Michael Pedersen is not your typical academic. He is a poet, a non-fiction writer, a literary event organiser, and a friend of celebrities. He is also the newest Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, a prestigious role that has been held by some of the most acclaimed authors in Scotland and beyond.
From a wisp of a flame to a bonfire in the belly
Pedersen’s passion for writing started when he was a teenager, inspired by his English teacher at Portobello High School. “Something sparked,” he recalls. “Just a wisp of a flame at first, a candle’s worth, could barely singe your fringe on it. By the time I set off for uni I’d a bonfire in the belly.”
He studied English Literature at the University of Edinburgh, where he honed his skills and met other aspiring writers. He also co-founded Neu! Reekie!, a prize-winning literary production house that showcases poetry, music, film, and animation. Neu! Reekie! has hosted events across Scotland and abroad, featuring artists such as Irvine Welsh, Liz Lochhead, Kae Tempest, and Shirley Manson.
A prolific and versatile writer
Pedersen has published three collections of poetry, the latest being The Cat Prince & Other Poems, which was released by Little Brown in 2023. The title poem of the collection is currently shortlisted for the Forward Prizes for Poetry, one of the most prestigious awards in the UK.
His prose debut, Boy Friends, was published by Faber & Faber in 2022 and was a Sunday Times Critics Choice and Scotsman Book of The Year. The book is a memoir of his friendship with Scott Hutchison, the lead singer of the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, who died in 2018. The book is a tribute to Hutchison’s life and legacy, as well as a reflection on Pedersen’s own journey of grief and healing.
Pedersen’s writing has been praised by many celebrities, authors, and performers, such as Stephen Fry, Jackie Kay, Daljit Nagra, Sara Pascoe, Ian Rankin, Maggie Smith, and Irvine Welsh. He has also received the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, which allowed him to spend a month in France to work on his projects.
A role model and a mentor
As the Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, Pedersen will share his expertise and enthusiasm with students and staff, as well as the wider community. He will develop workshops with visiting authors from the UK and abroad, contribute to the University’s annual creative conference and poetry competitions, and offer guidance and feedback to aspiring writers.
Pedersen is excited about his new role, which he describes as “a dream come true”. “I’m outright elated to find myself as the next Writer in Residence at the University of Edinburgh – a role I’ve long swooned over. I’m brimful of ideas, bursting with bookish ambition and keen to get conjuring with students and faculty alike. On top of that, I’m hoping to bring some of the UK’s (& beyond) finest writers and literary minds into the University’s mix. To the lustre ahead.”
Suzanne Trill, the Head of English and Scottish Literature at the University, is equally delighted to welcome Pedersen. “We are delighted a writer of the calibre of Michael Pedersen is joining us. This is a brilliant appointment for our students, and we are hugely looking forward to the energy and verve Michael will bring to our creative writing culture both within English and Scottish Literature and across the University.”
Pedersen joins a stellar line-up of writers who have previously held the role, such as Jenni Fagan, Liz Lochhead, Sorley Maclean, Norman MacCaig, Anne Stevenson, Alan Warner, and Ryan Van Winkle. He will start his tenure in September 2023 and will stay until June 2025.