So the question we’re asking is how do we feel about rules? Not just rules to live by but also rules to write by. And do we follow them or not?
This year, we have given the Abroad conference a theme. Controversy.
But here is how we got there.
We planned our conference during two summer holidays in Kent, before we finally decided to go with it and book Hever Castle. We chilled, drank coffee, ate fish and chips on the Dungeness coast, and talked for days. We paid a visit to Hever and nearby Penshurst Place. We wanted to seek out the Tudors, particularly Anne Boleyn. We watched The Other Boleyn Girl, which was filmed extensively in Kent. We also paid a trip to Down House, and walked in the footsteps of Charles Darwin. We thought about Anne Boleyn’s controversial death. We chatted about Darwin’s controversial life. And that’s when we decided we really had a thing about people who break the rules.
Our take on controversy is that it is about allowing change to happen. And it is about how to bring about change when change is needed. We also think there is important controversy and fake controversy. For instance, gossip about sex, nudity and celebrity body fat doesn’t really unsettle us. But when we look at the work of world-changing writers, like Darwin, we see they have challenged our preconceptions, questioned what we accept, sometimes taken huge personal and professional risks, and forced us to think about life in a different way.
And so when we put the conference together, we wanted to help writers producing literature at a time when all the publishing rules are changing. And the tutors we found who could do that include two Pulitzer Prize winners, Robert Olen Butler and Edward Humes, and Alex Shoumatoff, contributing editor of Vanity Fair. Over the next months, we’ll be chatting to them and blogging about their work. Oh, and watch our Twitter feed. If you’re in the middle of a story, a novel or that piece of earth-shattering journalism, we have asked them for some #writetips to help everyone move forwards.
(BTW Here’s a must-read for anyone with a passion for Darwin and evolution. It’s by one of our tutors, Edward Humes, and it’s called Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion & the Battle for America’s Soul.)