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Online MA in CWNM

New year, new post

4 January 2010 | Comments (0)

2010.  Hello.

2009 turned out to be a great year.  Publication of my novel ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ in Canada came with the completely unexpected and truly wonderful bonus of winning the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction - the GG.  Since then, the book has been in the Canadian bestseller charts and has sold into several other territories, including the US, where Touchstone/Simon & Schuster bought it a few days before Christmas.  They plan to publish in January 2011.

Here in the UK the fate of the novel has been much more mixed.  When it came out there was a flurry of reviews, mostly good, as well as the virtual book tour which resulted in a series of interviews on great book blogs.  However, the book failed to find its way into UK bookshops on the whole; shops that stocked it did so briefly.  Now the only way to buy the book is online.  I think perhaps a year ago I might have felt this didn’t matter, but my recent in experience in the Canadian market, where the book has been heavily promoted in the chains and even in the big box stores, shows me what a difference this can make to the fate of a book, in particular, enabling a book to find its way to readers who are new to my work. It’s interesting, if a little confusing, to contrast the progress of the book in terms of sales between Canada and the UK; it’s exactly the same book in both markets, after all.

I started writing this blog in the autumn of 2008, thinking I would write it for a year, tracking the progress of publication.  But of course now I’m hooked, though in a minor, infrequent, kind of way. I’ve read a few interesting pieces of late about whether or not blogging and the use of other social media can influence book sales and/or a writer’s profile - the jury seems to be out on that one still.  But because of my work in the digital realm, keeping a blog up and running makes sense to me.

In the meantime, the holiday is now well and truly over.  I will continue to write this blog, and I’m also going to go for a total redesign of my website. I’ll be back in Canada at the end of February for both a digital conference and more events/readings for ‘The Mistress of Nothing’. The Fiction module I teach on the MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University starts next week; I am looking forward to that. The composer with whom I’m collaborating on the opera based on ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is coming to London soon, so I’ll be able to hear the first act of her orchestral score.  The day long conference on Transliteracy that I’m helping to run at DMU will take place on 9 Feb - abstracts and registration are now available here. The nine multimedia short stories that Chris Joseph and I are creating for the educational publisher Rising Stars, ‘Lifelines’, are nearly finished. I’m a year older.

Happy New Year.

Tunis day-dream/ banned sites on the internet

1 December 2008 | Comments (0)

Just back from Tunis where I spent a couple of days working as part of the Medi-Cafe group for the British Council.  We had a productive time, mixing discussions about the art and craft of writing with discussions about the Maghreb, in particular, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria.  As always, the Tunisians were great hosts - we spent our working sessions in a palace on the sea in Carthage.  Seriously. A palace on the sea in Carthage.  I sat by this window for a while during one session - I could hear the sea outside and the sun shone on my legs.  Sun!  In November!  Why do I live in northern Europe?  Why did that seem like a good idea at the time?

An issue that arose during some of our discussions was this:  the Tunisian government has taken to banning websites, including You Tube and the Daily Motion, two of the most important sites world-wide for sharing videos. One of my students was telling me that she can’t access most of the videos on ‘Flight Paths’ and we wondered why… but of course many of those videos are hosted on You Tube and linked to from there into the Netvibes Universe that hosts ‘Flight Paths’.  Chris and I will need to rethink the strategy of keeping videos on You Tube.

Banned sites has been a bit of a feature of my teaching of late, as on the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media we’ve discovered that our students in Oman and Ethiopia can’t access Skype - banned by the gov’ts who have done deals with phone companies to prevent access to free telephony.  We use Skype a lot in our teaching, but will find alternatives now.  Also, Oman bans googlegroups. Banning You Tube seems particularly draconian.  But that’s the Tunisian gov’t for you.  Maybe being allowed to live in northern Europe isn’t such a bad thing after all…

Bad News

26 November 2008 | Comments (0)

Despite our reputations as innovators in the world of creative writing and new media, my colleague at De Montfort University, Sue Thomas, and I sent the following e-mail out to our students and colleagues on the MA in Creative Writing and New Media earlier today.

We are very sorry indeed to have to tell you that the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media will not be taking any new students and will close once this year’s intake have finished their studies in 2010. The MA is taught by a highly-experienced team with visiting lecturers drawn from some of the best new media writers and artists around the world, but we have been told that the degree is losing money and in the current economic climate De Montfort University cannot afford to subsidise it, so the Faculty of Humanities has taken the decision to close it. Today we’ll be announcing the situation more widely but we wanted to tell you first.

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll work to make sure that each of you is fully informed about your personal route through the degree. Full Time and Second Year students will progress through as normal. It will take us a little more time to decide how to proceed with the First Year programme - please bear in mind that we did not know about the decision to close the programme until late yesterday afternoon so it will take us a little while to digest. But do rest assured that we will make sure everyone has a very good experience right to the end.

We have both put a great deal of effort into devising and teaching this degree, and have broken much new ground both in online teaching methods and in the development of new media itself. We’re proud of working with all of you ?? each one of you is a high-level creative innovator and we are hugely enjoying our time together. We’d like to thank you for your hard work and commitment.

If you have any questions about the financial or administrative implications of the course closure, please contact the Graduate Office. Other questions should be directed to myself or to Kate.

Incidentally, if you have friends who were thinking of applying for next year, do tell them that there will still be opportunities to study with us via an MA by Independent Study or via a PhD, and we hope that you yourselves will consider a PhD with us once you have graduated from this degree. There is still a great deal of new ground to be broken in this area, and we plan to continue that work.

Very warm wishes.

Kate and Sue

Flight Paths and this blog

25 November 2008 | Comments (0)

Yesterday I posted a new blog post but, bizarrely, was unable to upload any links into the text, so here are the missing links, so to speak:

Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media

and Medi-Cafe:  Trans-Mahgreb Creative Writing Project

As well as this, Chris has put a new banner on our Netvibes Universe site for Flight Paths - lovely!

Teaching online

24 November 2008 | Comments (0)

Since 2001 I’ve taught a lot online and have found it variously rewarding and frustrating.  The online environment can be a good one for teaching writing in a workshop - objective and precise, all comments written down, asychronous course structures enabling everyone to take the time to read and consider all feedback, discussions continuing on a single piece over a prolonged period, unlike in the classroom where you get your half hour and that’s it til your turn comes round again.  But there are also big disadvantages to teaching online, the main one being that it is impossible to replicate the nuance of face to face interaction online.  You can’t raise your eyebrow in cyberspace.

Currently I teach online in two places - on the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media that I helped set up at DMU, and for the British Council, in Medi-Cafe, a scheme for mentoring students from Tunisia and Morocco who are writing in English.  Will be heading off to Tunisia shortly for one of our face to face sessions; with this programme, the online interaction is fed by regular face to face meetings, which is great.  It enriches the online interaction hugely.

Hello world!

20 October 2008 | Comments (2)

Hello.  My plan is to write a blog for a year.  During this year, I’ll be working on a number of fiction projects, including ‘Inanimate Alice’, ‘Flight Paths’ and ‘Lifelines’; as well as this, my new book, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’ will be published - July 09 in the UK, autumn 09 in Canada.  I’ll continue to teach on the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media at De Montfort University; I’ll continue to mentor students privately; I’ll continue occasional one-off speaking and teaching and reading gigs.  I’ll also attempt to stay abreast of the discussions around the current state as well as the future of reading and writing and publishing. I don’t plan to post anything personal - just a collection of things to do with writing.