The Voices Inside Our Heads Launch Party

On the 19th March, the team of editors and writers behind Brunel’s first ever anthology of short stories came together to celebrate its launch at the Antonin Artaud building. Please click on the poster image below to see photographs from what was a wonderful evening. For further details of this ambitious project, please see the press release and earlier post hereBrunel-Anthology-Launch-1


Creative Writing Research Success


Please click on the image to view the winning poster

Creative Writing PhD student, Felicia Catalina Buciu, wins the Graduate School Research Poster Competition

I am absolutely delighted to win this research poster competition and represent the School of Arts and the Creative Writing programme. My PhD tutor, Celia Brayfield encouraged me to participate. Although I wasn’t keen on the idea at first, since I thought this was taking precious time away from writing my PhD novel, I trusted Celia’s recommendation that getting exposure to other people’s points of view was going to be worth the experience. Celia is a fantastic tutor with great insight into the publishing world as well as an outstanding teacher and mentor, so I knew her advice was worth its weight in gold.

Indeed, the poster conference was a great opportunity to engage with other PhD students and learn about their research projects but also a moment of reflection, listening to the judges’ questions and taking in their suggestions.

But most of all, I experienced the most exciting moment to me as a writer: talking to potential readers. The premise of my novel, ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Choosy’, is that by 2050 Italy is a de jure gerontocracy that cannibalises its young. Thus, young people in Italy will be used as spare organ parts for an ageing population, if they don’t make it in a socially acceptable way by the age of 30. Through a journey of discovery of the ‘personal is political’ 1970’s feminist movement, my 33 year old female protagonist, Alida, is in a race against time to save herself and her generation.

I was thrilled to see that my work in progress raised the visitors’ interest. I was also happy to be able to convey the potential for creative writing to use the universal language of storytelling and draw upon inter-disciplinary research to make sense of the world.

I endeavor to finish my novel by the end of this year and I look forward to working alongside my tutor, the wonderful and resourceful academic and support staff at the School of Arts and the exceptionally supportive staff at the Graduate School.

Please click on the image above to view the winning poster.

Dark Aemilia and the Creative Writing PhD by Sally O’Reilly


I enrolled on the MA Creative Writing, The Novel at Brunel after being published by Penguin books – and then dropped when my second book didn’t sell. I wanted to go back to basics, re-ignite my love for writing and develop a stronger awareness of genre and the commercial possibilities of writing. I enjoyed this experience so much that I ended up studying for a PhD and writing a historical novel about Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, one of several women who may have been Shakespeare’s muse and the inspiration for his later sonnets: his Dark Lady.

Writing fiction in an academic context was a major departure for me, and I found it challenging and strange to begin with. My first two novels were written instinctively and intuitively, and I was loathe to plot or plan anything. My third was carefully crafted, researched in great detail, and forced me to write in a way I had never tried before. I found that I could only make the story ‘live’ if I wrote it in the first person, and this meant trying to produce a convincing facsimile of a sixteenth century voice.

This would have seemed like an insurmountable problem if I had not had the support and advice of my supervisor Celia Brayfield and my second supervisor Dr Elizabeth Evenden, an expert in Early Modern writing and publishing.  They provided me with structure and feedback, asking pertinent questions about the direction of my draft and the rigour of my research, and giving me their notes and comments to help me shape and develop my drafts. One of the areas that really stretched me intellectually was the critical component of the work, which was an analysis of the various invented versions of Shakespeare which writers have imagined over the last two hundred years. I was fascinated by this, and it helped me invent my own version of Shakespeare with more confidence and sophistication. I realised that so little is known about this iconic figure that writers have carte blanche to concoct their own version, and to project their own fantasy of an uber English writer onto this empty space.

The result was not only a doctorate but a marketable novel I could be proud of. I found the writing and research process hugely rewarding – my time at Brunel was one of the most productive of my writing career so far. And I certainly succeeded in my goal of reinventing myself as historical fiction writer.

Dark Aemilia is published by Myriad Editions in the UK this month, and by Picador US in June. Rights have also been sold in Italy and Turkey.

Sally’s blog, How to be a Writer, is here.

The Voices Inside Our Heads

Brunel University’s first anthology of short stories by Creative Writing and Creative Writing & English Students at Brunel University


BOOK LAUNCH 19th March 2014, 6pm, Antonin Artaud Building

Readings & Minglings


Just turn up on the door


BOOKS will be ON SALE at £5 each

29 students, 29 stories

The characters in this superb book of short stories by Brunel undergrads range from a self-harming schoolboy to a Buddhist monk in Thailand; from cheating husbands to a mother hell-bent on plastic surgery. You’ll also find ghosts, broken relationships, loss of religious faith and a devastating flood in Burma, as well as fantasy fiction including a sea witch, a warrior girl who turns into a wolfhound and warring squirrels. You’ll come across quite a few crazies too, including a pathological liar, a serial killer, a boy stalker and a man whose itch gets so out of control he loses it completely.


Lauren Anderson, Neelam Appaddoo, Chloe Bines, Kirsty Capes, Charlotte Chappell, Stephanie Dickenson, Laura Dunnett, Emily Elicker, Mafaal Faal-Mason, Johno Fagan, Nathan Feldman, Vanessa Gibbs, Bryn Glover, Veronica Grubb, Sophie Hart, Emma Jeremy, Sophie Jones, Jemima Khalli, Molly McCabe, Rebecca Passmore, Rebecca Pizzey, Xenia Rimmer, Ashley Roye-Banton, Joanne Showunmi, Romany Stott, Samantha Symonds, Matthew Thomas, Hannah Varney, Rebbeca West

8 MINUTES IDLE In Cinemas Now


8 Minutes Idle is a darkly romantic comedy about the perils and traumas of your first job – when enforced promotion, murderous parents, and homelessness get in the way of true love. Adapted by Brunel’s very own Matt Thorne from his novel, it tells the story of twenty-something Dan Thomas, who finds himself kicked out of the family home and faced with no option but to secretly move into the office where he works. It’s a funny, irreverent and moving UK film that combines a US indie vibe with a very British sense of humour. Watch the trailer here:


Inspiration can strike at any given moment, although it most likely will strike at a really inconvenient time. Unfortunately that’s just how inspiration is. Last term I was just sitting quietly in Starbucks when all of a sudden I had a great idea for a novel and a few characters. For those writers who don’t always carry a journal I highly recommend you do so you can avoid texting yourself the idea.

When you go for looking for inspiration you most likely won’t find it. Inspiration is a tricky little bugger. Fortunately, for the times when we are looking for inspiration, we can easily cultivate it.

  1. Music

 The relationship between music and writers is often a fond one. Most writers nowadays have a playlist of music they create for each novel they write. This can be a really useful tool if you want to create a certain mood in your writing. If you still don’t have an idea for next writing piece, flash fiction exercises where you have to write down the first thing that comes to mind when listening to a piece of music can be a great way to get started.

  1. Photography

 It is often said that one photograph is worth a thousand words. Photographs can provide you with a certain setting, mood or tone that you potentially could capture in your prose. A few good photography websites worth a look are the Lonely Planet and In-Public.

  1. Experience, experience, experience.

I am a firm believer in ‘write what you know.’ Writing from past or present experiences can provide you with interesting scenes in your prose that are unique to you.  Writing what you know can also make your writing more authentic and believable. This does not only apply to creating events and circumstances in your novel but can also be used to create characters. More often then not, when I am developing characters for my prose I take the traits and personality of my friends and family and mix them to create a realistic and interesting individual.

You can also gain inspiration many different ways but these are just a few to get you
started. If you’re still staring at that blank page not ready to dive in at the deep end then try something on this list. You never know, you might just find you’ll be inspired.


Kate McKim.

English Swearing vs. Everyone Else


It’s boring getting told to “eff off”. I recently asked a friend of mine, who speaks a good four or so languages, what his favourite swear word was. He told me that he never bothered with English swear words because they’re too dull compared to the choice phrases he’s picked up elsewhere.

He may have a point. According to, the most commonly used swear word on Facebook, in English, is ‘shit’. [1] The F-Bomb comes in a close second. Standard quadrilaterals. Most of our other curse words are seemingly just other names for our downstairs equipment. Add the word “off” to the end of nearly any four letter word and you’ve got a standard English curse, right?

So my friend demonstrated some of the more interesting insults and phrases that appear in other languages. The Greeks seem particularly adventurous, with one of my favourite phrases meaning ‘to slap your face with my dick’. Or even just the simple, yet effective, “old balls”. Most Italian insults seem to rely on everyone being a prostitute. Or even a pig-prostitute combination. A confusing Bosnian insult apparently implies a dog is taking advantage of your mother, although it’s “used by people who don’t want to curse”[2] (I might not start using that one instead of ‘damn!’).

In order to keep up, I propose that we get a little more saucy. This is a call to be more creative in your cussing. Call someone a ‘Stupid Quim’ an ‘Ass-Hat’, or a ‘Penis-Sneeze’. Express your surprise with a subtle “by st. Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of purgatory!” (which is apparently an established exclamation[3].) Curse someone with a “May the hairs on your arse turn to hammers and bear your balls to death.” It’ll certainly cause more of a pause in conversation than a standard ‘shit’.

See more interesting curses over at