Carl Shuker (2001)

I made best friends for life, and had some of the best times of my life...The MA rewards you with exponential returns on what you put into it.

Carl writes: 'I began the MA after 18 months in Japan and my weltanschauung completely blown apart. I was 27, troubled, sceptical, defensive and a little shellshocked in person, not very easy to get along with, and but also, given the opportunity to live cheaply and write fulltime, determined whatever to make the most of the time and do something amazing. (Wild ambition is also sometimes not an instantly charming quality in person, I discovered, but don't let that put you off.) My submitted project idea was three interlinked novellas, something I returned to (I now see, with some surprise) later with, but I went for something larger. That Bill put up with me, that he encouraged me, is testament to his big soul and patience and his love of good work.

'I made best friends for life with the women on the MA, and had some of the best times of my life on the MA - not just in class (perhaps rarely in class - three hours with nine people questioning your every novelistic step in a non-smoking environment is not easy) but in bars, at parties, smoking on stoops, talking books, determination, ambition, emotion, style, technique, the future, and it's because the MA rewards you with exponential returns on what you put into it.

'Yes, psychosomatic illnesses of crippling intensity developed as deadlines approached; yes, teeth were ground to mealy shale; yes, near-insanity and charmless alcoholism were a constant threat. But also a couple of times a week I went to talk to people who were going through the same thing, and Bill made calming jokes and quiet, useful and somehow (how?) charming criticisms, and I was introduced to Grace Paley's work, and I lost some of the meaner parts of myself in learning how to try to help another writer make something she loved better.'

Bio: Carl's 'something larger' was a draft of The Method Actors . The novel was published by Shoemaker & Hoard in the USA in 2005. Reviews across the States invoked William Gibson, Bret Easton Ellis and Thomas Pynchon in describing the book, hailing its amibiton and scope: 'Brash and fearless, The Method Actors is a self-conciously postmodern challenge to our perceived reality and its fictional depiction,' said the New York Times.

Carl was awarded the Prize in Modern Letters for this debut in 2006. He published a second novel that year, The Lazy Boys, written prior to the MA. Carl is currently working on a film script for this book, described by one reviewer as 'Creepy. Awful. Morbid. A must-read.

Carl's most recent book is Anti Lebanon (Counterpoint, 2013). He was the Victoria University of Wellington/Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence in 2013.

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