Creative Conversations: Interview with Louise Welsh

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Credit: Sourit Bhattacharya

Sabina Domínguez
Writer

Sabina Domínguez talks Creative Conversations, creative writing, book recommendations and more with Dr. Louise Welsh, a professor and novelist at the University of Glasgow.

Award-winning and best-selling crime writer and author Dr. Louise Welsh was the subject of conversation when I met up with her in her University of Glasgow office. Dr. Welsh is also Creative Writing Professor here at the University, and during our interview we had a chance to chat about the Creative Conversations Speaker series, which is now in its third year running in the University of Glasgow Chapel.

Creative Conversations events happen every Monday at 1pm in the Chapel until December. The series invites both well-known and emerging authors to hold an informal conversation about their work or an aspect of their work with the audience. “The Creative Conversation events are extremely welcoming. You can just pop up to ask some questions, listen to some authors, or have your lunch listening to some engaging ideas,” Dr. Welsh explains.

The series opened spectacularly in September with a conversation with Behrouz Boochani. Boochani is a Kurdish journalist, human rights defender, poet and film producer, who sought asylum in Australia but was instead illegally imprisoned. His autobiographical novel No Friends but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison is a vivid portrait through five years of incarceration and exile. This book was smuggled out of Manus Island as thousands of text messages in Farsi, and has been translated into English by Omid Tofighian.

Nina Allan, writer, critic, and active in the field of speculative fiction, hosted her own event on Monday 11 November. She has published four collections of short stories, a novella and two novels, and has been awarded the Grand Prix de L’imaginaire and the British Science Fiction Award. Other writers taking part in the series this November include the poet, artist and University of Glasgow alumni Nick-E Melville, who spoke on 25 November. Melville makes playful and inventive found, visual, and sometimes even “proper” poetry. The last speaker will be the novelist Karen Campbell. Before turning to writing, she was a police officer in Glasgow, and her first four novels focus on the people behind the uniform. Her fifth novel This is Where I Am, about a Somali refugee in Glasgow was a Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, and has been optioned for TV – as have her police books.

“There is always something for everyone: we always try to think about diversity, not just with people but with genres and ideas,” explains Dr. Welsh. “The aim of the events is for people to have a good time getting to know authors and types of literature they may or may not know. It’s not just for authors; having a stimulating conversation can help spark new and interesting ideas among the audience.”

I also had the opportunity to ask Louise about the Creative Writing MLitt programme and about other opportunities for young writers. “The Creative Writing programme at Glasgow definitely made me a more confident writer 20 years ago,” she explains. “It is perfect for aspiring writers who want to develop their creative and critical skills.” Her advice for those who want to become writers is simple: work and self-discipline. “Inspiration may come, but you cannot rely on it,” she laughs. “Make yourself a timetable and make the commitment to write regularly. Also, be rigorous and don’t be too complacent with your work.”

Finally, Louise gave us a peek at some of her favourite books for this Autumn. “No Friends but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani is a required reading for everyone this autumn,” she says. She also recommends From Harvey River by Lorna Goodison, a wonderful family memoir of a Jamaican family in the late 19th to early 20th century, and the morbidly funny My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Personally, I cannot wait to read them!