I’ve been wondering when I’d have the courage to post something from the book I wrote for my MA. I took the MA in Sheffield, not because there wasn’t a more distant University from my home in South London than this – Manchester might well beat it – but because, at least back then, only at Sheffield did they mark a complete work; other universities offering MAs mark to around 30-50,000 words and a synopsis. How you can say someone is capable of writing a publishable book without seeing all of it defeats me.
So starting in Jan 2011 off I traipsed to Sheffield, once a week on a Wednesday. The first part of the course was taught and involved not only my ‘Major’ – novel writing – but also a critical thinking element called ‘What’s is contemporary?’ which was a curate’s egg (any course that makes you read The Finkler Question should be referred to The ECHR as a cruel and unusual punishment) and my ‘Minor’ which was script writing (not for me, in truth).
Once we’d slogged through that it was all writing and critiquing. Eventually, after two and a half years I had my MA.
I like Sheffield. Before this course it was a mystery to me, but my weekly sojourns allowed me the chance to explore a little. I’d say here is a city that feels at ease with itself and its lost past. Sure it has problems but it doesn’t seem bowed down by them unlike some other spots. And the area outside the station up to the Uni is I think a grand piece of urban planning. Add to this the fact that the journey from home (30 minutes from Herne Hill to St Pancras on the Thames link and 2 hours n East Midlands trains to Sheffield) meant it was easily doable in a day, then it hardly mattered it was ‘ooop nawth’.
So while all the peripheral stuff (travel, ton and course) worked ok, these thins succeed of fail by the people: ‘it’s the people stupid’ and here I was more than fortunate.
Jane Rogers taught me the novel and Mike Harris screenplay. I think I struck lucky with those two.
But mostly it was, and continues to be, my fellow students from whom I have gained the most energy and inspiration. I would have been and would still be lost without them.
So there it is; I have an MA and apparently a book that is ‘of publishable quality’, that being the test. It has been beaten like a recalcitrant piece of iron ore into something very different from where I started and has allowed me to add more of the alphabet to my name and entitled me to an afternoon wearing a rug and a silly hat.
And yet, and yet. Jane gave me the names of some agents who have liked the work of Sheffield students in the past. Once I’d cut out the few who’d closed their lists or only published Cowboy SciFi I had maybe fifteen names. Sadly the past was indeed a foreign country so far as my book was concerned Did I expect them to want it? Not really. Where is my USP? Does a coming of age comedy set in 1976 really snag the zeitgeist and wrestle it to the ground when there’s not a whip or a vampire in sight?
So the next stage is self publishing. Part of the motivation for this blog was to expose me and my ramblings to a worthy public and prepare myself for the launch. To hear a few voices and to gain from their experience.
I know it still needs some work. It’s been copy edited by a friend who is very good but it almost certainly needs another run through. It needs a decent cover. The Sculptor has said he will help but he has a day job and it might be a while before he can assist. Maybe it is worth spending a little to have someone used to designing jackets to have a go for me. If you have suggestions who might be worth looking at, do say.
There are so many tools of procrastination around me I need a push; tell me to stop, to get off my fat gluteus maximus and do it. DO IT. I have to. Really.
If you have gotten this far, then please to the My Work tab where you will find the first two chapters of DF&ST for your reading pleasure. Do say what you think; believe me, if there is one skill I’ve gained at Sheffield it is how to take criticism. I had enough practice.