Creative Writing Soirée: ‘There are some outstanding entries’

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It’s that time again: undergraduates are preparing for the end of term after an exhausting but stimulating year; the blossoms have started to appear; and the yearly Creative Writing Soirée is just days away.

The Soirée is a showcase for winners of the annual writing competition, and every year a selection from that long list is published by Fincham Press, an anthology edited by writer and faculty member Leone Ross. This year’s anthology will be the sixth in the series, following last year’s collection In Which Dragons Are Real But. It is a night of wine, refreshments, and stories from a diverse pool of aspiring literary talent, as well as contributions from teaching staff, alumni, and guest speaker Aki Schilz, director of The Literacy Consultancy.

Behind every great Soirée is an even greater team of dedicated, hard-working staff and volunteers who make the evening happen. This year, the team consists of Research Fellow Amy Waite, Senior Lecturer David Fallon, the two Fincham Press editorial assistants – myself and Katharine Cheetham – and volunteers from the UR Writing Society, all working together in the lead-up to this year’s event.

These are the people who have been busy selecting readers, booking microphones, printing posters, and making sure there are enough vegetarian options on the menu – generally ironing out the kinks, to ensure an enjoyable night for all.

As the date draws in, David Fallon and Amy Waite took a break in the preparations to talk about how they have been occupying their time.

What is your role in the Soirée?

A.W: Co-organiser…

D.F: This is the first time I’ve been involved in the competition. I’ve been working with Amy on the initial sifting, to select those for the long list, and those who will read their work on the night.

How were the entries?

D.F: The standard is good across the board, which made narrowing them down quite hard. There are some outstanding entries and they were really enjoyable to read. I was impressed with what our department’s Creative Writing students have been producing.

What are you most looking forward to, about the Soirée?

A.W: Reading all of the competition submissions. Working with students and colleagues to create an exciting event.

D.F: I look forward to seeing individual writers bring their work to life. It’s not only about the students winning prizes, but about being involved and getting a sense of fulfilment.

What’s it like seeing students, who wish to be writers, receiving what might be their first public audience ever? 

A.W: Incredible. It’s such a privilege to be able to work with writers at this stage in their career.

D.F: It’s good because I think there is a big difference between completing a piece of work because it’s an assignment and getting [wider] recognition. Literature in a live context is different to being printed on the page; I’m looking forward to the performance side of things in a good, supportive environment.

What’s one thing you’ve enjoyed most, in the planning?

A.W: Reading the submissions is such a fun and rewarding experience. But it’s nerve-wracking trying to order the correct amount of wine and food!

D.F: I enjoyed reading through the material and discussing it with Amy; it’s good fun when you think, ‘Yes, I like this one,’ and you’re both excited about the same text. I mainly work on eighteenth and nineteenth century literature, so it’s nice to read something which is very much from the present day.

What do you think we can expect this year?

A.W: We have a fantastic keynote speaker, and brilliant group of panellists lined up. And the student readers are excellent. It promises to be an engaging and buzzy event, filled with literary discussion and creative expression!

D.F: I don’t know what to expect really. I’m sure the students will do themselves and the university proud. I’m looking forward to being entertained. I also haven’t met many of the students, so it will be interesting to connect the writer to their text.

The Creative Writing Soirée takes place on Wednesday March 27, 6pm to 9pm, in the Portrait Room at Grove House. Tickets are free and can be acquired via Eventbrite.

 

The kids of The Rook

I must categorically deny the vicious rumours suggesting that The Rook is the consequence of John Doyle’s midlife crisis and my own. John has a loving family to keep him sane and honest, and I have wine and a Cineworld Unlimited card. And besides, we are not middle-aged. Yeah, right.

The Rook is the result of other kinds of despair: despair over the state of the world; despair over the nightmare that is Brexit; despair over the crisis of journalism. The anthology was conceived in 2016, as Donald Trump was tweeting his way into the White House and Brexit-means-Brexit Theresa May was shepherding Britain out of Europe. The Rook was our cry in the dark, a bloody ¡No pasarán! – our chant of defiance against nationalism, misguided patriotism, crude, blatant or I-am-just-worried-about-uncontrolled-immigration racism; and of course, also, against read-and-forget, it-takes-a-second, one-millimetre-deep journalism. We did not expect to defeat those beastly enemies at the first battle. But we have now crossed swords and drawn blood.

The Rook: front and back covers
The Rook: Citizens of Nowhere, front and back covers

This does not mean that the brilliant young men and women who wrote most of the stories in The Rook share our ideas. While we adopted for this edition May’s insult to Remainers, ‘Citizens of Nowhere’, as our theme and a personal badge of honour, we did not impose on our contributors any political or professional manifesto. We just asked for their permission to include in this anthology some of the magnificent articles they had written while studying Journalism at Roehampton.

Isobel Rafferty’s ‘Lost on a Stranded Land’ and Vilde Haugen’s ‘Dreamland Beach’ – exquisite reminiscences of their trips to Northern Cyprus and Bali – and Josh Downe’s vivid ‘Bulls and Blood’ were all class assignments. Ellis King’s ‘Mallorca, Martina and Me’ was also an assignment, even though it reads, I told him, like the early script of a great romantic movie. Barbara Palovcikova’s ‘The Sounds of Camden Town’, which made me reconsider my dislike of the famous London market, was submitted for a module called Travel Journalism. And there is ‘Going Country, Going Undetected’, a shocking investigative piece about children used as drug mules by London gangs, written by Rafferty and her classmates Federica Infantino and Stephanie Badaru, three young women who have the courage and intelligence many career journalists have never shown.

We also commissioned three of the contributions:  Isabelle Kern’s delicate-as-a-ballet-dancer ‘My Russian Friends’, Aleksandra Antonova’s fiercely honest, sad and stubbornly optimistic ‘A July Morning in Bulgaria’ and Conor Young’s ‘North of the Heart of Babylon’, a piece that both of us would have liked to have written, and which represents the kind of journalism we believe in: truthful in a way run-of-the-mill journalism never is, slow to read but hugely rewarding, intellectually and emotionally alive, candid, daring and beautiful. Beautiful. The one thing that will impress the readers of The Rook the most is how beautifully these current or former Journalism students write.

John added to The Rook his own formidable piece, ‘Citizens of the Sea: a Reawakening’, about the rise, fall and glorious resurgence of Liverpool, and I – cheekily – translated a piece (‘The European’) that I had written for a Cuban magazine on the week of the 2016 European referendum. But the stars and heroes of The Rook are not its middle-aged editors but these young authors, who give us hope that all is not lost for Britain, Europe or even journalism; that there is life, energy, talent, ambition, and raw, pure, untainted goodness in the generation that older people, incorrectly, associate with the Kardashians and Love Island. Being associated in any way with these writers, being published with them in The Rook, being their teachers and, hopefully, their friends, is a huge honour.

Fincham Press and its indefatigable publisher, Susan Greenberg, who made The Rook possible, have done a great service to our university and its Journalism programme, for which we will be always grateful. I hope that their reward will come in the future, when The Rook appears as the first in a long list of published work by some of these authors.

By then, who knows where Britain will be, in or out; whether there will finally be a woman in the White House or someone even more Trumpian than Trump; and whether there will still be something resembling journalism, newspapers, literature.  But John and I will surely still be shouting and protesting and telling our students they should do better than clickbait and nonsense journalism. And we’ll tell them, Look at the kids of The Rook. Read The Rook. That’s the way. Try.

Book Launch: The Professor in Children’s Literature

We’re happy to announce the launch of Melissa Terras’ open-access volume The Professor in Children’s Literature: An Anthology on 4 December at the University of Roehampton, London SW15!

Book launch remix of book cover
Professor Branestawm: male, mad and muddle-headed

The Professor in Children’s Literature gathers and reprints a selection of twenty-six illustrated stories for children originally published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, offering a brief introduction to each of them. The volume complements the author’s book-length study Picture-Book Professors: Academia and Children’s Literature; both works are open access, available as free downloads. Get your copy of The Professor in Children’s Literature in EPUB or PDF format!

The book launch will take place in the Portrait Room at Grove House, starting at 5.30pm.

Schedule

  • 5.30pm: Reception with drinks and nibbles
  • 6.00pm: Very brief introductions by Dr Susan Greenberg (Fincham Press) and Dr Alison Waller (National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature), then talk by Prof Melissa Terras
  • 6.30pm: Questions and closing statements
  • Until 7.30pm: final mingling

Bonus Links

Double Book Launch: Rook and Dragon

On WEDNESDAY, 28 NOVEMBER, we are holding a double event to launch two books: our new journalism anthology, The Rook: Citizens of Nowhere, and our new creative writing anthology, In Which Dragons Are Real But.

This free event will take place in the Portrait Room, Grove House, University of Roehampton, starting at 7pm. It will involve a drinks reception, author readings from both anthologies, and, of course, an opportunity to buy the books. We are looking forward to seeing you there!

To help with planning, please do visit this Eventbrite page to indicate your attendance.

Also, for your downloading pleasure, there is an A4-size event poster [PDF] available.

On Open Access Publishing

Out from Fincham Press now: Get your copy! (Why, go on: get the twin book from Cambridge University Press, too!)

Working in a library school, the UCL Department of Information Studies, for 15 years, I was aware of the growing and swirling discussions about Open Access, and have been part of the wider OA community for a while: one of the journals on whose editorial board I serve, Digital Humanities Quarterly, has always been fully open access with no publishing fees, and is now 11 years old. I’m reluctant now to publish any of my research in journals which are paywalled.

False barriers to access, and gatekeeping, are hugely problematic for the dissemination of research, as are the financial models which profit massively from academic research without giving much back into the system. When it comes to books, though, the costs of production obviously make OA discussions much more difficult, and it’s very much a live discussion in the UK academic community: now that open access book publishing is going to be mandated, who will pay the book processing charges?

My first book, Image to Interpretation, came out in 2006, and mainly sold in physical copies. Like most monographs, it had a short print run – 300 books or so – and they have mostly sold out. I get a royalty cheque for £2.73 or so every six months for the electronic version of the book, which still sells occasionally. I’m incredibly proud of it, but I was aware that it could only ever reach a small audience.

Picture-Book Professors was a research project that grew out of online discussions, as it stemmed from a few jokey asides on Twitter, and then moved to corpus building on Tumblr. It was carried out always in the public eye: an early blog post on the topic of how academics are featured in children’s literature had a large readership, and it was only afterwards that I was persuaded I should write it up properly. It seemed to me that it had to be open access: why would I condemn all that work and what had been a public discussion to only 300 sales of a text?

I exercised my privilege, though, and fought hard for support: given the grant income I had brought into UCL during my time there, I successfully argued that my employer should pay the £6,762 to cover the open access book processing charge with Cambridge University Press. It is still rare for universities to give this type of support to academics, particularly in the Arts and Humanities, and I’m aware of the level of support I’ve had here. There’s new ground to be worked out, too: how to deliver this material best is a live discussion with CUP as I write this!

The accompanying book, The Professor in Children’s Literature: An Anthology, is also available in open access. I see this very much as an exercise in showing your workings out — the equivalent of “open science” when you are dealing with a topic in literature. It’s also about how digitised material can be curated and repackaged to bring together a resource for others. This is the first fully open access book from Fincham Press, and they are exploring what this means for them, too. I don’t mind saying that there will only be a short physical print run, which I’ve paid for, but for this book the freely available digital versions are really the main product, with other copies being made available in print on demand, as readers might want them. In lots of ways, I’m taking the open access book discussion for a walk; seeing how far I can get, and how much I can play in this space, while being cognisant of having access to resources which allow me to do so.

Experience as an Author

One of the surprising things has been that people — publishers, libraries, authors, illustrators — have been baffled by my request to feature their work in an open access volume. The monograph has many images — 32 — and 25 or so had to be licensed, with fees to be paid, as they were in copyright. Rare items also had to be digitised on demand from libraries and archives. That mechanism and fee structure is well known (if variable), but adding “and can I make it available for free online?” to the equation caused many publishers, and even leading libraries, to stutter. There are a few items I could not include as I could not get electronic distribution rights to the images, even though I was happy to pay for them.

In the end, the rights fees added up to over £1500. These are books that needed resources behind them! It also took months to obtain these rights clearances, as the open access question added much time to the process.

In general, knowing from the start that you want this to be an open access text informs your style of writing — I hope the texts are academic ones which are written in an accessible manner, even with humour in places. I think it has changed the tone and tenor of how I wrote the books, knowing they would be out there, at some stage.

Open Access Books in the Humanities

We are at a juncture where the sands are shifting: the major funders and government bodies are moving towards requirements for open access monographs. We don’t have a choice; we have to embrace these requirements, but there is a lot of work yet to be done about who will pay the costs for production. I believe that most universities could afford to absorb the costs of open access monograph production, much in the same way that they pay for lab costs or scientific equipment: it should be viewed as a centrally borne cost necessary for creating and sharing academic knowledge. It shouldn’t happen that individuals are asked to pay these costs themselves, as that is untenable. I can see people are concerned about how their personal costs will be met — and it is up to universities and presses to grapple with this. The danger is the open access premium: that only those who can afford to publish in open access will reap the benefits of having their work made accessible to a wide audience, and we have to keep our eyes open to that, as the academy needs diverse voices (as Picture-Book Professors and The Professor in Children’s Literature say!)

I can’t understand why anyone would be nervous about offering their academic work to a wide audience. Books take years to write, and academic books never make much royalty money. Why would you want to hide it away and restrict access, if you can allow as wide an audience as possible to get free access to it?

James Bond in Open Access mode

If you are not already aware of  the scholarship around James Bond 007, this report for Open Access Week may tempt you into taking a look.

Since the launch in May 2017, The International Journal of James Bond Studies has found a global readership, with hundreds of article downloads, and submissions from across the world. Given the popularity (or, at least, the ubiquity) of James Bond as a cultural figure, this is perhaps unsurprising.

More than that, however, the journal’s Open Access policy means that this contemporary scholarship about the Bond franchise can be freely accessed.

Scholars are all too familiar with the hunt to acquire material that turns out to be reference-only or very hard to find. In addition to producing excellent scholarship and cutting-edge criticism, The International Journal of James Bond Studies hopes to achieve immediate access for those scholars, as well as the wider world of Bond enthusiasts and casual readers.

The journal amplifies this by holding public events with the Popular Literature and Culture Research Group at the University of Roehampton and the City of Westminster Archives Centre, to engage in debate about how James Bond figures within the #MeToo era, and within an increasingly unpredictable global climate. Now everyone can be part of the conversation.

Out now – The Rook: Citizens of Nowhere

Fincham Press’ first anthology of narrative journalism – The Rook – is now available to buy from the University of Roehampton e-store.

fp-rook-landscape-out-now

Edited by John Doyle and Juan Pérez González, the collection features journalism by current and former students of the University of Roehampton. Here, they share their unique experiences from all over the world: from the beaches of Bali to the cities of Europe, they reveal the secrets of places such as Russia and Havana, and shed new light on more familiar territory.

They are citizens of the world, traversing land and sea, and trying to find a place they can call their own. A place called Nowhere.

Follow Fincham Press on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more details of The Rook’s flight.

Out now – In Which Dragons Are Real But

We are happy to announce that Fincham Press’ fifth anthology of student work In Which Dragons Are Real But is now available to buy from the University of Roehampton e-store.

fp-dragons-screenpiece-1:2

This anniversary collection marks a five-year milestone with two innovations – the use of colour illustrations and the inclusion of work by alumni as well as current students from the University of Roehampton’s Creative Writing programme. The anthology, edited by Leone Ross (Come Let Us Sing Anyway), features short stories, flash fiction, creative nonfiction, screenplays, and poetry. Our authors explore dark themes, tender moments and satire with joy and even triumph, as they fight off the dragons that lurk in our world.

The dragons are real, but…

Don’t forget to follow Fincham Press on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates of the dragons’ journey and more.

Summer Surprise #2: The Rook revealed

It has been a busy summer for Fincham Press.  Following our creative writing anthology cover reveal, we are delighted to share our second summer surprise. Here we reveal details of The Rook: Citizens of Nowhere.

fp-rook-frontcover-final
Front cover of The Rook: artwork and design by Rudolf Ammann

The anthology is a collection of gripping journalism from current and former students of the University of Roehampton. The pieces gathered here tell true tales from every corner of the globe, from Havana to Russia. Within its pages, readers will discover the unique experiences of young citizens and what it means to be a citizen of Nowhere. Check out the contents below.

The collection is edited by John Doyle and Juan Pérez González and will be available to purchase soon. Follow Fincham Press on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out more.

Contents

Foreword

1

Introduction

3

Citizens of Nowhere

Juan Pérez González · The European

7

Aleksandra Antonova · A July Morning in Bulgaria

13

Isabelle Kern · My Russian Friends

21

Isobel Rafferty · Lost on a Stranded Land

27

Vilde Haugen · Dreamland Beach

33

Ellis King · Mallorca, Martina and Me

39

Josh Downes · Bulls and Blood

45

Stephanie Badaru, Federica Infantino and Isobel Rafferty

Going Country, Going Undetected

51

Barbora Palovcikova · The Sounds of Camden Market

59

Conor Young · North of the Heart of Babylon

65

John Doyle · Citizens of the Sea: A Reawakening

75

Notes on Contributors

87