Roberta J Dewa: Author and Lecturer
I was a novelist before I was ever an academic, and I remain a writer by temperament and aspiration. In the 1980s, I published three historical novels with Robert Hale, but after my mother’s early death in 1983, I didn’t write for a long time, and when I began again my writing had become more serious and complex. In 1990 I returned to the formal education I had never completed and entered the University of Nottingham as a mature student, taking my BA, MA, and PhD in English Literature. I stayed on at university as a teacher, lecturing in language studies and running my own course in Creative Writing. While I was studying for my degrees, my own writing had to take second place, but it never went away. I continued to develop my understanding of the craft of writing, publishing poetry, reviews and short fiction in the small presses, both print and online; but I returned to the challenge of full-length works in 2005, when I embarked on the Creative Writing MA at Nottingham Trent University. My novel The Esplanade is a novel about loss of voice and identity, due to be published in 2014. And my newest publication is a memoir: The Memory of Bridges, the reclamation of a troubled past, and a return to the village of my childhood.
Extracts from both works can be read on this website.
Since I last posted, James Moran, from the University of Nottingham, has kindly done a piece for Radio Nottingham reviewing my memoir and talking about it. At present, for a week or two, the piece is still available on iplayer, if you're interested: the link is http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03hfc7p. You need to fast forward to about 2.15 to get the interview. My memoir writing course with Writing East Midlands, recruiting now, also gets a mention. Many thanks James!
In November I took part in a reading event at Rough Trade in Nottingham, featuring writers of speculative fiction (appearing by Skype) from literary zine Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, some great reading in person by Giselle Leeb,who also organized the event, and a fascinating puppet show. I read an extract from the collaborative novel I'm working on - more on this below. More on the event at Nottingham Writers' Studio website. Thanks for a great evening Giselle!
I'd also like to publicize the excellent writing courses offered by Writing East Midlands. Their brochure for 2015-2016 has just appeared (go to www.writingeastmidlands.co.uk) for more info - and it offers courses on all aspects of writing, from fiction to poetry to memoir, led by some terrific writers (Judith Allnatt, Megan Taylor, Rod Duncan and others!) - I'll be offering a course on memoir writing next year, and I'm very much looking forward to that.
Since the publication of 'The Esplanade' in May last year I've been focusing on some short story writing, but I've now started work on some longer projects, including working in collaboration with members of my writing group on a multi-authored novel. This will be a fascinating and challenging project and I hope to post nore on this in the future. In November I was delighted to have a lovely review of my novel in Left Lion by Katie Hutchcraft - many thanks Katie! - and you can still read this at www.leftlion.co.uk. Elsewhere I was pleased to have my memoir, 'The Memory of Bridges,' longlisted in the Mslexia memoir competition (more on all things memoirish below). It seems a while since I and fellow authors from Weathervane Press gathered at the Lowdham Book Festival to give a reading from our most recent publications - a really interesting mix of a legal crime novel with a local setting (Michael R D Smith's 'The Deed Room,') Megan Taylor's beautiful and poetic prose from her recent collection of short stories, 'The Woman Under the Ground and Other Stories,' and my own study of two women in crisis, 'The Esplanade.' Below is a photo of the event, with fellow authors and writer and publisher Ian Collinson. Do check out the Weathervane site for more on Michael's book and Megan's new one.
In May last year my novel The Esplanade was published by Weathervane Press (www.weathervanepress.co.uk), and on May 7th there was a really enjoyable launch at the Five Leaves bookshop in Nottingham. I think everyone had a great time - I know I did! - the evening kicked off with some socializing and wine-drinking, Ross Bradshaw said some kind words about me (including revealing to the world my former life as a devotee of the TV Prisoner series - the Patrick McGoohan creation, not the Cell Block H one). Ian Collinson said some more kind words, and I gave some short readings from the novel and answered a few questions, including trying to work out which parts of your life you reveal in a novel, as opposed to a memoir - I'm still thinking through the answer to that one! We drank some more wine, people bought books, and everyone agreed what a great venue the shop is. Below are a couple of photographs of the event. Thanks to everyone, and especially Ross, Ian, and Megan (all in the group photo below!)
(Below, publishers and writers: Ross Bradshaw, Giselle Leeb, Robbie Dewa, Ian Collinson and Megan Taylor).
More on The Esplanade
I'm hoping to do some more events soon to promote the novel, and the book is available from Five Leaves Bookshop, on Amazon and from the Bookcase, Lowdham. There's an extract from the opening of the novel on this site, and here's a peek at the cover of the book, featuring an amazing painting by artist Kit Wade:
As with the novel, I was very pleased to have a review of the memoir in LeftLion (www.leftlion.co.uk)- thanks to James Walker and Robin Lewis for this. There may also be further events coming up in the libraries and elsewhere - I enjoyed reading with other Nottingham Writers' Studio members at West Bridgford Library on February 25th. Back in the city, there are some great events featuring writers local and not so local at Nottingham's new independent bookshop, the Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham. Check out www.fiveleavesbookshop.co.uk for more on these.
Last August I was interviewed on the subject of memoir writing by Elaine Aldred for her splendid blog, and the interview is available in her archive: see http://strangealliances.wordpress.com for this and other fascinating stuff about the process of writing. I was also recorded on video by Andrew Kells of the Nottingham Writers' Studio (thanks Andrew!) reading an extract from my memoir; this should be accessible on Youtube. An unusual experience with the camera as audience!
It feels a while now since the launch in 2013 of the memoir at the Meadows Library in Nottingham, and I've learned a lot in the last year or so about trying to promote my work. Most of all I've learned how generous writers and book lovers are, and how much help and support they give to one another. The launch was a very special moment for me, held in the library where both I and my mother worked, and where my mother met her first fiance during the war, but it was also special to have all those friends from the writing community and elsewhere present. Thanks again to everyone who came, and also to those who have since bought the book - and of course to my husband Peter for endless help behind the scenes!
If you are interested in the memoir, and would like to know more about the book and how you can get hold of it, you can email me through the contact page, email@example.com., but the book is also available from The Bookcase, Lowdham, a really excellent bookshop, (www.thebookcase.co.uk) and can be ordered from Stray's in Newark, where they have not only lovely books and staff, but also a cafe and jazz events (check out www.strayscoffee.co.uk and www.straysbooks.co.uk). It's also now available at Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham.
Do check back next month for further news,