The Twittering Writer

Sinéad Keegan is an Irish-born writer in the final year of her MFA at Kingston and currently writing her first novel. Her short stories and poetry and have been published in several magazines and she blogs at www.sineadkeegan.com. Twitter: @sineadkeegan. She is the editor of No Dead White Men and recently taught a course in blogging and social media for Kingston Writing School.

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When I tell people that I edit a blog for which other people write and that does fairly well in terms of hits-per-day, I usually get a look that says, “Oh, so you’re not one of those ‘writers’ who says she writes, but really just mucks around in her pajamas all day.”  But the minute I say that I use Facebook and Twitter I can see them picturing me back in my red, snowflake, flannel pajamas clutching a cup of coffee, surfing the internet for cat videos and calling it “writing”.

This is, unfortunately perhaps, untrue on several fronts. First, my snowflake pajamas aren’t flannel and I wear pink or blue tracksuit bottoms when I’m working from home. Second, I don’t drink coffee. And third, I don’t while away time on the internet. That is not to say I don’t waste time. I do. I, like all self-respecting writers, am a connoisseur of procrastination techniques. It’s just that I prefer ones that make me feel productive. I cook. I do chores – the house is never cleaner than when I’m on a deadline. I catch up on emails – has it really been 6 months since I went through my junk folder? And I read. I read a lot. In the name of research, of course.

Catherine has covered procrastination quite eloquently, however, so I won’t dwell on it. So the question that remains is: What am I doing on Twitter and Facebook then?

I’m being a writer. Honest.

Granted, I spend some of my time reading articles about writing and writers, some of dubious research value such as this one from The Onion. But for the most part, the hour a day I spend on social media is spent making and keeping connections, working with writing communities and, of course, some shameless self-promotion. Writers, if you don’t do it, no one else will.

That said, I offer some guidelines for how to shamelessly self-promote without driving your social media ‘friends’ crazy.

1. Treat your Facebook and Twitter profiles like you do your LinkedIn profile. You wouldn’t put photos of you mooning the guards outside Buckingham Palace while chugging back a plastic bottle of vodka on LinkedIn, so don’t do it on Facebook. You might well be on your way to writing The Old Man and the Sea, but don’t make us all watch, Hemingway didn’t.

2. Put up a link and leave it. I know you really want to post everything you do everywhere, but, chances are, if you do that, your friends are going to see the link 30,000 times. If I see a link from the same person more than twice, I make it a point not to look at it. Maybe that’s just spite on my part, but if you have to advertise that hard, it makes me think something else went wrong. Also re-tweeting 20 tweets at a time is irritating, it just gums up my feed with people that I don’t follow – perhaps for a reason.

3. Which brings me to the next point: Slow and steady. Yep, back to the tortoise and the hare. You have to give yourself and your reputation time to grow. The next big thing, the person with the meteoric rise to stardom and success? Most likely, it took them ages and if it didn’t, they probably won’t be around for too long.

4. Slow and steady requires consistency. Above all be consistent and reliable. Everyone, from agents, to publishers, to readers want consistency. If you blog, really blog. Don’t blog once every 2 or 6 or 14 months. Pick a time frame and stick to it. (Says she, shamefully, not having updated her own blog in over a month) If you tweet, tweet daily or weekly, but NOT hourly. You don’t have that many interesting things to say. Trust me. You don’t.

5. Build the brand. First, you have to know your brand. What are you and what do you want to be? What do you write? Who is your audience and how do you find them? Follow people like you on Twitter, find groups like you on Facebook, get in contact with bloggers like you. You can choose to look at other writers as competition or as a network. Accountants don’t refuse to speak to other accountants so why do we do that in the arts? If your writing is good enough, you can get published and if you don’t it’s not because someone else “stole your spot.” If it isn’t good enough, you (probably) won’t get published (insert your angrily shouted exceptions here). Why do those accountants network? Because it’s all about who you know. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: it’s the same in writing. Contacts can mean everything. Work them.

So for an hour each day, I give myself permission not to write and I sit down and think long-term. What do I want? How do I get it? How to I take a step toward that today? Then I tweet, blog or post on Facebook or just support the other people in my community, because I want them to succeed too. Success breeds success and that can only be good for our struggling arts.

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J. Robert Lennon on This American Life

j robert lennon

2012 MFA Resident, J. Robert Lennon, was recently featured on an episode of the Public Radio International program, This American Life. He reads an excerpt from his short story “The Accursed Items” in episode 205: Plan B.

You can read more about J. Robert Lennon on No Dead White Men, here.

Information about the MFA Residency Series, including a description of the series and writer profiles, is available here.

Paul Maliszewski – 16 April 7:30pm

Paul Maliszewski flyer

Join the Facebook event here.

Read more about Paul in his writer profile.

Rachel Cusk & Jane Yeh Reading

We are excited to announce that two Kingston MFA teachers, Rachel Cusk, Reader, and Jane Yeh, Senior Lecturer, will be doing a free, public event next Wednesday at Waterstones Piccadilly in London. You are all invited to come to the event. If you are a prospective student, this will be a great opportunity to meet some lecturers and current Kingston students. Please see below to book a free ticket.

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An Evening with Jane Yeh and Rachel Cusk

03 April 2013, 7:00pm

Waterstones Piccadilly

203/206 Piccadilly

London W1J 9HD

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Here’s the official blurb:

Waterstones Piccadilly and Kingston Writing School are proud to present the first in a series of events showcasing the work of Kingston lecturers and alumni. Join us for a glass of wine as highly acclaimed novelist Rachel Cusk discusses teaching creative writing with poet Jane Yeh. This will be followed by a reading from Jane Yeh’s new collection ‘The Ninjas.’

Tickets are free but all places must be reserved in advance by contacting the store on 02078512400 or emailing events@piccadilly.waterstones.co.uk

 

Promotional image courtesy of KWS & Waterstones

Promotional image courtesy of Waterstones and Kingston Writing School

 

Find out more at the Waterstones Piccadilly website or the Kingston Writing School website.

Paul Maliszewski

Paul Maliszewski

The MFA Residency Series is delighted to welcome back our first returning Resident, Paul Maliszewski. Paul was an MFA Resident in 2009 and is now a part of the 2013 MFA Residency Series as well. He is the author of Fakers, a book of essays, and Prayer and Parable, a collection of stories. His stories, criticism and essays have appeared in numerous magazines, journals and anthologies, including Harper’s, The Paris Review, Granta, Bomb, Bookforum and The Baffler. He is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes. He has also edited an issue of McSweeney’s (2002), Paper Placemats (2004), two issues of Denver Quarterly about real and imagined places (2004) and J&L Illustrated #3 (2012).

Paul earned his MFA in creative writing from Syracuse University and has taught at George Washington University and Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Writing program. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and their two sons.

 

Paul will be reading at 7:30pm on Tuesday, 16 April 2013 in JG 3003, Kingston University, Penrhyn Road. This is a free reading and open to the public.

 

Paul’s Suggested Reading List:

Here are some books that are either new-ish or new to me. Readers wanting more of a greatest-of-all-time selection can check out the list I sent for my first visit.

The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

The Letters of William Gaddis, edited by Steven Moore [I reviewed this book and am including it here as a way of sneaking in a gentle reminder: Everyone should read Gaddis’s novel J R.]

Mawrdew Czgowchwz, by James McCourt [I’ve been thinking a lot about the semicolon lately. Apology, a new magazine, which I also recommend, asked me to moderate a discussion on the semicolon, to determine whether it’s an endangered species. I invited some writers, including James McCourt, to contribute short pieces about their use of (or disdain for) the semicolon. There are some beautifully deployed semicolons in Mawrdew Czgowchwz (pronounced “Mardu Gorgeous”) and wonderful writing throughout.]

Collected Body, by Valzhyna Mort [Excellent poems. Her first book, Factory of Tears, is super, too.]

His Wife Leaves Him, by Stephen Dixon [Out soon from Fantagraphics Books. I helped proofread the novel, which I considered an education in storytelling. Dixon is just so quick at starting and stopping his stories, and so artful without seeming the least bit artful. This book is Dixon’s masterpiece.]

An interview with Paul Maliszewski may be found here, on The Paris Review website.

The poet James Wagner recently asked a bunch of writers, “Why do you write?” I responded, or tried, anyway, and so did others.

Former MFA Resident Steve Erickson’s Debut Novel Lauded – Again

book_daysbetweenstationsSteve Erickson’s first novel, The Days Between Stations, may have been published in 1985, but it’s still being lauded as one of the best literary debuts of all time. Just this past Wednesday, author Nicholas Royle listed it among his top 10 first novels. The Kingston University MFA program is proud to count Erickson among the illustrious writers who have been part of the MFA Residency Series. In fact, he was one of the first authors to participate and to travel from the US and meet with students.

He edits the American literary journal, Black Clock, which, since its inception in 2004, has featured the writing of such writers as Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Aimee Bender and another MFA Resident, Brian Evenson.

Royle writes of The Days Between Stations:

“I was attracted by the cover; the illustration had a surreal quality reminiscent of Henri Rousseau, which was not not at all misleading. Erickson writes about film and identity, about the New World and the Old, about love and trains and hidden rooms and a bicycle race around Venice. Fall in love with a writer’s first novel, as I did with this, and your relationship with their work is for life.”

Read the full article here.

Our program director, author Scott Bradfield has long been a fan of Erickson’s work. In 2007, he reviewed Erickson’s novel, Zeroville, writing:

“Steve Erickson is that most unenviable of contemporary American writers––people either don’t read him at all, or they read him too carefully for all the wrong reasons. More often than not, useless and misleading adjectives are applied to his work: “visionary,” for example, or “mythmaking,” or God help us all, even “Pynchonian.” But Erickson isn’t, to his credit, any of these things whatsoever. Rather he is, quite simply, a really absorbing and continuously inventive novelist. He creates unusual characters worth caring about––and he devises original ways of telling about them.”

Read the full article here.

Visit Steve Erickson’s personal website here.

Michael Sarnowski Visits Kingston

Michael Sarnowski

Michael Sarnowski

Michael Sarnowski earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Vanderbilt University, where he was a recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize. His poetry has recently been selected to appear in Potomac Review, The Adirondack Review, Underground Voices, and Foundling Review, among others. He currently lives in Syracuse, New York, where he teaches at Le Moyne College.

Reading

Thursday 28th February 4-6pm JG1004

Reading from his work and Question & Answer

Free

All welcome

KWS Logo

Lamar Herrin – MFA Residency Profile

Lamar Herrin. Photo courtesy of Lamar Herrin

Lamar Herrin. Photo courtesy of Lamar Herrin

Lamar Herrin is an award winning author of numerous novels and his short stories have appeared in various publications including The New Yorker, Harper’s,  and Epoch. His latest work is a memoir entitled, Romancing Spain. In 1985, he received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and, in 1991, he won of the Associated Writing Program’s Award for the Novel for The Lies Boys Tell. He is Professor Emeritus of creative writing and contemporary literature at Cornell University where he has taught for twenty-nine years. He and his wife, Amparo, divide their time between Ithaca, New York and Valencia, Spain. Find out more at his website.

He will be reading from his work on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 in the John Galsworthy Building Room 3003 from 7:30-9 pm. The reading will begin promptly at 7:30pm.

Bibliography

Fiction

American Baroque (1981)

The Rio Loja Ringmaster (1983)

The Unwritten Chronicles of Robert E. Lee (1991)

The Lies Boys Tell (1992)

House of the Deaf  (2006)

Fractures (To be published in 2013)                                            

 

Nonfiction

Romancing Spain, A Memoir (2006)

 

STORIES

“The Rio Loja Ringmaster” –  The Paris Review, Fall 1974

“The Rookie Season” – The Paris Review, Summer, 1976

“Our Lady of the Mediterranean” – The Bennington Review, September, 1979

“Age of Retirement” – Epoch, Winter 1979

“For Years Without War” – fiction international, No. 12, 1980

“Her Journey Westward” – The Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 1981

“From Pure Products” – River Styx, #10, 1982

“A Life of Crime” – The Paris Review, Winter 1982

“Last Respects” – Harper’s Magazine, February 1983

“Monuments” – The New Yorker, October 29, 1990

“A Sweet and Sunny Life” – Columbia Review, 1993

“Casualties” – Epoch, 1998, vol. 47, nos. 2 & 3

“Song and Dance”  – Epoch, 2005, vol. 54, no 3

Source: http://www.lamarherrin.com/

“Everytime I read them, I want to write.”

The books and authors that inspire Lamar Herrin:

As I Lay Dying or anything else by William Faulkner

Thomas Wolfe – (not Tom Wolfe) author of num

erous works including Look Homeward, Angel, The Lost Boy and Mannerhouse: A Play in a Prologue and Four Acts

James Salter – author of novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, memoir and other nonfiction. Works include Downhill Racer (screenplay), Light Years (novel) and Still Such (poetry).

Cormac McCarthy – author of short stories, screenplays and novels such as No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty HorsesThe Road and The Orchard Keeper.

What is the MFA Residency Series?

As we begin our new semester there are some exciting events coming up for second year MFA students and the wider community through the MFA Residency Series. But what is this series and how can you get involved?

The MFA Residency Series is a knowledge and teaching exchange set up by our course leader, Dr. Scott Bradfield, to enhance the writing and teaching education for MFAs. As many of you will already know, the MFA in Creative Writing is considered a “terminal degree”, which means that it is a qualification for teaching at the university level. In the second semester of course’s the second year students take a module called “Teaching and Writing Workshop.” In this class we have a weekly workshop, run by a variety of instructors who also speak about their teaching experience and strategies. It is designed to give students hands-on experience with different workshopping styles and methods that they can then implement in their own teaching.

The MFA Residents are select, outstanding writers who also have extensive teaching experience. They hail from various countries and often fly in specifically to be a part of this series. In addition to running a workshop, these writers and teachers also do private tutorials with all second year MFA students.

But what does this mean for you if you’re not a second year MFA? Good news: they also do readings that are open to the public. We encourage everyone to come meet these leading writers and hear them read from their work.

In the past, Dr. Bradfield has brought in writers including Fiona Sampson, former editor of Poetry Review, J. Robert Lennon, head of the MFA at Cornell University, and Brian Evenson, head of Brown University’s MFA program. And this year’s list is no less impressive with the following authors participating:

* Lamar Herrin, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University’s MFA program and author of novels, short stories, poetry and, most recently, a memoir entitled Romancing Spain.

* Wendy Cope OBE, Writer in Residence at Kingston University and poet renowned for her wit. Recent collections include Family Values and Two Cures for Love.

* Paul Maliszewski, editor and author of criticism, short stories, essays and poetry including the short story collection, Prayer and Parable, and the essay collection, Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders. It is our great pleasure to welcome Paul back for the second time as an MFA Resident.

* Christopher Priest, prolific author of everything from children’s non-fiction to novels and biographies. The film adaptation of his 1995 novel, The Prestige, was directed by Christopher Nolan and received two Academy Award nominations.

The dates for the public readings are as follows:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 – Lamar Herrin at 7:30pm at Penrhyn Road Campus in John Galsworthy room 3003

Tuesday, 16 April 2013 – Paul Maliszewski at 7:30pm

Tuesday, 23 April 2013 – Christopher Priest at 7:30pm

Locations along with author information will be posted on this site before each reading. We hope to have the profile of Lamar Herrin up very shortly so check back with us or follow this blog for updates via email (see box in at the top of the column on the right-hand-side of this page). Please come to the readings and enjoy the work of these fine writers from both sides of the Atlantic.

The Problem with International Student Visas

Amy Suiter is an American student in her second year of the MFA. She spends her time writing a novel, juggling the PG Cert and a part-time job, and trying to cut down to two cups of coffee per day. She occasionally finds time for random musings on her blog, A Minnesota Yankee. Today, she explains the visa difficulties that international students face and considers the effect this situation has on UK higher education.

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Of all the issues I have battled as an international student – adjusting to a new culture, shopping, weather, and finances – none has caused me more stress and anxiety than my ongoing need for a visa. Even working out my exorbitant fees as an overseas student does not compare to the energy and effort I have had to expend to live and work in the United Kingdom legally.

This, I believe, is a horrible shame.

International students have been said to bring along their own set of issues, three in particular: ‘Socio-cultural adjustment…Language…[and] Learning/teaching problems due to “culture”’ (Biggs, 2003, pp.121-122). Despite these issues, I believe studying abroad should be encouraged across the globe, both to develop the lives and minds of the students, but also to inspire growth and new ideas in teachers.

Anything that adds to the difficulties that are already ubiquitous amongst foreign students is foolish. While it may not be the fault of any particular university that many countries present rigorous visa applications, something may still be done to lessen the burden. My course leader has offered to write a letter to the UK Border Agency, for example. He is an American legal resident of the UK, and faced none of these problems when he originally came into this country.

International students bring in revenue. We are charged twice as much for our fees on average, sending hundreds of thousands of dollars into the coffers of universities each year. Losing overseas students due to impossible visa regulations is a mistake that universities can ill afford.

Teachers and staff would do well to take a stand against making life any more difficult for international students. The development of their own minds and teaching methods, as well as the cultural scope of the next generation, may depend on it.

References

Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 2nd Edition. Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.

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