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By Helena, on 1 December 2016

So no one tells you that an MA in Publishing keeps you so busy that you turn around and realise you haven’t sorted out the accompanying blog yet even though it’s almost December. Oops.

Hello, everyone! We are the new blog runners representing the MA Publishing course here at UCL, as part of the Department for Information Studies – you can find more information about us on the ‘blog managers’ page. We’ll be posting regular round-ups of important news and opportunities in the Publishing world, hosting guest posts from members of the course and others, as well as posting our own features and updates on how the course is going. Anything you want to know about the UCL MA in Publishing? Anything you want to see up here? Let us know!


Helena and Emily

Eimear McBride’s ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’

By Nick P Canty, on 17 July 2014


Review by Lauren Nettles

One of my favourite professors of creative writing at my undergraduate college once instructed the class not to write a story that has never been told, since that’s nearly impossible given the amount of writing already in the world. Instead, we were taught to tell a story in a way that it has never been told before.

In theory, I understood this advice, but it didn’t truly click until reading A Girl is a Half-formed Thing. At its core, Eimear McBride’s debut novel is the story of a girl growing into young adulthood in Ireland while struggling with her sexuality, complex relationships with various members of her family, and her older brother’s harrowing recovery from a childhood brain tumour. The trials faced by the narrator are not new topics in literature, but the way McBride tells the story is incredibly unique.

A combination of stream of consciousness narration, prose poetry, and textual impressionist painting, the broken sentence fragments take some time to settle into your brain, but within a few pages, the unnamed narrator’s voice is so clear that there’s little trouble determining the speaker or the events unfolding.

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is a challenging, knotty read that demands your full attention, but it’s hardly a chore to completely turn yourself over to it. The story alone is packed with genuine emotion, often disconcerting and even heartbreaking, but it’s the lyrical approach to narration that moves this prize-winning novel beyond simply a wonderful story to a breathtaking piece of art.

Desmond Elliott Prize 2014 – Meg Tobin-O’Drowsky

By Nick P Canty, on 14 July 2014

Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-formed Thing wins 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize

Eimear McBride

Eimear McBride

 I was honoured to attend the 2014 Desmond Elliott Prize ceremony on Thursday 3rd of July. Held on the fourth floor of Fortnum and Mason’s famous Piccadilly store, the place where Elliott (who arrived in London with £2 in his pocket; there’s hope for us all) did his grocery shopping, the whole evening was very exciting. While waiting for the announcement to begin, I found myself playing a classy game of ‘who’s who?’ and quickly discovered that every part of the book business was well represented, from librarians to academics, publishers and media to data aggregators and booksellers. Everyone was happily mingling and catching up, and for a night it was easy to forget all about the stressors that bookmaking weighs on everyone in the industry. Of course, we were all there for one reason: to celebrate writing, writing being one thing everyone in the room had in common.

Having had the great fortune of meeting D.W. Wilson, Robert Alison, and Eimear McBride a couple of weeks prior, I of course noticed them first upon my entrance and was immediately star-struck. The three of them have so many awards under their respective belts and boast such talent that I couldn’t help but be in awe of the company in which I found myself. And then I spotted Chris Cleave and added his list of awards to the pile, and I discovered I could swoon even further. Thankfully, I was rescued by a pair of librarians from Barrow-in-Furness who were also found wandering, lost, around the ground floor of Fortnum and Mason before the ceremony. They joined in my game of ‘who’s who’ and the instant camaraderie between us, attributed both to not exactly fitting in with the crowd and our collective love of books, is something that has stayed with me. I’ve found myself thinking about them every day since.

But on to the main event: the air was electric in the few moments before Cleave, Chair of the judging panel, took the podium. He introduced all three books with such passion and beauty, and succinctly described why the Desmond Elliott Prize is so valuable: “Debut fiction is the bravest, most exciting and purest form of the art, but today’s forces in book retail are lethal to new talent. Publishers are much less able to take risks on unconventional first novels, so I believe that it is now up to established authors to seek out, champion and amplify the best new voices.” Cleave provided the highest praise for all three novels and everyone in the room seemed swept away by his elegantly crafted words (no one could ever be fooled into thinking Cleave is anything but a writer). Appropriately, Cleave had lots of very high praise for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, and I think we’d be hard-pressed to find someone in the room who disagreed with him: “It is the most untamed, most expertly crafted, most daring, most challenging and most moving human story I’ve read in years. Its language pulsates and adapts, disintegrating and resolving at will. Above all it is a seditious act of storytelling that does what only the greatest works of fiction do: irresistibly it pulls you in to the story, leans close to your ear and whispers you something true about yourself.”

After the announcement was made and McBride said a quick thanks, the champagne again flowed and everyone in the room continued to mingle and chatter, fully at ease. It was truly an evening I’ll always remember, and I’m so thankful I was given the chance to stand in the same room with so many incredible people, winners and otherwise.

‘By the Book’ Publishing Studies Conference

By Nick P Canty, on 25 June 2014

Villa Finaly

Nick Canty and Prof Iain Stevenson from UCL’s Centre for Publishing spoke at the By the Book conference in Florence last month. The conference, held at Villa Finaly an academic institution outside Florence and owned by the University of Paris, brought together scholars from the field of publishing studies to examine key issues around the digital transformation of the book, as well as to discuss the developing field of publishing studies. This was the first conference to bring together scholars and researchers of publishing studies from across Europe and beyond – there were presentations from ten countries in total including two from South Africa giving a truly international perspective on the subject.

Over the two days of the conference, 28 presentations discussed how digitisation was changing publishing, bookselling and even reading habits as publishing formats change as publishers innovate and experiment. The conference provided an opportunity for researchers and teachers of publishing studies to assess the implications this changing landscape has for us, our programmes, our students and the discipline.

Speaking on a panel on reading practices, Nick gave a paper on bibliotherapy with case studies on some ‘books on prescription’ schemes in the UK with examples of how bookshops can engage with customers through guided reading programmes such as those offered by the School of Life and Mr B’s Reading Emporium. ‘Books on Prescription’ is now a category in the Kindle ebook store. Iain gave a talk on his recent research in the Book Tokens archive. Dr Melanie Ramdarshan Bold, who is joining the Centre from Loughborough in September, discussed her research on regional publishing in the North of England and the North West of the United States.

The full list of presentations can be found here.





Cúirt International Festival of Literature

By uczcbsv, on 15 April 2014

Last weekend, four students from the MA Publishing class visited the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway, Ireland. Not only because of the many great authors that would be present, but also because one of the MA Publishing students, Philip Connor, had won the New Writers Prize in the fiction category! To read his brilliant story follow this link. Again, congratulations Philip!!

In addition to celebrating Philip’s success, we also visited two events. On Friday night we went to an event featuring Hollie McNish and Patrick DeWitt. I was unfamiliar with both authors, and after this event I fell a little bit in love with both of them. Smart, lovely, and incredibly funny they both caused the audience to cry with laughter. Especially a poem by Hollie McNish, ‘Mathematics’, stuck with me for the next couple of days, an honest and heartfelt poem on immigration. See the video below to hear the poem being read by Hollie McNish and experience it for yourself.

The next evening we went to see Eleanor Catton and Rachel Kushner. They both did a reading of their latest novels and were interviewed for an hour afterwards. Again – loved them. Having already seen Eleanor Catton at an Apple Store event shortly after she had won the Man Booker Prize 2013, we were familiar with her almost intimidating intelligence and charm, something that hadn’t changed in this interview. Picture this and add the witty Rachel Kushner – a formula for a brilliant event. Rachel Kushner’s reading intrigued me so much that I hurried to buy her book, ‘The Flamethrowers’, after the event, and was lucky enough to get her to sign my copy.

After these events we went to an after party where all the authors, book sellers, event organisers, and us as baby publishers/fan base wandered around. My first visit to Galway and the Cúirt Festival was a brilliant experience and I will definitely go back again.

Written by Britt van Klaveren