Lucy and Todd

ARE MEN OBSOLETE? (debate)

In The Gloves Are Off : Thoughts on Literature on March 31, 2015 at 8:42 am

ARE MEN OBSOLETE? (Ebury Press, £6.99)

A response to a published version of the Munk debate held in Toronto on Dec. 15, 2013, with Hanna Rosin and Maureen Dowd speaking for, and Camille Paglia and Caitlin Moran against, the motion that men are ‘obsolete’.

Caitlin Moran can be amusing, but her general attitude to the world is abysmally optimistic. She’s so thrilled with the ‘kaleidoscopic, dizzying wonder of everything’, and so devoted to the feminism-lite notion of ‘equality’, she can’t see the urgent need to restrain men and promote women before it’s too late. She seems to envision instead some kind of vast utopian future for humanity, and the environment. This is a surprising stance to take since, unless we do something NOW, there will BE no environment, or no habitable one, and humanity and all its accomplishments, be they male or female, will be consigned to the solar system’s trashcan. Is Moran unaware of the atom bomb, or the Industrial Revolution? Where in hell is this rosy future going to come from, if we can’t find a way to contain men and their sorrier, anti-life impulses? She also keeps talking about 100,000 years of male rule, but it is altogether more likely that they have only held such sway for about 5,000 years, during which they’ve done incredible damage. Patriarchy is a temporary and failed system that needs immediate reversal.

Camille Paglia meanwhile has the hots for Hitchcock and Rhett Butler, and can’t stop talking about construction workers and their pickup trucks – or about herself. Her self-referencing is unstoppable, but her obsession with blue-collar work is obscene. Telling men to keep on laying pipes and bricks and reveling in masculinity is no better than telling women, in the ’50s, to stay home with the kids. ‘I’ve studied the fate of Rome for my entire life’, she informs us. As a result, she fears that a more pro-female society will not be militaristic enough to defend itself against barbarians. So I guess we’re stuck with Rhett Butler?

Maureen Dowd doesn’t say enough, perhaps because the debate soon takes such a humourless tone. Her speciality – Washington politics – also narrows her scope. Better in the pre-debate interview, when asked what men should be doing, she says men should just do what women tell them to do.

Hanna Rosin seems the most effective debater, sticking to the point and rounding things up well enough to procure a winning vote-swing amongst the audience at the end. But she too does not go far enough. She wants the crisis in masculinity addressed. Huh?! This is NOT our biggest problem. What we need to do is concentrate on the crisis of female poverty, female impediments; the crisis of climate change, caused by men who seemingly will not fix it; the crisis of male-run religions that discriminate against women and against other religions. (Let’s just get rid of religion all together. It serves no useful purpose.) Rosin was forceful, but not angry enough.

It’s time to GET MAD.

LE

March 31, 2015

PRAISE FROM WRITERS WE HAVE HELPED

In Our Students Vouch for Us on May 30, 2014 at 11:40 am

LEILA ABOULELA (author of Lyrics Alley, the Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards, and other novels, radio plays, and short stories – most recently, Aboulela’s “The Insider” was broadcast on Radio 3, November 2, 2013) [from published interviews]: “Thanks to…..Todd McEwen, my writing tutor, whose belief in my work made me take myself seriously as a writer” –  Mslexia  “Thanks to McEwen, Aboulela found an agent and in 1999, her first novel, The Translator was published by Scottish independent, Polygon.” The Big Interview  –  New Books Magazine

 

NANCY GAFFIELD (author of Tokaido Road, CB Editions – winner of 2011 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize for poetry; Owhere, Templar, 2012; and Continental Drift is due out in April, 2014, Shearsman):  Todd and Lucy are that rare breed of professional writers who are outstanding at teaching. I highly recommend them to anyone who is serious about writing. Not only will you be given in-depth and critical feedback, you will also get practical help in learning how to get your working published.  Todd has been instrumental in my launch as a poet.

 

NEIL BUTLER (author of The Roost, Thirsty Books, Edinburgh, 2011):  Lucy and Todd will NURTURE your book – they won’t tell you what you should write or how THEY would write it.  They’ll help you make YOUR book the best it can be.  Which is a long way of saying they’re the real thing.  They’re not the friend who’ll tell you they don’t like your subject-matter or that they don’t get what you’re trying; they’re not your mum who’ll tell you you’re just brilliant: WHERE did you get that IMAGINATION from?  These are people who know how to write, they know what writing IS – so they know how you edit.  Todd edited my book and left me a book I’m proud of.  His cuts were fine plastic surgery, not butchery; his advice was practical (i.e., not ‘this is how I WOULD write it’ but ‘here’s a way to improve this’); he spotted the glaring errors that make it into every piece of writing that passes 140 characters.  Lucy gave me my cover quote – ‘It’s wonderful’ – (and meant it!).  One last thing.  They do a very good seminar, the only seminars I ever came out of feeling excited, inspired and not in need of a stiff drink.  So, tip: bring a pad and paper and scribble down the books casually mentioned, quiet-like, under your desk.  Trust me.

 

AARON SIMON:  Todd and Lucy were amazing mentors at Kent. With their prodding and encouragement, I was actually able to finish writing a novel and–even more amazingly–start legitimately rewriting huge swaths of text.

 

JAMES WRIGHT:  Todd and Lucy, as writers, readers and editors, helped me to trust and develop my ideas of fiction and have inspired the confidence to do my ideas justice and successfully write exactly as I aspire to. Their editorial support is artistically sensitive and, with the reader in mind, logically sound, so as not to lose sight of the essential narrative.

 

EMMA GLASS:  I would like to say that it is always such a pleasure to receive feedback from you. The response is always prompt, always honest. Even when I send long, intangible lines of random words with minimal punctuation, you always help me to find a focus. You read with such patience; guiding my rough chapters and shaping them, helping me to see through the creative fuzz. Observations always objective, practical considerations about the reader, about the narrative voice. But always, and most essentially enthusiastic and encouraging.

 

CHRIS BENNETT:  Truly wonderful! Fiction Atelier has not only polished my work but their feedback and guidance has improved my writing immensely. It’s a personal service that is tailored to each individual and Todd and Lucy are always available to help – just a phone call or an email away. I couldn’t have completed my novel without them.

 

NIK WILLIAMS (writer for Index on Censorship):  Never erosive nor evasive, their editorial help offered constructive directions out of a manuscript tangled up by syntactical choices, pockmarked by plot holes and crowded by superfluous characters. I would recommend their services to any writer without hesitation.

 

KYLIE GRANT (Winner of the Unbound Press/Spilling Ink Review Holiday Flash Fiction Prize 2012 and author of The House that We Built – shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2011; winner of Wise Words Fiction Prize, 2014; reviewer for The List, Scotland):  Todd McEwen and Lucy Ellmann were utterly wonderful teachers, editors, and mentors during my time at the University of Kent.  One of their many strengths is that they actively want to engage with your writing, both as writers and as teachers, giving you the freedom to experiment and create your own confident writing voice.  In encouraging you to read and question a variety of thought provoking, frustrating, beautiful and ultimately inspiring pieces of writing they improve the quality, depth and structure of your own writing. I honestly couldn’t have finished my novel without their enthusiasm, guidance and feedback.

 

RUPERT SMITH (Winner of the Bloomsbury Writing Prize and the T. S. Eliot Prize at the University of Kent; his short story, ‘Fripperies’, was broadcast on Radio 4 in October, 2011):  Lucy and Todd were meat and drink to me whilst at Kent. I never dreamed that my writing would be invigorated in the way it was – suddenly I was urged out of my comfort zone, but at the same time I was never happier in taking the risks I took on the page to the extent that I almost forgot I was on a degree course. What was so revelatory was how the reading fed so appropriately into the creative process; works I’d never before come across (by writers I’m still exploring) were shoring up all the experiments I doubt I would ever have otherwise undertaken, and validating them.
Lucy encourages her students to think deeply about their craft, and I’m delighted to say that the generous feedback I received during her module ‘The Body’ was instrumental in helping me to strike out and complete what was to become my Radio 4 short story debut.
And Todd is just so supportive and wise: who can resist a tutor who asks, à propos of nothing, ‘What’s exciting you?’?  His tutorials are mini literary adventures: invaluable assistance with envisioning the writer’s journey alongside an uncanny bibliophile’s sixth sense in steering you towards your next feeding frenzy. I never shifted to the uni library so fast.

 

EDDIE GIBBONS (latest poetry collection: A Twist of Lime Street; What They Say About You was shortlisted for the Scottish Book Awards, Poetry Section):  If Todd and Lucy were mechanics, they’d work for Rolls-Royce or Ferrari. They are fiction engineers. Todd McEwen set me on the path to five published collections of poetry by instilling in me a belief that I could become good enough by building on my raw ability through application, study, editing and enjoyment of all these processes. But he didn’t stop there. Once he thought that my work was of a sufficient level he encouraged me to send it out into the world, where some of it got published in literary magazines. Not only that – he actually brought the editor of one of those magazines to meet me, whereupon he offered to publish my first collection. But it doesn’t end there. Todd and Lucy have inducted me into the wider world of authorship by introducing me to many luminaries of the writing profession, including Billy Collins, former poet laureate of America. Their tutorship and continuing friendship are things I treasure.

 

KRISTEN LOWMAN:  You won’t find anyone better than Lucy and Todd.  I can say this; I’ve attended some fine workshops, but I have never received such detailed, precise, thoughtful notes; some dealing with the story’s subtlety, some addressing the technical, all of them honoring and enhancing the story.  They also have a unique way of making me reach higher, without fear – it comes from their generous natures as artists, as professional writers.  After working with them, I find myself enthused, excited to get back at the story.  They pass on their joy, igniting my own.  Thank you.

 

EFFIE CURRELL (author of short story collections published by the Kreol Institute in the Seychelles, and a children’s book published by Macmillan Caribbean):  So many things keep pulling me away from writing, and sometimes it would be easy to abandon a story that no-one will miss if it’s not told. So, as I sit to write sans publisher, sans book deal, sans contract, sans any of the things that I – perhaps naively – imagine help writers to feel that they are not suffering from delusions of talent, I am glad that I am at least an apprentice at the Atelier.

 

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