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“Wonderful” self-published novel wins environmental writing prize

A self-published novel described as ‘wonderful’ has won one of Britain’s premier environmental writing prizes.

Fergus The Silent by Michael McCarthy this week won the biennial creative writing prize awarded by the British and Irish Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment, the body which represents teachers and scholars of environmental writing and eco-criticism.

The novel imagines the rediscovery of the great auk, the legendary extinct Atlantic seabird, on a remote Scottish island, and the actions of the man who stumbles upon the birds – but who then keeps his discovery secret for seventeen years, with ultimately disastrous consequences.

The great auk formerly bred in Scotland but is believed to have gone extinct in Iceland in 1844.

The book emerged at the head of a very strong shortlist, on which it was the only self-published work.  The result was announced at the ASLE conference in Liverpool on August 30th.

“This is a wonderful novel,” said the chair of the judges, Richard Kerridge, leader of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

“It combines a passionate and complex and at times disastrously painful love story, with a story about species loss and extinction, of a particularly ingenious and exciting kind.  The plot structure and pace are superb. The joy, fear and greed arising for different characters from this astonishing find are beautifully worked into a moving, dramatic story.”

The author Michael McCarthy is a former Environment Correspondent of The Times and Environment Editor of The Independent, and an established writer on environmental themes. His book The Moth Snowstorm – Nature and Joy was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize in 2015.

However, he was unable to find a publisher for Fergus The Silent and in the end published the book himself. It is his first novel.

“We are particularly delighted to award the prize to a self-published novel,” Kerridge said. “It is surprising that a book of this quality by a distinguished author didn’t find a mainstream or trade publisher.”

“Serious realist fiction that engages with these problems still has to fight for its place.”

“I have a very good agent but he simply could not find anyone to take the book on,” McCarthy said. “He received a whole series of what he termed ‘rave rejections’ – as in, ‘we think this is great but it’s just not quite one for us.’ In the end I got fed up with it just being a file in my computer and published it independently.”

“I am honoured that it has received the prize.”

Fergus The Silent is published by YouCaxton Publications, ISBN 978-1-914424-38-0. It is available on Amazon, price £12.99.

For more information:
Richard Kerridge,
Michael McCarthy,

General call for proposals: ‘Environmental Cultures’ book series, Bloomsbury Academic

Call for Proposals

‘Environmental Cultures’ Series
Bloomsbury Academic

Environmental Cultures is a new series from Bloomsbury Academic (formerly Continuum) aiming to publish innovative work in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities.

Environmental crisis is simultaneously and inseparably material and cultural, destructive and revolutionary. Besides complicating and endangering relationships between humans and other beings, it transforms human identities, communities and nations in unpredictable ways. Old distinctions between nature and culture are being eroded; new values, genres and media are emerging that respond to the crisis with mourning, scepticism, dismay, resourcefulness or ironic resignation. Environmental Cultures reflects the belief that cultural criticism can help avert, resolve, mitigate or at least comprehend ecological problems. It will publish ambitious, innovative literary ecocriticism and interdisciplinary, transnational and pedagogical scholarship on both traditional and digital media. The series will encourage reflexive theoretical critique and searching exploration of anti-environmentalist cultural forms as well as sophisticated literary analysis. Cultures are unavoidably environmental, for good and ill. Environmental Cultures will show how.

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Environmental Humanities Book Chat Series

Environmental Humanities Book Chat one: Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor

Streamed live on 19 November 2013. Available to view HERE

In the inaugural edition of the Environmental Humanities Book Chat, Stefania Barca (Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal) and Greg Garrard (University of British Columbia, Okanagan) discuss Rob Nixon’s  Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.

Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor was published by Harvard University Press in 2011. For more information please visit HERE


Environmental Humanities Book Chat two:  Arming Mother Nature

Streamed live on 30 April 2014. Available to view HERE

In this 2nd edition of the Environmental Humanities Book Chat, we discuss Jacob Darwin Hamblin’s Arming Mother Nature: The Birth of Catastrophic Environmentalism (2013). Dave Kinkela (SUNY Fredonia) and Robert Marzec (Purdue University) discuss the book with moderator Dolly Jørgensen (Umeå University).

Arming Mother Nature was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. See the publisher’s website for more details.

New book series: Place, Memory, Affect

Place, Memory, Affect

Place, Memory, Affect is a new interdisciplinary series interested in proposals that seek to extend and deepen debates around the intersections of place, memory, and affect in innovative and challenging ways. Above all, through such indicative explorations, we wish the series to forge an agenda for new approaches to the edgy relations of people and place within the transnational global cultures of the twenty-first century and beyond.

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View the winning lecture in the 2013 INSPIRE Lecture on Literature and Sustainability competition

“Reading With the Grain: Sustainability and the Literary Imagination” by Dr Jayne Elisabeth Archer, Professor Richard Marggraf Turley, and Professor Howard Thomas.

ASLE-UKI recently teamed up with INSPIRE (Institute for Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness) of University of Wales Trinity Saint David, with two events, the first being a symposium on literature and sustainability, held at Lampeter in March, and the second being a public lecture competition. For more details on both events please see the ‘Conferences and CFP’ page on the ASLE-UKI website.

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ASLE-UKI Worcester Conference

The ‘Composting Culture’ conference organized by John Parham was a great success. Keynote speakers included Jed Rasula, Thierry Bardini and Molly Scott Cato of the Green Party, and members attended the Routledge relaunch of ‘Green Letters’.