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Boom-time for Writers and Readers

6 May 2002

Publishers have just gathered in New York for American publishing's biggest annual convention, BookExpo AmericaBookExpo America, commonly referred to within the book publishing industry as BEA. The largest annual book trade fair in the United States, which the New York Times has described as 'the Super Bowl of book promotion, where publishers battle to influence what stores promote and what customers ultimately read.' But recent reports suggest that the real book boom that is currently going on is not in bookselling, but in creative writing courses and reading groups.

Students Choose Creative Writing

There's been spectacular growth in creative writing programmes, with colleges in the US rushing to offer the writing courses that students are demanding. Currently more than 320 colleges and universities offer these classes and around 240 have established creative writing MFA programmes. There's huge demand, with many students seeing themselves as future Hemingways or even Jean Auels. The courses are very focused on actual writing, rather than theory, although only a few students will actually make it in terms of a professional writing career. But, as Susan Hubbard, Associate Professor of English at the University of Central Florida, says: 'you can never take away from a writer the feeling of accomplishment that comes from having crafted a solid story, novel or poem. The pride in creation, to me, is the real reason why students are gravitating towards this field.'

Books or Dates?

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Telegraph has suggested another reason - other than the love of books - for the boom in reading groups in the UK, now said to number more than 50,000. They're said by dating experts to be perfect for 'speed-dating', offering the opportunity to meet twenty or so new people in any evening. Since many of the most successful reading groups are largely female, very stable and quite serious about the books (although everyone also enjoys a sociable evening), most reading group members are likely to find this description rather wide of the mark.