Sunday, 15 September 2013

On the move

I’ve been in my current post six years and fifteen days. That’s the longest I’ve ever been in one job. So it’s probably quite appropriate that the department I’m in has now changed school, which has involved moving office, crossing the busy A6 and going from having my own office to having a shared one.  
We moved on Friday and I’m currently next door to the one that I’m eventually going to be in. The previous occupant has only half moved out. Four more colleagues will occupy the two rooms next to mine. My roommate is not there yet – she’ll come over with the second batch of people to be moved.
They tell us that these are the quietest rooms in the block. Certainly we’re in the most elegant part of a rather worn building. There is parquet flooring outside our offices and we are near an impressive staircase. The corridor opposite ours contains music practice rooms and as you walk along it, even though it’s not term-time yet, you hear different, well-performed music coming from each room.  
Then you turn the corner, and come to the complex where six other members of the subject group are housed. They seem to have a very creative space.
A lot goes on in this building, apart from the music. And that, they tell me, even includes a rock band.  A new colleague, but one I’d already met before, got into conversation with me. “Yes, it’s quiet down there,” he said. “Only it won’t be next week. I’m using the board room for rehearsals.”
A colleague from our group who used to work there commented. “Yes, you’ll find as the semester starts you’ll bump into students rehearsing in the corridors.”   
We had staff development sessions this week and even then we noticed a few people walking about in theatrical costumes.
Later, as I explored the building and found the staff room, School Office, mail room and photocopying room I bumped into the new colleague again. This time he was in costume and in a role. We communicated okay. But it was his character that was doing the talking.
I think this is all going to be fun.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Are creative writing academics also gatekeepers?

A relationship between the academy and the industry

I had an extraordinary experience yesterday. I had possibly the fastest rejection I’ve ever had. Sure, I’m used to rejections but now that I have quite a lot published and also have been an academic for several years, also holding a PhD in Creative Writing, I’ve kind of also got used to being taken seriously even if I am still sometimes rejected. In this case, by return an email came from the agent saying they were no longer accepting submissions. Fine. I totally get that. Yet their web-site was saying they were.
As we all know it takes a while to put a submission together and every one is different as every agent or publisher has varying requirements. I was more irritated about the wasted time than the rejection itself. I complained politely. Again, almost by return – a human being answered this time not a machine – came a polite and sincere apology.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Extraordinarily exciting start to the new academic year

Last time I wrote about what we normally face at this time of the year. I mentioned that it will be a little different this time. I’m now going to go into more detail.
I’ve been in my office for much of the day. I’ve packed three boxes, filled six sacks of ordinary rubbish and three sacks of confidential rubbish. We’re actually moving next Friday and today was my only chance.
We’ve been in the new school a week now. So far so good. Everyone seems very welcoming. But of course, we’re facing a slightly different culture, even though we’re still within one institution. I’m very optimistic. The new school is called Arts and Media and I see Creative Writing sitting comfortably there.
Yesterday I spent half a day with a colleague who is programme leader for the other two English programmes. We looked at optimal fit for our first years so that they’re coming in for a good bunch of classes on three days but not so many that they’ll feel overwhelmed.
We then looked at some second and third year issues.
We also put together the submission deadlines. We rolled last year’s but made adjustments to avoid Mondays (a university regulation), to take into consideration the Easter break and also adjusted some weekdays to fit in with teaching.
This year we’re also offering more contact hours to our second years. I have to write some more lectures, especially as I’m teaching a course I haven’t taught for a few years and I’ve got some more research to add in. I’m also taking over a course from a colleague who has left. So some work to do there as well.
Exciting times indeed.