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.