You’ve checked out the brochure, the books and the tutors, but what’s SUISS really like? Here’s our amazing 2018 alumni Sarah Paterson on her experience of the Creative Writing course. We just love the creative way she’s summed it up. #suissin60seconds
Watch our talented 2018 Alumni Kristen Cervenak explains what studying creative writing at Scottish Universities’ International Summer School is like in under 60 seconds… wow! #SUISSin60Seconds
Don’t just take our word for it, here’s our wonderful Charles Wallace fellow from 2018 Amrita Shenoy explaining why a summer at SUISS is for literature lovers everywhere – in just 60 seconds! #SUISSin60seconds
To all our lovely Alumni (students and staff): We want to hear about your experience and what SUISS means to YOU too! Join the #suissin60seconds campaign and upload your video and/or photos to our Facebook or Instagram page, and share with us your favourite SUISS memories!
SUISS Instapoem Competition 2018: ‘Push the boat out!’
push the boat out, whatever the sea. / Who says we cannot guide ourselves…
Inspired by Edwin Morgan’s powerful poem ‘At Eighty‘ and the life-changing summers our students experience at our Edinburgh summer school we’re launching an instapoem competition to find out how you will push the boat out in 2018. What creative risks and adventures will you take? What fears will you overcome? What life-changing decisions will you make? Sink or Swim, we want to know!
HOW TO ENTER
- To enter please post your poem (text, text+image or video!) to Instagram with the hashtags #suiss2018 and #instapoem. Don’t forget to tag us and follow us: SUISS Instagram SUISS_Edinburgh.
- The closing date for entries is 28th February 2018. We’ll announce the winner on our Instagram and Facebook accounts on 5th March.
1st prize: Edwin Morgan’s New Selected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 2000) AND a partial £300 SUISS scholarship for the summer 2018 course of your choice! (Pending successful application to the school, see application procedure and guidelines here.)
Runners-up: TWO runners-up will receive a copy of Northern Light Volume 7, the most recent edition of SUISS’s Creative Writing anthology.
The ‘Cinepoems Challenge’ is a new event on the SUISS programme for our Text & Context: Modernism and Creative Writing students. The challenge began with a workshop on the first Thursday of the course, where students were introduced to the cinepoem – a fusion of poetry and film – which has a particularly rich history in Scotland. We began by thinking about the links between cinema and poetry, especially in early Modernism, before going on to view some of the work of Margaret Tait, an innovator in what she called ‘filmpoems’ and a seminal figure in Scottish cinema and poetry. We looked at how Tait’s work has influenced a number of contemporary cinepoets in Scotland and beyond, showcasing some recent cinepoems and reflecting on our responses to them. At the end of the workshop, students were challenged to make their own cinepoems over the weekend. These were premiered the following week for the whole group, with a prize for the winner (as judged by the SUISS Directors). In 2017 our students produced six amazing films, solo and in small groups, which demonstrate an incredible variety of aesthetic and poetic approaches, and explore everything from the joyous cacophony of the Edinburgh streets, through the found poetry of Sherlock, to the lyrical reflection prompted by summer rainfall. Congratulations to our 2017 winner Lisa Degens for her cinepoem ‘Greenhouse’ and to all our wonderful cinepoets. You can view all our 2017 cinepoets’ finished pieces below and on our Youtube channel. We hope you enjoy them and get inspired to experiment making your own!
Lisa Degens’ winning entry, ‘Greenhouse’:
‘As of Today’, dir. by Piotr Szymczak and featuring Sara Dhurjon, Henry Hamilton, Vanessa Tai, Viktoriia Ivanenko, Anthi Cheimariou, Sumantra Baral, Regina Rangel, Amaie Elizalde Estananga:
Madhav Mehrota’s ‘Drops of Water’:
Anthi Cheimariou’s ‘From the Perspective of Jospeh Bell’:
Sophia Archontis’ ‘The Sounds of Scotland’:
Ashmeen Bain’s cinepoem:
Cris or Cristina?
It is so curious that everybody calls me Cristina here. I told them that they could call me Cris, as it is easier to pronounce, but I don’t know why they insist on the complete name. Maybe is to show me consideration, as they can pronounce it, or maybe they like the sound of it in English. I am not sure what the real reason is, but I do like to hear my name when they speak it.
Being called Cristina here seems somehow that I am a different version of myself in this town. And this, I must say, is not a contradiction to me. Since I arrived in Edinburgh, I feel that my best self is in control. I am always in an excellent mood (this is not a big change but my humor was instable at home lately), I feel relaxed and happy most of the time (although sleepy, and it sucks – the blinds, the crows and the pigeons lately are conspiring against my night rest).
I haven’t being critical or judgmental about people – my sarcasm is hibernating in this cold city with warm people. Right now, my new friend, the crow, is by my window crying for his cookies – bad tempered old chap, now I must feed him “We are always responsible for the ones we captivate…” Bullshit. The crow can feed himself as he always did before we met. Do not feed the crows or the pigeons. And if you are insane enough to feed a seagull, you might end up without a finger. They are such aggressive hungry creatures. I used to like seagulls, before coming here. Now I know them better.
The Sparks of Little Sparta
During the Creative Writing course, we visited a magical garden called Little Sparta. It is a place full of light, flowers and poetry. I loved it and felt grateful for having been there. The previous night I could hardly sleep and I was feeling miserable. I spent the morning in automatic mode. When we arrived at Little Sparta I was alive again, and the place’s good vibes stayed with me for the rest of the day. Nature and sunny days are inexorable sources of renovation to me. I left that enchanted garden feeling groovy again.
Almost everything is laughable
During my time with SUISS, I lived wonderful and intense weeks of continuous learning and made friendships that will last forever. Besides, when I was there in Edinburgh, I received two amazing news: my short story “Capitolium” was awarded the First Prize in Fortaleza’s Federal University context, and I was contacted by Editora Benfazeja’s publisher with an offer to publish my novel Quase tudo é risível (Almost everything is laughable). We started the arrangements while I was still there and the book was published and launched in November 2016.
Being published, as cliché as it may sound, is a dream coming true. I had two book signings and I felt like swinging on a shining cloud during the events. I must confess that even better than the autograph nights is the feedback I’ve been receiving from the readers. I can’t help being proud of myself when they tell me that my book is addicting, that it kept them awake all night long, that the plot is breath-taking, that they burst into laughter at a certain part of the story, or that they burst into tears in another chapter and that the end is striking. Writing a novel is fun, editing it sucks, and seeing it printed is a lifetime experience.
For more information, click here: Quase tudo é risível.
In the first week of the Creative Writing course, my dearest tutor Defne proposed a psychogeography exercise. We were supposed to get lost in any part of the city and write about the experience afterwards. I confess I was not excited about it. When I was a child, I feared getting lost from my parents at the beach or even inside a supermarket. Having stayed in Edinburgh for just a few days helped me to accomplish the task accidentally. Being born on the right side of the road, I insisted on turning right when in Great Britain even though it was supposed to be the left. Balls. To the wrong direction I went. Not a big issue, I was also a tourist and I was enjoying the promenade when, by chance, I stepped into the past campus of the University of Edinburgh, the Old College. It was by hazard too, I would assume. I experienced dejà-vu.
It was the second time it happened to me in Scotland. The first one was five years ago when I got into the Arm’s Room of the Edinburgh Castle. That time I wept. Today, I had a cozy sensation of belonging to that place. The sun was warming up the grass in the center of the complex. I might have been there before. I felt at home at that old enchanting building. I promised myself I would come back. I needed to go deeper into that emotion. Before I left, a crow standing nearby stared at me and seemed to salute me.
There I was on the following day. Likewise, it was by chance. I was going to Princess Street and somehow I chose that avenue to proceed. Magnetism, probably. I could not help smiling at the familiar feelings as I reached the site. The sun was shining again- two consecutive days is a good auspice in this country. There was no hurry; I was relaxed. Once more, I smelled cinnamon in the air. If I ever have to describe this city, I would say it is where seagulls and crows live together, a place with a light constant cinnamon essence is in the air. I sat on the campus’ grass, took a deep breath and enjoyed being there. I had searched for this “living at present time” notion for so long. There I just met it. By chance, by karma – by luck, positively. It felt right. Getting lost in Edinburgh might have turned to finding myself at last.
I came to SUISS in 2002 by way of a town of around 2,000 people in Southwestern Ontario, Canada, that had a Scottish name: Glencoe. There, the Fox movie theatre sat empty after closing down when I was little, and beside it was a gas station where my father worked (since closed, too). The summer I was eight years old, Dad planted me behind the cash register, to avoid being shorted on his pay for the casual thefts of cigarettes or motor oil that would occur were the kiosk unattended while he filled cars.
Across the increasingly dismal Main Street, my mother ran a knitting, sewing and crafting shop, and together with Glencoe’s miniscule business association, she helped arrange the town festival every July: Tartan Days.
Yes, like Scottish tartan. As fellow SUISSers have likely heard—perhaps after picking out their clans’ kilts in a shop on the Royal Mile, even—it may be something of an invented tradition. So, true to its forebears, my little town invented some Tartan Days traditions of its own: the Saturday night dance, for one (not a ceilidh so much as a country music-blaring drunk-up), plus the local businesses’ sidewalk sales. In recent years a tractor pull was added.
My memories, however, are of the pancake breakfast on the closed-off side street and the two competitions there.
In the thistle contest, parents and children would spend weeks sneaking fertilizer to the largest bull or Scotch variety of the weed they could find then put on thick gloves and drag it to town, where it was judged on height, fullness, etc. before a prize of maybe fifty bucks was awarded. (Never to me.)
And then there was the marquee event, the shoe-kick, in which entrants would slide their toes into a factory second from the nearby footwear manufacturing plant, rear back, and compete to propel it as far away from Main Street as possible. I never did find out what this had to do with Scottish heritage.
Tartan Days was about all I knew of international interchange before beginning high school in a larger but still small town where, for some reason, exchange students did arrive, and before meeting international students at the University of Western Ontario—students who had chosen to be thousands of miles from home for four whole years in London… Other London. In Canada.
Where the green flyer on the English department bulletin board jumped out at me.
I was nineteen years old, then, and nearing the end of my first undergraduate year. I was still commuting to class from my family home, still working my teenager job at the Canadian Kmart competitor, and still being hassled by my grandfather to take a summer position with the provincial hydro-electric company for which he’d worked his whole life.
The trip to SUISS would be my first flight; my first trip outside of North America, and other than two or three single-day visits by car to Michigan, my first departure from Canada, even. I said goodbye to my family in the Tim Hortons parking lot where the three-hour bus ride to the airport in Toronto began, and in Edinburgh, I hung a Canadian flag in a Baird House window.
Right away, I met a good 20 students from all over the United States (including fellow eventual author Michael Pogach) and climbed Arthur’s Seat in the first night’s dusk with some of them. In the next days, I met a similar-sized group all from one university in Bari, Italy—a city around the same size as Other London, it turns out, albeit with better weather. Students had also come from Norway, Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain and more I’m sure I’m forgetting, plus as far away as New Zealand, Japan and India.
And all had come to study literature.
Before and after attending SUISS that summer, I worked the hydro-electric gig with Grandad, and he’ll likely still tell you it was a better career than what I eventually chose (“Writer with Inevitable Day Job”). But I returned to Canada convinced that a literary life was an actual life—not just dreams of 1920s dinners at La Coupole or bon mots at the Algonquin Hotel, but something a kid like me could have.
There have been bumps in the road, sure—my eventual departure from graduate studies, for one, and a string of depressing retail and call centre jobs taken out of sheer financial despair—but when I found myself on a Toronto Island beach one sunny September day in 2009 with some things resembling stable income, home and employment finally in-hand, that nineteen-year-old paid me a long overdue visit.
What of that literary life? he asked.
I enrolled in a college night class and began writing short stories, the first of them as true as what you read above. Some are long dead and buried, (yes, there’s one about Tartan Days), and some have been published with all the facts edited out. Some others have been published just as they were.
In any event, I’ve been writing ever since—not since then, really, but since I showed up at SUISS.
Daniel Perry’s first collection of short stories, Hamburger, will be published in Canada by Thistledown Press in May, 2016, and is now available to order. His second, Nobody Looks That Young Here, is forthcoming from Guernica Editions in 2018. He is currently at work on a novella, when not at his day job.
We are very pleased to announce that the workshops for our 2016 Creative Writing course are now confirmed! We have talented, award winning writers who will guide students through a wide range of writing activities and discuss their writing process. Our schedule for these workshops is as follows:
15th July: Zoe Strachan on Fiction Writing
22nd July: Stef Smith on Playwriting
26th July: Colin Herd on Poetry and Art
28th July: Loud Poets and Performance Poetry
1st August: Ken MacLeod on Science Fiction
We’ll have more specific details about these workshops soon, but we are honoured that these talented writers will be part of SUISS 2016!
Our full reading list and more information can be found on our Creative Writing Course program page.