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Excellence Scholarship winner Edward Haynes in the Catalyst building.Edward Haynes has made great strides since joining Edge Hill University and has now been rewarded with an Excellence Scholarship.

The 20-year-old from Long Buckby, Northamptonshire, has bolstered his CV with several pieces of work being picked up by a range of publications – as well as seeing his first book published on digital platforms in August 2018.

Drift is a collaboration with illustrator Martyn B. Lorbiecki, whom he met in comic book store Close Encounters in Northampton some years earlier.

“The story follows two characters aboard a space station that explodes – with their modules flung out into space in opposite directions. They can communicate but have no control over their destination. They find companionship in the face of grief and seemingly impending doom.

“I wrote the script, breaking the story down into pages, panels and dialogue for Martyn to draw, at the start of 2018, then he developed the visuals.”

The duo, who are likely to work together again in future, put out a print run a month after its initial release and have sold copies at comic-con events in Bedford and Leeds, as well as getting it stocked in London’s Gosh! Comics.

“We’ve managed to get it in the hands of some professionals, who have given useful and largely very positive feedback.”

Edward credits Edge Hill with igniting his interest and exploring new forms, having been keen to spread his wings and experience something new in the North West.

He met senior lecturer and award-winning author Rodge Glass at his first open day, and was impressed with his plans for the creative writing degree, which included running a writing for graphic novels module which piqued his interest.

“I’ve also taken advantage of fiction and poetry readings at The Arts Centre, and of the launches for EHU press books. I went to London for the launch of Scenes From The Revolution at Foyles, and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize at Waterstones Piccadilly, for which I was a reader for the Reader’s Choice prize.”

Edward’s interest in writing has come from a collective interest in story, whether in books, comics or on TV – while in recent years social media has played an increasing role.

“As I became more aware of the world and the news, I started to understand why storytelling was vital – and who was doing the storytelling. I found writers I liked online and they became more concrete people, rather than just a name on a spine, or a credit on a screen.

“On Twitter, writers of varying degrees of note would tweet about craft and industry, as well as the kind of post-ironic nonsense that I tweet! Particularly in comics, which as a relatively niche form has blurred lines between creator and fan, it can build a community online and start to feel like it is something you could be a part of.”

This interest – and an aptitude for compiling reviews, ignited in the first year of his studies and led to an opportunity to write for comic book website Multiversity, who were impressed with his work.

“I covered new Original Graphic Novels. Since then, our coverage has grown, and we have put out some brilliant writing.”

But what of the art of the review – can he become too wrapped up in his subject, less critical depending on the subject matter?

“A review requires sitting with a book for some time, and if I’m doing that I want to be excited, energised to write by what I’ve read. That doesn’t mean not being negative or critical, but it does mean giving every book the benefit of the doubt, attempting to see what the creators were trying to achieve even if it didn’t always work.

“Even if I did not fully enjoy something, a graphic novel is a hard and laborious thing to make; it would be unfair not to acknowledge that.”

Edward has the freedom to pick and choose what – and who – he reviews, perhaps a factor in his current style.

“It is possible this approach means my more negative reviews don’t come across as thus, but I don’t think that means I’m not being critical.

“Criticism that takes a dichotomous thumbs-up/thumbs-down route isn’t interesting and doesn’t add much to a conversation about a work. It’s better to interrogate what the book is doing, why and how, rather than a vague qualitative assessment.”

Edward, who was recently published in literary magazine Ellipsis, admits his main priority now is completing his studies, although continued involvement with Multiversity is a given – as is a possible second comic project. But most of all, he aims to continue to improve his writing – and the potential audience it can reach.

“I don’t know that there’s an ultimate goal, other than more; I want to keep pressing forward in the territories I am writing in now, to move into a professional and sustainable space. To write more and wider-reaching criticism; more short stories in more journals and magazines; and more comics with great illustrators.”

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