A way with words
How do you create an exhibition of creative writing? And why? Kirstin Innes finds out about Words 2008
'Well, it seemed a bit unfair that Masters students at the Glasgow School of Art got to have a degree show and we didn't,' says Susan Kemp, 'so we thought we'd do something about that! Obviously, we understand why that is: how do you 'show' the written word?' This is the task that Kemp, a former BBC producer, and her fellow students on Glasgow University's MLitt at the Edwin Morgan Centre for Creative Writing decided to set themselves. The result, Words 2008, is a four-day interactive exhibition and events programme at Glasgow's Mitchell Library, featuring sound and visual art installations created by public artist Nicola Atkinson, a panel discussion on 'The Craft of Writing' featuring Tom Leonard, workshops, and readings from the graduates' upcoming collection of short stories, Let's Pretend: 37 Stories About (In)fidelity.
The contributors are almost exclusively graduating students, alumni and tutors from the Edwin Morgan Centre. The prestige of this particular MLitt may tend to be shouted rather loudly by some of its students (and by lazy journalists: the phrase 'Glasgow University's prestigious creative writing course' should probably be written into the OED), but there's no arguing with its pedigree. The course has produced writers of the calibre of Louise Welsh, Booker-nominee Rachel Seiffert, and, more recently Jennifer McCarthy. Whatever form these words come in, it's a fair bet they're going to be well chosen.
What Words 2008 seems to reflect is the increasing visibility of writers as performers, no longer content to push their books out into the world unseen when they could be out there receiving feedback.
'What most of the students feel is the major benefit of the course is the community of writers you come into contact with,' Kemp says. 'You're not just writing in isolation: you have people there to give you criticism. The value of that criticism is one of the things we hope to be able to transmit to the public.'
The students have created a piece of sound art out of spoken words, and will be offering workshops in the skills they've picked up to the public for free. Cheekily, they also promise a cordoned-off section with writers quite literally 'in residence', working behind velvet ropes, but available to stop and answer questions about their creative processes 'as they create,' Kemp promises. 'We're even going to have little signs up saying "Do not feed the writers … alcohol!"
Mitchell Library, Glasgow, Tue 9-Sat 13 Sep (panel discussion and events Thu 11 Sep). wordsexpo2008.wordpress.com