New Season Begins On-Campus With Susmita Bhattacharya

The Indian-born short story writer, novelist and creative writing lecturer will join us Monday 25 October at 6 pm live on the University’s Avenue Campus for our first Writers in Conversation of the year. Online events will follow later this autumn from the award-winning writer Patrice Lawrence, and our own five-times novelist Rebecca Smith.

Susmita Bhattacharya has read her stories on BBC Radio 4.

Susmita Bhattacharya will be reading from and discussing her short story collection, Table Manners (Dahlia Publishing, 2018), which won the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection (2019). Her debut novel, The Normal State of Mind (Parthian, 2015, BEE Books, India 2016) was long-listed for the Word to Screen Prize at the Mumbai Film Festival, 2018. She teaches creative writing at Winchester University, facilitates the ArtfulScribe Mayflower Young Writers programme in Southampton and has been involved in Mayflower 400 projects.

Hosted by Carole Burns, the university’s head of Creative Writing, Writers in Conversation gives audience members a chance to ask question as well.

Our next two events will move online again as part of the Southampton Arts and Humanities Festival held by the University of Southampton.

Smith’s latest novel, The Ash Museum, came out in May

Novelist Rebecca Smith, principal teaching fellow in the University of Southampton’s English department, will help kick off the festival on Thursday 11 November at 7:30 p.m. to discuss her fifth novel, and her first for young people: Shadow Cat Summer. The book was inspired by a stay at Moniack Mohr in the Scottish Highlands and her own and her children’s love of the natural world. As she talks with Burns about her work, they’ll discuss the renewal one can gain from nature and the arts, as well as her own writing process.

On the following Monday, the award-winning writer Patrice Lawrence will talk about her novels for young people, which has won prizes from Waterstones and an MBE in the Queen’s Honours List. Please join us online on Monday 15 November at 7:30 p.m. as she discusses her book set in Southampton, entitled Diver’s Daughter.

Monday 26 April: Rebecca Smith

Our own Rebecca Smith, principal teaching fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Southampton, will be our featured guest Monday 26 April at 7:30 pm British time when she discussed her new novel, The Ash Museum.

This novel, Rebecca’s fourth, explores the history of a family through artefacts from their life: an old tennis racket, a letter from India, the fragment of a broken China plate.  Join us Monday at 7:30 for this free online event.

The novel is released 3 May.

Copies can be pre-ordered at October Books in Southampton and at P&G Wells in Winchester, where she will also launch her book at an online event on Thursday 6 May.

This is our last Writers in Conversation of the academic year! So don’t miss it.

Gish Jen and Margot Livesey Join WIC from the USA

Two award-winning writers based in the United States – the American writer Gish Jen, author most recently of The Resisters, and Scottish writer Margot Livesey, now a professor at the famous Iowa Writers Workshop – as well as our own Creative Writing lecturer and novelist Rebecca Smith will be guests this semester for our Spring 2021 season of Writers in Conversation.

Making a virtue of our need to hold talks online, we feel fortunate to have such renowned U.S.-based writers joining us this semester (with hopes with we can talk to Rebecca Smith in person in May). Please join us and ask questions via livestream from Youtube channel or our Facebook page.

Gish Jen will start us off on Monday 8 February at 7:30 pm London time, when she will be talking about her eighth book, The Resisters, to Carole Burns, the university’s head of creative writing, exploring how she intertwined concerns about climate change and racial and economic inequality in this vibrant novel in which a family of “resisters” works together to bring about change.

Margot Livesey will discuss A Boy in the Field, her ninth novel, on Monday 15 March at 7:30 pm London time; and Rebecca Smith will talk about her yet-to-be-released The Ash Museum at a date to be determined in May.

More information to come! Watch this space.

Donna Hemans on Bringing the Jamaican Immigrant Experience to Life: Mon 12 Oct

Join us as Donna Hemans, an award-winning writer from Jamaica and Washington, D.C., reads from her new novel, Tea by the Sea, described by bestselling author Marlon James as “a powder keg of a novel, where secrets and lies explode into truth and consequences, all told with spellbinding, shattering power.”

Donna Hemans will answer questions from Washington, DC

We go live here at 7:30 pm British time on Monday 12 October as Hemans read from her novel then answers questions from WiC’s Carole Burns and our live online audience, part of the University’s Black History Month programme.

From Brooklyn to the island of Jamaica, Tea by the Sea traces a mother’s circuitous route to finding the daughter taken from her at birth.

A seventeen-year-old taken from her mother at birth, an Episcopal priest with a daughter whose face he cannot bear to see, a mother weary of searching for her lost child: Tea by the Sea is their story—that of a family uniting and unraveling.

Jamaican-born Donna Hemans is also the author of the novel River Woman, winner of the 2003-4 Towson University Prize for Literature. Tea by the Sea, her second novel, won her the Lignum Vitae Una Marson Award for Adult Literature, and was listed in Ms. Magazine’s “June 2020 Reads for the Rest of Us.”

Writers Chevalier, Thompson, Hemans in Autumn Line-up

The author of the best-selling Girl with Pearl Earring. The writer of a critically acclaimed BBC drama about the Windrush scandal. A prize-winning Jamaican-American writer talking to us online from Washington, DC.

These writers – Tracy Chevalier, Stephen Thompson and Donna Hemans – are our guests this semester at Writers in Conversation, the literary reading series run by the English/Creative Writing department at the University of Southampton.

  • Author Donna Hemans
  • Tracy Chevalier in Winchester Cathedral

The reading and q-and-a events are online this year due to Covid, enabling us to talk to writers not in the UK – and having audience members from overseas as well. Do check here for online links to our events, once they are available.

Donna Hemans, whose second novel, Tea by the Sea, traces a mother’s circuitous route to finding a daughter taken from her at birth, will be our first guest on Monday 12 October 2020 at 7:30 pm. Hemans’ event will also be part of Black History Month events at the University of Southampton.

Stephen Thompson, whose TV drama about his brother’s threatened deporting during the UK’s Windrush scandal aired on BBC this summer, will be our next guest on Monday 16 November at 7:30 pm.

And Tracy Chevalier, whose most recent novel, A Single Thread, is set in Winchester and Southampton, will join us Saturday 21 November at 3:30 pm. These last two events are also part of the University’s Human Worlds Festival, run every year in conjunction with the UK-wide Being Human festival.

Check here for further information about each event, hosted by Carole Burns, the university’s head of creative writing, as well as links for you to join us on the night.

And also know we plan to record these events and post them on our Writers in Conversation Youtube channel.

WiC Highlights from 19-20 Season

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It seemed right to start off the season this past year with two of our own English graduates from the University of Southampton: the writer Ella Dove who visited campus with her agent Richard Pike to talk about her debut novel, Five Steps to Happy.

And the season continued with more fabulous conversation about writing: from Courttia Newland talking about Edna O’Brien’s story “Plunder” as an inspiration to his own; to Brian Dillon reading from the essay about his aunt which he admitted was going to require more words, maybe a book.

And finally, Judith Heneghan, whose novel, Snegurochka, was shortlisted later in the year for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing awards, talked about how her time in the Ukraine led to her debut novel.

We will be moving online for the Autumn, so look here for our guests, the format, and how you can join us – from pretty much anywhere! 

Carole Burns Head of Creative Writing, University of Southampton 


A Smashing Start to 2019 – Dr Devorah Baum, Eley Williams, and Gary Younge

Tuesday 5 February: Dr Devorah Baum

7 pm, John Hansard Gallery, Above Bar St., Southampton (verifying venue)

dr devorah baum (lq)

Dr. Devorah Baum’s recent book, Feeling Jewish (A Book for Just About Anyone) (Yale University Press), delves into fiction (especially American), film, and memoir to explore feelings that have been stereotypically associated with modern Jews – self-hatred, guilt, resentment, paranoia, anxiety, hysteria, overbearing maternal love – and analyses why such feelings may be increasingly common to us all as the pace of globalization leaves many feeling marginalized, uprooted, and existentially threatened.   She is a lecturer in English literature and critical theory, University of Southampton, and affiliate researcher with the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/Non‑Jewish Relations, and is also codirector of the creative documentary feature film The New Man

Monday 18 Feb, Prize-Winning Fiction Writer Eley Williams

7:30 pm, Nuffield Theatre Café  – Campus venue

eley williamsEley Williams’Attrib. and other stories (Influx Press, 2017) was awarded the Republic of Consciousness Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 2018. With stories anthologised in The Penguin Book of the Contemporary British Short Story (Penguin Classics, 2018) and Liberating the Canon (Dostoevsky Wannabe, 2018), she is a Fellow of the MacDowell Colony and the Royal Society of Literature.

Monday 11 March, Guardian journalist Gary Younge

7:30 pm, Nuffield Theatre Café  – Campus venue (verifying venue)gary younge

Gary Younge is an award-winning author, broadcaster and columnist for The Guardian, based in London. He also writes a monthly column, Beneath the Radar, for the Nation magazine and is the Alfred Knobler Fellow for The Nation Institute. He has written five books: Another Day in the Death of America, A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives; The Speech, The Story Behind Martin Luther King’s Dream; Who Are We?, And Should it Matter in the 21st century; Stranger in a Strange Land, Travels in the Disunited States and No Place Like Home, A Black Briton’s Journey Through the Deep South. He has made several radio and television documentaries on subjects ranging from gay marriage to Brexit.



As two of our venues have yet to be confirmed, please follow our twitter and facebook for updates and information.


Patrice Lawrence, Katherine Stansfield and more for Autumn 2018!

Tuesday 9 October 2018: Patrice Lawrence

Patrice Lawrence is an award-winning writer, whose debut YA novel, Orangeboy, won the Bookseller YA Prize and the Waterstones Prize for Older Children’s Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and many regional awards. Indigo Donut, her second book, was shortlisted for the Bookseller YA Prize, was Book of the Week in The Times, The Sunday Times and The Observer, and was one of The Times‘ top children’s books in 2017. Both books have been nominated for the Carnegie Award.

Patrice was born in Brighton, brought up in an Italian-Trinidadian family in mid-Sussex, and now lives in East London with her daughter, partner and Stormageddon, the tabby.

“Lawrence is a vibrant, accomplished storyteller… but what really sets her writing apart is her skill in getting to the raw heart of her characters.” – The Observer

Lawrence will read from Indigo Donut followed by a q-and-a with Carole Burns, head of creative writing at the University of Southampton and herself a writer.

Tuesday 30 October 2018: Katherine Stansfield

Katherine Stansfield is a novelist and poet who grew up in Cornwall and now lives in Cardiff. Her historical crime series Cornish Mysteries is published by Allison & Busby: think X Files meets Sherlock Holmes meets Daphne du Maurier. Book two in the series, The Magpie Tree, is out now. Her literary novel, The Visitor, was published by Parthian; her poetry, including her debut collection, Playing House, and the upcoming We Could Be Anywhere By Now, is published by Seren Books.

Stansfield is the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Cardiff University, where she also teaches the Writing Crime Fiction course for the university’s School of Continuing and Professional Education. She is an Associate Lecturer for the Open University’s new MA in Creative Writing, a Writing Fellow at the University of South Wales, and a mentor for Literature Wales.

She will read from The Magpie Tree before talking about writing in such diverse forms with Carole Burns, head of creative writing at the University of Southampton and herself a writer.

Tuesday 27 November 2018: Four Writers from Southampton’s PhD Creative Writing

The English department at the University of Southampton has a thriving PhD programme, including a Creative Writing pathway. Two writers who have completed their PhDs – Dr. Tal Shaller and Dr. Aiysha Jahan – join two writers who are still studying in the programme – Alice Stinetorf and Kostas Kalstas – in this special Writers in Conversation that explores how writing can be expanded, explored and developed with a PhD programme.

Aiysha Jahan is a short fiction writer who completed her PhD in 2017: I Cast no Shadow, a collection of short stories inspired by Dubai’s unique third culture kid experience. She has worked as at associate lecturer in English at the University of Southampton and her fiction has been published in Critical Muslim and elsewhere.

Alice Stinetorf’s work has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Best of Ohio Short Stories, and elsewhere, garnering awards including an Arkansas Arts Council literary arts fellowship. She is currently drafting a historical novel and editing her collection of linked short fiction.

Kostas Kaltsas’s PhD is funded by the AHRC via the South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership. His translations into Greek include Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (forthcoming).

Tal Shaller is a short fiction writer who completed their PhD in 2018: Kiss Your Comrades, a set of linked trans narratives exploring the intersections of gender, neurodivergence, and queer kinship. They are interested in the short form, representations of marginalised experience, and storytelling as a political act. Most recently, they were published with Persephone’s Daughter’s Literary Magazine.

All events will be held at the John Hansard Gallery and FREE for everyone. We hope to see you there!

Jennifer Egan Headlines Autumn Season

Jennifer Egan 3Best-selling American novelist Jennifer Egan will read from her first book since A Visit From the Goon Squad won her the Pulitzer Prize this autumn, headlining our Writers in Conversation autumn season.

Egan will read from her new novel, Manhattan Beach, at a special WiC event on Sunday 12 November at 6:30 pm, being co-sponsored by the University of Southampton’s Human Worlds Festival.

Egan is joined by three other wonderful writers this autumn.

Booker-shortlisted novelist Rachel Seiffert, named one of the Granta Best of Young British Novelists, will read and discuss her new novel, A Boy in Winter, on Monday 16 October, in our usual location at the Nuffield café.

Alex WheatleLondon writer Alex Wheatle, winner of the 2016 Guardian children’s fiction prize, will read from and discuss Straight Outta Crongton, the latest of his award-winning Crongton sequence of books for teen-agers, on Monday 30 October.

Renowned Southampton writer and University of Southampton creative writing professor Philip Hoare will read from and discuss his new book, RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR, on Monday 4 December.

Tickets are just £5 for non-University guests, and can be purchased at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres Web site.

All events are held on campus at Nuffield Southampton Theatre’s cafe, except for  Jennifer Egan’s event, which is starting at 6:30 p.m. at the university’s Avenue campus.




Claire Fuller, Tyler Keevil, Evan Placey Featured in Spring

Novelist and short story writer Tyler Keevil, winner of the $10,000 Journey Prize for a story in his recent collection, Burrard Inlet, will read and discuss his work on Monday 30 January at NST Theatres to kick up our Spring Writers in Conversation events.

Evan Placey

On February 13 by prize-winning playwright and University of Southampton lecturer Evan Placey, who will talk about his work after members ofthe NST Youth Theatre perform a scene from his play, Consensual. Consensual is being performed at NST Jan. 19 – 21.

Claire Fuller



Claire Fuller, winner of the 2015 Desmond Elliot prize for her first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, will read from her new novel, Swimming Lessons, on March 13.

Tickets for our events with Tyler Keevil, Evan Placey and Claire Fuller may be purchased now via the NST Theatre Website.

Hope to see you at an event soon, and in the meantime, happy reading!