Bad News

26 November 2008 in Future of Publishing Online MA in CWNM | 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

The Mistress of Nothing cover blurb

25 November 2008 in Medi-Cafe The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

Week before last Serpent’s Tail sent me the cover image they are going to adapt for my novel, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’, which will come out in the UK in July next year, Canada in the autumn.  It’s a lovely old photograph of sailing boats on the Nile.  I’ll post a preview once it is ready.  These past two days I’ve been discussing the blurb for the back of the book, the catalogue, etc with Niamh Murray from Serpent’ Tail - here’s a draft:

“Lady Duff Gordon is the toast of Victorian London.  But when her debilitating tuberculosis means exile, she sets sail for Egypt with her devoted lady’?s maid, Sally, as her sole companion.  It is Sally who describes, with a mixture of wonder and trepidation, the odd ménage marshalled by the resourceful Omar, as they travel down the Nile to a new life in Luxor.  When Lady Duff Gordon undoes her stays and takes to native dress, throwing herself into village life, language lessons, and excursions to
the tombs, Sally too adapts to a new world, gaining heady and heartfelt freedoms she has never known before.

But freedom is a luxury that a maid can ill-afford, and when Sally grasps more than her status entitles her to, she is brutally reminded that she is mistress of nothing. “

Does this make you want to read it?

Flight Paths and this blog

25 November 2008 in Flight Paths Online MA in CWNM | 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 in Online MA in CWNM | 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.

Flight Paths

18 November 2008 in Flight Paths | Comments (0)

Working on Flight Paths today; oddly, the more dispersed the narrative becomes, the more coherent it seems to me.  Jeremy H has been sending in a series of small fragments, and some of them are developing a single character; a young man looking back on when he left his family to go start university.  Flying back and forth between two completely separate lives, noticing the changes that take place in his family, now that he has left them.

These pieces evoke strong memories in me of when I left home.  I was seventeen, which seems practically a baby to me now, a baby even when I think of the seventeen year olds I know currently.  Like Jeremy’s character, I got on a plane and flew away from my family - in my case, I flew from Vancouver Island to Montreal - a mere 3000 miles or so.  That was it, I was gone after that.  And, like Jeremy says in his piece, the patch that I inhabited in my family grew over until there was no sign of me.

Not completely true, of course, on a fundamental level; but completely true on another.

To find Jeremy’s most recent piece about this character, go to Chapter One, the bottom of the page - it’s called ‘Gone’ - at

Another ill-informed rant about e-books

12 November 2008 in Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

I have no desire to become a publisher, not even a self-publisher, though of course I might be driven to it one day, either because no one will publish me anymore (hasn’t happened yet, fingers crossed) or because I figure out a way to do it while retaining some kind of foothold in the market.  Though I am very very weary of the whole ‘future of publishing/future of books/end of books/end of reading as we know it’ discussion, it still annoys me to hear publishers complaining about the cost of converting their business to the digital.  I understand that the costs of creating fully digital content accessible across multiple platforms is substantial, but the truth is that all digital formats, when delivered electronically, dramatically cut the costs of publishing, once you take warehouses and shipping out of the equation.

So why are ebooks so ridiculously expensive?

In the past year I’ve been to a couple of events to discuss the future of publishing at large mainstream UK publishers and each time I look around at the gorgeous, high-tech, central London, HUGE buildings we are in and I think, oh, oh yes, this is what they call ‘overheads’.

Surely someone is about to start up a light-weight, streamlined new type of publisher in their kitchen, with a brand new economic model:  offer books in as many digital formats as feasible, including print-on-demand, broker deals with the retailers who are pushing ereaders and print-on-demand technology, offer writers a risk/profit share in the takings, undercut all the mainstream publishers on the price of ebooks - and bingo, bob’s your uncle.  I know, I know, it isn’t easy - but why not try it?  When is a publisher going to stand up
and suggest that charging the same price for an ebook as a print book, and in many instances, MORE, is just plain highway robbery?  Readers and writers revolt!


10 November 2008 in Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

Chris Meade from if:Book London and I will be teaching a week-long course on Writing and New Media at an Arvon centre next week.  Our guest will be my collaborator Chris Joseph. We are hoping to have decent connectivity while there, but if not, we’ll find ways to recreate the internet at Arvon, albeit on a smaller scale than the real thing!  My connectivity problems here in my new office are solved, but in the bodgiest way possible - a dongle booster wrapped in plastic hanging outside the window, with the hub placed in the most inconvenient place possible (with the exception of under my pillow, I guess) inside the house.  Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting to Lumb Bank - it is a most wonderful place, and even if it pours all week we will have a good time.

Being Offline

7 November 2008 in Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

I’m offline at lot more than usual these days for a variety of reasons, including the fact the wireless doesn’t reach my office yet.  That will (should) change on Monday when the engineer comes.  But I feel ambivalent about it - having an internet-free working space is such a novelty.  Somehow the office feels calmer and quieter without the internet…  I can look at the books I’ve decided to move into the office… my art books, my dictionaries… I can think about where to hang pictures, indeed, which pictures I want to hang.  I can stare at the big sky, and wonder when I’ll ever have time to sweep up the yellow leaves that are currently carpeting the ground.

A while back on Facebook I posted an update where I said I was tired of thinking and talking about the future of the book, that I was going to start thinking about the future of the boot instead.  That update drew amused and amusing comments from my FB friends.  I guess connectivity fatigue is something we all experience.

Yesterday I went to see the Mark Rothko exhibition at Tate Modern. His paintings are the only paintings I’ve ever seen that make me cry. They are so luminous and extraordinary it is almost too much to bear.

Moving office notes

31 October 2008 in | Comments (0)

Moving from one office to another this is what I find:

blank notebooks due to my stationery fetish:  not 1, not 3, but 18!!!! Almost enough to open a shop.

many many copies of my most recent novel:  am I hoarding them?

huge piles of old paperwork:  would it matter one bit if I put it all in the recycling without bothering to look at any of it?  Is it true that if my house burned down the only thing I’d miss are the old family photographs?  Or is this one of the lies I tell myself about myself?

Donate here!

28 October 2008 in Future of Publishing | Comments (2)

A few weeks ago I read a great review in the LRB by Jenny Turner about Helen DeWitt and her self-published book ‘Your Name Here’.  Turner is a wonderful writer; her review of Douglas Coupland’s ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ was a favourite review of mine (is that possible?  I don’t really have ‘favourite book reviews’!  In fact, most writing about books drives me crazy.) In her review Turner mentions that on her blog Helen De Witt asks readers who buy her books secondhand to make a donation to her in lieu of any royalties.  So of course I had to go see for myself.  Bought DeWitt’s previous novel, The Last Samurai, second-hand, and duly made my donation via the blog.  And have, of course, adapted (stolen?) DeWitt’s genius hilarious idea for my own website and this blog!  Please feel free to donate if you have ever bought any of my books secondhand!!  I can see the money rolling in already.  And am looking forward to reading DeWitt’s first novel, ‘The Last Samurai’.

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