The Book Project

Doing a reading of any piece you’ve written to an audience you’ve, for the most part, never met before, is something akin to standing naked in front of a panel of prospective employers; completely exposing and absolutely mortifying. This is doubly true of creative writing. You’ve taken a personal story or poetry idea and nurtured it into fruition onto the page. Should someone not like it or, God forbid, laugh at it, it’s as though they’ve mocked an intimate and important part of you.

The third year Book Project module allows creative writing students to write and self-publish their own novel, book of short stories or poetry, which they then present at a book launch in Special Collections, a mysterious and little known section of the Kent University library.

Though nerves abounded, not a single reader truly faltered, there was certainly no mocking and, on the contrary, a great deal of applause. With a warm atmosphere, tasty snacks and a little alcohol to ease anxieties, each author was given their moment in the spotlight, or the hot seat depending on their feelings towards public speaking, to communicate their concept to the audience and draw them in with an extract from their works.

It was a true testament to people’s imaginative powers with pieces varying from Science Fiction and Horror to historical and family based Holocaust stories and witty, observational poetry.

It’s hard to be unbiased when you are a participant and I will deliberately not refer to my own work, since obviously I think I’m amazing, but my personal highlight was Jane Summerfield’s brave performance poetry. Involving numerous props, any one of which could have failed to do what she wanted and ruined her reading, it didn’t, paying off in a captivating, humorous and relatable presentation. One member of the audience said to me that she was sure this was going to be the Val McDermid of the university.

Despite acoustic issues in the room causing difficulties, another piece, which has caught my interest from its initial writing, was George Robinson’s Don’t Shoot the Messenger, with its unusual style and sharp, witty dialogue.

Ultimately, everyone who read had an individual flair to match their distinctive pieces, deserving all the praise their dedication got. The Book Project’s launch showcased real talent and what the underfunded and often underrated arts have to offer.

Should you manage to discover Special Collections on the fourth floor of the library, a place well worth finding with its first editions of rare and wonderful books, make sure to check out the Book Project collection housed there. From what I’ve seen, it’s definitely merits a look.


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