If you’re thinking about attending one of our upcoming #WritingTimes workshops, the free, archive-inspired classes led by UEA tutor Dr. Jake Barrett-Mills, or just want to know more about the craft of creative writing, here are a few suggestions to get started:

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a classic in the field, packed with practical tips, notes on structure, and suggested writing exercises, all related in a lively and anecdotal style.
Crime fiction fans will love Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, in which the queen of suspense shares her secrets of the craft, including pointers on character, setting, and plot development.
This Year You Write Your Novel, from the legendary crime writer Walter Mosley, is the bootcamp of creative writing manuals, providing aspiring writers of any genre with the tools to create a daily writing regimen and produce a first draft of their novel.
In Writing Intersectional Identities, Janelle Adsit and Renee M. Byrd offer a practical guide to writing characters of different social identities, inviting a ‘more explicit discussion of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability in the creative writing workshop.’
For horror fans, Stephen King’s On Writing needs no introduction. King delivers a no-holds-barred memoir of the writing life, along with a ‘toolbox’ to get you started.
Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is both a primer on the craft and a memoir about becoming a writer and teacher. Don’t miss the chapter ‘100 Things About Writing a Novel’.
If these recommendations have inspired you to fire up your laptop or break out your favorite notebook and pen, why not head over to our Eventbrite page and book your place in #WritingTimes?

— post by Suzanne Solomon

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American Library Relaunch Soiree

This week the American Library hosted its official relaunch two years after the refurbishment project that transformed our library. We were lucky to have been joined by supporters of the library both in person in Norwich and virtually via a live stream.

Richard Middleton provides opening remarks.

To open our event, Chairman of the Trust Governors Group Captain Richard Middleton welcomed guests to the Forum and the American Library. He was joined by speakers Councillor Margaret Dewsbury and Colonel Charles Metrolis. Councillor Dewsbury is the Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Communities and spoke to the rich history of the American influence in Norwich that began during World War II. She spoke fondly of her grandparents’ memories of the American GIs who spent time in Norfolk. Colonel Metrolis is the Air Attache to the United States Embassy and spent time during his service in the UK. He shared an appreciation for the special relationship that has long existed between the United States and the United Kingdom that the American Library showcases everyday.

A highlight of the event was the speeches given by three WWII veterans who served here in Norwich in the 2nd Air Division. Each veteran was able to attend the event virtually from their homes in the United States. We were so lucky to hear from these brave men who have such a strong history with Norwich.

Guests were met by virtual attendees, three 2nd Air Division Veterans: Earl Wassom, Allan Hallett and Bob Birmingham.

To close out the event, guests were invited to visit the refurbished American Library. Here they could see the WWII memorial, plane models, and the large collection of books by American writers that are available to the public. Visitors viewed the Roll of Honor, listing the names of the nearly 7,000 American personnel from the 2nd Air Division who were based in East Anglia during World War II and were killed in action. They could also see B-24 bombers, assembly ships and fighter models with information about the particular bomber or fighter group on display.

Visitors at the American Library. From left: Sheriff of Norwich Caroline Jarrold, Air Attache to the US Embassy Col. Charles Metrolis, Chairman of the Trust Governors Group Captain Richard Middleton, NCC Vice Chairperson Councillor Graham Plant, NCC Cabinet Member for Communities Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Trust Librarian Orla Kennelly.
Guests in the memorial section of the library.
Guests review the Roll of Honor in the library.

Overall, the event was a great success that brought together veterans, academics, American supporters, and locals from Norwich who represented the various groups that made this library memorial possible. It was wonderful to see the reach that the American Library has had for so many through the years and how that impact will continue with the new library. It was also a special opportunity for the Library Scholars to see the 2nd AD community in action and in person, which we thoroughly enjoyed. But nothing could top the unique 21st century moment of hearing and seeing our wonderful veterans address the gathering from across the pond and across the years.

Post by Lauren Cortese and Suzanne Solomon

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Love, betrayal, jealousy, greed … and family: Cracking Crime Fiction

Henry Sutton makes the personal criminal in a riveting talk about his journey to the genre and the craft of crime fiction. 

photo by Lauren Cortese

On Wednesday, 27 April, Professor Henry Sutton from the University of East Anglia spoke to an engaged and enthusiastic audience about the craft of crime fiction. One of the roles of a UEA American Library Scholar is to bring the gown to the town (as we say in the States), to foster the connection between the university and the American Library with a series of public lectures. Since my area of research is crime fiction and Henry is a professor of creative writing specializing in this popular genre (and also my academic supervisor), it was a natural fit.

Henry billed his talk, ‘Cracking Crime Fiction:  On Craft and My Journey as a Writer of Non-genre Literary Fiction to Crime Writer’ and we soon learned why. In an engaging and witty hourlong chat (with time for questions), he charted his path from an upbringing in a Norfolk seaside town, complete with eccentric relatives, to successful author and respected scholar. Along the way, he gave us a thumbnail history on the birth of noir and hardboiled fiction (the American connection) and spoke about how incorporating those genre elements into his writing helped him make the shift to a literary life of crime.

He began his career as a journalist, finding banging out news stories and features to be good training for crime fiction. But, as a young writer, he didn’t yet know that’s where he was going. He worked his way there gradually, publishing a number of well-received novels, starting with one set in his hometown that was an immediate hit. Gorleston—the book, the place and its people, stayed with him as he continued on his creative path. He called his earlier novels realism with the potential to be crime fiction. He was getting closer.

More than British Golden Age mystery writers like Agatha Christie, however, Henry was influenced by the American hardboiled and noir writers of the early to mid-20th century: Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson. He defined ‘noir’—a notoriously slippery term—as thematic, a story that is dark or ends on a grim note. Hardboiled, he said, is more a style, a certain hardness and street vernacular. But, he noted, the two can—and do—overlap. James M. Cain may have been inventing a new genre in 1932 with The Postman Always Rings Twice, but he claimed to be writing love stories.

Under contract to write a police procedural, Henry found himself immersed in the nuts and bolts of crime fiction—the technical parts of the craft—and gaining a new appreciation for the elements in Golden Age detective fiction with its mantra, ‘stay one step ahead of the reader.’ His years of teaching also had him thinking deeply about the genre. Coming full circle, Henry arrived at his signature seaside noir, a series set in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston about an organised crime family, the Goodwins, led by a female crime boss: a younger version of his eccentric grandmother. Like James M. Cain, he’s writing love stories, with an ample helping of betrayal, jealousy, greed … and family.

Henry Sutton is Professor of Creative Writing and Crime Fiction, and the convenor of the Creative Writing MA Crime Fiction at UEA. He is the author of 15 novels and a collection of short stories, including My Criminal WorldKids’ Stuff (which was adapted for the stage, and received an Arts Council Writer’s Award), First Frost (co-written under the pseudonym James Henry) and Get Me Out of Here. His latest novel in English, Good Dark Night, was published by Little, Brown in 2019 (under the pseudonym Harry Brett), and is the third in The Goodwin crime family series. He is also writing a critical and practical approach to crime fiction for Manchester University Press, under the title: Cracking Crime Fiction. He co-edited, with Dr. Laura Joyce, a collection of essays, Domestic Noir: The New Face of 21st Century Crime Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), and is now co-editing a series of crime narrative critical studies for Cambridge University Press. He has been a literary critic for many years and has judged numerous awards. He is the co-founder of the Noirwich Crime Writing Festival.

— post by Suzanne Solomon

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Women’s History Month at the American Library 

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the American Library hosted a talk on 8 March by Professor Emma Long from the University of East Anglia, who spoke to an engaged and appreciative audience about the women justices of the United States Supreme Court. You can read all about it in fellow Library Scholar Lauren Cortese’s blog post

Professor Long highlighted a few books about the justices that are available to check out from the Library, shown at bottom. If you’re interested in the Supreme Court and the American legal system, we have additional titles, so pay us a visit and ask one of our knowledgeable librarians to assist you. 

There are a number of pressing issues facing the nation when it comes to women’s rights. One is the pending Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could overturn the Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, upholding a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and control over her own reproductive decisions. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights:  ‘The right to safe and legal abortion is a fundamental human right protected under numerous international and regional human rights treaties and national-level constitutions around the world.’ [UPDATE: On 24 June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, holding that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, in a case that has troubling implications for due process protections in America. The text of the decision can be found here. I recommend reading the dissent by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.]

There is also the necessity of confirming President Biden’s nominee to fill the vacancy left by the announced retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a highly qualified candidate and would be the Court’s first Black female justice, not to mention being from this writer’s hometown of Miami, Florida. I venture to predict that despite the political sideshow surrounding Judge Jackson’s nomination, Congress will do the right thing in confirming her. [UPDATE: On 7 April 2022, a bipartisan group of Senators confirmed Judge Jackson’s nomination as the 116th Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. She was sworn in and took her seat on 30 June.]

There is another, perhaps surprisingly, unresolved issue: the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution, guaranteeing equal rights for women.[1] First drafted in 1923 by leaders of the suffrage movement and finally taken up by Congress in 1972, the ERA requires the ratification of three-quar­ters, or 38 of the 50 states. Virginia became the 38th state to ratify it in 2020. However, according to the Brennan Center for Justice: ‘The rati­fic­a­tion dead­lines that Congress set after it approved the amend­ment have lapsed, and five states have acted to rescind their prior approval.’  

The resolution to this legal nail-biter rests on the issues of whether Congress can waive the time bar (a procedural limitation not mandated by the Constitution) and whether states are permitted to rescind their ratifications. The 50.8% of ‘female persons’ who make up the US population, according the 2020 US census, await the answer. It’s been nearly a century since the ERA was first put forward by suffragists. I have no doubt that even if it eludes passage this time around, it will eventually prevail. 

The text of the ERA reads: ‘Equal­ity of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appro­pri­ate legis­la­tion, the provi­sions of this article.’ If ratified, it will be the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution.  

I’ll close by noting that all opinions expressed in this post are those of the writer, and do not represent the position of the American Library, which is one of neutrality. 

–post by Suzanne Solomon 

[1] Gender equality is guaranteed under the 14th Amend­ment’s Equal Protec­tion Clause, in great part due to the brilliant legal strategy of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer Ruth Bader Gins­burg, who would go on to become the Court’s second woman and first Jewish female Justice.

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