Pictured l-r: Prof Tessa McWatt (credit Bill Knight); Prof Rebecca Stott; Emeritus Prof Jon Cook; Prof Vesna Goldsworthy.
Four academics from the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing were today appointed Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature.
The achievement comes as the university celebrates 50 years of its pioneering Creative Writing programme, and is further recognition of the exceptional contributions to literature from UEA’s faculty and graduates, said Prof Sarah Barrow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Arts and Humanities.
Professors Tessa McWatt, Rebecca Stott and Vesna Goldsworthy are among the 29 new RSL Fellows, recognising writers who have published at least two works of outstanding literary merit. Nominations much be seconded by an RSL Fellow or Honorary Fellow.
Emeritus Prof Jon Cook is among the 15 new Honorary Fellows, in recognition of his work as a critic, writer and academic. Prof Cook, a Professor of Literature, is a member of the Folio Academy and his publications include Hazlitt in Love and Poetry in Theory. For a number of years, he chaired the international New Writing Worlds seminar at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich. Jon supervised the first-ever doctorate in creative and critical writing, written by Jordanian writer Fadia Faqir between 1987-90, and has also lectured across Europe and the USA, as well as in India in 1995 on the work of John Keats to mark the bicentenary of his birth.
Prof Tessa McWatt is the author of many novels and two books for young people. Her fiction has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award, the City of Toronto Book Awards, and the OCM Bocas Prize. She won the Eccles British Library Award for her book, Shame On Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging, which also won the 2020 Bocas Prize for Non-Fiction and was shortlisted for the Hilary Weston Prize and the Governor General's Award 2020. She is also a librettist, Professor of Creative Writing and is on the Board of Trustees at Wasafiri. She is the Course Director of UEA's prestigious MA in Prose Fiction. Her next novel, The Snow Line, is published this week.
Prof Rebecca Stott is the award-winning author of several novels and books of non-fiction, including the best-selling historical thriller Ghostwalk (2007) and The Coral Thief (2012), which was BBC Book at Bedtime in 2012. Her most recent book, a memoir called In the Days of Rain (2017), won the Costa Biography Prize in 2017. Her non-fiction work includes two books about the history of science, Darwin and the Barnacle (2003) and Darwin’s Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists (2012). She is a regular broadcaster for BBC Radio. Since 2007 she has been Professor of Literature and Creative Writing, teaching courses on feminist writing and historical fiction. She was awarded an Honorary Degree by Anglia Ruskin in 2019. She is currently finishing a historical novel set in the sixth century called Dark Earth.
Prof Vesna Goldsworthy was born in Belgrade but has lived in London since 1986. She joined UEA as Professor in Creative Writing in 2015, initially as Academic Director of Creative Writing and now supervising PhD projects. She writes in English, her third language. Two of her internationally bestselling and prize-winning books, a memoir, Chernobyl Strawberries, and a novel, Gorsky, were serialised for the BBC and have been translated into 16 languages. Her award-winning poetry collection, The Angel of Salonika, was the Times Poetry Book of the Year. A former BBC World Service journalist, she champions transnational writing. Her new novel, Iron Curtain, will be published in February 2022.
Prof Barrow said: “On behalf of the University, I extend congratulations to Tessa, Rebecca, Vesna and Jon for this magnificent achievement. We are fortunate that they share their talents and brave, ambitious creative endeavours and the Royal Society of Literature recognition is much-deserved accolade that UEA applauds.”
Founded in 1820, the RSL is the UK’s charity for the advancement of literature, acting as a voice for the value of literature, engaging people in appreciating literature, and encouraging and honouring writers.