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

Advertisement

Happy Holidays From WPN!

The Words, Pauses, Noises team would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season and, of course, a Happy New Year. As each year draws to a close, we reflect on our past fortunes and failures, our mistakes and marvels. With the end of 2013 we would like to thank you all for supporting our endeavor, for coming to see our works and our accomplishments.

This blog is now well into its 8th month, and with the approaching holiday we look back to our first steps and the works we’ve posted. We hope that you too will go through and read anything you’ve not read, perhaps comment and reblog for us as well. Without you, our readers, we would not be able to do such things as put up a competition, or have interviews with published authors.

As we ring in 2014 we remember the old and look to the future with all the joys and adventures it will bring. To you writers out there, may your acceptance letters be plentiful, and your rejections tactful. To our readers, we hope you have enjoyed the works here, and continue to follow us into the coming years.

We’ll return next week with more works, but for this Sunday, we wish you good tidings and plenty of cheer.

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.

Creative Work: Short Fiction “Foundling” by Ashley Nicholson

Creative WorksA writer’s observations of the world around them undoubtably enhance their fiction. Quintessential writerly advice is to know your characters: what they eat after a night out, what songs they hate to hear in the car on the way to work, why are they scared of the frozen food isle at the store? Here we have an author fully immersed in the world of her character: a cat. In this excerpt, Ashley Nicholson zeros-in on the subtle shoulder movements her cat-character makes during a hunt, the way the he thinks as he stalks his prey, and how his belly settles in the sun after a successful kill. 

Foundling

By Ashely Nicholson 

The grass parts with a quiet rustle as he stalks the mouse, low and quiet. The smell of it– musty, earthy, with an overlay of warm-blooded musk– is a tantalizing treat. Fat and not too bright, the mouse is far from its hole and too close to a hungry predator.  A noise from the treetop startles the creature and it freezes, whiskers trembling a moment before resuming the search for food.

Silent, he waits for the mouse to move, black-and-white fur blending into the shadows underneath the tree. He crouches down a little more, shoulders sawing back and forth, the tip of his tail twitching. Sharp claws dig into the rain-soaked earth just before he springs, front paws raking the small creature, pinning it to the ground so he can tear out the soft underbelly. Its tiny whiskers stop moving and the high-pitched squeaking comes to an abrupt end.

He rips into the mouse with delight, warm mouthfuls that satiate the rumble in his belly. After the crunch-crunch of tiny bones snapping is over, he moves into the sunshine to clean his nose and claws, tongue a pink streak as he grooms the mouse out of white fur. He stretches, belly turned to catch the warmth of the sun, rumbling as it digests. It was a good snack, he thinks.

Eyes closed, he soaks in the sunshine until the tree’s shadow covers him again. Listens as other hunters wander through the brush searching out a last meal. It’s now close enough to dark that he should head back to the house where it’s warm and the woman will put dinner on a plate for him tonight. No more cold nights or empty belly he yowls to the world, smug and happy.

Writing from the perspective of a cat, or any other animal has not only challenged Ashley’s point of view skills but also given her the opportunity to live out reincarnation fantasies. Do you know of any famous works, both classic and modern that are told from an unusual, non-human narrator? Share those with us in the comment space below and give the Words, Pauses, Noises audience some interesting reading suggestions this summer. 

Recommended Summer Reading: A Booklist from Jonathan Barnes

InterviewsSummer is here at last! Words, Pauses, Noises suggests that the best way to spend a lazy summer afternoon is with a good book. One of our students, Jasmine, asked Kingston University’s writer-in-residence Jonathan Barnes for his recommendations on books to read this summer. He gave us a great list of some of his favourites as well as those he’ll be reading over the holidays. So, pull out those deck chairs, grab a cool drink, and get outside for some sunshine with a good book!

Jonathan Barnes’ Summer Reading Recommendations

I have been reading a lot for review lately so it will be an enjoyable break over the summer to experience some fiction purely for pleasure. However, books that I’ve read and written about lately which I would also recommend include Julian “no relation” Barnes’ memoir Levels of Life – heart-breaking in its candour; unflinching in its depiction of an almost unbearable grief – and Patrick McGrath’s deft, stylish Constance. McGrath is one of our most underrated novelists – I’ve been a fan ever since the early works: his short story collection, Blood and Water, his first novel, The Grotesque – and his latest, about a brittle, troubled young woman in 1960s Manhattan, is as elegant and subtly potent as I’d expected. I’ve also written a short piece on the new edition of J B Priestley’s 1927 classic, Benighted (filmed twice as The Old Dark House) which remains, almost a century after it was written, chillingly effective. His description of some primal evil which might lie behind even the most tawdry of domestic horrors is unforgettable: “his mind… found an opposing presence, an enemy… a density of evil, something gigantic, ancient but enduring… it was working everywhere, in the mirk of rain outside, here in the rotting corners, and without end, in the black between the stars”.

When going away for the summer, my suitcase often strains towards the upper limit of the baggage allowance due to the volume of books that I’ve crammed into it. This year, I’ll be bringing (for review) the late Iain Banks’ last novel, The Quarry. For research purposes I’ll have with me Arthur Conan Doyle’s Tales of Unease and that strange, ghost-written nineteenth-century text Awful Disclosures, composed, supposedly, by the wronged nun “Maria Monk”. For sheer fun I’ll be taking two books that I’ve never read but which have been on my list for a while: Julian Maclaren-Ross’ novel Of Love and Hunger and F Scott Fitzgerald’s Collected Short Stories. I’ll also have with me – and for this, I make no apology whatever – Stephen King’s splendid-looking new novella, Joyland.

Next Sunday, join Words, Pauses, Noises for more original content to help make summer a little bit sunnier.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading