London Book Fair 2023: First Impressions

By Emma Lindsey

If you accept as I do, that ‘being a writer’ is akin to a form of mental illness, whose symptoms include (but aren’t restricted to): inventing places and people, spending such long periods in isolation that, ideally, you are able to draw maps, form relationships and hear their voices –  then the London Book Fair, (LBF), the largest spring book trade and publishing event in the world, offers a mix of immersion therapy and respite from the confines of your own head.

A newbie, I have few expectations of LBF23, beyond imagining that it will offer the chance to meet famous authors,  hunt down hungry agents and publishers,  to whom I can pitch my novel, hand over my synopsis and maybe even get an on-the spot, international publishing deal – or at least secure a date for a meeting.

Day one. Armed with a pass and lanyard, I follow the smart but casually dressed herd from Baron’s Court tube, then enter, blinking into the bright lights, where I quickly feel as if I’ve gained access to a literary banquet. Thousands (25,000 over the three days), have converged, from 135 countries, across Europe (Ukraine is in the spotlight this year); the US, South America, Africa, UAE, China and India.

If you’ve never been to Kensington Olympia – which I hadn’t before – imagine Kings Cross station, but crammed with stalls from not only every component of publishing, but variety of publisher. Lots of purple, blues and reds, along with vast, technicolour hoardings promoting best-selling and soon-to-be, book covers, from just about every genre.

Hungry agents and publishers there are aplenty, albeit safely roped off from the public, and with an extra layer of security thrown in.  From afar, we’re able to look but not touch the inner sanctum, where behind Perspex screens and hunched over laptops, they negotiate rights deals.  From the harried body language and the buzz, big numbers are being crunched.

For once, I’ve been super-organised, put together an itinerary of seminars, and despite the surging hoards, manage to find Making my WiP stand out, then a group of friends, who’ve also noticed how strangely lacking in diversity the event seems to be. Then onto  Keeping up with social media , which I leave early to listen to Author of the Day, Colson Whitehead and then need to refuel with extortionately priced coffee and a thin sandwich. Our group splits up, some to find out How to get a Badass Book Deal, another to chat to TikTok about reaching ‘hard to reach’ readers, and others to Creating a writing community. I do manage to meet a couple of agents and editors at a pop-up networking session, organised by a kind author and inclusivity champion.  Duly I reel off my pitch and am asked to submit my proposal. Feels like a gazillion bees buzzing in my head by the time I get home.

Day two. Today I’ve brought my own snacks and head to Chelsea, for a one-day writer’s summit only to discover it’s not included, will cost £199, so it’s back to Olympia where I catch Leone Ross and Irenosen Okojie in conversation. They’re amazing on making magical realism and speculative fiction; refreshingly honest and upbeat about the rollercoaster ride to publication, the obstacles and ways to get past them. Writing in ferocity (aka ignoring the urge for coffee to get that next sentence down), is Ross’s tip – that and stubbornness in the face of rejection. British black publishing pioneer and now President of PEN, Margaret Busby is in the audience, along with a raft of independent booksellers, publishers, screenwriters and poets, all sharing stories  which show that the  industry is moving, albeit like an oil tanker, very slowly, towards diverse stories. It’s an oasis in the desert which no-one seems keen to leave, but socials are swiftly swapped before the next session starts. Then it’s onto a panel chaired by Dialogue Books’ director, Sharmaine Lovegrove, about celebrating inclusivity and representation in the book and publishing world, with the caveat, “It’s really hard to keep having to explain why our stories matter”.

There is a day three but I can’t take in another thing so give it a miss. Sensory overload aside, (there are no quiet spaces, nor a crèche, interestingly), it’s been fascinating to not only see all the components of the publishing business under one roof and how they fit together, but also to be there and feel part of it. Seeing the major and minor players; who’s talking to whom and about what, is a protein-shake boost to my sense of, ‘being a writer’ and an author.  Now I understand what I’m up against, I have more tools at my disposal, including the most important: hope tempered with ferocity.

A former journalist and digital producer, Emma Lindsey is in the final stretch of a part-time MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University London.

Winter Reads Competition Results

Last month we ran a competition searching for flash fiction entries on the theme of “Winter Reads’. With great pleasure, we can announce that ‘Solstice’ by Harry Rooke-Kelly is the winner.

Rooke-Kelly’s story personifies the Winter season with humour and grace, focussing on its “unnecessary feelings” about nurturing life and featuring “the cryptic witch” Autumn and “new-born fawn” Spring.

Highly commended entries include ‘Winter Layers’ by Mariana Felix, a tender narrative of connection, and ‘Lokified’ by Alex Ayling, a weird, visually-playful and experimental story of transformation.   

You can read all three stories below. We’d recommend doing so from beneath a pile of blankets, with a mug of hot cocoa, while the frost glitters outside. Enjoy!

‘Solstice’ by Harry Rooke-Kelly

No one appreciates how hard it is to cultivate well-laid snowfall, or how long it takes to create individually unique snowflakes.

This job was never easy. It has never been easy, in large thanks to you lot, with your cars, your cities, and your infernal gender reveal parties. Do you know how hard it is to cultivate a blizzard when everything is on fire? So perhaps it is petty of me to snow you in, freeze your roads, and ruin any holiday travel plans but like with most things, you have brought this upon yourself.

Regardless of your bothersome existence, this job has become increasingly hard as of late, largely due to the ever-bright Spring. Once a cycle we meet, to pass the ceremonial, and entirely metaphorical, baton. Every time, I watch him tumble over his words like a new-born fawn struggling to stand for the first time, while a small horde of bunnies hop around his legs, leave droppings and paw prints in my pristine snow. Every moment is misery, and he seems so blissfully unaware, nattering on about plants and desperately trying to drag me to see the lambs.

He is yet to succeed.

When time was new, and we equally as new, it was quiet. Yet to meet, I performed my duties, took one day of recuperation, and then began work for next winter. No one appreciates how hard it is to cultivate well-laid snowfall, or how long it takes to create individually unique snowflakes. No, you just whine about how cold it is.

Now I must meet with Autumn to take over duties and responsibilities, before handing them over to Spring. I have never encountered Summer, nor do I think I ever will. Autumn is pleasant enough, a little cold, but in a cosy sort of way. We share brief conversation, a light jab at what you lot are doing to the planet, and then she disappears back into the amber of mounting leaf piles.

This cycle, Autumn insinuated, like the cryptic witch I have come to know her as, that I have a semblance of affection for the naïve and childish Spring. It’s stupid, isn’t it? He’s an oaf, a boisterous loudmouth, constantly trying to drag me to his grove while mudding mine. But when I returned to the clearing where we meet, convinced I had misplaced my shawl and furs, I found a fern growing from the snow. It had been brief, but he had ‘accidentally’ trespassed into my domain and left a little reminder.

I thought of pulling it root and stem, then and there. But, what a curious experiment this could be.

So, every day, after my duties, I would attend to the fern, watering it, nourishing the soil as much as these icy hands could manage, and slowly, over the summer months, I grew attached to the little sprout. It was resilient, growing just as strong despite being an admittedly frozen thrall of this place, despite how brutal and cold it could be. It remained and wouldn’t go away.

It seems, unfortunately, Autumn was indeed correct.

I am saddled with… unnecessary feelings.

‘Winter Layers’ by Mariana Felix

She talks about the parts of our body that can fall apart if we let the cold take over.

I had been thinking about you for days. Not deliberately. Mostly sideways.

Without agenda. I could feel through the powerful echoes of the blue distance that you wanted to start a conversation. After all these years, I still know when you are thinking about me. I recognise that unique sensation of your thoughts travelling to wake up mine and revive a dormant connection. Neither of us are surprised anymore when it happens in either direction, nor are we scared.

I received your text during my evening walk. I felt my phone vibrate and I was sure it was you. Yet, it was so cold that I could not bring myself to take my hands out of my pockets. When I finally read your message in the comfort of my heated flat, I was confronted with the news of your upcoming engagement. My first instinct was to congratulate you, to be happy for you. But honestly, I wanted to ask you, ‘are you sure?’ ‘Is this what you really want or is this because you want kids?’ I worried about what was driving your decision, but I decided to ask no further questions. You sent me a picture and I searched for traces of joy in your eyes. Maybe the quality of the picture wasn’t great, maybe you knew what you’re doing after all, maybe you knew better after what happened to us.

Six winters and two children later, you send another one of those thoughts. I already know what you’re going to say. I catch the thought and open the space for you to vent. ‘It’s over,’ you write, ‘she ran away’. You seem broken and calm at the same time, the sense of inevitability makes you stand firmly on your two feet.

You are worried about what to do, terrified about what will happen next. You talk about your failures as a husband and your fear of being unlovable. You are so tired and you want to give up. But you have two kids now, and that is not an option. ‘Nobody talks about paternal instinct,’ you write. I cannot see your face, I haven’t seen it in years. I don’t know how many wrinkles you have, or if your children have filled your head with grey hair. Above all, I don’t know what to tell you, so I simply venture that I think the answers you are looking for are in the present.

In the end, it is your daughter who unfreezes you on your way home from school. With her adult vocabulary and her soft, yet assertive tone, she simply explains that if you don’t keep moving, you will get frostbite. She learned this at school today, she says. She talks about the parts of our body that can fall apart if we let the cold take over. She holds your ungloved hand and she gives it a kiss, then puts her inside her school backpack, the best glove she can improvise.

‘Lokified’ by Alex Ayling

ad tedium… ad nauseam… he’d gone and ad enuff!

Swamped deep, deep below mirror glass and the pistol grey dust that lounged atop, it brooded and clumped, a puckered map to be uncurtained. One swipe of a fingertip… and thus, ’twas beheld:

NOW! was the Winter of his mind’s content

Made aureus, spurious, curious?

No. Hopeful thoughts were a hopeless resort. Dorian didn’t – couldn’t – spend another second upon those soothing considerations, let alone reflections of himself… his self? Something hidden stared back. Ancestry. Mother’s hazelnut gaze, oppressively dull. Her husband’s glitter and glam had once broken that murk and conjured dreamy, impossible futures to brighten → bolster → bloom  → burn, burn, burn ever-momentum, the ever razzle, ever dazzle of their next paranormal poster promise. Gasping mouths. Hoodwinked eyes. They had been her colour. Darkened then were this dynamo duo when the full stop of their marriage arrived with a heartbeat. New life was to brew in the bubble of their toil and trouble, kicking and screaming out of one cauldron to stir within another. Rose wept for an hour when she found her spotlight spellbound to lusher lips  and rounder hips. A stuffed suitcase and a one way train ticket back to parents’ judgeful coddle were betrayal’s only remedy. That, and its silencing. She’d left her childhood sweetheart for MARVELLO BLACKSTONE, the dark prince of wonders! never to love another. Not even her son. Dorian had always known, since it was all his fault, wasn’t it?

Their noose was in his blood…

Alas! Something had to be watered from this soot. Failure must rouse success. A Hero’s Cycle. Mother dressed him with the ambitions of a skyscraper to grow mightier than Mount Olympus, to dwarf infinity, to escape high up from the past’s frosty clasp. Stallion gallop discipline shot the boy into manhood, tumbling scruffy haired through years of confinement within mental gymnasiums: dēbeō, dēbēre, dēbuī, dēbitum;   

ad tedium… ad nauseam… he’d gone and ad enuff!

Grandfather’s viola still gathered attic stench, a voice suffocated in its coffin. Dorian thought of its maple, rough and osseous, needing to gasp for air. He rose…

…from the bog. He’d been drowning in it for years. All that academia, and for what? Didn’t Mother know that nothing can come from nothing? What wellspring could ever flourish through her son? Lokified – Jötunn born yet reshaped – he was not made to reveal truths. A trickster’s purpose can only be found in the shuffling of illusions upon…

…a stage: A shadow puppet atop the mountain peak… floating… Then! a star enthroned by telescopic attention, carried high up into the celestial burn. It melted an ice heart into phoenix wings; thespian flesh; another’s voice, another’s skin, another’s face.

Dorian dabbed the last of the makeup, and smiled, someone else staring back.

The Good Literary Agency Prize Winner of 2022

An interview with Mariana Sancliment

Source: Mariana Sancliment

In February, Creative Writing at Brunel announced The Creative Writing Prize in partnership with The Good Literary Agency for our MA students. The winner of 2022’s prize is Mariana Sancliment for her story Untitled. As the winner, she will receive:

· A full manuscript read (should she decide to complete the book)

· A comprehensive set of editorial notes

· A 1 on 1 meeting with an agent at TGLA

· The potential to be offered representation by TGLA once the manuscript is completed

Brunel Writer editor, Josh Harland, caught up with Mariana to ask how she feels to have won the prize, the topics and challenges of Untitled, and her influences and aspirations as a writer. Congratulations, Mariana!

JOSH: Hello Mariana. How are you doing today?

MARIANA: Hi Josh, I’m doing great! How about you?

J: I’m wonderful, thank you. Let’s start with The Good Literary Agency. How does it feel to win the prize and potentially secure representation with TGLA?

M: I think I feel two really big things at the same time. The first thing is that I am incredibly excited. When I read the email, I was literally jumping with joy. I guess the second feeling is that I can’t quite believe it and I worry that they’re going to email me and say, “Hey, we made a mistake, it wasn’t you…” So, I feel both of those things at the same time.

J: I think we should bring everyone up to speed. Can you give us a summary of Untitled? Your blurb, as it were?

M: Yes! So, Untitled is the story of an indigenous, domestic worker living in a town called San Pedro El Alto very close to Mexico City, and it is the story of Faustina, who’s the main character, who works for this well-off family and then goes missing.

At the moment, there’s an incredibly violent landscape in Mexico where every day ten women are killed because they are women, so the femicide wave is at a historical level. Untitled is the story of someone who’s life is invisible, because in Mexico some lives matter more than others, sadly, and it is an effort to bring to light the life of a wonderful person whose accomplishments will go unnoticed if nobody writes about them.

J: What were some of the challenges you faced writing the opening of Untitled?

M: There were a couple of challenges. The first one was getting the balance right between everything that’s happening at the same time, making sure that I provide a good, accurate description of the social landscape, which includes colourism, social indifference, an incredible amount of violence, inequality, oppression, denigration, love, complex working relationships, lack of education, early pregnancies… there’s just a lot of stuff in the background to unpack, and getting the balance right between the action of the characters and just making sure that the reader understands the setting is definitely a challenge for me.

Also, writing in English is a challenge. English is not my first language, and there’s a lot of nuance in language and things that can only be explained in Spanish. For example, in Spanish we have the word feminicida, a murderer who commits femicide, and that word doesn’t exist in English. It hasn’t been translated; there’s no way I can use words like this, so language is definitely the second challenge.

The biggest challenge for me is trying to write the voice of Faustina accurately, ethically and honestly, doing service to her life and story. I think those would be my top three challenges.

J: What were some of the influences for Untitled, as well as some overall inspirations, authors or music and so on, that help you with the writing?

M: Oh, wow. I’m very easily influenced because I’m a romantic, and I am inspired by so many great writers. Some lecturers at Brunel have been incredibly inspirational in different ways. Professor Bernardine Evaristo is the reason I joined the MA at Brunel and I’m just so inspired by the way she tells women’s stories. The way she writes and her experimental writing techniques are a great inspiration for me. Then, Dr Emma Filtness’s creativity module was incredibly inspiring as well to consider alternative ways of storytelling. And then Helen Cullen, my supervisor, was also incredibly inspiring in how thorough and how seriously she takes the craft of storytelling. So, I think I’ve been very lucky with the lecturers that I’ve encountered at Brunel.

In the process of writing, I read tons and tons of books. I wanted to explore Magic Realism, so I read all these Latin American writers who are incredibly inspiring. I don’t know if you know Clarice Lispector, she’s a Brazilian author and… wow. I was just blown away by her way of telling a story.

In the end, I guess the biggest inspiration is Faustina herself. That’s not her real name, but the person that this story is inspired by… I have never met someone so resilient and brave. Yeah, she’s definitely the biggest inspiration for the story.

J: Just one more question. It’s quite an open one, though: What now? In the future, what kind of fiction – or non-fiction – do you hope to publish? Do you want to write more in the same kind of genre or do you want to explore different things? Do you already have other stories in your head?

M: The first thing is to complete this story, which is super important to me. I have applied to study for a PhD at Brunel so I can continue to write about Faustina and also do some critical research on how to use experimental writing to tell ethically and authentically the stories of domestic workers, which tend to be misrepresented, either romanticised or oversimplified. So the first thing is to finish what I started and get it out there, so more people can learn about the lives of domestic workers.

The second thing is to find a way to change the ratio of the time I dedicate to writing versus the time I have to be working full-time. In that regard, I do have definitely more ideas that I want to materialise, and they’re all related to the whole aspect of the women who raise us, the women who clean the world, the women who look after the world… I’m really interested in exploring those kinds of stories, and from a Latin American perspective which I think is not so surfaced in the UK. I’d like to have more of a balance there, more writing and less working.

And the third step would be to be able to fully transition to a more creative life and either teach or just find a way to write and consume literature nonstop. I’m also interested in other types of projects, like for example, exploring the topic of femicide, I was also hoping to create a piece with a piñata where the names of victims of femicide are inside. Going beyond writing and just exploring forms of activism to raise awareness of this other pandemic of gender violence that so many women in Latin America and other parts of the world are experiencing.

J: Thank you very much for coming to this interview over Zoom. Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?

M: I think one final thing, is the untitled side of things. The reason why my story is still untitled is related to one of the things I mentioned earlier… that there are so many things that are part of the story that I still don’t know what the most compelling angle is to drive the title. I am waiting for it to come to me. Hopefully it won’t be untitled for long.

J: So, it’s a temporary thing?

M: It’s a temporary thing while I figure out… you know, should it be Faustina? Should it be Who Cleans the World? Should it be Where’s Faustina? I don’t know.

J: Titles are often the last thing to come together.

M: Exactly.

J: Thank you again Mariana.

M: Thank you!

Check out TGLA:

The Brunel Writers Series is Back!

Join author and academic Gavin McCrea in conversation with Prof Claire Lynch to kick off the first Brunel Writers Talk event of this year. They will discuss the upcoming launch of Gavin’s new memoir, Cells, and how the crafts of fiction and memoir intersect in his writing practice.

Gavin McCrea has published two successful novels to date. His first, Mrs Engels (2015), was shortlisted for both the Desmond Elliot Prize and the Walter Scott Prize, as well as longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, The Sisters Mao (2021), has received great critical acclaim.

Gavin’s memoir is his first non-fiction work which centres around his relationship with his mother. Gavin shares an intimate tale of adulthood, addressing topics of homophobia, mental health and drug addiction that he grew up around in his youth. In the face of his father’s sudden death, a devastating diagnosis of his own and the struggles of being a writer, it is his connection with his mother that provides him solace during this time. However, after years of resentment from her betrayal of his teenage self, Gavin expresses his desire to reconcile before it becomes too late.

Hungry for more? Then register HERE… to join us on 1st December at 6pm to hear from the man himself.

And the winner of the Booker Prize 2022 is…

A conversation with Shehan Karunatilaka and Damon Galgut

Well, it’s already that time of year where literature’s leading fiction award, The Booker Prize, rolls around. And it’s Sri-Lankan writer, Shehan Karunatilaka, who lifted the prize as the 2022 winner with his second novel: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

Set within the chaos of war-torn Sri-Lanka in the midst of the civil war, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida centres around Maali, a war photographer, who has woken up dead in a waiting room for the afterlife. With time running out, he has seven moons/one week to lead his friend and cousin to a series of hidden photographs beneath his bed, which expose the brutal truth about Sri-Lanka’s ongoing conflict.

To kick off the beginning of the Southbank Literary Festival, the 2022 Booker winner sat down for his first public event, joined by last year’s winner, Damon Galgut, and author Sara Collins for a live Q+A session.

Photograph: David Parry

The night began by Sara asking both authors to read an extract from their award-winning novels, to provide those who had not yet had chance to read their work a flavour of what was to come.

Karunatilaka then spoke about his novel, describing it as belonging to the “murder mystery genre but grounded in eastern mythology”, as he explored death as a beginning, rather than an end. Galgut, who sat alongside him, expanded on this concept, asking if “maybe you wake up [from death] with more confusion?” as opposed to initially having all the answers.

For those of you curious about what could inspire such an award-winning masterpiece, Karunatilaka revealed to the audience how his novel had originally been planned to be a ghost story. As such, in preparation for his writing, he spoke about how he had initially visited a variety of haunted houses, as well as listening to “horror movie soundtracks”, but had to stop, stating that “[he] was writing at 3 in the morning so it can get quite creepy”.

As his concept changed so did his music, switching up his horror beats for a playlist he named ‘Choons with the Dead’, featuring a variety of 80’s classics to get him into the right headspace. He ended by advising the audience that when using music, remember to choose “nothing with lyrics that distracts you”.

However, not all of his inspiration comes from music, as Karunatilaka listed his top three authors: Kurt Vonnegut (Galapagos), George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo), and Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide), who all had had a literary influence on him for this novel.

Galgut, on the other hand, expressed how normality was key for him, writing his award-winning novel, The Promise, explaining; “it’s quite important to keep your life in the same tracks it runs on when you are working and to not divert yourself too much”.

After an evening of questions on different countries publishing scenes and Karunatilak’s lack of tweeting, the night closed with both authors being asked: is there anything you would change about your respective novels? Karunatilaka replied speedily, “I would not go back to it, even though it’s far from flawless. It’s done.” Galgut seconded his response adding, “it’s part of the process of a novel that you exhaust all of those possibilities in the writing, that by the end there is nothing that you feel can or should be changed”. The night was a huge success with both authors putting on a great show and celebrating two amazing books. So, if you need something to read, why not give The Seven Moons of Maali a try.

By Felicity Phillips

Frederick Forsyth: Writer, Handler, Soldier, Spy

by Adam Conway

Photo by John Swannell

Last week the university had the pleasure of welcoming guest speaker Frederick Forsyth as part of the Writing in British Intelligence events. I was initially unfamiliar with most of his work, having read only Dogs of War years ago and, at the behest of my grandfather, watched the film based on his most popular novel The Day of the Jackal.

Of course, this writer wasn’t always a typical novelist, having worked as a pilot and then for MI6, attempting to save lives and even prevent nuclear weapons from falling into enemy hands. In his talk, Forsyth recounted how he’d started off as a pilot, before going on to work in journalism for Reuters and the BBC, where he was recruited by MI6. “Spy work isn’t like Ian’s Fleming’s novels,” according to Forsyth. “Spies are often people travelling, missionaries and journalists, who are asked if they can report back to the agency.”

Forsyth said there are three types of spies: those who travel carrying packages, those who handle agents and those who are recruited to betray their own countries. The final category he called ‘real spies’; he himself had never been one but he had handled a few in his day and on rare occasions they would actually provide information useful to the protection of our borders. Often, we think of people being sent into organisations and countries working their way up the ladder for their country, but according to Forsyth, it just didn’t work like that. It was easier to find someone and turn him with a handler to get information than plant someone just for a chance of information. Most information the handlers collected was rather useless, he said, but occasionally it would be something that saved lives.

Forsyth said that spy work happened in strange places, such as bumping into people in a public toilet; MI6 had even managed to persuade a U.S.S.R foreign affairs agent to feed them information, just because a journalist had overheard him having an argument with his boss whilst going to relieve himself. The agent hadn’t provided anything useful after ten years of working with MI6, but that particular information proved invaluable.

What made Forsyth quit spy work, however, was working for MI6 in Nigeria during the Biafra crisis. When he returned to the UK, he discovered that he had no job and no money, so he decided to become a writer. His friends told him it would’ve been easier to rob a bank, but he planned his first novel, The Day of the Jackal, based on an assassination he had planned for real. It went on to sell twelve million copies.

One of the things that inspired him to write was that being a writer was a great cover story for a spy. Often, he would say he was writing a book or an article and this allowed him to ask questions and see things that the enemies of Britain didn’t want him to see, from strikes in the U.S.S.R to the locations of certain government officials. Forsyth’s work was inspired by his life as an MI6 agent.

As a fellow writer, I found what he had to say interesting. All the skills required to be a spy are skills needed to be a writer, from research to finding a powerful story amongst the little details. Even skills such as sitting quietly were important to be a writer as well as a spy. His wife would ask him what he was doing as he stared at walls trying to think about his stories. When he told her he was working, she’d get annoyed and tell him he wasn’t doing anything. It was a great relief to hear that the hours I’ve spent staring into space, trying to decipher how to write my own stories, have not been wasted. Forsyth is, after all, a man, who has written twenty-four books and worked on five movies based on his books.

Forsyth taught me skills such as being patient and waiting for a story, how to gather information and most importantly being willing to stand up for my principles both as a writer and as a human being. So, I ask you fellow writers out there: do you feel the same way? Do you, like Frederick Forsyth, feel that you have the skills of a writer, handler, soldier, spy?

Frederick Forsyth was in conversation with Paul Lashmar as part of the Writing in British Intelligence series of talks. Click HERE to find out more. Frederick Forsyth’s latest novel, The Fox, came out in 2018 and can be bought HERE.

Adam Conway has done over forty jobs including butcher, baker and missionary, so he figured he could add writer to the mix and write about his and others’ experiences. He is currently writing his third novel and is the editor of the Brunel Anthology 2023. 

21 Miles Publishing Opportunity

Short poetry on the themes of migrants and refugees is sought for a new photobook by Brunel University photographer and artist, Chris Dundon-Smith. Brunel University is currently supporting Chris on the photojournalism project, 21 Miles. The photobook and poetry will form part of a multi-media installation at Ambika P3 Gallery in London (Nov 2022) and will then go on tour at a selection of galleries in 2023.

21 Miles is a multimedia documentary project that aims to describe the experience of the perilous twenty-one-mile journey across the English Channel, made by those seeking safety and asylum in the United Kingdom.

The video and audio installation uses a single photograph taken in the middle of the English Channel and combines it with over 400 smart-phone audio recordings taken from actual Chanel crossings, and the artist’s own recordings while on location.

In addition, the video installation is supported by a photobook that focuses on the physical and emotional signs and traces this demanding and terrifying journey leaves behind.

Some of the work can be viewed here.

This is a non-profit passion project to raise awareness of the current situation and dangers facing people crossing the English Channel. Unfortunately, this is not a paid opportunity and very much aimed at those seeking to contribute to the cause due to an interest in the project or in writing poetry on the subject. There will however be the opportunity to feature in the photobook and the installation, and attend shows, as the work tours after the Ambika P3 show. There will also be a copy of the photobook provided to any successful applicants.

The poetry can be already existing work on these themes, or something new based on the work itself. The deadline for submitting will be 4th October 2022.

For more information, please contact Chris:

Thank you.

The Brunel Writer Prize 2022

Every year, The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student with the highest graded article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing Programme. This year’s winner is Nathalie Brundell who provides creative writers with some useful tips on the thorny issue of transferring fictional characters from one’s imagination to the page. Congratulations Nathalie!

Hearing Voices? Fear not, Writer

Like a search history filled with creative torture techniques, a writer with voices in their head is usually a good thing. 


But sometimes, those voices can get a little too loud. We’ve all been there. Scented candles burning, movie scores playing softly, a steaming cup of your favourite drink – yeah, you’re ready. In fact, your fingers are itching, so you open the document and… 

There it is. The dreaded, blank page. And that blinking cursor – the worst torture technique discovered yet. Well? Come on, then, it says. Show me what you got. I can do this aallll day

As the seconds pass, your palms grow sweaty. Maybe… Maybe you’re not cut out for this, after all. You can’t even come up with one sentence that doesn’t sound like complete, utter garbage. And what if people hate it? Who could blame them – you have no clue what you’re doing! And…

Yeah – those voices.

Of course, none of the garbage they spew is actually true. It’s just fear, worry, perfectionism – whatever you want to call it. And while that ancient reptile brain of yours is just trying to protect you from excruciating, public shame… it’s also keeping you from actually writing.

In other words – you wanna finally finish a manuscript? Here’s how to beat those nasty voices in your head.

1. Create a Character

If there’s one thing we writers love, it’s a flawed character. So, get to it – give that shrill voice a name, a face, a personality. Who are they, and what are they afraid of?

Like that voice that just won’t stop criticizing you. Let’s call him Curt, shall we? Can you see those thin glasses he’s wearing, and that slick, villainous suit? Looking down at literally everyone?

Well, look closer. Maybe, someone told him long ago that the only way to make your way in the world is through perfection. Flaws and weaknesses? He sniffs them out like a trained dog, because if he can keep pointing out other people’s faults, maybe he doesn’t have to deal with his own. 

A pure ray of sunshine.

But I’m sure you can do even better than that. So, crack open your notebook. You don’t have what it takes. People will hate it. Your dream is silly and embarrassing. Who are the people saying these things, and why?

Take your time with it, and make it good – after all, you’ll be seeing a lot of these guys in the future

2. Make Friends

Alright, so you’ve got your characters. Now what? 

Curt, the haughty, judgy critic. Selma, the middle-aged woman with enough worries to give her a heart attack. Gordon, the “lazy” slug who would rather scroll social media, because if he actually tries something he might just fail at it. 

Shake hands, acknowledge them. These people aren’t going anywhere, so there’s no point ignoring them anymore. Instead, get comfortable around them. 

3. Take Back Authority

These flat, nasty characters – are they the ones writing the book, poem, script? No. You are. 

So, establish your authority. They can stay, sure, but they better know their place.

They likely won’t back down at first. But in time, you’ll learn how to recognize who is speaking, and how to talk them off their ledge. Selma, for example, probably just needs someone to settle her nerves – some kindness and reassurance goes a long way. 

Curt, on the other hand, just needs to be told to shut up every once in a while. And Gordon? No distractions for him. That comfort zone really is his kryptonite.

In other words, put them in their place. ‘Cause if you can learn how to take control over those inner voices?

You’ll finish that manuscript in no time.

Nathalie Brundell is a Swedish writer currently living in London. In daylight, she pays the bills as a copywriter working with sustainability-focused brands, but after dark, you’ll find her typing away at her first fantasy novel in the glaring blue light of her screen. Her work has previously been published in the Myths, Monsters & Mayhem anthology, a #1 anthology release on Amazon.

The Good Literary Agency Prize 2022

The Creative Writing team at Brunel is thrilled to announce The Creative Writing Prize in partnership with the Good Literary Agency. The prize is open to all Brunel MA Creative Writing students who are submitting their dissertation projects in 2022. The Good Literary Agency is a social enterprise literary agency dedicated to increasing opportunities for representation for all writers under-represented in mainstream publishing including writers of colour, disability, LGBTQ+, working class and anyone else who feels like their story isn’t being told in mainstream publishing.

We at TGLA are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with the MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. As literary agents on the lookout for a diverse range of fiction & non-fiction, we are excited about the wealth of literary talent coming out of Brunel University. We hope we can provide invaluable industry insight that will equip the students with knowledge to take forward into their careers in publishing, and hope this is an amazing opportunity for the 2022 winner.”

Kemi Ogunsanwo at TGLA

The partnership comprises three key stages:

1. Demystifying Publishing

This online event in March will provide students with the opportunity to hear details about the book publishing industry and ask questions of TGLA agents. The event will also be open to Brunel third year BA single and joint honours Creative Writing students.  

 2. Pitch Session

MA students will be given the opportunity to pitch their work to an agent from TGLA. Each student will have approximately ten minutes to pitch their work and receive feedback or ask questions.

3. Sample submission

Students are invited to submit the first three chapters of their novel or memoir (to a maximum of 8000 words) with a one page synopsis. A shortlist of candidates will be drawn up before the winner is confirmed, likely just before Christmas 2022.

The Good Literary Agency Prize winner 2022 will receive:

  • A full manuscript read (should they decide to complete the book)
  • A comprehensive set of editorial notes
  • A 1 on 1 session with an agent
  • The potential to be offered representation by TGLA once the manuscript is completed

TGLA website:

Brunel MA in Creative Writing programme:

Spring 2022: Brunel Writers Series

All events are online and FREE but please register via the links provided below


Join Claire Lynch and Penny Wincer as they ask, why writing about motherhood matters? Claire and Penny will share their own experiences of writing about motherhood in memoir and non-fiction and discuss why challenging mainstream definitions of motherhood is so important in their work.

Claire Lynch is the author of Small: On Motherhoods. Her personal essays have appeared in the Washington Post and on BBC Radio 4. She is a Professor of English Literature at Brunel University London.

Penny Wincer is a Melbourne born, London dwelling, author, podcaster and non-fiction book coach. After 15 years as a freelance interiors photographer, Penny began writing about life as a single parent and unpaid carer whilst juggling a freelance creative career. She has written for Red Magazine, iPaper and regularly contributes to The Telegraph. Penny’s first book Tender was published by Coronet Books in 2020. She co-hosts the podcast Not Too Busy To Write.

Please register for the Penny Wincer event: HERE…


Regarded as one of the most important contemporary playwriting voices, David Eldridge will be in conversation with Helen Cullen, author and Brunel lecturer, about his journey to becoming one of Britain’s most successful playwrights, his creative process and writing about class for the theatre.

David Eldridge: Described as a “a poet of the east end overspill” by the Observer, David Eldridge is widely regarded as one of the prominent playwriting voices of his generation, whose productions have premiered across the UK at venues including The National, The Royal Court, The Royal Exchange and The Donmar. Television credits include the The Scandalous Lady W for BBC 2, and Our Hidden Lives, a BBC adaption of the Simon Garfield novel.

Helen Cullen has published two novels to date, The Lost Letters of William Woolf (2018) and The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually (2020) with Penguin Random House in Ireland and the UK and in the USA by Harper Collins. The novels have also sold in translation to numerous foreign markets and been optioned for TV adaptations. Helen’s debut novel also garnered her a Best Newcomer nomination at the 2018 Irish Book Awards. Helen is currently completing a PhD on Creative and Critical Writing at UEA and is a member of the creative writing faculty at Brunel University. She is a regular contributor to the the Sunday Times and is an Irish Times literary critic. You can find her on socials as @wordsofhelen.

Please register for the David Eldridge event: HERE


Poet, academic, and activist Prof. David Herd will be in conversation with Prof. William Watkin about his ground-breaking Refugee Tales project. They will be discussing how David has used creative practice and public spectacle as a constructive form of protest and celebration, and how his many years of working around issues of migration have impacted in his remarkable poetry.

David Herd’s books of poems include All Just, Outwith, Through, Songs from the Language of a Declaration, and Walk Song (forthcoming from Shearsman). His essays and poems have been widely published in magazines, journals and newspapers and his recent writings on the politics of human movement have appeared in From the European South, Los Angeles Review of Books, Paideuma, and the Times Literary Supplement. He is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Kent and a co-organiser of the project Refugee Tales.

Prof. William Watkin is one of the leading voices in contemporary philosophy today and professor of contemporary philosophy and literature at Brunel University. William is very widely published with seven monographs to his name, including the recent Bioviolence: How the powers that be make us do what they want (2021). When he is not making the world a better place through philosophy, William is also a journalist, blogger, vlogger and painter.

Please register for the David Herd event: HERE