Tag Archives: University of Stirling

The Way Forward in the Form of a Rant

You know the tap in your bathroom or kitchen that no matter how tight you close it keeps dripping and dripping and dripping and eventually you end of screaming at this inanimate object out of frustration ultimately realising your frustration towards that tap is a symptom not a cause? It’s not the tap you’re annoyed with. It’s the dripping that slowly fills you to the brim.

Rather a stale idiom, isn’t it? But it works. My brim came full the other day when I found out things that I just could not fathom any professionals would or even could stoop down to. So I have decided to open the taps full and start all over again. I don’t mind where I go from here, as long as I’m moving.Aija Oksman, MLitt Publishing

Due to disclosure agreements and possible social media monitoring that the company conducts and other rather inconceivable ridiculousness I’ve encountered, I won’t be naming or shaming. But I will quite happily wonder about the future.

I’ve finished my degree. MLitt in Publishing  and am slowly coming into terms of not being a student anymore. It’s about damn time, I think. Difficult part now is to figure out what next?

Is publishing what I really want to do? What in it appeals to me? What kind of publishing would I want to be involved in? Am I corporate material or rather independent publishing type? Editing? Proofreading? Marketing? Translating? Literary agency?

Actually, I know exactly what I would want. I know exactly what I would be good at and where my passion lies. But it’ll take a while to get there, and requires experience and experimenting. Of course in the ideal world I could combine my love for cooking/baking and coffee with working with independent publishing, minority literatures and translations.

One can dream, right?

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The Pursuit Project

WebsiteThings are moving along nicely.

Saila and I have now started the English version of the succcessful Oman Elämänsä Prinssessa blog, under the titular The Princess of her own Existence. Rather dramatic name, but the story and journey of Saila are just that. Dramatic.

I cannot pretend I know anything about postnatal depression,
but I do know something about self-harm, depression and issues with eating – perhaps that is why I have always felt strongly about Saila’s experiences. And that is why I believe it is a journey worth sharing. Saila has very unashamedly shared deepest personal feelings and shown an insight to the world of a woman, a mother and a wife in the grips of depression. Something too many are still afraid to admit, to speak of and to express as openly as Saila does.

FatherWhat women endure in silence is exactly what Saila expressed loudly and proudly – together with her husband, Timo. They have been a team since the beginning, with Timo eventually becoming Saila’s photography partner. No one ever thinks about the father in these situations, sadly. Therefore, for the Pursuit Project it was clear from the beginning that we wanted to include the father’s perspective. In the sample book this was one spread, but in the plan for the full-length version the father’s contribution will be much more extensive, both in form of his own words and the photography.

At the moment, Saila and I are focusing in creating more space for the project in forms of social media and contacting publishers and potentially also agents. Although, honestly, I wouldn’t mind taking the role of agent here. This project, for Saila as well as for myself is very personal. For very different reasons, probably.

The next exciting part is that Saila is attending the Helsinki Book Fair 23–26th October, and will hopefully be able to reach a lot of people. Helsinki Book Fair10406956_10152820717569273_7258743995735808228_n is very different to the other book fairs that I have been lucky enough to be acquainted with. Another thing the Finnish publishing and Finnish literature are doing right, and the world fairs would have a thing or two to adopt from Helsinki Book Fair. The Helsinki Book Fair is an open doors event, meaning that it is not aimed just for the trade people but invites the public, which directly results into having more visitors, more acknowledgment and more spread. And finally, the Helsinki Book Fair has the policy of actually selling titles at the fair not just representing them, which has a direct correlation to the popularity and spread of the reputation and success of the Book Fair itself.

As the idea for the book begun as a graduate project for the University of Stirling, the final work was submitted as a sample of a book. It was always about creating something necessary, something for where there is an obvious market gap – and even bigger necessity of accessible, first-hand experience. Simple reason why Saila and I are working at creating this book, is to provide those suffering from postnatal depression with assurance that there is a way out, that it is not a taboo to speak out and you will not be stigmatised for admitting you need help. The first step to admitting and accept you cannot do it on your own anymore, is hearing it from someone who has been there before.

Saila’s openness, perseverance and current position as a spokesperson and mental health experience expert are an inspiration.

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A film night causes worry for the future of the written word.

IMG_20140727_104524I watched a film tonight. I wanted my mind off my dissertation so I can read it again with a fresh mind (we’ll see…) but I’m not too sure my choice of billing for the night were the best. Considering, I initially spent the day reading Keith Richard‘s Life while listening to the Rolling Stones, I was already in a “mood”, if you catch my drift. You mix that with some red wine and months of isolation and selective insulation in order to get the dissertation done, watching Kill Your Darlings was just the kind of “it” that was bound to work its way right in my head.

What initially caught my attention was how Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan in the film) asked Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe who, no matter what, is for me still odd to see be someone else than Harry who I grew up with, sort of, although I personally thought he did a brilliant performance in this particular film – in The Woman In Black on the other hand… not so much) how many people started the Renaissance (p.21), and after receiving an answer asks how many started the Romanticism (p.22)?

Two and five, respectively, apparently – according to the script and film-version-Allen Ginsberg, if you were wondering.

But see here, this is where I stumbled. 2 and 5? Who? How? What about the others? Maybe I’m still in my research mood – and unused to sleeping what else do I have to do at 10:45 at night on a Sunday, I began researching…

The Renaissance, at least in Italy, can be considered to have begun around the years 1350 to 1400  But to the questions of WHOM started it. Well, there are options. Which are more than two, as Ginsberg in the film suggests. How about IMG_20140727_120552The Medici family? Or then the bundle of individuals such as Dante Alighieri (“the greatest literary work ever written in the Italian language”, ref. 1), Francesco Petrarch (“Father of Humanism”, ref. 1) and Leonardo da Vinci (“THE quintessential Renaissance man, not only in his artwork, but in his outlook on life. Driven by imagination and curiosity, Leonardo was not just an artist, but a scientist, a mathematician, a musician, an engineer and a writer to name but five”, ref. 1). But this again depends on which city you would consider as the “birth place”; Florence? Rome? (ref. 1-2)

And what about the Romantics? Where “no other intellectual/artistic movement has had comparable variety, reach, and staying power since the end of the Middle Ages”. How about attributing the origins to Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm who began to collect the popular fairy tales, till then passed through generations as oral tradition. What about Shakespeare who almost single-handedly reformed English language? Or maybe Wordsworth? Or Shelley? Or later on Blake or Keats? (ref. 3-5)

Then what Kill Your Darlings shows, the Beat Nation. The New America – The Jazz era had everyone in fever.

And in the end… What do we have now? What has become of us?

What is literature that is permanent? Regardless of time or generation, belief or politics? It is something that we would label now as ‘classic literature’, or in other words it is a work of literature that “has stood the test of time; and it stands the test of time when the artistic quality it expresses – be it an expression of life, truth, beauty, or anything about the universal human condition – continues to be relevant, and continues to inspire emotional responses, no matter the period in which the work was written.” (ref. 9)

I have been brought up to love the written word, to respect the books, the stories, the ideas of others, the imagination. My mother is a collector who instilled in me a love of reading so much so that I was an avid reader and “storyteller” before I went to school. My godmother was more cautious – book spines are not to be bent! I like my book to look worn out, exhausted – read through thoroughly. My father, recently, as well as joined with the latter part of my studies, gave me the spark to start examining and reading (or when not reading, at least watching) Nordic Noir and Scandinavian Crime. My recent chat with Hannu, a Finnish-weird author, got me reading My Struggle from Karl Ove Knausgaard (ummpf is all I can say). And the more I read, and the more I read and more I learn and more I hear – I wonder – what is “it” for this generation? The now? What is to become of us?

Who do we have now that we will remember in example of literary prowess, with such passion, with ever-continuing impact on the way we think or even speak, with such torn opinions as we do remember Shakespeare, Faulkner, Kafka, Marguez, Douglass, Dickinson, Ginsberg, Dylan, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Emerson, Stein, Whitman, Pound, Baldwin, Baraka, Zola, Night with Bookshelves_Article PortfolioAngelou… Too many to mention. Or the books, the books nearly every student will have to read or will one way or another come across that changed history – 1984, The Art of War, Anne Frank, Incidents in a Life of a Slave Girl, The Second Sex, The Prince, Moby Dick, Walden, A Room of One’s Own, or (if you want to go there) how about The Bible?

What is 21st century equivalent of Dadaism,  Naturalism? Realism? Modernism? The Post modernism? Existentialism? The Beat Generation? Is it, dare I say, “YOLO”? And what have that produced in terms of cultural revolution that will taunt and inspire us for generations to come?

Is reading different in the 21st century? If you read the comments under the article, you see most people seem to think that literature hasn’t changed, but people have. The way we read. We prefer (and I use the term “we” very loosely here) shorter, more condensed form of information, whether high literature or a news feed on our social media. We read in fragments, on the go, on our tablets or smart phones, while commuting or sitting in a cafe… Who reads sprawled, long, demanding texts anymore? Is this the reason for the surge of short stories?

There is aplenty of literature worth to read in the 21st century. There is a lot of new wonderful writers and styles to pay attention to. But what have we come across since the 80s that is “norms shattering”, groundbreaking and bending the existence, mind-blowing like we had so much until the earlier part of 21st century. (ref. 8-10)

I have no answers. I’m trying to find some.

For a Salzburg University final exam I once interpreted Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost as to mean we have a long way ahead, life and work, before the solace of sleep that is death (my professor disagreed, though she said it was an interesting interpretation; she rather thought it was about the hardships of daily life). Can we also assume that if there’s a lifetime ahead, there’s hope? I do hope there is more to come that will cause worldwide shudder and raise again the ability to adore, have patience and improve concentration – and for this, we need also world literature, to break out of our comfort zones and be exposed to new and unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, there must be hope, as Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve, | And Hope without an object cannot live.

 

See more at
1. http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/so-how-did-renaissance-begin
2. http://www.ducksters.com/history/how_did_the_renaissance_start.php
3. http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/romanticism.html
4. http://classiclit.about.com/od/britishromantics/a/aa_britromantic.htm
5. http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/lecture16a.html
6. http://classiclit.about.com/od/forbeginners/a/aa_whatisclass.htm
7. http://www.gradesaver.com/writing-help/what-makes-classic-literature-classic/
8.http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2010/06/28/25-writers-who-changed-the-world/
9. http://www.nypl.org/blog/2014/01/28/top-25-books-changed-history
10. http://rodmarsden.hubpages.com/hub/Thirty-Books-That-Changed-the-World

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Take yourself into consideration – the MLitt Publishing Project

It is said that one in four has some form of mental illness. Look around you; if it’s none of your friends, it’s probably you. The easiest to ignore, when there is so much to do, to achieve, to learn, to perfect, is yourself. What you need and should have around you to be that perfect person you long to be.

MoodboardA while back I began a project for my MLitt studies together with Saila Turkka, for the lack of a better word – my “cousin” (my mother’s best friend’s middle daughter whom I more or less grew up with, so as good as a cousin, right?). The project is to show off the MLitt students’ abilities in all the things we’ve gathered in our knowledge and skill baskets over the length of our studies.

Mine became a sample for a book that is in planning (and in making as soon as a sponsor/financial backing/commissioning is secured) on Saila’s first hand experience as a mother with post-natal depression.

I was lucky to have such a fantastic project partner in Saila – the back and forth with us was continuous, ideas were flying and the project was changing weekly, if not even daily. From humble 16 page plan into the final 28 pages it was a journey of learning and exploration.Pursuit - Empowering Post-natal Depression

Saila is an inspirational woman. She is a woman, a mother, a wife and a survivor. The way she openly discusses her journey from succumbing into post-natal depression, with links to her past depressive phases, through her struggle to find proper care into her current life as an artists and a chairperson of HELMI,  non-profit mental health organisation that “wants to attack prejudices held against psychiatric patients and those who are not in the mainstream of society”.

The project was my chance to explore and use CS6 that I had no previous experience with (and I have to say, it is a wonderful creative program, a must-have!) and to be creative again. I missed that. I don’t think I have delved so deep into something creative in years. What made it an exploration was how all the discussions, all the research and how close I was with the project, how it made me look back inside the pits of my own mind.

I have always been a loud, non-stop speaking, hyper personality (overwhelming in my excitement) – at least out on the open. But in my own mind there are recesses and pathways that I prefer not to wander about too closely. Remembering how some years ago it had a very adverse reaction when I did. I like to be in control and I like to fill any silence with noise, either with my actions or incessant blathering. I have had many a teacher, professor, friend and family sigh and roll their eyes at my out-of-controllness. Perhaps it is all combined or symptomised with my ADHD, but surely part of it is just me. Just me not really being comfortable in my own skin at times. And this causes marked times when I cannot function.

On top of that, the past couple years a lot happened that had my head spinning, made me work nearly non-stop and despite people I love telling me to slow down, cut back and take some time for myself I couldn’t and wouldn’t. I was afraid to stop moving. I believed that I would crash if I stopped. But what actually happened was that because I didn’t stop, I crashed. I cried randomly, and not that sweet few tears that you just can’t hold back – but that big ugly mess of a wallowing in my own inabilities kind of blubbering. But naturally only when no one could see or hear me. I would also collapse on a few occassion on my way home, literally down to my knees, as I couldn’t breath, couldn’t comprehend the street in front of me and my body literally came to a halt. Panic attacks settled in.

Ultimately I got yelled at by my mother to actually take some fricking time off or else… And what I did – as a 28 year-old in charge of my own life who doesn’t need her mother to tell her what to do, right? – was go see my doctor and she immedialtey signed me leave for stress, anxiety and symptomatic insomnia.

The first week I would still wake up very early, as I was used to it, but all I had enegry for was move from my bed to the couch. And watch TV all day. Second week I still woke up early, moved to the couch but would even read books now (good books, great books, interesting books). Third week I started seeing and talking with people again, and realised all I needed was time off for my body to function again. What comes to the functions of my mind, well, that is a whole other matter that is yet to be determined.

The project had a profound impact on me. It got me thinking. It got me wondering. It got me to admit perhaps, just perhaps, my emotional turmoils do need more attention than I allow them for, before they are to swallow me up as a whole. It is never, ever easy to admit there might be something wrong, there might be something that needs looking after, that you are not perfect and invincible – especially when that something is not palpable.

What Saila has taught me is resilience, to learn from what we go through to become who we are meant to be. Pursuit was and is for me much more than an university project. I am now stronger and happier, I am ready for my future and I am my own person.

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Books, Beer and Biscuits – Marion Sinclair Talks Books and Publishing

Another riveting guest speaker at the university of Stirling’s publishing course – Marion Sinclair the chief executive of Publishing Scotland, and herself a 1987 alumna of the Publishing course.DSCN4609

Marion informed the class of how the combined turn over in Scottish publishing is roughly 350 million, with around 17.000 professionals directly employed within publishing, with also much of publishing related work being outsourced out of house. This means the Scottish publishing industry s roughly the same size as the cashmere and salmon industries – the two biggest export goods from Scotland. Banks, biscuits, books and beers is what the Edinburgh city as founded upon, and this is why Publishing Scotland is actively encouraging growth within publishing business – and here Marion’s message to the publishing wannabe’s coincide; it is a great time to be entering the industry. The industry is in constant move, and even if a main street publisher disappears from Edinburgh, another will start in Glasgow and eventually vice versa.

How does Publishing Scotland fit into the Scottish publishing scene and why does the publishing business need a support organisation? As a small nation with so much to offer, it makes sense to have a collective voice, a collaborative organisation that can voice concerns and operate as a liaison between organisational bodies.  Publishing Scotland is “the network body for the book publishing industry in Scotland, working to promote and protect the interests of its members, both nationally and internationally”; with over 60 members (or over 95 per cent of Scottish publishing industry). These members consist of suppliers, universities, booksellers, literary agents, publishers, and other relates to the industry either directly or indirectly. Publishing Scotland, as an non-governmental, charitable organisation, can collectively on behalf of book industry professional negotiate and find the most beneficial deals, assist in setting goals and all in all find the best solutions to all questions and issues raised for all parties involved. As Marion explains, the Publishing Scotland as an organisation offers specific, targeted advice, planned activities and events for publishing industries – including magazines, libraries and schools who are out to find the best opportunities. These activities and advice include training opportunities, marketing advice, infrastructure projects and tailored advice related directly to your organisation and the goals you have set out to achieve. And what is more, Publishing Scotland helps you find the right kind of funding. In collaboration with Creative Scotland, Publishing Scotland offers the Go-See Grants Fund; purpose of the fund is to enable Scottish-based publishers to attend national and international book trade fairs for the first time. (Deadline for this is next week – there is still time!) The other notable fund Publishing Scotland and Creative Scotland have teamed to administer, is the Go-Digital Fund which is aimed to help publishers in three areas:

(a)   in accessing training or consultancy on digital matters;
(b)  attending digital events in the UK and overseas; and
(c)   marketing their digital books and content

This fund is especially interesting, considering how the evolution of book industry is moving; it is necessary to embrace all things digital; we might not wish to consume digital but it does consumer us.

All the support that Publishing Scotland aims for is to aid the publishing professional and those just entering the business to be responsive to the sector needs, operating as the network body, offering advice, digital support and helping to get the message out there, enabling contact and assistance from government bodies where necessary. Much of the work is relating to consumers and the nature of the market. Simply put – Publishing Scotland is there to strengthen the business capacity of the members of the industry and to support them to be the best they can be, to build their sustainability in a precarious book industry; for publishers by publishers.

DSCN4610Considering that Scotland already has strong government objective for supporting creative industries (a category under which publishing fits), and how there is a strong national sense in how the knowledge economy needs to be supported Marion maintains there would not be reason for anything to change drastically whether Scotland achieves independence. There would be no sense to start creating trade barriers, alienating Scotland as a separate, peripheral entity. Marion sees the future as re-birthing of a nation, re-creation and refreshing and rather than hinder will help the creative industries stance within Scotland as a vehicle of celebrating nationality and uniqueness.

After a thorough insight into the inner operation and mission statement of Publishing Scotland, Marion reminds the students of how it is a great time to be entering the industry; book industry is not dead or dying, but it is changing. And this is why the skills gathered through the publishing course will allow each of us to set ourselves apart; the degree can show we have abilities and keen insight into the industry already as we enter it, instead of entering blindly. It is a complex industry, requiring perseverance and hard work – with the constant changes and other industry advances, there is no other way than to keep up to date. Marion especially emphasises the importance of networking – become known and know the key players, as within creative industries it is often who you know rather than what you know to be able to get ahead and to get that chance. And another rather different advice Marion gave, one we have not heard in class before, is to become numerate; know the key facts, statistics and figures and make sure you understand what they mean to your sector as well as in grand scheme of things. There is power in numbers, and ultimately – publishing is a business.

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