Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: July 2018

Displays

DSCF3589The ‘Angela Carter and Japan’ display can be seen in the Archives throughout July & August. This followed the symposium held in the Julian Studies building at the end of June. Curator of the exhibition, Visiting Research Fellow Natsumi Ikoma, has written about the origins of the exhibition in a separate post.

UEA Literary Festival at 25
The British Archive for Contemporary Writing holds 300+ recordings of past literary festivals. 25 interviews were digitised and remastered in 2015 with a view to sharing online to celebrate this milestone but also with a view to digital preservation of these, often vulnerable, physical formats from the past. Student volunteers have viewed the recordings and identified the best clips for sharing. These are currently being shared via the UEA Literary Festival and Archives social media with the hashtag: #25UEALitFest

Events

‘Texts in Motion’ Literature Summer School 2 July
Tutors from Literature, Drama and Creative Writing (LDC) led three workshops on the creative writing process. In all, 36 sixth formers attended.

From ‘Untitled’ to ‘Things I could Tell You’. This workshop examined what the archive tells us about Sara Taylor’s writing process from early draft to finished product.

Tash Aw’s short story The Sail was the focus of the second workshop. The students were asked what interested or intrigued them about the archival material; why the process of drafting and editing is of interest to a student of literature; and why it is of interest to a creative writer.

Faculty of Humanities, Research Showcase 4 July
A presentation was given to academic colleagues on research and engagement initiatives underway within the BACW, as well as the range of potential further opportunities to work with colleagues. A display from the suffragette archives was also provided.

Open days 6 and 7 July
24 prospective students attended talks and consulted the collections in the Archive Reading Room, to learn how UEA archive material is used in humanities teaching and research skills development with unique cultural heritage material from suffragettes to literary icons.

For the first time, UEA Archives had a presence in the Media Suite for Open Day. Chase Placement PGR student, Annie Kelly (AMA), currently based in the Archives, gave a hands on demonstration to all those visiting the Digitisation Suite on the process involved in digitising our suffragette archive, as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project, Suffragette Stories.

FLY Festival (Festival of Literature for Young People) 9 July
‘The Life of Writing Workshop’ with LDC tutor Nonia Williams provided a group of sixth formers with the opportunity to work with materials from Sara Taylor’s Archive. Participants compared first drafts with published versions of Taylor’s short stories to help them understand the process of drafting and editing prose fiction before embarking on their own writing within the session.

Creative Writing International Summer School 18 July
Seminar on the Creative Process, five international student attendees. LDC tutor, Kate Moorhead-Kuhn, worked with Sara Taylor’s short story archive material to help students chart the writing process from early draft to published version. Students also examined the material of authors Richard Beard, Andrew Cowan and Tash Aw to understand the process of submissions to literary agents and publishers

• UEA graduate, Sam Coleman, currently studying an MSc in information management at Sheffield University, interviewed Justine Mann and Grant Young (Academic Engagement Librarian HUM) on the relationship between Libraries and Archives for his dissertation.

Doris Lessing Archive

We have received a deposit of a 1984 letter from Lessing to her Russian tutor. Along with this is the tutor’s account of their association in the 1980s, Lessing’s approach to her studies and the sort of people she would have encountered on the course.

Pritchard Papers

• A Canadian Professor of Art History with a specialism in László Moholy-Nagy (Bauhaus professor) has visited over two days.
• Images are being supplied for a 2019 publication on the architect Walter Gropius.

PP.24.5.15.p2and3

Dinner menu designed by Moholy-Nagy

Theatre Collections

A UEA student has requested information on electric theatres and cinema in Norfolk. Many local theatres doubled-up as cinemas. Notes from 1919 provide recollections on the opening of cinema theatres across East Anglia by Mr Frederick Holmes Cooper. The first being the Electric Theatre in Wisbech c.1910.

UEA Collection

The report of the 1963 UEA expedition to Nepal has been consulted.

Zuckerman Archive

A 1950s report on nuclear weapons is being cross-checked.

Special Collections

There were 8 requests.

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What’s the key to a brilliant piece of writing? Revisions – lots of them

Yin Lim uncovers the editing process behind the short fiction of award winning UEA MA graduate, Tash Aw, and his reluctance to alter the ending of his debut novel.

Authors will tell you that good writing is the product of countless edits and rewrites as they polish the work until they deem it ready for public consumption. For instance, Neil Gaiman recommends putting away a completed manuscript until the author can read it with ‘new eyes’ to be able to fix it, while Kazuo Ishiguro spends an average of six hours a day on his later drafts and revisions – twice the time he takes to work on his first drafts. Recent Booker prize winner George Saunders says that the artist ‘tweaks’ what is already there.

For award-winning author and UEA alumnus Tash Aw, it would take many revisions before he was happy for his short story Sail to be published in A Public Space, an award-winning literary and arts magazine. Annotated drafts that form part of archival material loaned by Aw to the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) at the University of East Anglia provide a fascinating insight into the all-important practice of revision. Through these documents we can see Aw’s process of writing the piece which tells the story of Yanzu, a Chinese businessman who despite his financial successes, still struggles with a sense of insecurity and failure following the end of a love affair. It’s a rare opportunity to peer into the author’s mind as we read his handwritten notes about the different ideas he had for the piece as it developed; for example, whether a specific section would eventually become the main set piece of the short story.

Going through these drafts, it’s not hard to be curious about the thought processes that prompted Aw to make his revisions; why he replaced certain words and sentences, moved around sections or omitted them altogether, deleted secondary characters and developed a new ending. Some of these revisions would have been responses to comments made by fellow author Yiyun Li, who is also a contributing editor with A Public Space. In a 2011 e-mail exchange with Aw, Li noted how one of the characters felt flat, and suggested that some cuts and revisions could help heighten conflict in the story. The final draft of Sail reveals that Aw also took into consideration Li’s feedback about shortening or changing a book club scene in the story, with the end result being a tighter and subtler version of the earlier drafts.

Not all editors’ feedback are necessarily as well-received however. Aw believed that revisions suggested by editor Cindy Spiegel of Riverhead Books, the US publisher of his debut novel The Harmony Silk Factory, could potentially alter the very essence of the book. A letter exchange between Aw and Spiegel reveals how Aw spent a month working on Spiegel’s edit notes and ‘agonising’ over them before finally making the decision to stand by his original ending instead of modifying it as Spiegel recommended.   As important as the process of editing and revising is to improving a manuscript, equally crucial is the author’s conviction of what works and what doesn’t.

This correspondence can be found in Aw’s archive within the BACW, which also includes typescripts, editorial comments and correspondence with agents and publishers for the critically-acclaimed The Harmony Silk Factory, whose draft manuscript was completed while Aw was on UEA’s MA Creative Writing (Prose Fiction) in 2003.

Yin F Lim is an MA student in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction at the UEA. A former journalist and editor, she is writing about her grandparents’ migration from China to colonial Malaya from her perspective as a recent immigrant to the UK. 

Tash Aw (1971-) a prize winning author and graduate of the MA in Creative Writing (Prose). Aw has produced three novels, all to critical acclaim: The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), Map of the Invisible World (2009) and Five Star Billionaire (2013). He is winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and has twice been longlisted for the MAN Booker prize. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and been published in A Public Space, the landmark Granta 100, and elsewhere.  His non-fiction book, The Face: Strangers on a Pier, was a finalist for the LA Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. 

More on the The Tash Aw Archive at BACW (UEA)

To visit the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, email archives@uea.ac.uk

www.uea.ac.uk/bacw 

Tash Aw ‘UEA is the natural place for me to store my archives’

Tash Aw PortraitThe prize winning author, Tash Aw, a graduate of the University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, on why he is loaning his archive to the British Archive for Contemporary Writing.  

‘It feels as if I’ve only just begun my career as a writer, that I’m still learning my craft; but the reality is that I’ve been writing full-time for over thirteen years, which isn’t a long time in writerly years, but not a short time either. In this period, and indeed before, I’ve managed to amass a huge amount of paper – loose-leaf manuscripts of novels, clumsy short stories that will never see the light of day, dozens of notebooks, random clippings from newspapers: the usual scraps from the writer’s magpie existence. Paranoia keeps me from throwing them away. Some day I might just need that jumble of papers; somewhere in that pile of material is a start of a magnificent new novel.

The problem is, I can barely find my way around this increasingly disorganised mess. Sometimes I look at notes I’ve taken and can’t even remember why I found the subject interesting enough to dedicate four pages of a notebook to it. But in a strange way, every time I look at my files, I feel that they represent the way I work as a writer: I’m someone who needs a huge mass of seemingly unrelated information in order to gain focus. My papers contain the imprint of who I am – the places I’ve worked and lived in over the last decade and a half, and for that reason, I have hesitated to discard them.

But the truth is that I don’t consult ninety percent of what I keep in my fraying box files. UEA is the natural place for me to store my archives – I studied there, and continue to visit Norwich regularly; and I see both the City and the University becoming more international, more connected to South East Asia and beyond. From a practical and sentimental point of view, the UEA Archives are a natural home for my papers, which themselves link Asia to Britain.’

Tash Aw (1971-) a prize winning author and graduate of the MA in Creative Writing (Prose). Aw has produced three novels, all to critical acclaim: The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), Map of the Invisible World (2009) and Five Star Billionaire (2013). He is winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and has twice been longlisted for the MAN Booker prize. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and been published in A Public Space, the landmark Granta 100, and elsewhere.

British Archive for Contemporary Writing

Tash Aw’s Website