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?
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.