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".