Mentors

Carole Angier

Carole Angier, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Patron of the National Academy of Writing, is the biographer of Jean Rhys and Primo Levi. She has worked with refugees for many years, publishing three books of exiled writing since 2005. She has written and reviewed in many newspapers and magazines, and several of her essays have been published in collections worldwide.

As a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, Carole worked with university students on their essays. She founded and taught two Life Writing courses, at Warwick and at Birkbeck, and most recently was Associate Lecturer in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes. She has been a regular tutor for Arvon, and has worked as a one-to-one mentor for the last decade. Two of her students have published biographies, and two now have novels under consideration with publishers.

She is currently writing a set of essays on W G Sebald, and co-editing a series of books on writing for Bloomsbury, of which her own Life Writing (co-written with Sally Cline) is the lead title.

Carole is a skilled, sensitive and highly intelligent mentor. Sometimes our discussions were such major learning experiences they took time to assimilate. But they always left me stirred up and encouraged.
  Carole gave me two invaluable things: a way of re-structuring, and a way to cut through the headiness that had crept into my writing. I can hear her now, saying ‘Keep it simple!’ Afterwards her editing voice became less strong and my writing took back a certain freedom. But the lessons of those months, and the stimulation of those exchanges, have been invaluable. Christine Cohen Park

Carole praised things she liked and gave me clear suggestions for what needed improving. She helped me to deepen and enrich my characters, to make my descriptions more precise and to keep them related to my underlying themes. Her careful way of listening and her clear analytic thinking helped me to work out what I wanted to do.
  I feel that for anyone who has got worn down with wondering how their novel is going, or what to do to improve it, a year’s mentoring with someone like Carole is worth its weight in gold. Suzy Ellis

 

Elspeth Barker was born in Scotland and married the poet George Barker, who died in 1991. Her novel O Caledonia was published by Hamish Hamilton/Penguin in 1991 and won four prizes. It was reissued in 2010 by Black Dog Books, who also published her Dog Days: Selected Writings in 2012. Her stories have appeared in anthologies and also in the reissued O Caledonia.

Elspeth has tutored on many Arvon courses and done readings, talks and tutorial sessions around England, in Brittany, in Majorca, and at many literary festivals. She was visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Kansas University in 1999.  She recently concluded 18 years of tutoring writing at Norwich University College of the Arts, and currently works with The Literary Consultancy.

She has reviewed and written articles for the Sunday Independent, Tatler, Harpers and Queen, TLS, LRB, Guardian, Financial Times, Daily Mail, Big Issue, Scotsman and others. Currently she is working on a novel and short stories.

From reviews:

‘Elspeth Barker writes a glorious, allusive and Latinate prose, full of meticulously judged sentences and paragraphs, each word in its only possible place….The book is an unalloyed pleasure.’  –  RM Bond-Webster, Eastern Daily Press [Dog Days]

O Caledonia is as thrilling a book as you could hope to discover: dark and wild, lyrical and funny…an exquisitely written, glittering, blackly comic tale, by turns gorgeous and grotesque.’  –  Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail [O Caledonia]

‘Thank you for writing “Packing for India”.’  –  William Trevor [a short story]

 

Joan Brady was the first woman to win the Whitbread/Costa Book of the Year Award. The book was Theory of War, a novel that also won France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger. There are five other novels: Death Comes for Peter Pan, long listed for the Orange Prize, The Emigré, Bleedout, Venom; her latest book, a thriller called The Blue Death, was the Observer’s Thriller of the Month. There’s also an autobiography, The Unmaking of a Dancer. Joan was born in California and danced with the New York City Ballet in her early twenties. Right now she’s in Oxford, working on the life of one of the most hated figures in American history.

From reviews:

‘A prize-winning author with a conscience, brave… polished…seductive… unconventional…sharp, playful, iconoclastic’ – Independent

‘A writer of enormous ability and harrowing power’ – Mail on Sunday

 

Alex Martin is the author of five children’s books, three novels and several histories, as well as textbooks on literature and cultural studies. His comic novel, The General Interruptor, won the Betty Trask Prize. He is the co-editor of a series of books on decadence for Dedalus, and has presented arts programmes for the BBC World Service.

He was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes University for four years, helping students improve their writing technique. More recently he taught Creative Writing at Oxford College of Further Education, and worked as the Athens correspondent of a U.S. travel website. He has edited two biographies, and helped a number of authors privately to re-shape and present their work more effectively.

Alex Martin has the rare talent of being able to extract the essence of a book: he can see “the wood within the trees.” He took my unwieldy, over-long manuscript, and without altering a single fact or losing the author’s authentic voice, presented me with a readable, publishable and saleable book.  Sensitive to the needs and ego of the author, he was always a pleasure to work with. I would heartily recommend him to the first-time author or to an established writer. Michal Giedroyc

 

Caroline Moorehead is a biographer and historian, who also writes on human rights. Her most recent books include Dancing to the Precipice, Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution; Human Cargo, A Journey among Refugees; and A Train in Winter, A story of women, friendship and survival in World War Two. She is involved in various refugee charities and runs an Arts Programme for asylum seekers at the Helen Bamber Foundation.

From reviews:

Martha Gellhorn, A Life: “Gripping, told with historical command and psychological insight.”  –  New York Times Book Review

A Train in Winter: “Moorehead knows how to grip the reader’s attention and haunt their dreams… She is unafraid to look into the darkest corners of the world and makes you want to look too”.  –  Daily Telegraph

 

Simon Rae is a poet, prose writer and broadcaster. For many years he wrote topical poems for the Guardian and was for a time presenter of Radio 4’s Poetry Please! In 1998 he published the definitive biography of W. G. Grace. He won the National Poetry Competition in 1999. His most recent collection of poems is Gift Horses (Enitharmon, 2006). Other books include, It’s Not Cricket (Faber, 2001), novels for younger readers, Unplayable (Top Edge Press, 2009), Keras (David Fickling Books, 2013), Medusa’s Butterfly (Corgi, 2014), and his first adult crime novel, Bodyline (Nine Elms Books, 2015).  He has taught creative writing evening classes, a drama course at Oxford Brookes University, and has done two stints as a Royal Literary Fund fellow, at Warwick University, and, currently, at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.

‘Simon Rae has an eagle eye for what makes good literature across a wide range of genres and how people relatively new to creative writing might aspire to similar heights.’ Hilary O’Shea, Senior Editor, Classics, Ancient History, and Archaeology, Oxford University Press

 

Evelyn Toynton, an American now resident in England, is the author of the novels Modern Art, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and The Oriental Wife, for which Magnus Films has bought the movie rights and commissioned a screenplay. She has also published several non-fiction children’s books. Her most recent publication is Jackson Pollock, just issued in paperback by Yale University Press. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, the New York Times, the TLS, the Literary Review, the Washington Post, the American Scholar, and various other publications; a number of her personal essays have been anthologized, most recently in Rereadings and Mentors, Muses, and Monsters. She has taught at the City University of New York, worked at the New York Times Book Review, and been awarded fellowships by Yaddo, the Chateau de Lavigny, the Maison Dora Maar, and the Spiti tis Logotexnias.

Early reviewers have been kind enough to say that my first novel, The Center of the World, is well-written – for those compliments Evelyn deserves a good deal of the credit. A supportive and extremely effective mentor, she improved the book on all levels, from over-all structure to individual sentences. During our work together I felt I was getting the graduate course in fiction writing I had neglected to take when I was younger. Thomas Van Essen

Evelyn Toynton’s thoughtfulness, literary skills and knowledge of the publishing industry proved invaluable to me in the writing of a proposal for a non-fiction book that was accepted by Harper Collins in New York.  What’s more, working with her was great fun. Jonathan Walpole