng It As a Screenwriter, which contains masses of sensible advice for all writers, not just screenwriters. It's available as an e-book, with all proceeds going to the charity Childline.]

All of that's packed into a single module this trimester. Check back soon for details of what's happening in the other three modules we teaching students between now and April!