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