Tuesday Reading Series: Rogers, Coleridge and White/ Zone

Jennifer Hewson from RCW literary agency

Jennifer Hewson from RCW literary agency

Hi there, hope everyone’s been enjoying some time off after the exams or some time inside writing dissertations while everyone else gets to throw frisbees in the sun. But not to worry, for those who also think that frisbees are best left to domestic animals and people who wear visors, the summer is the time where most of the work gets done. And so this will be the belated post for the events on the last week of term, plus some recent news that have come to my attention (but not, as is mostly the case, to my understanding) from poetry-land.

On the last Tuesday reading series event we had Jennifer Hewson from the Rogers, Coleridge and White literary agency. She gave us some advice related to contacting agents and getting people interested in your writing. She underlined the importance of using your contacts, if you have any, to ensure manuscripts get read or at least seriously considered. Then we had some readers too.

Some people find it really hard to hear about this. I mean, most people I’ve met who want to have a career in writing tend to (ironically) consider writing as something other than a normal job. While different people might have varying modes of work, and it is, like any other art, very much down to talent and style and things that you can’t always teach, I actually like the way most of the talks we’ve had this year have de-idealised the whole process. They have repeatedly made us aware that basic things necessary in all jobs (i.e. networking, a good presentation letter, persistence, etc.) are also things you need to have. It dismantles the whole myth of the artiste, the hedonist and bohemian pseudo-intellectuals who never work for anything else other than themselves, or who hold the dismissive belief that what they do is somehow morally superior to other occupations. In this sense, Sherman Alexie was right to call writing ‘manual labour’. Leave that other fancy stuff to Lady Gaga and the Mumford people and their little guitars, all of them devoid of empathy.

Lastly, I have some news on the new Zone magazine. This is a poetry and criticism magazine started in Kent by staff and postgrads and its first issue comes out early September. It will feature poetry by Denise Riley, Simon Smith, David Herd and Natalie Bradbeer to name a few. I will be reminding people of any events linked to the launch for you in here, so you keep visiting in the months to come.

There are people throwing a frisbee outside and they look so happy. There’s no one else in the third-floor quiet study area where I’m at right now. I want to ask them to come and throw it inside the library. I want to participate. Enjoy the summer.



Tuesday Reading Series: Tony Frazer/ ZONE event

Juha reading and Simon Smith into it.

Juha reading behind a flower and Simon Smith really into it.

So, Tony Frazer from Shearsman Books came to give a talk at Kent for one of the Tuesday Reading Series which was awesome. He talked about how he set up Shearsman and offered advice to those interested in starting a similar endeavour. Also, Natalie Bradbeer’s poetry reading was great as always.

Apart from that, what really stood out this week was the ZONE event in the veg box café. ZONE is a Kent-based poetry collective and they organised an event that lasted two days called the San Francisco Renaissance. During the day they had conferences and in the evening there were live performances. The one that stood out for me was Juha Virtanen’s. I think he’s crazy. Before he reads he sits down on the pavement alone and smokes in silence. Then when he performs he’s so so loud and so fast. I’m not sure if the papers he carries have any writing on them because I do not believe anyone can read that fast. Plus, if they were all white A4s, then it would confirm my suspicions about him being absolutely crazy. The fire alarm went off during his reading because someone burnt some toast or something, and there were people going into the kitchen and standing on tables and waving their hands to a machine that simply does not understand human gestures. And Juha kept reading and it was amazing. He got so many claps you couldn’t even hear the alarm. But then we had to leave until it was over.

I also very much enjoyed readings by Simon Smith and Tim Atkins, as well as Natalie Bradbeer’s Lorca translations. Find them all and read them.

Next week it’s the last Tuesday Reading Series event before the summer break. There’s a literary agent from RCW coming to give a talk after a few readings by students.

See you there!




Tuesday Reading Series: Indie Publishers

Charlotte reading to indie publisher panel.

Charlotte reading to indie publisher panel.

Hi everyone again. So, last week we continued with the ‘industry professional’ talks. This time, it was all about smaller independent publishers and we got four speakers with different opinions on the way forward for indies, as well as the different problems they encounter. But before their talk, we had a couple of readers.

We had Inge Watson, Jane Murrell, Rebecca Balfourth and Charlotte Geater. The pieces varied from memoirs, to non-fiction writing, to pop culture narratives… I particularly enjoyed Charlotte’s piece. Look her up and read her stuff. She has a very strong contemporary voice, which is always funny as it is intelligent.

Then the speakers started. At first, there was some talk about how evil Amazon is to the publishing industry. I remember feeling very guilty, like when your vegan friend starts reciting all the animal cruelty that goes into packing your favourite burger at the pub. And so, as with the burger, you want more information, maybe so you can look for alternatives to make you feel less guilty, or maybe so someone can convince you that you’re just wrong and you can easily amend it. That day I had bought half a dozen books from Amazon and so I payed a lot of attention…

Anyway, it wasn’t all about the transparent ills of capitalism. They showed us some of the people they published, the way that they work very close to their authors editing manuscripts and the way that it is more a labour of love than one about the perpetual worry of increasing sales. Although they did mention how pressured about it nonetheless… But that stuff doesn’t matter. In fact, what was interesting was how they all criticised big publishers for sometimes looking over great writing (mainly due to internal pressure and having to hit large sales numbers) that they then discover to do well. It is definitely a trend I expect to see growing, as long as big publishers and agencies seem unapproachable by new writers lacking of any industry experience. The publishers were Myriad, Galley Beggar, Cultured Llama and 3.AM (yes, the same 3AM from the Paris-based literary magazine). Look them up and see what you think.

Next week it’s time for poetry and Tony Frazer (Shearsman Books) is visiting which is very exciting stuff. See you then!


Tuesday Reading Series: Jonathan Cape

Mad Rhys Trimble performing (before the megaphone).

Mad Rhys Trimble performing (before the megaphone).

Hi, um, this week was awesome. This summer term, instead of the normal Tuesday reading series, we are having ‘industry people’ visiting us to hear short samples of our work and then give us tips on how to approach writing professionally. This week we had Alex Bowler, a senior editor for Jonathan Cape. I was expecting a man wearing a suit, in his mid-forties, walking stick and emerald rings and a cat on his lap. But no, there was no cat. Instead, Alex Bowler is young and lucid and passionate about his work. He also offered us useful and pragmatic insights about the business, which is always better than a clichéd account of a publishing world driven by eccentric personalities.

Reading this week were Nicole Smith, Isabella Devani, Emer Gillespie and myself. It was, of course, amazing. But I also forgot to take my camera with me and so you’ll have no proof.

Then on Thursday we had the Splinter magazine launch event. Splinter is an international literary magazine started by Kent postgrads and its first issue features diverse writings from both poetry and prose. On the magazine launch event we had readings from Laurie Duggan and Natalie Bradbeer and Áine Belton and the mad druid Rhys Trimble who you should all watch perform. He banged a stick on the ground to the rhythm of his poems and then took out a megaphone to finish them off. He’s also a big fan of the current post-rock scene… Enough said.

And that’s all for this week. Next up, indie publishers! See you soon and enjoy the sun.