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MA Creative Writing student celebrates release of first solo collection

Posted on 26 October 2015

news:Humanities

Dark Doors

​Two months before her graduation, an MA Creative Writing student at Leeds Trinity University is celebrating the release of her first published short story collection.

Lynn Bauman-Milner, who graduates with an MA in Creative Writing this December, is the proud author of Dark Doors – a collection of short stories that has been published this October. Described by the publisher as "a collection of short stories that are NOT for the faint-hearted", Dark Doors is the final book to be published in a three-part series with award-winning publishers Indigo Dreams Publishing and Wordspace, Leeds Trinity University's creative writing Imprint. 

Throughout the MA in Creative Writing, Lynn has embraced every opportunity the course has presented to launch her writing career. She was co-editor of the second instalment in the series, Inspiration: a Space for Words; a collection of poetry and prose written by students and alumni of Leeds Trinity University, as well as guest authors who contribute at Wordspace. She frequently performs her own work at Wordspace (Leeds Trinity's monthly Open Mic night), and she recently performed at Ilkley Literature Festival in 'Orthos', a night of horror with Steve Toase. 

Leeds Trinity's Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Martyn Bedford, commented: 

"Lynn has been a pleasure to work with on this collection and on the MA in Creative Writing more generally. Her talent, energy and enthusiasm during her time at Leeds Trinity have been highly impressive and she is deservedly reaping the rewards with her publication success."

Speaking about Dark Doors, Martyn added: 

"In this gloriously disturbing debut collection, Lynn proves herself a mistress of the macabre. From the demonic to the demented, the ghostly to the ghastly, her stories take a scalpel to the physiological and psychological viscera of human (and inhuman) deviancy. Dark Doors will admit you to some dark places. Enter if you dare." ​​​

​To celebrate, Wordspace will host ​​the official launch party for Dark Doors on Wednesday 4 November. We caught up with Lynn ahead of the book launch to find out more about Dark Doors, her MA Creative Writing journey and what's next for her as a writer.

How would you describe Dark Doors?
A terrifying glimpse behind the locked doors in the darkest corners of my mind. Maybe that's overstating it a little. It's a modest collection of horror shorts, ranging from dark fantasy to demon-y fun. There should be a story in there that will linger in your bones for a long time.

What inspired the collection?
During the MA, I found that I was reading and editing a lot, but not writing many new stories; I needed to motivate myself to develop a writing schedule that was achievable, alongside all of the assignments and expectations of the course. (Also, there was the tantalizing carrot of the third book dangling in the back of my mind… but more on that in a minute.)

I came up with a daily writing challenge: for one month (which turned out to be February), I had to write 350 words minimum every day, on any topic or idea or inspiration, and post it to my blog as a first draft. I tried many times to write something that could fall under the heading of 'literary fiction' but every time (every damn time!) something darker would creep in and twist it. And yet, every time I tried to resist it, the result was pretty terrible; if I gave in and let the darkness have its say, the story became that much more interesting and I enjoyed writing it more. I embraced the darkness, and let loose with the hell-hounds and demons that came bounding out to play. Some of those daily challenges are still on the blog – a reminder to myself, really, that first drafts are the beginning, and it's better to have something to edit than to try to edit nothing.

It's the third collection to be published in the three-part series with Indigo Dreams Publishing and Wordspace - how did the opportunity come about?
This third book was always intended to showcase a sole author's writing. It was presented as a competition, essentially; all the MA students were invited to submit a complete manuscript of up to 15,000 words, with a pitch, by a deadline. When this was first announced way back at the first meeting in September 2014, I knew I had to take a shot at this. So, with 28 possible stories from the writing challenge, as well as several completed stories from before the MA, I knew I had as good a chance as anyone at succeeding.

What did you learn through the process?
I learned a lot about pitching a project, especially the marketing and promotion side of it. I'm still working through all the ideas I had for it! Being on the other side of the editing pen was interesting as well, but working with Martyn Bedford ​and Oz Hardwick was a fantastic experience. Their suggested edits and queries made me think about how I write, and why I would choose this way instead of that way. But this was a collaborative project, and they encouraged me to discuss the edits with them, rather than meekly accept or fight just because 'they're my words!' I had to look at my writing objectively and decide whether to fight or not. If I could justify my writing choices with reasonable explanations, both Martyn and Oz would accept it. If I couldn't, then I accepted their edits and moved on. When I write now, always in my head is WWMOOT (What would Martyn or Oz think?) – and my writing improves every time I ask myself that question, and answer it honestly when I edit myself.

What does it mean to you to have you first solo collection published?
It means everything to me. You spend so long writing alone in your own little cave, that you lose perspective on what you're writing, and whether it's good, and what parts of it are good and what aren't. Being part of the MA changed that for me – I became part of a focused community of writers, and they had the perspective I lacked. I learned to write for myself, then read through the eyes of others, editing to build on strengths and repair weak areas. I couldn't have done that without the MA.

What impact has the MA in Creative Writing had on your writing life?
The MA made me take myself more seriously as a writer. Forget about the money invested in the tuition; it was the people on the course – and their reactions to my writing – that made me realise what sort of impact my writing could have. Some loved it, some hated it, but always, there was a reaction to it. And that's the best a writer could ask, I think.

What's next for you and your writing?
I'm continuing to write short stories – all dark fantasy or horror – because I truly enjoy this form. There are two unfinished novels lurking in the dungeons of my computer, grumbling and wanting to know how they themselves end. And I've got another new novel idea in the works – it's just a title and an opening scene right now, but that's how every project starts.

We'll be celebrating with Lynn at the launch of Dark Doors on Wednesday 4 November – care to join us? Find out more on our Events website.

Inspired by Lynn's story? Find out how an MA in Creative Writing could launch your writing career.