Jenni Fagan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jenni Fagan
BornSeptember, 1977 (age 41).
OccupationNovelist, poet, screenwriter.
EducationBA at University of Greenwich, MA at Royal Holloway, University of London, PhD University of Edinburgh (pending).
Notable worksThe Panopticon, The Sunlight Pilgrims (novel), The Dead Queen of Bohemia (New & Collected Poems), Urchin Belle (Poetry), There's A Witch in the Word Machine (poetry). Truth (poetry). The Luckenbooth (novel) (due for publication 2020).
Notable awardsSunday Herald Culture Awards Scottish Author of The Year 2016, Granta Best of Young British Novelists (2013), Waterstones 11 (2013).

Jenni Fagan (born 1977) is a Scottish novelist. She has written two fiction novels, including The Panopticon,[1][2] and several books of poetry. She was named Scottish writer of the year 2016 by The Glasgow Herald.

Early Life[edit]

Fagan was born in 1977 and grew up in Scotland within the Scottish Local Authority care system. She is said to have moved 37 times by the age of sixteen, had two adoptions, neither of which worked out. After leaving care she went onto spend several years in homeless accommodation.

Over her late teens and twenties Fagan performed poetry and was a singer in punk and grunge bands.

In 2007 she received the Dewar Arts award which enabled her to attend Norwich School of Art and Design and go on to read for a BA at University of Greenwich from which she graduated first class. She went on to study for a MA at Royal Holloway, University of London where she was taught by Andrew Motion.[3] She is completing a PhD at The University of Edinburgh, her thesis is on Structuralism.


With the publication of her first novel in 2013, Fagan was listed by Granta as one of the 2013 Granta Best of Young British Novelists.[4] In the same year it was announced that The Panopticon had been optioned by Ken Loach's company Sixteen Films.[5] The film, directed by Jim Loach, was scheduled to be presented at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2019.[6] The Panopticon was well received in the press, with New York Times describing her writing, "...there is no resisting the tidal rollout of Fagan’s imagery. Her prose beats behind your eyelids..."[7] and also describing Fagan as The Patron Saint of Literary Street Urchins. "[8]

Her second novel, The Sunlight Pilgrims released in 2016, tells the story of a transgender young girl named Stella who lives on a caravan park and is based around the relationships she forms while growing up, set against a backdrop of rural Scotland during a period freezing climate change. Writer Hannah McGill described it as "Confirms her as a stupendously gifted & important voice…This writer is great on love, lust…sensory detail & on vivid characterisation. You live in her world and feel reluctant – despite its problems – to leave it."

Fagan was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2017 with The Waken.[9] She has previously been on lists such as Dublin Impac, Sunday Times Short Story Prize, James Tait Black, Encore Award, with two nominations for the Pushcart Prize.

Fagan's work has subsequently been translated into eight languages with both of her novels featured on the front cover of The New York Times Book Review.

Fagan regularly mentors young writers, and works with young people including offenders and those in the prison system. She curated an art exhibition at Tramway in Glasgow entitled Narrative for Koestler Trust in 2017. It showcased artwork by prisoners, young offenders and those in secure psychiatric care from all across Scotland.

In 2017, as part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Fagan and 4 other Scottish writers took part in the Outriders Project, which involved taking road trips across the continent of America with local writers to explore partnerships while writing and blogging throughout the journey. Fagan's journey entailed travelling from the Rust Belt to Silicon Valley where she explored "questions on the nature of truth." She was accompanied by American novelist Bonnie Jo Campbell.[10] The subsequent book length poem called TRUTH will be published by Tangerine Press in Autumn 2019.

It was during a writing residency at Shakespeare and Company in Paris she wrote some of the poetry which made up There’s a Witch in the Word Machine.[11] Fagan reads all of her work at Shakespeare & Company and cites Paris as a place where she feels at home.

She has been Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, Lewisham Hospital's neonatal unit, Norfolk Blind Association, and has collaborated with a women's prison and various youth organisations over many years.[12] She was a Robert Louis Stevenson Fellow at Grez-sur-Loing for a month in 2018 supported by The Scottish Book Trust. Fagan is currently the Gavin Wallace Writing Fellow at Summerhall in Edinburgh for a year. During her residency she is writing a poetry collection called The Bone Library, making cine poems, doing poetry installations of her work around the building and she will also spend two months engraving her poetry onto animal bones, these will be displayed in glass boxes.

She directed her first short film in 2018, a cine-poem about Bangour Village Hospital where she was born. She has also experimented with other media such as sculpture, when she created a giant metal scold's bridle onto which she engraved words by women prisoners from the UK and USA, including submissions from women on death row.[13]

The Panopticon is about to be adapted for National Theatre Scotland and will show at the Traverse Theatre in Autumn 2019, the Director is Debbie Hannan and Fagan wrote the stage play. Filming for The Panopticon is anticipated to begin in early 2020, Fagan wrote the screenplay for this as well.


Fiction novels[edit]

  • The Panopticon (2012)
  • The Sunlight Pilgrims (2016)
  • The Luckenbooth (2020)


  • Urchin Belle (2009)
  • The Dead Queen of Bohemia: New & Collected Poems (2016)
  • There's A Witch in the Word Machine (2018)
  • Truth (2019)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robinson, David (16 April 2013). "Jenni Fagan on life in care and her new novel". The Scotsman. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  2. ^ Charles, Ron (30 July 2013). "Fiction: 'The Panopticon', by Jenni Fagan". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Jenni Fagan". Dewar Arts Awards. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  4. ^ Page, Benedicte. "Granta list 'proves publishing has broadened horizons'". The Bookseller. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b Ferguson, Brian (21 October 2013). "Jenni Fagan clinches deal for The Panopticon film". The Scotsman. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Selection 36th CineMart (press release)". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  7. ^ Shone, Tom. "Surveillance State". New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  8. ^ Kakutani, Michiko. "Scrappy Survivor vs. All-Seeing Eye". New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  9. ^ "The Waken". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Edinburgh International Book Festival's Outriders Take Five Journeys Across the Americas". Edinburgh International Book Festival. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  11. ^ Simpson, Jan. "Jenni Fagan – There's a Witch in the Word Machine". The Wee Review. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  12. ^ Hackett, Sarah. "Author Q&A: Jenni Fagan". The Big Issue North. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  13. ^ Miller, Phil. "Jenni Fagan: "If art is to be used to offer rehabilitation within the prison system or young offenders, then each artwork should be able to stand alone"". The Herald. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  14. ^ Singh, Anita (20 January 2012). "Waterstones 11: the literary ones to watch". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 19 February 2019 – via
  15. ^ "And the winner is ... Scotland!Sunday Herald's 'Cultural Oscars' celebrate the nation's greatest stars and artists". The Herald (Glasgow). Retrieved 19 February 2019.

External links[edit]

Bangour Village Hospital (film) on Vimeo