Interview: On Poetry and More with Wendy Cope

InterviewsWendy Cope is one of the most beloved contemporary British poets, known for her wit and succinct expression. When she was rumoured to become the next poet laureate she announced that she wasn’t interested, believing that a poet should be free to write the poems they want to write. Even more amazingly, she makes a living from writing poetry and, to our continuous joy, runs poetry workshops at Kingston University. WPN is proud to present Wendy Cope in conversation with Boyana Petrovich, discussing things poetry, literature and life related.

By Boyana Petrovich

Wendy, you sold your archive to the British Library in 2011. It included 40,000 emails, poetry notebooks, school reports, Word files, early school work, correspondence and accounts books. What struck me most was that you had all this saved in the first place, most of us don’t even keep a diary. What motivated you to collect such an extensive archive? Were there things you decided to exclude from the archive and keep just for yourself?

I’ve always tended to keep letters and so on, even before I had any thought of being a published writer. When I got published I became aware that my documents might be of interest at some stage.

In 2011 I needed to raise money to buy a house – my partner was retiring and the house we lived in went with his job. So I contacted the British Library. To persuade them to buy I had to throw in a few things I would rather have kept.

After you published Serious Concerns Ted Hughes wrote to you: “I like your deadpan fearless sort of way of whacking the nail on the head – when everybody else is trying to hang pictures on it.” How would you describe your poetry? How would you like people to remember it? Continue reading

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Interview: An Interview on Self-Publishing with Alison Baverstock by Caitriona Marron

InterviewsDr. Alison Baverstock is the Course Leader of Kingston University’s MA Publishing programme. She’s contributed enormously to the industry over the last 25 years. She lectures and consults nationwide and has run multiple campaigns for reading and publishing, most notably being one of the founders of the Kingston Readers’ Festival in 2002. Her countless published works include The Naked Author, A guide to Self-Publishing and How To Market Books. Caitríona Marron from Words, Pauses, Noises was lucky enough to sit down with Alison and hear her thoughts on self-publishing, the role of the writer today and her tips for Kingston’s aspiring writers.

An Interview with Alison Baverstock by Caitríona Marron

How does your academic research influence your teaching and writing?

I find my research is hugely important to my teaching – teaching without being involved in research would feel slightly hollow, and it’s invigorating to have this lively bunch of minds available to discuss new ideas and see how they respond. Over the years, probably the most reliable source of new ideas has been my four children. They constantly challenge me, and it’s always stimulating to have your ideas stretched and hence developed. I am a very curious person and so often find new things to think about. For example, when I was expecting our first child, I read information for pregnant women that was rather patronising. It made me think about the best tone of voice to use to parents, and this was stored away years later when I co-wrote three titles on parenting. Nothing gets wasted in my life!

How important is knowledge on the publishing industry for MA creative writers? Continue reading

Interview: Interactive Short Stories and Tomek Dzido’s new STORGY

STORGY, at its core, is about engaging readers and writers in one thing: creation. But what founder Tomek Dzido has done to widen audience involvement is pioneering. STORGY – “Where Short Stories Surface” delivers on its motto. Readers vote on title choices, the contributors have a week to compile a story and the readers, again, select their favourite story to be transformed into a short film. 

Words, Pauses, Noises welcomes fellow MA Tomek Dzido to chat with Amber Koski about STORGY – an innovative, interactive, bridge building storytelling machine that will (and has) changed how stories are told and how readers influence and engage with them. 

STORGY Interview with Tomek Dzido

By Amber Koski

How did the idea for STORGY come about? 

I wanted to create a literary magazine which focused specifically on the short story and enabled writers to share their work with readers who equally adore the shorter form. I also wanted to develop the reader-writer relationship and encourage creative collaboration. The Short Story is an immense ingredient within literature and deserves greater recognition in the UK, as do the writers who continue to write short stories when the industry prefers longer, more marketable manuscripts.

Have you always had an interest in filmmaking? 

I got into film making through a couple of close friends who were extremely enthusiastic about film and from the moment I experienced it, I’ve never looked back. I guess it was only natural that my passion for the written word extended into film, particularly with the possibilities of developing a synergy between both. There is something special about seeing an idea grow into a fully formed piece of film and despite the many challenges involved throughout the production process, it’s extremely rewarding if a project completes successfully.

What (practical, challenging, motivating, or difficult) things have you learned when transforming text from the page to the Screen? 

The most challenging aspect is the process of adaptation from text to screen. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult in technical terms to adapt a story or a novel precisely as it is presented within the pages of its prior existence. This is also problematic because each reader imagines the content of a specific scene independent of outside influence, and hence each interpretation is very different. I always try to be true to the original material and this always poses the greatest challenge, but it’s one that continues to teach me more about the words themselves, which after all, are the most important element of any story, whether in fiction or film. Continue reading

Interview: Confidence, Creative Writing, and Careers: A Conversation with Adam Baron – Part 2

Interviews

Adam Baron is a principal lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University, teaching on the undergraduate, MA and MFA programs. During his versatile career he has been an actor, literary editor, comedy writer and performer. Adam is a published author and his crime novels Shute Eye and Hold Back the Night were both adapted into drama series on BBC in 2009/10. Here he shares his thoughts with Words, Pauses, Noises’ Boyana Petrovich about studying creative writing, feedback, grades, how to get published and more.

‘Interview With Adam Baron, Part 2’

Adam, what would you tell students about getting their work published? Is online presence important for young authors?

I think these days it is.

Do you think students should publish on blogs? Is that helpful?

Why not? Get it out there. Get your work published. If you get this blog up and working and people hear about it literary agents will go and look for work on there. They will. And if you have some sort of editorial board that says these are our favourite short stories of the month that will be a good platform for those students to get their work noticed. I send a report to literary agents who come to our Awards and Achievements Show, I think three were there last time and asked for it and they will look at it and contact the students if they feel there’s anything they can represent. Literary agents are hungry for new writers especially and are taking matters into their own hands rather than just waiting for work to be sent to them.

How did you first get published?

Advice I would give is try to meet people in publishing. I wrote to many editors saying can I read your manuscripts and one said yes, Alan Samson, a fantastic editor. He was then at Little Brown and sent me some scripts to read. I started giving him editorial feedback on the books that were going to be published. When I eventually said that I was writing a crime novel he told me to send it to these three agents and two of whom were interested. I think being able to mention his name helped, at least in the sense that it sped things up. I sent it to the right people. So, I got an agent, he got me an editor. Macmillan wanted to meet me and then they made an offer. I think the process is more or less the same today.

Do you have any advice on how to get published today?

Today – write something brilliant. More than ever you need an original take on something. The marketing people have an enormous power and unfortunately it is true that novels of lesser quality but with a good, flashy idea have a greater chance of being published than novels that are better but don’t have that. So a real leap for originality and voice and trying to do something new is what I think the publishers are looking for today.

My next question is about grading. What do grades actually mean to you?

To me personally I think they’re a marker as to where people need to go. If you look at our marking criteria a pass is a decent piece of work. It will get you a master’s degree and that is not easy to achieve. If you get above sixty that means your work is good to very good. And if you’re getting up towards seventy you have produced work that is readable, well executed; it may be raw in terms of its formal qualities, there may be errors in terms of clarity of writing, clumsiness in prose but you’ll have written a very good piece. If you get above seventy you’re approaching a sort of work that we think is going to be looked at seriously by agents and editors. And then, if I’m giving an eighty, which I do, very rarely, I am saying to that student I think that their work is as good as the published stuff I’ve read.

Often there will be elements in students writing which cross marking boundaries and then you have to make a decision, a piece that is say a sixty two with elements that deserve a highest possible mark. Continue reading

An Interview with Richard Ford by Lesley Lawson Botez

InterviewsToday Words, Pauses, Noises would like to introduce a new voice to the blog, Lesley Lawson Botez. In a stroke of luck, Lesley had a chance to talk to the Pulitzer Prize winning Richard Ford for Words, Pauses, Noises, which is a great honour indeed. Richard had some very candid answers to her questions about his views on success in the field of writing, and advice for new writers. 

Interview with Pulitzer Prize winner, Richard Ford

By Leslie Lawson Botez

For my first contribution to the Kingston Writers’ blog I was delighted to interview Richard Ford, American novelist and short story writer, winner of both the PEN/Faulkner award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I met up with him at Geneva’s elegant Société de Lecture, in the Old Town on a golden September afternoon. He was kicking off their conference season with a talk about his latest novel ‘Canada’.

I began by asking him about his view of essays such as Foucault’s, ‘What is an Author?’ and Barthes’, ‘The Death of the Author’.

‘Horses**t. Of course the author isn’t dead. I do not recommend that writers read Foucault and Lacan.’

What is the role of the author?

‘An author tells a story in which he has authorised everything, every single decision. Nothing is unaccounted for. He tries to authorise what the reader thinks as much as he can.’

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

‘Live with someone you love who thinks what you are doing is a good idea. Read a lot.’

Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?

‘Poverty.’  Continue reading

Breaking The Blockage: A Talk About Creative Clogs

InterviewsLast week we opened the topic of Writer’s Block– or, as Amber termed it, the ‘Creative Clog’. Today we continue our discussion about the Big, Bad Block and what it means to the Words, Pauses, Noises team. Amber Koski asked the rest of the WPN team to answer a few questions about how we get over our own blocks, with some advice (from us as well as some which has allowed us to break our own blockages) thrown in. Over-caffeinated and stressed out from our deadline looming ever closer, I think that I’ll let the interview do the talking for me today. Enjoy!

Ashley Nicholson, Boyana Petrovich and Jasmine answer questions from Amber Koski.

Some people believe that talking about an unfinished work can block you up. What do you tell people who ask about your work-in-progress? 

ashleyAshley: For me, talking about my current work doesn’t always lead to inspiration. When people question things I felt so very sure about ten minutes ago, I feel like my entire creative thread unravels faster than I can pull it back together. Instead, I bring up the weather or make an excuse to leave.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQ

Jasmine: I just tell them I have written nothing and have writer’s block…

 

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: I feel like talking about my writing can bring new ideas and expose any plot holes. When I get to the stage where I can tell someone what I’m writing about and it doesn’t make me want to die, I feel like I’ve achieved something. I appreciate the challenge of sorting things out in my head so that they make sense to someone in the outside world.

What have writers you admire said about writer’s block that has helped you?

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I’m not sure who said it, but don’t consider writer’s block as something negative but as something positive. It means that you have something important to say, but your fear is holding you back. Once you break through that barrier of fear, something great will appear on the page.

ashleyAshley: To loosely paraphrase Neil Gaiman: ‘after a while we expect to be able to write something brilliant on a first draft. It really doesn’t work that way.’ We have to battle with our expectations of perfection on the first try. I think our work is better for a little suffering.

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Hanif Kureishi said that writer’s block is good, it means that you are resisting saying something you really need to say and that is hopefully worth saying. It resonated with me.

 

If someone came to you with writer’s block, how would you try to inspire and coax them out of it?

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Leave your work alone for a little bit. Go do something pleasant but pointless like playing Fruit Ninja or Spider Solitaire. If, after a while, you’d still rather be doing that than writing, perhaps it’s time to start working on a different project.

 

ashleyAshley: Write whatever comes to your mind, even if it’s how hungry you are or what you need to do later. Perhaps your own hunger prompts your character to enter a diner and meet a turning point.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: Start a new project or walk away from writing completely- do something else that you like and try and find other forums that can spark some inspiration. I also think it is important to be encouraging and maybe share some of your own battles with writer’s block.

 

What would you tell your agent if your manuscript was due in three months and you had 30,000 words left, and you are mid-writer’s coma?  

ashleyAshley: Absolutely nothing. I’d smile, nod, and quietly freak out. Perhaps not so quietly when far enough away…

 

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I would be honest and talk about it with my agent. You never know, they might just be able to help you or at least push you at the right direction, but I guess that depends on what kind of relationship you have with your agent.

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: Bring the deadline a month sooner. I like challenges.

 

 

Any other things about writing you want to share with the World Wide Web? 

ashleyAshley: Writing, for me, is a very introverted thing. I find it hard to be creative with too many people in my space because it’s easy to become distracted. People keep telling me that being a complete hermit isn’t healthy, though, so I go to coffee shops or my uni library to edit.

0Phd5zE6wPG0xxdriy_AsrF8oPVtRAm3s3s_2CnXUvQJasmine: I believe fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not finishing, of failure and of success. There is only one cure for fear- love. Be nice to yourself, don’t judge yourself and try and find ways that helps you beat that fear.

 

BoyanaPhotoBoyana: There are so many things that come to mind, but for some reason all begin with “I wish…” Not sure the internet would want to know about those.

 

 

Well, we have come to the end of our Writer’s Block sessions, but tune in next week to see what other creative things our MA’s have gotten up to over the summer!

Writer’s Block: An Interactive Journey of the Joys (and Woes) of Writing

InterviewsToday is an interactive Sunday!

There’s an idiom every writer dreads, even if they can’t admit it: writer’s block. What Macbeth is to actors, writer’s block is to authors. We can be a superstitious lot and sometimes it seems that just uttering the words can stop your creativity before your fingers meet keys. As the Words, Pauses, Noises team work fervently on their dissertations, the urge to run away grows as the time to complete the work shrinks. To help us get a jump on any blockage, we got together to think proactively on the subject. There’s nothing like discussing writer’s block to help you realise how real, and irrational, it can be.

The Words, Pauses, Noises team: Ashley Nicholson, Amber Koski, Boyana Petrovich, and Jasmine

WPN decided that in order to help ourselves work around the issue of writer’s block, we needed to go a little further outside of the box. It was certainly a learning experience for the team, and a way for us to concentrate on something besides our dissertations. There was one point we all agreed on: when blocked, go to another project.

Click on this link to go to our interactive presentation.

As September nears the Words, Pauses, Noises team grow steadily more caffeinated and conflicted, but as you can see, we’ve given ourselves some good advice to run with. This blog is dedicated not only to showing you our creative work but to help all writers overcome those fears we face during creation itself. As with any art, it’s all subjective, it’s all about taste, it’s all about what’s inside you and… the list goes on. As with any artist, we thrive on commentary and conversation, so let us know when you like something, or if you hate it. We’d love to see hear what you think.

Click back next week for the next installment of this series, Writer’s Block: Block Busting.

Talking Tutors, Trends, and Tools of the Trade with Lauren Weymouth

InterviewsKingston University has a notable list of specific programmes of study for Post Grad students to choose from, many of them involving writing and creative thinking. Lauren Weymouth, a Magazine Journalism MA student, sought out a practical, focused course that would implement the writing and reading skills she had acquired during her undergrad years while also fitting her for a niche career path, one that is ever booming and shifting to fit the changing media driven world. Lauren candidly discusses her time as a Magazine Journalism student at KU with Amber Koski.

Amber Koski: During your time at KU, you had the opportunity to produce a magazine with the other Mag. Journalism students. This tangible, end product has a certain affect and sentimentality to a job well done (something the Creative Writing grads only get once their dissertation projects are printed and bound). How have community projects like Mouth aided in your understanding of the publishing workplace?

Lauren Weymouth: Mouth gave me experience that I don’t think even a year at an established consumer magazine could have done. The knowledge that I gained whilst working for the magazine was paramount to my understanding of how to be not only a successful journalist, but also an indispensable team player. Essentially, we had to build a brand. We created a magazine from scratch and worked to establish its place within the current market. Compared to other years where MA students have produced a student magazine, we produced a local food magazine for Kingston— something that has never been done before. Because of this, it was even more essential that we did as much as we could to market and network the magazine within and beyond the community. For each issue, we were allocated a different position in the team. This gave us an opportunity to sample all elements of production, i.e. design, editing, social media etc. all while continually pitching our feature ideas and writing the successful articles. The whole process was intense, and, at times, overwhelming. But, it was all of these aspects of the project that provided us – and I say us because I know that everyone will agree with me – with an understanding of the publishing workplace that was much more hands on than we could have hoped for.

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Creative Honesty and Being True to the Writer Within: A View From the Visiting Poet Michael Sarnowski

InterviewsAt Kingston, we have tried to foster a creative community not only for our students but for other authors who come to visit our University. The Kingston Writing School had the pleasure of welcoming visiting poet Michael Sarnowski to do a reading on February 28th 2013. Michael received his MFA in 2009 from Vanderbilt University. He read work from his thesis Mapping the Catacombs, introducing the KU audience to his entrancing, tactile poetry. In a brief chat with student Amber Koski following the reading, Michael expressed how important honesty is in all writing; the interview below supports his conviction to authenticity. 

Amber Koski: How was your time with the KU faculty/ staff, what did you take away from your conversations and interactions with those members? 

Michael Sarnowski: My time at KU was fantastic. The faculty and staff were warm, welcoming, and unflinching in their support. Not only was it a pleasure to re-immerse myself in a graduate writing program, but it was inspiring to see the framework that had been established for the writers. You could tell that there was a balance of support and trust with the students, a guidance that recognized each writer for their individual strengths. What has stayed with me has been the sense that as much as KU is offering a writing program, they’re offering a community for writers. Beyond the classroom there is a wealth of readings, exposure to publication opportunities, and writers enthusiastic to engage.

AK: What reactions/ commentary did the KU students have after your reading (if you can recall)? You have been a helpful and valuable mentor to me upon your return to the states, what benefits can this sort of support have for new writers? Do you have past tutors who still give you advice, perhaps from your days as an undergrad? 

MS: After the reading I was able to speak with a handful of students and faculty, and the focus shifted away from conventional questions regarding craft and towards more specific poems or concepts that intrigued them. This one-on-one interaction gave both parties the opportunity to really extract something meaningful from topics which may be less likely to appear in a workshop. For example, discussions were broached regarding the nature of honesty and vulnerability in writing, and how to approach delicate content without overstepping the bounds of sentimentality. There were also comments on individual poems that had resonated with people. Personally, the most rewarding aspect of a reading is establishing a connection with someone. Not only is creative writing an opportunity to experience the world as someone else, but it’s incredible when those ah-ha moments crest when we realize we’re not as alone in the world as we had thought.

Open lines of communication between writers and mentors are extremely important, particularly because of the inherent solitude of writing. It’s an act that tends to happen in quiet moments, in time that you have carved away from work, sleep, or whatever else fills your days. So there’s the initial gain of receiving feedback, but the collateral benefit of influence and inspiration for both the writer and mentor. If we become too isolated, it becomes a necessity to have someone around to help you “kill your darlings,” to quote Faulkner (or Quiller-Couch? Or whoever else that phrase has been attributed to).

I’ve been incredibly fortunate and forever indebted to have worked with tutors like Mark Jarman, Rick Hilles, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil. They have all put in plenty of overtime in their support and cultivation of my work. If I can repay a fraction of the support they have shown to others, I’ll be on the right track.

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Confidence, Creative Writing, and Careers: A Conversation with Adam Baron – Part 1

Pen-and-Paper

Adam Baron is a principal lecturer in Creative Writing at Kingston University,teaching on the undergraduate, MA and MFA programs. During his versatile career he has been an actor, literary editor, comedy writer and performer. Adam is a published author and his crime novels Shute Eye and Hold Back the Night were both adapted into drama series on BBC in 2009/10. Here he shares his thoughts with Words, Pauses, Noises’ Boyana Petrovich about studying creative writing, feedback, grades, how to get published and more.

Adam, you’re a very experienced tutor and students love your workshops. What can Creative Writing MA students expect to learn or shouldn’t expect to learn during their course? 

I suppose you can’t come here thinking I will have to do that and be a published writer. But what you can learn is to write from your own voice, to find that voice as a writer. You can learn which genres work for you, which kind of writing works for you, in a way that you will discover all sorts of new ways of writing and thinking about writing. And from my perspective, you can learn the practicalities of structure and form which you can then apply in your own work. And that is what I see most creative writing students do. Encountering feedback, feedback generally being about structure and form of a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a longer piece of work, they then see similar structural problems in the work of other students that means the work of other students isn’t as successful as it could be to them as a writer, and that makes them think, aha, I need to take this on board myself.

Students can also learn to take themselves seriously as writers, to gain confidence, to say – this is what I’m interested in as a writer – which is very hard to do. It’s very hard to have confidence to say I will write and this will be interesting. And you can see this growing confidence in students who get a good mark, then a better mark and genuinely see that other people like their work and it’s that boost of confidence that they can learn as well, learn to take themselves seriously.

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