Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If Science-Fiction is dying, let it...

it'll only find a way to resurrect and come back with awesome super powers.

I don't usually get involved in internet debates because, well, I never know about them until it's too late but this was brought to my attention by different people over the past couple of weeks and the subject is close enough to my heart that I've decided to butt in.

In yet another display of rather SF-ish non-fatal spontaneous combustion, the blogosphere is alight again as everyone tries to decide whether Science-Fiction is or is not “dead” as a genre. Number are being bandied about showing (usually) a decline in the number of sales of SF books and comparing those to other genres, including its close relative, Fantasy.
The truth, as I see it anyway, is that this debate has been had before and there is very little new to say about it. First off, you can't really compare SF to most other genres, especially giants like Crime and Romance.

This is because SF is a completely different beast that is aimed at a very particular sort of market. It takes completely different thinking muscles to absorb SF and see it for what it really is: the human condition, taken away from its natural environment and poked, prodded and probed into showing its true colors. A lot of people, intelligent, educated people even, just can't wrap their heads around it. Okay, their loss, but they are the majority and book sales are naturally going to reflect this.

Secondly, yes, Fantasy is gaining in popularity and there are huge amounts of new titles making the shelves. This is also natural, especially after the popular success of Harry Potter. Fantasy is much more accessible than Science-Fiction. People who previously would not have been caught dead in the Nerd section of the bookshop are now seeking it out. Does this mean that SF will die and only Fantasy will remain? I don't think so. After all, there have been some huge success stories in the genre but that's driven by a massive number of people buying books from a very small number of authors rather than wide success of Fantasy titles in general. The truth is that most Fantasy novels do as well as most SF novels, maybe they do worse actually, except perhaps in the YA market, it's just more showy.

SF is not a genre given to massive success in its literary form. It's a genre where success is measured in longevity and influence. Some books do well financially but because its not easily accessible to the masses like some Fantasy can be, you will simply never see the same kind of numbers. SF has been proclaimed moribund regularly for decades but if you look at pop culture, at life itself, you see that the great works of the past are everywhere. They have infiltrated almost every aspect of life with the stealth of a ninja. Compare the contributions of the Romance genre on the world with that of SF. People quote SF every day, use SF every day, think cellphones, cyberspace (a word and concept from Gibson's Neuromancer), the moon landing... Even Fantasy which is so commonly associate it with it that they often go together as SFF has not been assimilated as much into our collective consciousness. That's why SF cannot die. Because it touches people in ways they don't even realize. It's a slow process of contagion. All it needs is one Typhoid Mary.

Carrying on with the disease metaphor (because in SF we like our diseases, what can I say?), the virus has to mutate over time in order to defeat what we will call drug resistance. In this case, that means outdated tropes. SF flourished during the Cold War but we've moved on from those times and those worries. The things that scare us now, the things we need to strip of the real world so we can see it more clearly, are completely different therefore the genre naturally changes to speak to these new visions of the future, of humanity and the universe. What was relevant back then, is not relevant now and that is what SF is basically all about, being relevant. Some subgenres of SF are more popular and others that used to be are not. That is true of every literary genre. It is necessary to renew the genre, revitalize it. Maybe your favorite subgenre is not what it used to be, your space operas are darker or heroes less heroic but this is just a reply to people's needs changing. There are so many new subgenres of SF that there has to be something out there that speaks to you, just consider all the “something”-punk variety. There's something for everyone whether you want something that reminds you of Jules Vernes' books or you're more of an Asimovite.

Perhaps this is part of the problem. There is so much now that can be classified as SF that people just don't know anymore what is SF and what isn't. What is your criteria for what constitutes Science-Fiction? Does it have to have aliens? Does it have to be in the future? Consider Steampunk, that's still usually considered SF but it's usually set in an alternate past. Maybe the genre has become somewhat diluted and people are losing track of how much of it there is and the confusion comes from there. Personally, I think this is a very good thing. SF is not a genre that should be limited. On the contrary, it should be free to diverge, converge and diverge again. The ideas behind it should mix and hybridize like a million Captain Kirks set loose among the women of the galaxy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

M.A. results are in!

Well, when they said we'd have our results on 01/12, they really meant it. The dissertation marks went online to our PIP pages exactly at midnight. Luckily I was spared having to worry by the fact I was online finishing NaNoWrimo (which I won by the way! *strut*).

So now I can say that I REALLY have an M.A. I mean, I've been saying that I have for months now on my CV but then, I didn't think I'd fail. But now I can proudly write on my CV that I got... A DISTINCTION grade! I mean, sure, it's just a 71%, barely distinction worthy but still :D Although, to be honest, I think they're going to call me any day now and say "sorry, made a mistake, actually, we meant to type 17% and that you failed".

o.O Oh no! Just realized that this means that my diss will be in the library doesn't it? It means anyone can read it and realize how crap it is and then I'll have my M.A. taken away from me at some indeterminate time in the future... Gah!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The things (we) do

I owe the new kids in the programme for reminding me about Christmas Light Night. I had completely forgotten about it. Actually, I only went to see the parade last year by pure luck. I just happened to go into town for dinner and there it was. I know, it's silly.

I'm really glad they reminded me of it as the Steampunk Exhibition at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science down in Broadstreet. It has the coolest sign outside for the exhibition and I want to steal it :D I've already been to it but tonight, there are going to be special activities and things so I'll be going again.

It just so happens that one of the artists in this exhibition is someone I know from Montreal. He makes really awesome Steampunk jewelery. I had no idea he was going to be exhibiting in this so I was really surprised when I saw his name on a plaque. It was pretty cool 'cause it was a surprise. That said, I do remember an MSN status message of his mentionning Steampunk jewelery at some point but we haven't talked in forever so, I forgot he did that. I guess he didn't know I was in Oxford or surely he would have told me ;) Well, I'm hardly ever on MSN anymore. Not really my cuppa.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Writing Marathon

So, I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I've been at it for many a year and I feel more prepared now than ever. Add to that the lack of a job after next week and you have a happy NaNoer if not a happy recent graduate who has bills to pay.

I'm going to start over with the NaNo novel I meant to write last year and only got 2000 words through. No, it's not cheating, I'm starting completely over. I have an outline, I have an idea of where it's going to go and I've got a freezer full of meat to reduce grocery shopping time to almost nil. That and a very near kebab van should help me sit down and write.

I'm gonna use NaNo for a whole lot of things,

1) it's fun
2) I need to get into a writing rhythm
3) Weight-loss: I'm too lazy to be getting up mid-paragraph to get more food :p
4) Money saveage: won't be eating out as much
5) I'll have something novel-like at the end that might be editable to usefulness. I'm much better at editing than writing :(

Also, if I don't keep writing before I work in publishing, I might never do it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Post-MA stuff begins now

Well, it started a while ago but I've been procrastinating on the whole "Hey! This blog is no longer aptly named!" bit. Whatever! But the truth is, although I don't yet have my results (but it's not like they're gonna flunk me), I'm not really in Publishing U. anymore. I'm more like in Publishing limbo (party! I'll get the pole, you get the hollowed-out coconuts with refreshing alcoholic beverages in them).
I'm temping at Elsevier right now, a job I wouldn't have gotten without the help of my friend Emma. The publishing lesson for today is thus: NETWORKING! That and make friends. Noone likes someone they don't know (erm...duh?). Also, hang out somewhere better than Morals, that place does not increase your coolness factor ;) Then again, I've never been "cool" so what do I know? But Bar Aroma on Cowley has nice cocktails. So, it's worth going even if I'm the one recommending.

Mmmh! Cocktails! Now I want a French Martini from Angel's (Little Clarendon Street, in front of the Duke of Cambridge), like a chocolate-cherry truffle in your glass but without the chocolate bit. This is one occasion where I don't miss chocolate. I might stop by after work although drinking alone is saaad.

Oh yes, because I'm at work right now (hence the somewhat hyperactiveness you may or may not have noticed in this post... FREE COFFEE! Also, just had lunch so eh!). Relax, I'm on my lunch break so you people aren't making me shirk (that's a word right? I'm sure I read it somewhere...) my duties. Also, I think I'm suddenly getting too much oxygen. I've been sick since last wednesday and unable to breathe properly since. My nose is unblocked right now so I can breathe. D'you think I might get the bends if I go up or down the stairs? Maybe I'd inspire an episode of House if I did. Might be worth a try, as long as they cast me in the me role. Anyway, lunch break over, well not really but I wanna go on Facebook.

Hope you're all enjoying the course so far, I was really jealous of those of GenAwe 2.0 (go on, I know you want to have that on a T-Shirt) that went to Frankfurt. It's hard to believe that just a year ago, that was me. Hope your feet hurt less than mine kids :) How did you like the Frankfurt red-light district? Fun, innit?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Welcome, Generation Awesome 2.0

Yes, I know I haven't posted in forever. You try to keep a blog while: 1) writing your dissertation, 2) looking for accomodation, 3) looking for a job and 4) trying to get a boyfriend. Not easy, nope. And yet, I managed 3 out of the 4 ;) Plus, I got myself a cat, the first step of my life plan B: Become Crazy Cat Lady. You know, if plan A doesn't work out. You can't be too prepared.

Still, epic win for me. Chantal 4 - Universe 0.

I'm still living in Headington but now I'm 1m away from The Brittannia, a bad idea considering I love their food but shouldn't be eating out every day. It's not a sustainable lifestyle. I have a lovely house I share with 4 other people and... a DOUBLE bed! Woooo! I've always wanted one! So much space! And the fact that most of it is unnacountably occupied by a 9 week old kitten doesn't change the fact that it's a grown-up bed and it's mine.

But now that the diss from hell has been handed in, with time to spare I might add *gloat*, I find myself with way too much time in my hands. I've been on a couple of job interviews, a couple I would have loved to get but apparently I wasn't the right candidate for them. Oh well... That said, I applied for what could very well be my dream job today. So, fingers crossed!

Oh, and the cat's name is Bingley.

In other news, I finally got to meet some of the lovely people who've been reading my blog (all of the lovely people who read my blog?). Thanks to Polly for spontaneously recognizing me in the street, it made my day :D We went for lunch on saturday and now I wish I could do the year again so we could be coursemates. I'm dubbing you "Generation Awesome 2.0". Don't let me down ;)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Creative Commons Survey

Hi all, I've created a survey for my dissertation. I'd be infinitely grateful if you would complete it and/or pass it on to friends who might be interested in the subject.

Also feel free to link to it from other websites, blogs, forums etc. that are relevant to writers, readers and everyone interested in copyright law and Free Culture.

Thanks :)

Creative Commons and the Podcast Novel Survey

Monday, June 15, 2009

Because it's interesting

First things first, just got an email to inform us p-grads that our results will be online on Monday 22! *stressss* I'm fairly sure I passed every module but I'd love one more distinction (I only have the one I got in Production and Design last semester). Not that it really matters but it's nice and would be a nice way to finish.

I'm definitely not going to get a distinction (that's above 70 here in the UK, weird) in my dissertation because 1) I've hardly been working on it, 2) it's not the most interesting subject in the world (at least, not to me but how much is natural interest and how much I'm biased by dread... I don't know) and 3) at the pace I'm going, I'll be pulling crazy all-nighters which means it'll be decent but riddled with typos.

It's ok. I just need a passing grade and then I out of Academia for a looooooooooong time. THANK GOD!

But speaking of the dissertation, I've been doing a bit of reading and I'm finding Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture really interesting. It's available for free online (under a Creative Commons licence of course :) ) and well worth a read. It's also very easy to follow rather than uber academic so never mind if your brain isn't wired for sesquipedalian prose, mine ain't either. It's been relatively easy finding good sources for pro-CC arguments but I can't seem to find the anti-CC arguments unless they are cited in pro-CC literature. Any help would be welcome...

One of the interesting things (to me anyway) that Lessig mentions is how Doujinshi culture works. Doujinshi are manga created by the average Japanese Joe, some of who have amazing artistic skills but nevermind that, that are sort of like fanfic but for manga. The rules are that your doujin cannot be a mere copy of a manga, it has to add something. Legally, it's copyright infringement but the reality is that the trade and sale of doujinshi is a huge market and there are very few cases where copyright holders sue. Part of the reason for this is that doujinshi helps manga's commercial success in Japan.

So, would derivatives such as fanfic help literature sell better?

My opinion is that for some genres such as Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Crime (Adult and YA versions of all), it probably would. This are genres that already have quite a lot of fanfic going so I'd say that shows there's community interest in getting involved and manipulating the lit. If you'd encourage that to go in certain directions, it could produce interesting results. I need to think more about this...
But I don't think it would help sell more memoirs or chick lit... I could be wrong of course but I just don't see it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

the update

So I haven't posted in forever. So sorry, got caught up in stuff.
First, the semester is FINALLY OVER! Thank all the Gods Humanity has ever worshipped! It was seriously starting to get long and exhausting. But we did learn an aweful lot like, I don't like to work in a team :p We spent a whole day watching everyone's presentations which was really interesting. I only had a very small idea of what everyone was doing so I was really surprised by how good everyone else's projects were.

That said, I thought some of them really weren't viable if it had been a proposal for real. But the ideas behind it were really intriguing. We don't know yet which group has the best proposal. I have no idea when we'll be told but I sure hope it's us in Education :D I think we had a very solid proposal. Maybe not the most exciting but in the real world, it's usually the safest option that makes it. Sad but true.

I think my favourite idea was the Trade Fiction division. They were going to do a range of lit in translation but they would translate best-selling novels from other countries rather than literary fiction which is what most commonly gets translated. It's a great idea but I thought it wasn't very realistic. It demanded a very high investment and the risk would have been really high. Still, I would have loved it if someone did that. Also, their presentation was really funny.

We're now in Dissertation/Major Project time but I have done very little work which is making me very stressed which makes me procrastinate even more. Not a good combination. I wish I had picked a Major Project rather than a dissertation. The schedule is more obvious :) Some people on the course are doing real projects for real publishers as in making actual books that are actually going to be sold in bookshops. It's scary but it sounds so awesome too and you have resources and money to do it. I would recommend to future students that they take one of these on (they are usually advertised by lecturers or they come and give a bit of a presentation and take CVs and stuff). I didn't go for it because I thought it was beyond my abilities but I wish I had now. It also counts as awesome work experience and looks amazing on the ol' CV.

I keep forgetting that the dissertation needs to be bound so I have actually a bit less time than the deadline. I really should be working harder :(

Monday, May 11, 2009

Can't Have too much Work Exp

So, I started doing a bit of work experience at OUP's children division today. It's mostly admin work but I did get to do a bit of editorial.

And I got to send out lots of Rejection Letters to slush pile authors X-D and two request for fulls. I think I have finally become evil. I enjoyed sending those letters way too much... Except maybe the one writing by a dad and his kid who died of a brain tumor before they could finish the book.

Ok, so most of it was pretty bad but I guess I got the lucky pile because it wasn't quite as dreadful as I expected. I mean, it wasn't publishable, by far, but it wasn't entirely illiterate.

Anyway, I enjoyed it but am really tired now and can't think of anything else to write :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

London Book Fair

The LBF was my second book fair ever, the first one being Frankfurt way back when. It has the advantage of being close by but somehow I spent almost as much money in between getting a hair cut and getting there and other stuff I can't think of right now but managed to empty my debit account. Seriously, in two weeks, I ended up going from 100GBP to 0.36! Oh and, American friends (and friends from elsewhere too for that matter) if you need a haircut, don't do it here. Regardless, the fair gave me an excuse to go back to London, which I love (probably because I don't have to live there), and it also meant that I had a legitimate reason not to do any NPD work. That's a big plus. Another one was that as a volunteer and a student, I didn't have to pay an entry fee (£40). Another tip, if you're a student and want to get in for free, you need to preregister online. No one told us this and boyfriend ended up having to pay the full fee to get in. He was so pissed he only went one day.

I think I enjoyed this fair better than the one in Frankfurt. Part of it is that we were better prepared, we know more about what is going on in the industry so we were more interested and knowledgeable about the products certain publishers were exhibiting. Another thing was that we could go to seminars which broke up the hours of aimless wondering through the stands although I found the seminars fairly vague and general and I knew most of what the speakers were saying already (minus the exact numbers of course) maybe they weren't very good speakers or maybe Brookes just prepares us really well. I'll go with number 2 ;) It was also much smaller, as in, a small fraction of the size of Frankfurt. And I still managed to get more free stuff. LBF FTW!

I was doing some volunteer work but that was very light. Just change the paper at the door with the title of the seminar and make sure the speakers had water. Most of the seminars pretty much ran themselves and I didn't even need to do that. After that, I could leave if I wanted to. Which I did only once because the seminars were fairly interesting. Also, my first one was a talk with James Patterson and I got to shake his hand and got a free hardcover too. There was this scary woman managing everything, really scary. I was very intimidated. Also, there was police on the floor, woot, James Patterson is so VIP :) It was the most interesting talk too, about literacy and getting boys to read. I have to say the talks on literacy and getting boys/teenagers to read were the best of all those I went to. I learned about this effort called "Headspace" run by teens for teens that creates library spaces where teens are encourage to spend time relaxing with music, internet and of course books. Apparently, they're quite successful in getting kids to start seeing books as fun. I missed the talk about Spinebreakers which was a shame because apparently it was excellent and everyone was very impressed.

Other than that, I got to try some food prepared by international big name chefs and even chatted with a Peruvian one, yay! I got four free books (that's 3 better than Frankfurt) and loads of publishers bags (which I kind of collect) and other neat freebies :D

Canon Tales was a lot of fun and I recommend it to anyone thinking of going to the Fair next year. That's also were I managed to ambush Cory Doctorow and got his card (I want to interview him for my dissertation) so there, I made the day count for something, academics-wise. Of course, I'd had a bit of wine beforehand so I'm afraid I babbled a bit and wasn't very coherent. Oh well, I'm sure he doesn't even remember anymore and as long as I get my interview, who cares?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Creative Commons


so, here's a post about something publishing related rather than university related. I don't know if I told you that I'm doing my dissertation on Creative Commons. It's quite interesting although I'm not passionate about the topic. I wish I were but I chose my topic very last minute and 'til this day I can't think of anything else that gets me very excited. Depressing. You'd think I'd have some kind of passion. I'm dead inside!

Anyway, I spend most of the morning reading Cory Doctorow's book, "Content". The book is available as a free download on his website under a CC license (appropriately enough). It's a collection of essays that covers a very wide range of topics from DRM to fanfiction and a very engrossing read, even for those of us not particularly good at understand legal issues of any kind. I read it cover to cover even though some of the topics didn't relate to my research at all simply because he makes it accessible and very readable.

It's very relevant to current issues in publishing and other creative media and I recommend the read to aspiring writers, publishled authors and people currently in or wanting to go into publishing. It makes certain things clear that I was very confused about.

Cory Doctorow's website is at

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fanfic writer thinks copyright doesn't apply to HER

I was gonna blog about something completely different (it was going to be on David Fickling guest lecture for the Children's publishing module) but then I ran across this topic at the Absolute Write Watercooler and I stole the title :P

You want to stop drinking now if you don't want to spray it all over your screens.

A fanfic writer who goes by Lady Sybilla has written a sequel to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books (titled: "Russet Noon") and has self-published it under the pretense that the characters have entered "the public psyche" and are therefore not copyrightable and that "Characters are only copyrightable if their creator draws them or hires an artist to draw them". Cue snorting and drink spraying, I told you not to take that sip.

She's sent out press releases, she has Youtube trailers (at least 2 that I know of) and apparently has sent out a casting call for a Native American hotty to take pictures of as whats-his-name-werewolf-boy.

And you know what's really hilarious? Her "publisher" AV Paranormal has opinions and is trying to "educate" people on copyrights but, get this, AV Paranormal is registered to an organisation called... Lady Sybilla! Also, when you google AV Paranormal you get a website about some ghosthunting TV show. Huh?
So when she refers to her "publishers", she's really talking about herself in the third person, 'nuff said.

No legit publisher (and most non-legit for that matter) would touch this one. They'd be as crazy as Lady Sybilla if they did. The copyright sharks are closing in. They're busy laughing their arses off right now.

I've written the occasional fanfic myself as well as a "proper" writer of my own original work. I don't think fanfic is a bad thing or that it should be stamped out but most fanfic writers are honest, creative folks who just want to play around a bit with something that's touched them and know that trying to make a profit from someone else's work is theft. However, not everyone is as informed as I am and this can only make it harder for the good people writing fic who are just as outraged by Lady Sybilla's behaviour.

I'm not a big fan of lawsuits, especially when it's between fans and authors/publishers (I find that often it's the copyright holder being too touchy) but this time around, I'm gonna be eating popcorn and watching for some serious fallout - and I will be siding with Stephenie Meyer's lawyers.

Youtube trailers: 1 and 2.
Russet Noon website
Russet Noon Press release

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Visit to Oxford University Press

On Friday we had a "visit" to Oxford University Press (OUP) for the children's module. I put visit in quotation marks because, well, they took us to a meeting room and gave us a marketing lecture. I was disappointed, I really wanted to see some of the building.

Still, the lecture was rather interesting although it only covered publicity and marketing. The marketing assistant did our M.A. last year too which gives me hope.

One of the things they insisted on was how much things cost. They handed out covers of two of their books and ask how we would market them and how much we thought everything would cost. We never got it right. Even something as small as a bookmark or a postcard was ridiculously expensive. Actually, it came up that sometimes it was the same price for bookmarks as for rucksacks! Mainly because of all the safety testing that needs to be done on anything that might go to children. Which I guess makes sense but sometimes it can be a little exaggerated.

Also, they gave us some figures for marketing budgets for individual titles. I know this is gonna kill some author who'll stumble by this post but: some books have big marketing budgets and some have none. And quality doesn't necessarily come into the equation. Publishers have to do those books that are easier to market widely and that's not always the quality book but the one with an author who's done something interesting or who's a great public speaker. With the kind of money available, you have to get value for money.

I know it is unfair. I'm something of a writer myself and someday, I hope my book will be one with a marketing budget.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Not all interviews are equal

Here's an account of an interview from just this year by Brianna. Clearly the methods have changed somewhat as it doesn't sounds like anything my current coursemates have told me their interviews were like (or maybe it's because it's early in the year and the interviewers aren't tired of the same ol' answers yet ;) Who knows?). The lesson to draw from this, IMO, is that no one can tell you exactly what the interview will be like.

In spite of her experience with the interview, Brianna did get accepted at OBU by the way :)


The interview day began kind of poorly for me as I confused the time
change difference and found the interview was scheduled 2 hours before
I had planned. As I arrived to my regular 8 to 5 job, I received a
phone call from my interviewer and promptly had to reschedule, while
attempting to hide the purpose of the phone call from my boss and
coworkers who don't know I am considering graduate school. Luckily, my
interviewer had some extra free time later that day and I managed to
leave work for that purpose. Still, it ruined my built-up idea of the
interview going smoothly and I felt more nervous when the actual time
came. The lesson here is that if you are an international student, pay
close attention to the time difference!

I already felt stupid and apologized immediately when OBU called. I
had prepared for a week to answer questions based on my strengths,
weaknesses, interests in the school and general publishing questions.
I expected to be asked about what jobs I would see myself doing in the
industry and I also expected a lot of questions about my background.
What I found, though, was that the background meant little except for
clarification purposes.

I was asked what certain phrases meant regarding my honors courses and
my grade point average (GPA) - which I assume they don't use in the
UK? The previous week had been spent skimming stories on Publisher's
Weekly and The Bookseller, but the questions I received were much more
pointed. I had no questions about strengths or weaknesses, what I
thought publishing was, why I liked OBU, etc. My questions were very
focused on specific events and lawsuits within the publishing
industry. I don't want to give away details, but the stories I was
asked about have been in the news for years and I had never heard of
them. I felt completely lost and utterly stupid as I fumbled for
opinions. The important thing is that I gave opinions. Interviewers
will not mind if you have a differing view. They want to see that you
can speak clearly and form your own ideas. I even told the interviewer
that I had never heard the news story in question and she gave me some
key points to research.

Overall, it was a stressful interview. I did not feel comfortable, but
I felt like I did the best I could with the knowledge I had. I would
just suggest that anyone who is considering grad school in a specific
subject should know, in detail, the most pressing current events. I
thought I did, but should have dug deeper. Everyone should write a
thank you letter after the interview and send it immediately. I
usually have no problem with interviews and do not get stressed
easily, but for some reason I did. Not every interview is going to be
perfect, so you shouldn't expect it to be. Just do the best you can
and make sure you have a genuine interest in the topics. Relax.:)

Friday, March 6, 2009


Another post! Aren't you surprised? :D Me too!

I got another email from the person who asked about interviews. She asked another question and I figured it wasn't a bad one for the blog. Hey, if you email me, chances are I'll post it up. It's a fair exchange, right ;) ?

I know you are well traveled, so if you had the choice would you study in Oxford again? And having gone through most of the program, would you seriously recommend it to other people? The thing is, I'm trying to decide if it worth my time and money (I'm financing it myself). Your honesty would be truly appreciated. Also, do you feel like you have any time for travel? My travel outside the U.S. consists of one backpacking experience through Europe. I would love to see more of the UK.

Yes, I would totally redo the course if I had the option again. In all honesty, this is probably the happiest I've been in my entire life. Sure it's hard sometimes and there's a lot of work and pressure. There are people in the course I don't like to work with (although they are not bad people, just people I have no chemistry with) and I can't wait to be done with it and in the real world again. But that's true of every academic course :D
We have a lot of fun as a group and although we're hardly ever all together anymore, when there's a large group of us in one place, we have a blast and that's as important as the modules themselves in a way.

Oxford itself is a very nice town. It has a nice, village feel rather than being a stuffy "old university" town. It's very pleasant and although I sometimes miss having a wide range of options for things to do in the evening or on weekends (England will seem very slow and sleepy in comparison to the US - everything closes ridiculously early!) but it's probably just as well budget-wise :) And London's practically next door anyway.

There is some time to travel too, I haven't but that's mainly because I'm trying not to spend my parents' money. I like to eat out with my friends so I find myself going through money very fast and I'd rather eat out regularly than take a really cool trip and have to be tight with the cash later. I figure I can always travel more later when i have a regular paycheck, lol.
But yeah, a lot of people from the course are traveling regularly all over
Europe, either to go visit their families or do some tourism. It's also easy to travel within the UK, plenty of airports that Ryanair goes to and also, buses. A bit expensive to my taste and the train aren't very reliable but it's doable. And again, with London next door, you can usually get just about anywhere in the country easily enough.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Dreaded Interview

Someone emailed me asking about the interview process. Fool that I am, I had forgotten my password for the gmail account in the "about me" box. I've just recovered it but I was too late to answer this reader in time for her interview. I'm SO SORRY! I'm such a doofus sometimes! Well, most of the time, I'll admit it.

But, it was a good question, so I'll answer it here anyway (can't believe I didn't do it sooner, after all my agony over it last year!).


Yes, I had an interview before I was accepted at OBU. Mine was done by phone (at the inhuman hour of 7 am) as I was living in Peru at the time. Some people had to come to Brookes for a face-to-face encounter.

Let me tell you from the start that there really isn't much to worry about. The Lecturers are all very nice and informal, we were on first name basis with all of them since before the course began :) They're not looking to reject you, quite the opposite. If you're asked for an interview, you're pretty much there already!

They'll ask you things like:
- How do you define publishing?
- What do you feel are your strengths?
- What do you feel are your weaknesses?
- Why did you chose OBU?
- Why did you chose Oxford?

It's a conversation more than an interview, really. At least, it was for me.

Here is some general advice on how to do this (bearing in mind I've only done this once): relax, the lecturers are your friends and want you to succeed. It's hard to believe but I know these people and I can say there isn't one of them that isn't a good person. Leander might be scary but she's really a teddy bear (just don't tell anyone I said that...). Be confident, publishing is a business, a tough one at that, where people juggle big sums of money every day. Shyness is normal, they understand that (and most people in publishing are naturally shy), but it's very impressive if you manage to fight it off when it matters. They also know you're gonna be nervous. Speak with conviction, doesn't matter if you're wrong or if they disagree with you. They'll respect you more for thinking for yourself. Don't be arrogant though, they don't tolerate fools easily (especially not Leander - can you tell she's one of my fave lecturers yet?).

Oh, and don't prepare too much or you'll get stuck if your interviewer deviates from the script you've imagined. Take it easy, it's mostly a formality.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Research Proposals

So, Research Proposals are the devil.

We have to write a 2000w. proposal for our dissertation. Based on this paper, they will assign us a supervisor. The thing is, the proposal assumes you've done some research on the subject already: how are you going to research the topic, what resources do you have/need, what's your schedule, how much money etc. I mean, most of us just decided on a subject at the very last minute.

BTW, mine is "Open Access and Creative Commons: Giving your Work Away for Free" . Working title only :)

So here I am, trying to write a proposal that will be acceptable (it's not graded but if it sucks, they don't let you do a Master's but you can still do a post-grad diploma - that's the course minus the dissertation/major project).

I'm not especially interested in Rights but as the proper Humanities scholar that I am, I'm more interested in the social aspects of this topic as well as how I can think of making it profitable to publishers (because I want a good grade on this project ;D ).

I'm kind of looking forward to writing my dissertation but I'd enjoy it more if I didn't have the mammoth NPD project at the same time, let alone the DMP blog to fiddle and update regularly (as my faithful readers will know, not my strong point) and a looooong essay for Children's. Oh, and work experience, which is getting progressively more boring and routine.

*sigh* I can't wait to finish the course and get a real job.

Oh and, I will try to post something other than me whining. I was thinking maybe a post on the history of Children's lit or something like that, distilled from my class notes. I just have to work up some motivation to do something course related. I need a holiday...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Life's a stage

I was out with boyfriend yesterday because it was such a beautiful day. The sun actually stayed out for more than an hour. I had some books to return to the county library down by Westgate Centre (Queen Street). It's a very good library by the way.

The sun was shining, the streets were lively with families out for a stroll and rowdy teenagers piling up on the statue in front of Westgate. I took the boy on a looooong stroll along the Thames. It was gorgeous! I'd been up there before, in september when the trees still had leaves, but this time it was both peaceful and dramatic. The light was a little strange later in the day and the trees were gold and a metallic sort of green.

We tried to walk back to the town centre down the other bank but somehow ended up in a wild bit of scrubland between two arms of the river with no bridges. We turned around and ended up walking down Iffley Road. From there, we went to the G&D's on Cowley Road, something of a regular haunt for us.

The Oxford Playhouse was holding a "show" called Etiquette. Boy and I were having coffee and ice-cream close to the two tables by the window which were covered in a black cloth and had props and headphones on them. Couples sat at the tables and listened to instructions. They were clearly playing out a scene. We were intrigued but didn't really think to participate in whatever this was. After the end of one performance though, the woman in charge of the thing came to ask us if we wanted to give it a try if the people who had reserved the next slot didn't show up. We said ok. So we did it.

I don't know what to make of the experience. It was intriguing... There we were, playing out a scene at a cafe in Paris between a prostitute and an old man. Then we were actors in a play about a woman leaving her husband. Then there was something about a murder. All this using the props and language (we had to repeat certain lines, at times it worked really well as he was replying to the questions I asked and vice-versa at the proper speed). It was a little unsettling. At times it was very hard to hear what boy was saying so I missed part of the experience very likely. Still, it's pretty cool and I recommend the experience. The whole audience becomes actors becomes characters. The use of little white figures and chalk on the black board works really well. I completely forgot the other people in the cafe for a while. But I still don't know what to make of the play itself.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Now it feels more like a Master's course!

Phew! Week 3 and already there's lots of work to be done. The way I see it, I have it pretty easy. All I have to do is read a couple of articles on Children's Publishing that Claire assigned, do a bit of research (more because I'm interested than because I have to) and do some NPD research. This last bit is not very stimulating but I think it's mainly because I'm not too thrilled with the project and the group.

Oh well!

On the other hand, the Magazine module looks tough although the Lecturer is usually so much fun. Boyfriend has to write a 3000 word essay on a cultural subject rather than straight publishing. It's on Men's Magazines (yeah, thooose) which is an interesting topic but involves a lot of research an 3000 words is a LOT!

We also have to hand in our official dissertation proposals next week or the week after that. I've barely even thought about mine. I think having NPD and dissertation work in one semester is exagerating. The NPD project could be a dissertation all on its own! It's that huge and stressful! I mean, it's very interesting from the point of view of getting experience of how it's supposed to work in a real company without risking real money on it but it's a lot of work that is a bit too much like the editorial project for my taste. I don't know, maybe I'm panicking prematurely but I feel it like this weight on my shoulders all the time, even when I'm not really thinking about it. I guess this is how a postgrad is supposed to feel.

Trial by fire and all that.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2 weeks in and already hating group work

Well, NPD is a bit disappointment. I swear, two weeks in and I'm already hating it. It's the editorial group project all over again but with more work and people taking it very seriously from the beginning.

I'm really, really tired of group work. You know it's bad when you know from the beginning that you're going to end up hating everyone in your group in a matter of weeks. Add to that a very bossy and unimaginative Managing Director and you have a recipe for a very unhappy Chantal.

I don't know, maybe it won't be so bad this time around. The trick is to work hard from the start and make your voice heard (a bit of a challenge for me) so you don't get left behind (and see people take credit for your work so you end up losing points grrrrr!). I'm taking on Editorial and Design work. I wanted to be Managing Director but everyone voted for this other girl *le sigh*. Oh well, at least I get Design which I really wanted and avoided Finance which I didn't.

The other modules are okay, I've very happy with Children's Publishing, we had a great discussion on Friday about gender in publishing. We discussed how women had gotten into publishing through Children's imprints which the men didn't consider important enough to put someone more "qualified" in so they gave it to the women and from there...we invaded and conquered :D

We also discussed the argument that the reason boys aren't being properly catered to nowadays is because it's women in charge, chosing and making books they enjoy hence, girls will like better. Boys did use to read a lot more in the past when men were in charge. I just say, "well, duh, there was no TV."

I'm still not sure about Digital Media Publishing. I wish the lecturer would take more time to explain the software and the ideas behind ebooks and such and less time digressing. Also, he stumbles over his words a lot and speaks very fast and I just disconnect and start playing on the internet. The project sound like a lot of fun. We have to pick a Public Domain text (or something on Creative Commons) and make it into an ebook with all the bells and whistles we want (i.e. sounds, video, links whatever). I wanted to do the Malleus Maleficarum but it's a very long text so I don't think I could enhance it as much as I want to because it would be a lot of very repetitive work and with NPD to keep me busy and a dissertation to start working on, I don't think I want to take on more work than I have to.

Another project is to have a blog that we'd update regularly. Yes, I have this one but it doesn't count. Also, I could work on my regular posting here, sorry :) My class blog is at:

I'm doing book reviews. We have to have at least 20 posts by the end of the semester and I figured that ought to keep me going. I can definitely write about 20 books. You're welcome to have a look and comment on how bad my reviews are (or the books, whatever)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The new semester has begun!

Meh, classes started again on Monday. At 9 am with Research Methods (for our dissertations/major projects). It was very exciting to see everyone back together again though. I was ridiculously perky. It's that "first day of school" thing, I guess. I wouldn't know because this is the first time I'm experiencing this which, in my opinion, speaks volumes about how much I've been enjoying myself here.

We have 5 student from Paris X university over as ERASMUS exchanges. I started chatting with them. It feels so good to have someone to speak French to! They're quite nice too. Someone had the good idea to invite them to Jazz night yesterday, which I had completely forgot to tell them about. So we had a chat over the music. The Bullingdon (a.k.a. The Bully) has live jazz every tuesday in the backroom. The Bullingdon is right in front of Tesco on Cowley Road. It's something of a regular thing for a lot of the people on the course. It's very good. I meant to go more often but I'm a lazy bum who doesn't want to go walk down the hill to it (and then back up again).

We also had New Product Development on Monday. It's a class that brings together everything we learned last semester. It's a role-play class! We're "Buckley Publishing" and are divided into groups that are different division within the company. I'm in the Education division (meh). We each have to come up with a new product that will fit with our goals (slightly different per division according to our "profile"). It looks like it's going to be labor intensive and the groups are huge! 9 people! It was bad enough with 4-6 last semester! We're all going to end up hating each other!

We also handed in our dissertation registration forms. They're going to assign us to Research methods seminar groups that are relevant to our subjects. In the end, I've decided to go with Open Access and Free audiobooks. I wanted to work on an ecological topic but I couldn't come up with one especially interesting angle to work on (that's what happens when you have too much interest in something I guess) and I was going to touch on digital media anyway so now I'll do it the other way around. Incorporate some ecology into a digital dissertation. I'm quite excited about the subject now and looking forward to starting to work on it.

I have Digital Media class this afternoon where, get this, one of the assignments is to have a blog and update it regularly. I've got the blog part down, I'll need to work on the updating regularly thing though, heh. We'll also be graded on how we customize our blog which I don't know how to do yet but we'll be taught and on the research that goes into the posts. Yes, I can't use this blog for the class (*le sigh*) but at least I have some blogging experience and I'll be able to make this blog better too. I love it when things work out that way. We'll also be covering Photoshop and Dreamweaver, two programs I've used before and some other two things I can't remember and have never used.

Should be fun, all in all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On living in Oxford

Here's a sequel to my previous post :D

Oh, Julie, it definitely is possible to lose weight while in England. For one thing the food is pretty expensive. Also, it's not very good. If you want yummy food, you have to eat out which brings us to point number 1 :D I've lost 20 kg in a matter of months :) Then again, I'm on Atkins-lite (which really means I cheat too much to say I'm really trying >_< ) so that helps.

I'm going with a different color scheme this time around.


Hi Chantal,

I really can't thank you enough for that reply! It really helped me! I've also been looking through your blog and its really nice to read what you have done in your classes. I have spoken to someone from UCL and Stirling too and I think the Brookes course sounds much better and flexible, the others are too rigid! I'm hoping I get in, my applications go in next week or so. The maths bit scares me a little as it was my worst subject :(
Are you an international student? How is the accommodation at the uni? And I've been to Oxford when I was on holiday once, and I loved the place, but what is it like to live there?

Thank you :)

Yeah, I'm an international student. I'm staying in Cheney Student Village which offers a 50 week contract. The other halls are 30 weeks.
Cheney is also ensuite which means I have my own bathroom (which also means I have to clean it myself *sigh*).

The rooms are quite nice, airy and bright and quite spacious for university accommodations. They're fairly new too, the ikea furniture still nice :D There's 6 people in our flat and we share a kitchen. It's not as nice as an actual house but it's enough for now. The postgraduate blocks (P,R,S,T and U) are fairly quiet. I had to sent the Residence officer quiet down the people upstairs only once (hey, they were playing really bad techno, screaming and jumping around at 3 am on a weekday!)

I've been inside Crescent as well which is the cheapest of the halls and it's quite nice too. Very cramped but it had a nice atmosphere. They also have shared kitchens but they're a lot smaller. Also, it's quite far from the Headington campus.

The university also owns some houses in the area and if you apply for a shared house, you could end up in an actual house to share with other Brookes students. My boyfriend is in one of these and they're ok. His house is a bit worn down and the heating doesn't work well but they have a kitchen and a little living room and their own washer and drier which is great because going up and down the stairs and out in the cold to do laundry (and pay a whole 3 pounds for one load!) sucks. They also have a garden.

Personally, I like living in Oxford. It's not a big city which sometimes annoys me but I got used to having a ridiculous amount of possibilities (even though, in all fairness, I only ever did the same things over and over again anyway). It's cheerful and small and I can go everywhere on foot. There are paths along the rivers and before long, it feels like you're outside of town, walking through the countryside.

The supermarkets are fairly limited and the choice is small for my international tastes but they have the staples and some places have decent prices and decent quality (oh, Peru! How I miss thee!). The weather is much nicer than I expected. I've never experienced such a mild winter. Maybe it was a fluke this year but it's been pleasant. There are a lot of students but it doesn't get too crazy expect on some streets during the night. There are a lot of student nights in the local clubs that attract either more Oxford students or Brookes students. There's a strong sense of partying at night, every night. I'm not much of a club goer myself but I've heard good reviews of places like Lava, The Purple Turtle, Clem's and The Carling Academy.

There are lots of restaurants offering different cuisines. Jamie Oliver has an Italian restaurant on St. George street that is wonderful apparently. I'm saving it for a special occasion because it's also pricey. Quod is good, also elegant and one of my friends met Emma Watson there and got an autograph! There are several Indian restaurants that are very good. I lived 4 years in India and sometimes, I need some good Indian food. I'm pleased with the offerings generally although I wish there was more than curries, Indian food is so varied and interesting it's a shame they don't offer more different dishes.
My favorite places to eat are Nando's (mmmh, spicy chicken!), Gourmet Burger Kitchen ('nuff said) and the Brittania pub up in Headington (it's close, cheap and the food is very good).

Well, it's getting pretty long so I'll sumarise, I like it very much here. I wouldn't mind staying on after I finish the M.A. except the local publishers don't really do trade publishing and I'm not interested in Academic or Educational publishing. London is conveniently close but still, 2 hours commutes one-way is a bit much for me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Another letter from a would-be student

Hey there!

I'm planning to apply for the Publishing course at Brookes in Sept '09. I wanted to know how the course is, how you find the course structure to be, the faculty and the uni? Also, how many people do they take in a class?? Is it really hard to get through to this course?? Do you know much about the other Publishing courses (UCL,Kingston,LCC,Stirling
,Plymouth and City?)

Thanking you,


I'm glad to help. I'll handle your questions in order :)

1. The course is very intensive. We learn a lot of stuff very quickly and by the end of the first semester we knew enough to work in any department and possibly publish a book on our own. There are 4 mandatory modules, 3 (Editorial Management, Marketing management, Production and Design) are taken in the first semester and the 4th (New Product Development) is in semester 2. Everyone, regarding which of the Publishing M.A. (straight M.A. in Publishing, European, Digital etc) they're doing, has to take these modules. Then in semester 2, you also have to take 2 other modules that you get to chose (Digital Media, Rights Management, Children's Publishing, Magazines and Independent study in which you pretty much get to make up your own module etc.). The classes are half lectures which the Lecturer teaching and the other half is seminars or workshops in which we do some practical exercises usually divided into smaller groups.

The Lecturers are all great and very helpful. There are a couple whose teaching style is a little lacking but they make up by being happy to answer questions and see you in private if you need more help. It's fairly informal and we call them all by their first names, so you see, it's really very friendly. Everyone's here to learn so it's not a problem that we're so informal. Some of the lecturers are born comedians so their lectures are hilarious as well as informative.

The uni has a computer room just for publishing in the Tonge building with all the software used in the publishing business. We mainly learn to use Adobe InDesign which is the most widely used now. There's also Quark but if we want to learn how to use it, we're on our own.

2. The mandatory modules are for everyone and there's no limit to the number that can be. This means that everyone taking any of the Publishing M.As. will be there. At this time, that's about 75 of us. Of course, some people don't show up to classes and prefer to learn on their own using the lecture slides and the part-time students don't take all the mandatory modules at the same time so they're only there for one or two modules every semester. It sounds like a lot of people in one room but it isn't that much really and the lecturers are very good at reaching even the people at the back (I know because that's where I usually sit :D). For the elective modules, we're in smaller groups. There's no limit to how many people can be in one class but they're usual self-limiting in that there's many modules and people have different interests and goals so the main group breaks up into smaller ones. Children's publishing and Rights Management are the ones with more people.

3. I didn't find the classes to be too hard but they do demand a certain amount of work and, in my opinion, it's important to go to every class. It's not really possible to start your assignments at the last minute, for one thing, because a lot of it is group work. You don't get to chose your group so you never know who is more or less reliable. There's some maths involved in Marketing and Production which some people have a hard time with but I was terrible in maths in school but found it fairly easy if boring. Another possible difficulty is whether you can learn software easily or not, then there's the design aspect where some people are just naturally better at it than others. But I've seen everyone's Design projects and was very impressed by them.

4. I know that the City and Kingston programmes are good. City especially has a good reputation. I looked it up a bit because I applied there too. I think the difference is in how theoretical vs. practical the programmes are. Otherwise they teach more or less the same things. City is in London so that's one thing to keep in mind as well.

Have a look through my blog at

I talk mainly about what I'm learning and doing and things like that. I'm not a very regular poster but there might be something that could interest you.

I'll be happy to answer any other questions you have.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dissertation or Major Project Subject


The time is coming soon when I have to tell the lecturers what the subject of my dissertation or major project will be. I think I want to work on an environment and publishing subject but I need to narrow it down to something. I can't think of any one particular subject I want to concentrate on.

I'm also interested in Open access, YA, fanfiction, podcasts and blogs. If I could just find a subject that joins at least a couple of these interests, it would be great. I wish I had something I was really into then at least, no matter how bad an idea, I'd know what I want to do. There's a girl in the course who wants to do hers on Twilight, which I think is stupid (not the books, as a topic for postgrad work in publishing) but at least she knows what she wants.

I'm starting to get worried. There really isn't that much time to pick a subject for work that will take months to do and will determine whether I get my M.A. or not.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year! Wooot!

Happy New Year everyone!

I get ridiculously excited with the New Year. It's the only holiday I care about (after Hallowe'en). It's 2009, that's one year away from the geektacular year, 2010. I've only made one resolution for this year that I think I can stick to. That's to keep on losing weight and reach my target this year. Should be okay, it's only 30lbs to go. I've already lost around 70 so...easy...

Sorry I haven't posted more often but I'm still recovering from semester one. That was a lot of learning. I'm also stressing a bit because I need to come up with a dissertation/major project topic this month and to be honest, I have no idea what I want to work on. The dissertation/mp is the single most important bit in getting the M.A. Either you do the dissertation, a long written piece or the major project which is more hands-on (some people produce a book, some run projects bringing literature to some disadvantaged area (one girl wrote and produced a book which she went and distributed in South Africa bringing chick lit to the poor) etc.)

There are a lot of very interesting topics. I'd love to do something children's and/or environment related. I had a crazy really good idea but the more I think about it, the less I think I can do it. It's very complex. I'd also like to research this whole thing of podcasting stories and novels for free which I find very intriguing from a publishing point of view (not just as a wannabe writer).

I've been talking to one of the lecturers about the possibility of starting my own podcast within the frame of his Digital Media class. He said he'd be happy to show me how to go about it and host the podcast although it wouldn't be graded because it wouldn't be fair to the others that I get to make up my own assessments. So, there might be a Publishing U. podcast sometime in the future. I don't know exactly how to go about keeping a 'cast, Gods know it's hard enough to keep track of a blog and find something to write semi-regularly. What am I going to talk about?

Still, I've wanted a podcast for ages. It'll be a good learning experience if nothing else.