MA Semester Two, Week One.

Well, aside from all the essay-writing and fiction writing, we've had an enormous break from the MA over Christmas, so it was something of a shock to get back to the grindstone on Monday; a whole new seminar group, and a new tutor for the fiction workshops.  We started in the morning with Contemporary Fiction; this is a course that looks, shockingly, at contemporary fiction - it's split up into themed sets of seminars, and for the first few weeks we'll be looking at the publishing industry, criticism, book awards, book clubs, etc.  For this initial seminar we took a broad overview of the industry - what new books we read and why, publishing trends we might have noticed, the conglomeration of small family-run publishers into global multi-media corporations, the ascendency of marketing in book-selling.  The main focus was literature as a commodity that is produced, marketed and targeted at an audience; this led on to the celebrification of authors, to steal our tutor's phrase, and the increased power of retailers.  We finished off with a brief discussion about value, canonisation and authority - who decides what books are significant or culturally viable?  So, plenty to take in, and reams of reading to be done.  Next week we'll be looking at Banville's The Sea, and literary prize culture.

The fiction workshop went well, as usual - we had a short story and a novel chapter to discuss, and I got to be in charge of timing the discussions and cutting people off when they spoke too much.  The power!  We did an exercise on plotting, which I found useful - a way of setting out the chronology of your plot which lets you see if there are any gaps, etc - we all looked rather worried by the end.  Then we decamped to the pub and ended up having a loud debate about the iPad and e-readers and the Google book thing and all that, while drinking cherry beer.

The other interesting thing that happened was that we were introduced to Nick Laird, who's going to be the writer in residence in the Centre for New Writing this semester.  We'll get to have individual workshops with him throughout the term, and I'm very excited about that.

Right - back to writing/Facebook/Twitter/napping.  Ah, the life.


Fi said...

Ohh, it all sounds so wonderful.

I would ever so like to be there when you get onto book clubs, I'd love to hear ppl get shouty about 'the tv book club' with Gok Wan et al!


Valerie O'Riordan said...

Ha! Yeah, Gok vs Judy vs Oprah - endgame!