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Man Booker Weekly Roundup: In defence of creative writing courses and other stories

Man Booker Weekly Roundup: In defence of creative writing courses and other stories

Good news for Man Booker thespians. The Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptations of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are moving to London. Tickets for the current run in Stratford have proved rarer than hen's teeth and the search for a London theatre has proved fruitless until now. However, the early closure of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Stephen Ward means that the Aldwych theatre has become available. The London run is scheduled to run from 1st May to 6th September. The news that the plays now have a London home has left Hilary Mantel “buzzing”. Working on the theatre staging has meant that Mantel has made little progress on the third volume of the Cromwell trilogy but, she says, “The last six months have been the best six months of my writing life. I've learned so much and it has been really exhilarating as well as the buzz of being in the audience many nights getting the kind of feedback an author of a novel never gets. There's something really inspiring for me in the whole process. It has really powered me up as a writer.” All good news for The Mirror and the Light.

Today sees the announcement of the longlist for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) and it concurs in many cases with last year's Man Booker judges. Eleanor Catton, Jhumpa Lahiri, Charlotte Mendelson are all included, as is the 2000 MB winner, Margaret Atwood. The winner, announced on 4th June, will receive a cheque for £30,000. There is no word though about whether the winner is given a case of Bailey's liqueur.

Another of last year's MB picks, NoViolet Bulawayo, has not made the list but she has, instead, just been awarded the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature, a pan-African prize celebrating debut fiction books from writers of African citizenship. As a somewhat curious bonus to the £15,000 cash prize, NoViolet has also been awarded the Etisalat Fellowship on the creative writing programme at the University of East Anglia. A slight mixed message here . . . “Yes, your novel We Need New Names is wonderful,” it seems to say, “but attend the course and the next one will be even better.”

Creative writing courses have just been regally dismissed by Hanif Kureishi who announced at a talk that are “a waste of time”. Well, that's his opinion but a look at the UEA course would suggest otherwise: three MB winners are alumni – Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Anne Enright. This year's winner, Eleanor Catton, meanwhile attended the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Such courses may not teach you how to be a writer from scratch but they clearly do refine pre-existing talents.