The moment she stepped onto the stage I was filled with the thrill of being in the same room as one of the bravest, most prolific and talented writers of our time – Margaret Atwood. Of course it was a rather large room (a hall in fact, the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre to be precise) and I was sitting with several hundred others, but the thrill was there nevertheless – the frisson of being in the presence of a great mind.
Margaret Atwood was in conversation with Peter Kemp, Literary Editor for The Sunday Times, who was profuse in his praise but who didn’t seem to quite be on the same page as the author when it came to political views – which made for interesting entertainment. At one point, Atwood brought up the recent furor surrounding the absence of female figures on English pound notes (bar the Queen of course!), for instance, the fact that Charles Dickens has featured on the notes, but not Jane Austen. Kemp guffawed and said, ‘So much fuss about something like that’. Atwood rightly reminded him that this recent event recalls the late Sixties and Seventies when ‘much fuss’ was made about lots of things that people would never have imagined people could make a fuss about (equal pay for women and men being one of those things – although, of course, parity of income between the sexes is sadly still an issue that is far from resolved today!). Continue reading →
Last week Tuesday, I attended a talk by a literary agent and consultant as part of the Creative Writing MA course at Birkbeck University, which I am currently undertaking. It was an informative talk about the marketplace and how to get published hosted by the Creative Writing MA Programme Director (who is also a prolific novelist).
One thing that irked me, however, was the agent / consultant’s view of the marketplace and, while I’m sure that his words accurately reflect his many years of experience in the field, it was very black-and-white the majority of the time while at other times he would admit that every so often a writer comes along and blows all of the rules out of the handbook – in short, it felt like he was contradicting himself. One of those times was his answer to my question:
‘You spoke of a revival in recent times of the short story genre. Is it still the case that an unpublished writer will be turned down if s/he approaches an agent / publisher with a collection of short stories, and encouraged to write a novel, instead.’ (Or something along those lines.)
Birkbeck alumnus Elizabeth Fremantle has been interviewed on the (fabulous) Writer’s Hub website. Here are a few of the gems she had to share:
‘I suppose for me studying for an MA in Creative Writing was a commitment that allowed me to start to think of myself as a writer, or certainly as someone who was striving to be that.’
‘Much of writing is about dull things like discipline, solitude and cogitating on the seemingly insignificant aspects of life, and some people do seem to have a greater propensity for those things. I do not really believe that there is any great mystery to writing; I’m afraid I’m too much of a pragmatist for that and the adage that it’s 3% talent and 97% hard work (or in the case of a recent Tweet I read, 3% talent and 97% not getting distracted by the internet) is true.’