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Ali Smith Honorary Doctor of Letters, 2008
Bio | Citation

Born in Inverness in 1962, Ali Smith is a most gifted writer of novels and short stories. She is also a popular arts critic writing for The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman and The Times Literary Supplement. Her first book, Free Love and Other Stories (1995), won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award.

Ali studied for her first degree in Aberdeen, before moving to Cambridge to study a PhD in American and Irish modernism. It was then that she started to write plays. She gave up her PhD and moved to Edinburgh, and worked as a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, before returning to Cambridge. It was here she wrote the material for her first book of short stories. Her first novel, Like (1997), was published to critical acclaim and a second collection of short stories, Other Stories and Other Stories, was published in 1999. Her second novel, Hotel World (2001), won the Encore Award, the East England Arts Award, a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and the inaugural Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award. It was also shortlisted for both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Booker Prize for Fiction. Her most recent collections of short stories are The Whole Story and Other Stories (2003) and The First Person and Other Stories.

In 2004, The Accidental (2004) was published, shortlisted for the Orange and the Booker prizes, and won the 2005 Whitbread Novel Award. Ali's most recent short novel is Girl Meets Boy (2007), which won the Sundial Scottish Fiction award. She has also published several plays.

In 2008, Ali Smith was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.


Areas Of Interest: Writer/Journalist
Faculty: Arts, Law & Social Sciences
Citation:
"It is my pleasure to read the Citation for Ali Smith for the award of Honorary Doctor of Letters.

Ali Smith is a most gifted writer of novels and short stories. She is also a popular arts critic writing for The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman and The Times Literary Supplement. Speaking earlier in her career, she said about writing, 'It's a thing I wanted to do and knew I should do and then avoided doing and then had to do.' And her many thousands of fiction followers are extremely glad that she did.

She was born in Inverness in 1962, but now lives in Cambridge. Her first book, Free Love and Other Stories (1995), won the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award and a Scottish Arts Council Award. And the awards seem to keep coming for her confident, inventive tales that are ingrained with wordplay, humour and profound intelligence. Ali, as it is widely reported, taught herself to read at the age of three from the labels on her elder siblings' singles collection which shows something of her early determination to succeed in the field of arts and culture. She studied for her first degree in Aberdeen, before moving to Cambridge to do a PhD in American and Irish modernism. Rather than studying hard, she started to write plays and ended up dropping out of her PhD - something that we would not recommend to other graduands gathered here today.

But for Ali this was the compelling event that launched her literary career. She first moved back to Scotland, to Edinburgh, where she worked as a lecturer before being hit with chronic fatigue syndrome. She then moved back to Cambridge to recover and it was here she wrote the material for her first book of short stories.

Her first novel, Like, was published to critical acclaim in 1997. A second collection of short stories, Other Stories and Other Stories, was published in 1999. Her second novel, Hotel World (2001), won the Encore Award, the East England Arts Award, a Scottish Arts Council Book Award and the inaugural Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award. It was also shortlisted for both the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Booker Prize for Fiction. Set during the course of one night, the narrative follows the adventures of five different characters, one of whom is the ghost of a chambermaid killed in a bizarre accident.

Her most recent collections of short stories are The Whole Story and Other Stories (2003) and The First Person and Other Stories, just out in October 2008. In 2004, her novel, The Accidental (2004), was published, shortlisted for the Orange and the Booker, and won the 2005 Whitbread Novel Award. Described in a review in The Times as 'dazzlingly bright but profoundly dark', The Accidental pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family. There, a truly captivating stranger called Amber appears bearing gifts, creating havoc and sending the family on a journey from the dark into the light. It is a novel about the ways that chance encounters can transform our understanding of ourselves and change our lives forever.

Ali's most recent short novel is Girl Meets Boy (2007), which won the Sundial Scottish Fiction award. She has also published several plays. Quoting Ali, once more, on writing, she says: 'Stories can change lives if we're not careful. They will come in and take the shirts off our backs. Tell the right stories and we live better lives.'

To this much-acclaimed writer and friend of Anglia Ruskin University, whose story telling style is loved by millions, we would like to mirror the honour bestowed on you earlier this year by Aberdeen University by inviting you to accept our very own award for literary genius.

Ali Smith, I hereby invite the Vice Chancellor to confer upon you the award of Honorary Doctor of Letters."


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