Literatures, Languages & Cultures

A conversation with From Arthur's Seat

We sit down with Jesús Nares Jaramillo, André Hughes and Maisie Smith, three members of this year's From Arthur’s Seat team, to find out more about their time in Edinburgh and what they've learned by being part of the annual creative writing project.

Members of the From Arthur's Seat 2023-2024 team
Members of the From Arthur's Seat 2023-2024 team

From Arthur’s Seat (FAS) is an annual anthology produced entirely by the MSc in Creative Writing cohort at the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

The ninth volume of From Arthur’s Seat is an inclusive collection of writing by emerging talent from around the world brought together in Scotland’s UNESCO City of Literature. The diverse interests and backgrounds of the authors make for an exciting collage of prose, poetry and everything in between. 

From the tale of a cursed woman who sees the strongest memories of others to the story of a waitress who discovers Elvis’ peanut allergy, our student writers have crafted eclectic visions ranging from the tragic to the humorous. 

We spoke to three of the writers, Jesús (Prose Editor-in-Chief), Maisie (Poetry Editor-in-Chief) and André (Co-Marketing Director), about their From Arthur's Seat experience.

Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you ended up in Edinburgh…  

Jesús: I took an 8-year-long break after my undergraduate studies where I taught languages and worked in publishing in different capacities. I wanted to come back to academia and get back to writing fiction, which had taken a back seat.

I also missed having friends send me their work, and having peers read mine. The MSc Creative Writing seemed like the right blend of taught and workshop-based learning I was looking for!

Maisie: When I was 11, I moved to Ely, England, from the US, where I lived for 2 years. During that time, my dad took my siblings and me to Edinburgh, and I adored the city so much that I knew I wanted to come back one day. Fast forward 10 years, in my final year of undergrad, I began applying to creative writing programmes.

My ultimate career goal is to be a professor of English Literature and Creative Writing. I knew I wanted to be in a programme that nurtured a love for writing and a community that was filled to the brim with creatives and creative opportunities.

As a UNESCO World Literature City, Edinburgh was top of my list. There are so many creative writing activities in this city. You can find Open Mic Nights almost any night of the week, and the community of creatives is very inclusive and exciting. In the fall, I’ll return to the States to begin a PhD programme, but coming here for my masters was the best decision I could have made.

Maisie, Poetry Editor-in-Chief for From Arthur's Seat and MSc Creative Writing student (2023 to 2024)

André: In my year out, I went on a trip to Manchester, Glasgow, and Edinburgh with two mates looking to get a feel for each city with the idea of moving to one of them and getting a job (as well as going to a Bon Iver concert). I’d previously lived in Norwich, studying English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Then in January, we went mountaineering in the Cairngorms and Glencoe. After two-and-a-bit weeks we parted ways, and I found myself trekking from the outskirts to the centre of Edinburgh carrying over 25 kg in my rucksack and bags, it was -2°c, I was sweating through three layers (I’d gotten used to between -10 and -20 degrees) and I had my axe strapped to the back of my bag. Safe to say I had some weird looks, but people also started conversations with me, wanting to know how the hills were.

I left with the feeling that people understood me in Edinburgh. Eventually, I got back to Devon, where I was born and brought up, and ended up applying to postgraduate courses. There was one teacher at Edinburgh University that I knew I wanted to work with, and I thought we’d get on. The rest is history…

On to From Arthur's Seat... What are some things you've learned through your involvement with the anthology?

a bright red background with 'From Arthur's Seat' overlaid. A fountain pen graphic splits the word 'seat' and the background

André: Being Co-Marketing Director has helped me develop valuable skills in events organisation, production, promotion, performance, interpersonal communication and collaboration, funding acquisition and limitations, amongst so much more – skills that are necessary not only for a career as a writer, but in many professional fields not just the typical sectors of publishing and marketing.

Jesús: I've worked as a copy editor, an assistant editor, and a translator before coming to Edinburgh, so I've worn a few hats, but my roles had remained relatively compartmentalised. I am one of the Editors-in-Chief of the anthology, so what FAS gave me, apart from the privilege to work with so many multi-talented people, is a bird's-eye view of the whole process.

Maisie: Engaging with a creative community on a professional level is something we’ve really had to practice with this anthology. It’s different from being a writer— it’s a lot less whimsical. It’s a lot of networking, finance, small details, and hounding people.

Speaking of, delegation is also a skill I’ve really had to fine-tune. I would say delegation has always been my greatest weakness. However, as Editor-in-Chief of Poetry, I’ve really had to learn to let myself delegate tasks to my editorial and FAS team. Luckily, this year’s FAS team has been amazing and they’ve made the process such a great experience for us. 

What has been the most challenging or exciting part?

André: Jesus and I were successful in being awarded a Student Experience Grant for the project ‘From Arthur’s Seat: An Anthology in Alba’; combining a residency and a public reading with a new set of writers from the anthology in rural communities. From Arthur’s Seat has never in the seven years of its existence been launched outside of Edinburgh.

For the first trip, which was at the end of April, we took a group of FAS writers to a writing residency in Cove Park near Helensburgh in the west of Scotland, and the second trip will be up north to the Scottish writing centre Moniack Mhor in August. I can’t wait to project From Arthur’s Seat out into the world.

Maisie: The most challenging aspect was having so many working parts in motion at the same time. In a way, it’s quite a bit of multitasking and you’ve got to get good at keeping up with every fine detail, whether that’s with Marketing, Finance, Editorial, or whatever else pops up. Luckily, Jesús, my co-editor, was a master at this.

What I found most exciting, other than finally being able to see the anthology be sent off to the printer, were the events that Riley Donovan and the Marketing team set up.

This year, we had the most reading events of any other year. Many wonderful venues, such as The Waverly Bar, Fruitmarket Gallery, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Lighthouse Books, and the Scottish Poetry Library, were kind enough to host us.

So far, the events have been a packed house and sold out, and we’re anticipating the same for our upcoming readings. It’s been so much fun putting faces to all the pieces I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and it’s really exciting to see the Edinburgh community engage with our writers. Thanks to André and Jesús, we’re also taking the anthology on the road for the first time, so that’s super exciting!

The most exciting part has been seeing the book take shape and the readings come together, and witnessing the expertise each member of the team brings to the table.

Jesús, Prose Editor-in-Chief for From Arthur's Seat and MSc Creative Writing student (2023 to 2024)

How has From Arthur’s Seat added to your study experience in Edinburgh?

André: As a writer, the environment that you surround yourself with is very important. Edinburgh has turned out to be the perfect place for me to work on a novel whilst also developing poems, a mixed form piece, a translation, continuing my theoretical literature interests through the module on Postcritique, but also developing real-world skills through From Arthur’s Seat.

Like most jobs, you must juggle many people and tasks. Most people won’t know just how much work and time everyone on the team has put in, so it’s satisfying when the events are fully booked and have been praised by those who have attended. I just hope people like the finished book just as much.

Jesús: It is a mountain of work, but it’s also a front-row seat to everyone’s writing. I read many members of the cohort before I met them in person. And then I got to peek behind the scenes, and meet brilliant professionals I’d be lucky to work with beyond this project.

Our editors were both meticulous and gentle with others’ writing; our treasurer Georgina has insane managerial skills, and an understanding of marketing, paperwork, and finance that escapes me; our cover artist Jennifer has an enviable resumé and an even better eye for layouts, as do the Art Director, Amelia, and our go-to typesetter Kai; the marketing team (Riley, Eryca, Bridget, Barbara, André) is excellent: they managed to book incredible venues. I’ll stop, but the list goes on.

Maisie: As someone in the poetry cohort, I don’t get to interact much with those in the fiction strand. Being a part of this team has allowed me to get to know a lot of the fiction writers, and that’s been really amazing. They’re a great group of people and brilliant minds so I’m really grateful I’ve had the opportunity to meet them and spend time with them.

On a larger-scale, it’s allowed me to leave a lasting impact on this university. Our programme is only a year, and it’s easy to get lost in all the work and forget to engage with the university. From Arthur's Seat has allowed me to contribute something outside of my programme and be involved in something bigger than myself.

Maisie, Poetry Editor-in-Chief for From Arthur's Seat and MSc Creative Writing student (2023 to 2024)

Thanks everyone! One last question... What's your favourite literary trope?

Maisie: Found Family.

André: Unresolved Endings.

Jesús: My favorite literary trope is the 'nostos', the return home.

Find out what every From Arthur's Seat member answered to the last question (and more!) on their website

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Are you interested in studying Creative Writing in Edinburgh?

Based in the first UNESCO World City of Literature, our one-year, full-time taught masters programme is tailored towards your practice in either fiction or poetry.

Highlights include our annual industry event and creative writing conference, and lots of opportunities to share your work, including From Arthur’s Seat and a range of writing awards.

Find out more on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder

This year's 'From Arthur’s Seat: An anthology in Alba' project is supported by alumni and friends of the University of Edinburgh through the Student Experience Grants scheme.