Friday 9 September 2016

Studying Creative Writing Successfully - Review

Excellent Book
It is that time of year - certainly in the UK anyway. Universities are gearing up to welcome back students and open the doors to all those eager new students. I do all the Open Days at the University of Winchester where I talk to prospective students about the merits of studying Creative Writing. I love doing it. I am passionate about our course but even more enamoured about writing. It is my raison d’être.

I was therefore particularly interested when I was sent this book. Studying Creative Writing Successfully. It is edited by Stephanie Vanderslice and is a collection of useful chapters aimed at those studying creative writing at university or college. Or perhaps considering doing and so and wants some insights into the processes.

It has practical and sensible approach that is realistic about the realities of studying the programme. With chapter headings such as 'Studying Creative Writing at Today's College or University: What Should I expect and What Skills Should I Bring?' by Trent Hergenrader; 'Invention: Get Started and Keep Going' by Travis Nicholson; ' going right through the process to 'Beyond Graduation: Sustaining yourself as a writer' by Anna Leahy.  It is a book to keep at your side throughout your studies, from the moment you start considering studying creative writing to when you start considering that first job. It is a book to dip in and out of as the mood takes you. to refer back to when you need reminding why you decided to study creative writing. It should become a good friend.

If you know anyone who is thinking of studying creative writing or about to start, I recommend you get them a copy. Perhaps pop it into their bag so it is their waiting for them when they get into Halls as a surprise. 

These are the details: Studying Creative Writing Successfully, edited by Stephanie Vanderslice, published by Creative Writing Studies. ISBN 978-1-907076-86-2

At this year of year, it is a time of new beginnings as 'Everybody is changing'

Wednesday 7 September 2016


Just keep going...
I know several people who are going through the submission process at the moment. Listening to them I realise there is nothing quite as painful, or lonely, as the whole submission and rejection process, however, sugar coated it might have been. A rejection leaves a raw patch that gnaws away, however much you tell yourself you are being pragmatic, and that what will be, will be.

But that is your head speaking. Your heart has a totally different agenda. Your heart has spent years pouring everything into that novel, and it is not quite so willing to roll over and accept whatever is said, with an enigmatic smile, and an 'oh well.' Your heart is actually running screaming to the hills, going 'How could you not love it, what have you done to me?' Before it rolls around the floor sobbing. No one sees that of course. No one admits that.

What also happens is another small part of you feels like it has died. It was not meant to be like this. It was supposed to be snapped up. Even though you know it is only one person's opinion. And these rejections appear after enduring weeks and weeks of silence.

There used to be a different process where it was done via post, when there was a physicality to it. A slapping of an envelope as it dropped through your letterbox. But now, with email, it is all a bit rapid and a risk that people may rush it.  Submitting it before it is truly ready (Not anyone I know I should add). And now the rejection arrives with the ping of doom via an email.

When you are submitting, it is important to send it when it is as polished as it can be, and to the right people. Research who you want to send it to, making sure you adhere to their guidelines. They are there for a reason.  Create a spreadsheet so that you know where you have sent it to, on what date and then list the response. Every time you do get a rejection read what it says. If several rejections are coming up with the same issue, then it is time to go back to your story, and address it before you send it out again. Plan your campaign carefully. Once you receive a rejection, are you sending it straight out to another agent, or waiting until you have heard from them all, if you are sending it out in batches?

You might have this campaign going on in the background, but to fill these hours of silence, you need to forget about it, you need to move on. Instead of sitting waiting for the responses you start a new story. Think about new beginnings. This will show any agent/publisher that you are not a 'one trick pony' as well as distracting you. Enjoy the thrill of doing something creative, let yourself free for a while and don't let those rejections knock you down. Your book will find its home when it is meant to. Good luck to everyone who is going through the process and keep the faith.

This has to be the aspiring writer's mantra