When I started this course, I had to admit that a huge reason was to do some great networking. I’ve been networking in the literary stratosphere since I was about 15. I started going to creative writing classes on Saturdays, then went on to volunteer my time to culture events, book festivals, writing workshops and publications. As I got older, the volunteering turned into interning and is transitioning now into bits of paid work. However, I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I’m the girl who is happy to be paid in literary experience. I am not at all adverse to doing more volunteering, so that is what I am doing. I am a volunteer at the Dundee Literary Festival. I haven’t exactly done much this far as the two events that I was supposed to cover the roving mic both boiled over with interesting conversation, meaning that one only had time for two questions and one had no time for questions at all. Nevertheless, yesterday, whilst doing the latter of ‘working hard or hardly working’, I got to see some events which were extremely important to me.
The first was a conversation between Kirsty Gunn, Ron Hay, Lindsay MacGregor, Eddie Small and Gail Low, discussing The Voyage Out, a publication celebrating ten years of Writing Practice and Study (WPS) at the University of Dundee. The book is an international anthology of fiction, poetry, essays, art, film and science, all about voyages. For me, having been an ungerdrad WPS student and now an MLitt WPS student, I felt proud to be in my fourth year with the department. There was a lot of talk of the lovely, sorely missed, late Jim Stewart. Kirsty answered ‘Jim is behind so much of what we do on the writing program,’ when asked how much input Jim had on the publication, and I wholeheartedly agree. There was no us and them at this event, just one group of people listening to another group of people discuss something everyone in the room was excited about. I cherish my copy of The Voyage Out, given to me so kindly by Eddie, whose name is just above Jim’s in the credits.
The second event was Livewire! If anything could assure me that I made the right decision to take the journey onto the MLitt course more than The Voyage Out event, this was it. I won’t go into too much detail because I’ll be writing an essay on the event, but I have to write a bit… On the MLitt last year, the students were thrown into the deep end of performing and were asked to perform around this time in their first semester. They performed in what used to be Shrink to Fit, an offshoot of Superstore which has now evolved into a different pub for about the 7th time since I moved to Dundee. I remember seeing a lot of nervous performances but being absolutely amazed by the talent and the utter balls they had, performing with a mic so early on in their MLitt course. (Be careful what you wish for…) But the performances I saw yesterday was not comparable. I saw six calm, confident writers take to the stage and read eloquent, considered pieces which were refined and performed so well. I was working the roving mic and the last question was near the back so whilst I waited to retrieve the mic, I allowed myself a moment to stand at the back of the room and look at the whole audience and the six accomplished writers on the stage. I don’t think there’s a better feeling than feeling like you belong somewhere, and I felt it yesterday.
My point is is that I’ve been ‘networking’ for seven years, never turning down an opportunity to meet new people in the field, to help out if I can. I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. This week has felt like a tidal wave of things to do, life and class are at a crescendo and I barely have space to breathe, but I couldn’t resist putting myself forwards to help at the Dundee Literary Festival. Peggy, who runs the festival and Literary Dundee, is incentive enough to volunteer. She is a fireball of energy, enthusiasm and friendly personality who definitely spoils her volunteers in amazing literary experience. Yesterday, although I was technically working, although I tried to introduce myself to as many people as possible, yesterday didn’t feel like networking, it felt like I was part of an amazing community.