Novel Ambitions: the Novel Studio’s end of year show 2018
The culmination of a year’s work on their creative writing, the Novel Studio evening of readings is organised by the students in their third term as part of their Publishing module and gives them a chance to read from their novels-in-progress in front of an audience of family, friends and publishing professionals.
This year the students created a very strong visual signature - the octopus writing on the typewriter - to coincide with their carefully crafted words, which they recorded as mini podcasts available through their website.
As the audience walked into the hall, they could hear the sound of an octopus swimming around underwater, as a still visual of the flyer was displayed around the room. It lent a sense of anticipation to an already eager group of listeners.
Emily Pedder, Course Director of the Novel Studio, welcomed everyone and introduced the tutors. Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone, the visiting lecturer for the Publishing module, then introduced the twelve Novel Studio students whose work varied as much in genre as in setting, taking us on a journey from deep in the multiverse, through Australia, Lagos, Russia, America and all the way to Sheffield and Kent.
Clare Charlton took us to American in 1970 and introduced us to Lizzie from her novel, Connecticut, whose forgotten mail promises to change the lives of her family forever. Craig Shanley dropped us into a flight scene for one of his main characters, Deneb, who is running in fear for her life alongside the artificial intelligence system, Iam. The scene was taken from his novel, Stratum, the first in a series of science fiction novels set in a world of his own devising.
Natasha Ware read from her novel, Marfa, taking us to Russia in 1945 as Marfa flees the Soviet authorities, having been accused of killing a child under her care. She travels home with her baby son born out of wedlock, afraid of how her family will respond to her new situation.
Next up was Jane Clancy Reid who read a pivotal scene from her novel, Take Five, as Margaret runs over the body of a small boy with Down’s syndrome in a close-knit community in a harbour suburb of Sydney, Australia.
Attiya Khan gave us some hard-hitting young adult fiction, Cigarettes and Scarves, as the new boy protects Aisha from the local bullies who threaten her because of her headscarf. She wasn’t meant to notice how handsome he was.
Olorunfemi Fagunwa read from her novel, Black Sun, taking us to Lagos as Tony struggles to shrug off his nightmares under the heat of the African sun, and tries to face up to the loss of his mother, the real reason for his journey home from England.
Sarah Comery gave us some more young adult fiction with her novel, Threads, as Eva’s world begins to unravel when she wakes in the middle of the night to the sound of her mother’s screams.
From the present to the near future, Jessica Commons transported us to the Californian desert reading from her novel The Mind Thief. Mathilda is a new devotee of the self-help coach, Daniel, whose holistic wellness doctrine promises to solve his followers’ anxiety and depression. As Mathilda gives up her phone to be cleansed of toxic content, we wondered what else she might innocently offer up for Daniel’s promise of a perfect life.
Victoria Young took us to present day Sheffield next, in her novel, Tell me Tell me Tell me, where Flo is in the middle of cleaning up the home of her estranged sister whose dead body, discovered the day before by the police, had been decomposing for over a week.
Next we heard Simon Culleton read from his novel, Shadow of Fathers, inspired by real events in which a father fights to bring his children home from Germany where they had ostensibly been taken on holiday by their German mother who then refused to take them back and filed for divorce.
Gar O’Dwyer read from his psychological, art world thriller and satire, A Nude’s Progress, next making us witness the famous artist Theo X take mobile photos of a fatal bicycle accident in Old Street. The readings then ended with Laurence Van Der Noordaa who read from her historical novel, Bitter Coffee is Best with Pie, and showed us the difficulties of emigrating to America at the time of WWII as young Renato and his family try to get past the authorities on Ellis Island.
With only thanks left, the evening continued with discussion over drinks in the Pavillion. Agents, editors and publishing professionals asked the students about their work and encouraged them to be in touch.
We wish the Novel Studio students of 2017/18 the best of luck with their ongoing writing and feel sure we’ll hear their names attached to publishing deals soon.