Horror Divas

Alaa El Fadel is an MFA student who is currently working on a fantasy novel. Her blog, Mountain Quill, is where you can follow her journey on writing.

Although people say don’t judge a book by its cover, that’s exactly what I did when I spotted the Narnia chronicles in a bookstore. I thought the unicorn was pretty. I delved into a world of fantasy that mesmerised me. Ever since then, I wanted to create such worlds. Making up stories has been a passion, especially when it came to explaining report cards.


Fear. Panic. Terror! Sound familiar? That’s what the horror genre used to do before the big monsters were tamed. Vampires, werewolves and zombies petrified the bravest of souls – that is until everyone wanted to date them. Well, except zombies, we can get over necrophilia and murder but rotting flesh is just disgusting.

So what happened? Looking back into the history of the genre, it is safe to say that horror started off in folklore. The superstitious collected unexplained experiences and melded them with cases of unfathomable, human cruelty. Diseases and mental conditions became curses, possessions, witchcraft and divine punishment. How else could anyone explain such things? It was those dang, meddling monsters! Or a deity was upset with you…shame on you.

Then what happened? Just like any ravenous beast with wild imaginings, writers lunged at the tales and Frankensteined them in their narratives. No longer counting on memory, the monster’s immortality evolved on stone, paper and finally, iPads. Yay. At one point, vampires were so feared that bodies were exhumed and staked for those better safe than sorry moments. The horror genre was born and soon obeyed the whims of mass interest; they had their ups and downs over the centuries, even more so when novels and movies partnered on the dance floor. Hollywood reigned in the latest hype when they produced movies like The Exorcist, Blade, Dawn of the Dead, Dog Soldiers, etc.  But who could ignore the literary stars who began or excelled the genre of dread? Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P.Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and many more.

But all was about to change in the land of blood and gore. The first instance I realised not all monsters were created equal was when the comic book character of Blade appeared on film. A half-vampire (Daywalker) who hunted other vampires? My writer’s brain got knocked over. No longer were heroes restricted to virtuous nobles or gifted underdogs, the monsters themselves practised human choice by slaying their kin. Japanese novelist, Hideyuki Kikuchi created compelling novels of a ‘young’ dhampir by the name of D. D travels the nuclear wastelands of 12,090 AD, where the vampire civilization rose and fell. Occupation – vampire hunter…for a hefty price off course. Those mechanical horses won’t oil themselves.

When vampires softened by refusing to ‘eat’ humans and opted for the vegetarian menu of blood substitutes or animals, sorry Bambi, their scare level dropped. Werewolves soon followed in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris and the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. I missed the old monsters. It was a breath of fresh air to read, The Passage by Justin Cronin. Vampires were the lovely, blood-sucking monsters that would sooner rip your head off than give you a smooch. I went back to peacefully worrying about them creeping into my room in the dead of night. John Connolly didn’t disappoint either in, The Book of Lost things and his comedy horror, The Gates. Oh, those rascally demons and their possessings.

So what does this mean for horror? Pretty much anything. Genres shift and change along with people’s interests. Horror coupled with romance to birth ‘Paranormal Romance’ – its own little, gurgling sub-genre of joy. Although the diapers stink, it’s still a whole new adventure that’s going to grow up one day.

Structuring Poetry with Jane Yeh

For poet Jane Yeh’s Advanced Critical Reading class in week 7, please read the poems listed below and consider the following question:

How do poets use elements like sentences, line breaks (enjambment), and stanzas to structure their poems? What kinds of structures (arc/movement/progression) are at play in these poems?


Finding My Bearings – Martha Kapos, My Nights in Cupid’s Palace (2003)

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota – James Wright (1927-1980), Above the River: The Complete Poems (1990)

Housekeeping – Lucie Brock-Broido, The Master Letters (1995)

[listen mother, he punched the air; I am not your son dying] – D.A. Powell, Cocktails (2004)

Freddie – Patrick Rosal, Uprock Headspin… (Persea Books, 2004)

The Captain of the 1964 Top of the Form Team – Carol Ann Duffy, Mean Time (1993)

Happy as the Day Is Long – James Tate, Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994)

The Hummingbirds – Adam Thorpe, Nine Lessons From the Dark (2003)

The Colonel – Caroline Forche, The Country Between Us (1981)

Taking in Wash – Rita Dove, Thomas and Beulah (1986)

(Stills) – 2 poems from a sequence by Kevin Young, Black Maria (2004)


Hope you’re all enjoying a very enriching reading week.

Fiona Curran – Poetry Critical Reading

Attention current MFA students: For Fiona Curran’s Advanced Critical Reading class on the 20th of November (week 9) please read the following poems, which she has selected for consideration.

Brancusi’s Golden Bird

I Would Like To Be a Dot in a Painting by Miró – Moniza Alvi

Ophelia and Millais – Mary De Bow

At La Ferté – Fiona Curran

Stravinsky – Paolo Buzzi (1874-1956), Translated from the Italian by Samuel Putnam

The Act – William Scammell

Wishing you a poetic reading week.

CORRECTION: Come Meet the MFAs (new time)

The MFA social has been moved. Same day, new time. In order to coincide with the MA social, we’re postponing our event until 8pm on Thursday the 25th of October.

So come ask all your questions and lets get to know each other!

WHEN: 8pm, 25 October 2012

WHERE: The Spring Grove Pub (click here for a map)

Congratulations to ‘our own’ Hilary Mantel

So, she’s not really ‘ours’, but we’re dead proud nonetheless and talking up the fact that the amazing Hilary Mantel accepted an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Kingston University on 01 November 2011. Kingston was pleased to honor her outstanding contribution to contemporary British literature and her continuing engagement with history.

This past Wednesday, Mantel was awarded the Man Booker Prize for her novel Bring Up the Bodies, no small feat with competition from established writers such as Will Self and astounding debut novelists like Alison Moore (you can see the long and short lists here). This is twice as impressive because it’s the second time she’s won the prize, which is widely considered one of the top literary prizes in the world. In 2009 her novel Wolf Hall was awarded the same accolade. She’s winning Bookers faster than a lot of novelists write novels.

In the great pride that Kingston University has for Hilary Mantel, there are two (count them, two) scholarships being offered in her name. The Hilary Mantel Scholarships are worth a whopping £5,000
for each of two years and are available to students from the USA only. As these scholarships are very new and not available until next year, you should confirm all details with Kingston University. Brochures are available from the FASS office in Penrhyn Rd. For our foreign readers, you can contact the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences here.

Come meet the MFAs

That’s right. We will be emerging from our writing hovels on Thursday, the 25th of October from 8pm to go to the Spring Grove. Any earlier and the natural light begins to hurt our eyes.

If you’re a first year MFA, an MA thinking about doing the MFA or just want to know what we look like, come meet us at the Spring Grove pub on Bloomfield Street. You can find a map here.

Course leader, Dr. Scott Bradfield, will also be there and we’d love to meet you all.

Death By Translation

Ryan Licata is a current MFA student.  You can see more of his writing at Little King Scrolls.

I grew up in Benoni, South Africa, where one day, sitting in detention, a quiet shiny eyed kid named Karl at the desk next to mine snuck a book out from his satchel and slipped it over to me. Irving’s The World According to Garp, written in the year of my birth, came as a revelation. I wanted to tell stories just like it. And I knew then that I wanted to write.


The expression lost in translation holds true for many people living in a multilingual society where what one means to say and what one actually says are often worlds apart. Speaking a foreign language can sometimes be a process of cut and paste whereby one lifts familiar phrases from one’s own language, translates them directly, and then offers them around like a host sending out the hors d’oeuvres at a G8 dinner, hoping that they will be to everybody’s taste. Yes, in many cases, such linguistic faux pas do lead to interesting discoveries that enrich a language. Indeed, writers who choose to adopt a foreign language, such as Nabokov, bring new life to literature: rummaging through the lexical attics, they dust off the old words, shine them up and set them newly upon the shelf.

Much then can be said for the creativity of crossovers in literature, where things are found rather than lost in translation.

However, I would argue that this pertains only to freshly baked literature, those first time recipes of a serendipitous nature, and not to a literature that, in the altering, requires a surgeon’s unwavering hand, and a mirror, too.

I would once read the stories of Marquez or the poems of Paz without a thought as to how the English versions might differ from the Spanish originals. It was only in the role of translator that I really began to question the nature of equivalency in books. An unsuspecting reader might assume when picking up Murakami’s 1Q84, that the book they were about to read was the equivalent of the original. However, Jay Rubin, the longtime translator of Murakami’s work, suggests that the opposite is true. In a recent interview with The New Yorker Magazine, Rubin said: ‘I strongly advise people not to read literature in translation because I know what happens in the process […] Everything they’re reading has been filtered through the brain of the translator. And it’s his words they’re reading.’


Most readers would find Rubin’s comment unsettling: a poststructuralist nightmare whereby all the great works of literature from Cervantes to Dostoevsky to Bolaño are only as good as their translators. A bona fide translator may endeavour to transcribe exactly the text of the original author, but inevitably he brings his own interpretation and own language system to that work. In terms of the 1976 Barthes essay, ‘The Death of the Author’, the translated text then is no longer the same text simply because the author is no longer the same author.

The translator is also a reader, albeit one who attempts to step into an author’s shoes – wishing to replace him in Borgesian fashion or at least to imitate him. But the nature of language does not allow for such singular activities and so all that the translator can do is interpret, as best he can, the designs of language, aware of the changes made upon it by time and space. It may seem like a truism to say that translation is determined by language, yet the translator does face the difficult task of interpreting a language governed by the influences of social, historical and cultural constraints, based upon the underlying currents of language itself.

How then should we as readers approach this idea that what we want is not exactly what we are going to get? The work of a translator is one of making ‘choices’ within given perimeters, and as lovers of world literature it is a return to Babel; we must simply trust that the choices are the right ones.

London, 13 October 2012

Advanced Writer’s Workshop Module Guide





An advanced writing workshop designed to involve students in controlled, workshop-led discussions of creative techniques and practices.

Students will present their own work – and read the work of one another – in order to develop their final dissertations to the highest possible standard.

Many guests writers – and distinguished visiting writers – will take workshops over the course of the term.

Week 1:  Thursday 27 September:  Scott Bradfield (fiction and film)

Week 2:  Thursday 4 October:  Scott Bradfield (fiction and film)

Week 3:  Thursday 11 October:  Rachel Cusk (fiction, non-fiction and memoir)

Week 4:  Thursday 18 October:  Rachel Cusk (fiction, non-fiction and memoir)

Week 5:  Thursday 25 October:  Lee Rourke (criticism and fiction)

READING WEEK:  29 October –

Week 6:  Thursday 8 November:  Scott Bradfield (fiction and film)

Week 7:  Thursday 15 November:  Andrea Stuart (non-fiction and memoir)

Week 8:  Thursday 22 November:  Rachel Cusk (fiction, non-fiction and memoir)

Week 9:  Thursday 29 November:  Rachel Cusk (fiction, non-fiction and memoir)

Week 10:  Thursday 6 December:  Andrea Stuart (non-fiction and memoir)

Week 11:  Thursday 13 December:  Scott Bradfield (fiction and film)

Personal Tutorial schedule – 1/2 hour each (TBA):

Rachel Cusk:  8

Scott Bradfield:  4

Jane Yeh:  2

Fiona Curran:  4

Lee Rourke:  2

Andrea Stuart:  2

Jonathan Barnes:  2

Advanced Critical Reading Module Guide

MFA Critical Reading


Scott Bradfield:   Module Leader


All reading is to be completed by the beginning of the class assigned.  In some cases, the assigned work will be handed out – and read – in class.

Students are required to arrive for classes on time and prepared for the week’s discussion.  Students will not be admitted five minutes after class begins unless prior arrangement has been made with the instructor.

Students may be expected to make brief opening presentations on the week’s reading as assigned by the instructor.

Each class will consist of:  opening remarks by instructor and/or student assigned to give a presentation, followed by discussion.  In the second half of the class, students will be encouraged to write passages analyzing techniques/issues/writerly concerns under discussion, in preparation for the Critical Reading Log of their MFA dissertations.  Classes vary with individual instructors.

Week 1:  Tuesday 25 September:  Scott Bradfield

Techniques of short story writing

Required reading:  handout in class

Week 2:  Tuesday 2 October:  Scott Bradfield

How to start a novel

Required reading: Graham Greene’s A Gun for Sale (or This Gun for Hire US        version) any edition

Week 3:  Tuesday 9 October:  Lee Rourke

How should novels be

            Required readingEverything Passes, by Gabriel Josipovici, any edition


Week 4:  Tuesday 16 October:  Lee Rourke

How do novels work/not work

Required readingJealousy, by Alain Robbe-Grillet, any edition

Week 5:  Tuesday 23 October:  Rachel Cusk

Memoir and reality

Required readingA Death in the Family, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, any edition

READING WEEK:  29 October –

Week 7:  Tuesday 6 November:  Jane Yeh

Structure & the sentence in free-verse poetry

Required reading:  Handouts of poems

Week 8:  Tuesday 13 November:  Jonathan Barnes

Narrative voice in Martin Amis’ ‘Night Train’

Required readingsNight Train, by Martin Amis

Week 9:  Tuesday 20 November:  Fiona Curran

Art, the echo and the word on the page

Required reading:  poem handouts

Week 10:  Tuesday 27 November:  Barrie Keeffe

When story and subject dictate style

Required reading:  Screenplay of ‘The Long Good Friday,’ by Barrie Keeffe

Week 11:  Tuesday 4 December:  Scott Bradfield

Why we read what we don’t want to write

Required readingThe Shining, Stephen King

MFA: The Next Generation

We have arrived. We are the new MFA cohort. And here will be the home of all of our interesting things to say.

Welcome to your blog.

Over the previous year, fearless editor, Stuart, and his colleagues have created and developed this blog as a source of information about the MFA program, the visiting lecturers and all things of interest to serious writers. As he passes the reins to me, I hope that you all will work with me to make this a blog that both interests you and adds to your experience as an MFA student. You will all, I hope, choose to contribute to this site whether it be in the form of book reviews, profiles of speakers, articles on current literary events and topics or anything else that arouses your interest and adds to the high level of discussion already here. As our blog name suggests, boundary pushing is welcomed.

As you work on your individual projects this year, please also think about creating a writing community and sharing with us what you’re doing. If you find something interesting in your research or an article you like, we’d like to know about it too. The more participation this site has from all of you, the more vibrant and helpful it will be. That old “you get out what you put in” lark, I know, but it’s true.

In that vein, I also want to reach out to previous MFA cohorts. Please keep in touch and we hope you feel that you are still an important part of the KU MFA community. Thank you for all your hard work last year, for posting very interesting content and especially to Stuart for creating and maintaining NoDeadWhiteMen.

Now our only challenge is to live up to the precedent set last year. I look forward to an exciting year filled with all your deep, not so deep, academic, humorous and cutting edge literary thoughts.

Your faithful editor,

Sinéad Keegan


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