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U is for University


I’m sorry I haven’t been around much. I started my university course three weeks ago and was also interviewing for another job (one that will help me find more time for my studies), which I’m pleased to say I landed. I’m alsomoving home in the next month or so.  Not too stressful at all!

Something had to give, so my blogging took second place for a while. I’ll blog when I can, but it won’t necessarily be every single week as it had been prevoiously.

So, university. I was lucky enough to be accepted to study an MFA at Manchester Metropolitan University, by distance learning, which means most of my classes and studies will take place online from my own home.  This is great, because it allows me to work full time and still get to class (and do the reading work).

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My module this term is Reading Novels 1, which involves close reading of a book a week and writing an essay at the end, the subject of which is to be agreed with my tutor. I have some ideas already so we shall see what he thinks once I’ve made up my mind which one to go with.

We discuss a novel each week in an online chat session, with the tutor and my classmates. So far, we’ve discussed writing by Patricia Highsmith, William Golding and Anthony Burgess. This week, it’s Vladimir Nabokov (no, not Lolita), and in a few weeks we’re going to study a novel by Ursula Le Guin (so excited!).

I’m so happy I chose a course that is welcoming to SFF writers. There’s still a lot of snobbery around what is considered literary, and therefore worthy of study, so to see not one, but two speculative fiction novels on the list was reassuring. (Golding’s The Inheritors can also be considered speculative because it explores what it might have been like to be Neanderthal, and what they might have faced in encountering our own species for the first time. And, of course, like any good speculative fiction, it explores ideas that might not be well-recieved if they are set in the backdrop of our own cultures. I won’t spoil anything here – but I would definitely recommend what is an initially difficult but ultimately rewarding read.  Difficult because we have to step outside our own consciousness and see the world through the eyes of a species that did not have the same cognitive abilities, or even vocabulary.

The Nabokov is also proving an exacting read; it requires much more concentration to follow what’s happening than the average novel today. There are a great deal of meanderings, and sentences where you may have forgotten the beginning by the time you reach the end. An acquired taste for today’s reader, I think but again, worth perservering for his character-building skills and his vocabulary alone (I learned at least one new word while reading this, and he was not a native English speaker).

Next term, we get to workshop our writing with other students. I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to use an urban fantasy novel I started but never finished, or a completely new story that I’ve been noodling around with in my spare time. Another urban fantasy, sort of, involving a middle-aged witch, and dragons from another dimension.  I can’t use the time to polish and edit The Lost Weaver, because it’s almost twice the length allowed for the final novel-writing stage of the MFA, but that’s okay. I’m editing it when I get the time and will probably spend the summer getting it submission-ready.