Sci-fi author gives students out of this world advice

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Date: 19th Apr 2018

‘Being a writer is like being a stand-up comic but you have to wait two years until your books are published before people get the punchline.’

It may sound like an offbeat statement but it’s one of the lessons award-winning sci-fi author Gareth L Powell has been imparting on BA (Hons) Creative Writing for Publication students.

Gareth, whose latest project is a trilogy of novels comprising Embers Of War, Fleet Of Knives, and Light Of Impossible Stars; says students have much to learn to acquit themselves for life as an author.

So he has visited Bucks for two day-long sessions with second-year students, hearing their dissertation pitches for novels or scripts they will write in their third year, and offering them an invaluable perspective on life in the world of published writing.

Gareth Powell with students Connor Eddles and Georgia Scannell

He said: “Advice has included words information around pitching ideas, about how to approach an agent, articulate your ideas to publishers, and how to handle life as an author, which at times can be lonely when you’re in the process of writing.

“As an author you also have to accept that once you complete a piece of work it may be some time, perhaps years, before that piece of work is read and appreciated and you gain some kind of feedback.

“To that end, you are encouraged to celebrate milestones within the process, from completing the first draft, to publication, to ensure you aren’t dwarfed by the process.

“I am also speaking to them about how to develop and build a social media presence and build up their profile. As an author you are always out there to one degree or another and people have to be prepared for that.”

Student Connor Eddles said: “It is great to have someone like Gareth visit to show us what we are doing and still have to do to get the technical aspects right. His input also helps us grow our self-esteem. It’s incredibly useful.”

Fellow student Georgia Scannell added: “Gareth’s input is invaluable in giving us an idea of the world we all want to work in and giving us feedback on the work we’re doing.

“One of the things he has impressed on us is how you have to go about informing people you have sometimes only just met what your ideas are. That can be daunting and exciting. It’s great to hear that kind of advice.

“I am really trying to hone my skills so that when I graduate I am ready for the world of work. Welcoming someone like Gareth, and the other speakers we hear from, is like a triple-edged sword benefiting myself, fellow students and the University.”

Gareth L Powell enjoys a distinguished career. His alternate history thriller, Ack-Ack Macaque, won the 2013 BSFA Award for Best Novel, spawned two sequels, and was shortlisted in the Best Translated Novel category for the 2016 Seiun Awards in Japan.

His short fiction has appeared in a host of magazines and anthologies, including Interzone, Clarkesworld, Solaris Rising 3, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction, and his story ‘Ride The Blue Horse’ made the shortlist for the 2015 BSFA Award.

He can be found on Twitter, where he routinely answers questions from aspiring authors.

Lecturer Tammy Riley-Smith added: “Gareth offers invaluable industry feedback. Given his success in the publishing world, it is a terrific opportunity for the students to get first class support and insight into his writing world.”

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