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.

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.

https://chrisdundonsmith.myportfolio.com/21-miles

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:

chris.dundon-smith@brunel.ac.uk

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. 

Usually.

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 Brunel Writer Prize 2021

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 Gatlin Perrin whose article offers some insightful tips on navigating uni. Congratulations Gatlin!

From Freshers to Final Year: How to Do University

by Gatlin Perrin

Getting through university is difficult, and anyone who says otherwise is lying. Wherever you’re at with your uni journey, here are fourteen no-nonsense tips and tricks for getting from Freshers to final year with the majority of your limbs intact.

Good luck.

1. There is a room on the second floor of the library filled with study cubicles. This is the perfect place on campus to cry. Don’t ask me how I know this.

2. On the third floor of the library is the mental wellbeing centre, where you can ask for counselling. They also give out free stress balls, which can be used as projectiles if you prefer a more violent approach to problem solving.

3. Some people will tell you that you’ll make friends for life during Freshers Week, and those people deserve to be punched in the face for causing unnecessary stress. That group over there who are all laughing and hugging aren’t “friends for life”, they’re drunk. You will find friends when you find them.

4. If you live in halls, remember – everyone has their own idea of what “sharing” is. The statement “help yourself to anything in my fridge” is a grenade that’s just had the pin removed. Padlock everything. P.S., everyone also has their own idea of what “clean” is, so get ready to discover at least seventeen different species of mould on a dinner plate.

5. Mind your own business. If I’m not judging you for only having attended one lecture the entire year, you don’t judge me for literally crying with relief when a lecturer tells me my assignment wasn’t awful. This is a no judgement zone.

6. When in second year, do not compare yourself to the first years. They’ll always seem more talented, more composed and somehow better looking than your year. Try not to take it personally.

7. When in third year, do not compare yourself to the previous third years. They also had no idea what they were doing, they just hid it better.

8. Buy a dictionary. This is because whatever year you happen to be in, none of the words on the assignment brief will ever start to make sense.

9. Kidneys go for an average of around £5000 on the black market. You can survive with just the one but you’ll need at least six if you keep doing your weekly shop at Sainsbury’s. Lidl is your friend.

10. Third years, buy an umbrella. This is because as soon as you enter your final year you will notice the vast storm cloud of “life after graduation” approaching in the distance. It’s coming faster than you think.

11. In that vein, if anyone asks you what your career plans are for after graduation you are required by law to push them down the stairs. Refer back to tip five.

12. Having mental health issues at university is like contracting an STI: more people have them than you think, you shouldn’t be ashamed but you still need to do something about them before they get worse. Refer back to tip two.

13. Get hopeful. This is because you have to – what’s the alternative? You’re not the only one who didn’t get that internship or won’t get the first they wanted, and this does not mean that you’ve failed at life. Focus on you.

14. Keep focusing on you. The most important part of university is to get out of it alive. Drink water. Get some sleep. Talk to someone when you need help. You’ve got this.

Gatlin Perrin is a North Walian writer who pens books for children and scripts that are not for children. Their play Bear Hands was featured digitally at the Edinburgh Fringe, and their children’s novel His Royal Hopeless is out September 2nd 2021 under the pen name Chloë Perrin. Gatlin likes to think they can do it all, which is probably why they’re in therapy.

Community Appreciation Day: Three Commended Poems

Following our submissions call for short poems exploring themes of appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness, and the publication of the communal cento (or quilt) poem earlier this week, we’re pleased to be sharing three of the poems that we felt really communicated the ethos of Appreciation Day as well as capturing some of the tender moments that have shaped experiences over the past year or so.

The first poem we’d like to share is ‘On my list’ by Wendy Allen. We love the sensory detail and tactility of this poem, its meditation on touch, its almost palpable sense of longing, of desire…

‘On my list’

ruby jewelled lipstick the colour of Mooncup,

29.3ml of sediment red which remains defiantly matte

when we kiss passionately on the Southbank.

Red Riding Hood lips against you against the yellow

façade of The Hayward Gallery, I want you.

An old cardigan pulled tight becomes a life vest, I want

your face traced between my thighs like cashmere.

My eyeliner is perfect, I take a photo. I want you to see.

I’m grateful you know me. The postcard I send to you is empty

but as always, says too much. I want to say too much.

Wendy Allen is an unpublished poet. She has been writing poetry since April 2020 and has spent the last 20 years as cabin crew.


The second poem we’d like to share is Samantha Ley’s entry which feels very much like a celebration of the exuberance and joy of girlhood and the immersivity of imaginative play…

The girls dance and shriek, trailing rainbow-colored kites
through the yard.

They are five. They find everything to do, and still need more:

A pretend tea party, a water table,

Chalk, soccer, toy rockets landing on the roof.

They need us to retrieve the trapped

Toy rockets. Ravenous, as always, they need

Food. Otherwise, they

Don’t need us. They are five. They exist

In this moment, to laugh with one another.

Samantha Ley lives near Albany, New York, where she works as a freelance writer and editor. Her fiction has appeared in a number of online publications. She can be reached at samjley AT gmail.com and @SaminBingo on Twitter.


And finally, we’re sharing ‘Irregular Jackdaw’ by Brunel alumna Anneka Hess. Gardens and public green spaces have been of increasing importance to many of us this past year, and a number of the entries took the form of odes to nature, the seasons, our fur-babies and feathered friends. What we love about this poem in particular is the way it beautifully centres the relationship between the human and non-human. We were also struck by how the work conveys a cautious optimism and sense of affirming resilience…

‘Irregular Jackdaw’

And as the blossom arrives again

So do you

Furious chatter against the cottage chimney

Feathers-inked and scissor-beaked

Ravenous for seed

And we meet in the awakening garden

Both more crumpled than last year

Both more relieved to be here

For one more spring

Anneka Hess spends too much of her time in a pile of books and cats, and too little writing. https://twitter.com/Inkybloomers

We would like to thank everyone who sent us submissions and shared what they are grateful for. Keep an eye out on our social media (@BrunelWriter) where we will post the commended entries so you can share them and spread the sentiment of appreciation, gratidute and thankfulness.

Appreciation Day Communal Poem

When Brunel Volunteers mentioned they were hosting an Appreciation Day on 11th May, the poetic form called the cento came to mind. This form was created as a way of celebrating the work of another poet that you appreciate by taking one-hundred individual lines from a variety of their poems and collaging them into a new poem – a bit like making a quilt.

We thought it would be great to invite people to write and send in short poems of appreciation, thankfulness and gratitude, from which we could compile a little communal celebratory cento – a  mutual ode of appreciation.

We received poems from Brunel students, staff, alumni, locals and from further afield including the USA and India. Looking through the poems, we were struck by the common themes that emerged, although perhaps these are not surprising given the year we’ve had. There were odes to nature, lots about bodies and touch, about longing and loneliness, about all the little things that have made all this bearable – a friendly text, a kind gesture, as well as portraits of family and friends, children playing, robins singing.

We then chose poignant, resonant, and striking lines or phrases from each of the entries and stitched them together into loosely themed stanzas to make the communal appreciation poem, which you can read below – enjoy!

Survival: A Cento

1.

For months we have gestated here,

our home a roomy womb, a cushioned nest.

An old cardigan pulled tight becomes a life vest.

Wrapped in warmth, a morning text,

a supportive word, chases pessimism away.

2.

Relax into a still, quiet focus – magic

or maybe scientific hypnosis:

the drip drip drip and hazelnutty hit

of freshly brewed coffee, the soft frivolity

of a brightly-coloured velvet scrunchie.

3.

The girls dance and shriek, trailing rainbow-coloured kites

through the yard. They are five. They exist

in this moment to laugh with one another.

At story time, five kisses. Brace yourself,

tiny creatures and grow a little more.

4.

I love you like our Hammersmith sky.

I much appreciate your sassy style,

eyes lit with remnants of cucumber peel.

I’m grateful you know me.

The postcard I send to you is empty.

5.

And we meet in the awakening garden,

both more crumpled than last year,

both more relieved to be here.

The whispers of the trees,

clear skies that never end…

6.

A red-breasted robin rests chest aflame.

Desolation snapped, vitality restored.

Notice this hug with shaky arms

around your oxbow curves –

you’re here, with me, for now.

Finally a big thank-you to everyone who sent in their poems to be a part of this project – we’ll be featuring commended entries on this blog and on social media via @BrunelWriter and @poetrycoterie soon, so keep your eyes peeled and do like and repost so we can share some appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness.

Contributors:

Anneka Hess | Emily Horton | Emma Filtness | Emma Mitchell | Fathima M | Hafsa | Kathryn Gynn | Keith Sterrow | Linda Hodgkinson | Marie-Teresa Hanna | Peter Eldrid | Ruth Sharma | Samantha Ley | Tania Bavarz | Wendy Allen | Wendy Rashed

Call for Poems on Appreciation

for Community Appreciation Day

DEADLINE: 16 APRIL 2021

Calling all Brunel students, staff and members of the local community – we want you to get creative & send us a short poem (maximum 10 lines) fitting the theme of appreciation, gratitude & thankfulness.

Brunel Writer, in collaboration with Brunel Volunteers, is celebrating Community Appreciation Day on 11th May 2021 by making a collaborative poem. 

Send your entries to brunelwriter@gmail.com by Friday 16th April with ‘Appreciation Day Submission’ in the subject line. Ideally poems will be attached to the email in either .doc format or as a PDF.

Shortlisted poems will feature on the Brunel Writer blog & social media, & may be shared as part of wider Appreciation Day communications. Please include a short third person bio & your social media handles so we can tag you, if you have them (anonymous entries are fine, too, just let us know).

Excerpts from a number of entries will be woven into a longer, collaborative community poem – think of it like a patchwork quilt made up of different colours & textures & lovingly pieced & stitched, patched & mended by many hands.

We’re also hoping to create some audio & video content of the final collaborative poem, so drop us an email if you’re keen to read/perform. We might also make a zine (a mini-book of the poem).

Here’s some inspiration to get you going:

Appreciation The act of recognising or understanding that something is valuable or important. Who are what is important to you? Why? Tell them.

Gratitude The feeling or quality of being grateful. You could try describe it.

Thankfulness The feeling of being happy or grateful because of something.

You could write a list poem of things you appreciate, value or are grateful for, or of things that you are thankful for, from the tiny and seemingly frivolous to the significant and poignant…

You could write an ode to a person, organisation or place that you appreciate…

You could capture a moment of kindness in a haiku…

Calling for Submissions!

Calling all Creative Writing and English students at Brunel! Brunel Writer’s new blog series focusing on work experience is launching soon and we are looking for submissions.

If you have done work experience in a creative industry – whichever it may be – tell us all about how you came across the opportunity and how you found the experience! If you have done more than one you can submit multiple blog posts but please be aware that we may not be able to publish every submission.

Please send all submissions to brunelwriter@gmail.com . We ask that the texts don’t exceed 800 words and that you include an author photo and short bio.

We look forward to reading your submissions!

The Brunel Writer Prize 2020

Every year, The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student whose article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing Programme is the highest graded. This year’s winner is Perri Wickham. Perri’s article shows how she used the various skills acquired through the Creative Writing course in an exciting industry environment.


HOW MY SHORT FILM ‘LONDON MADE ME’ FEATURED ALONGSIDE RAPMAN’S ‘BLUE STORY’ SCREENING

by Perri Wickham

During an unproductive day of tapping through Instagram stories, I came across the LDN Filmmakers application.  The week-long course was organised by the Mayor of London and Digital Cinema Media to help applicants write, direct, and produce a short film.  I immediately swiped up, excited to put my screenwriting skills to use outside of my Creative Writing degree, to finally get behind the cameras, and to connect with aspiring filmmakers.

The application process was straightforward.  I had to write down my personal information and in 250 words, explain why I wanted to participate.  I felt this was a fantastic opportunity for me to get equipped with new skills as I had never made a film before, and to put my vivid imagination into action.  A week later, I received a notification to say that I was successful.

Industry members from Chocolate Films Production led the training at Genesis Cinema.  During the introductory session, they gave us a brief to base our plot on London.  They told us that each of our films would feature alongside the screening of Rapman’s new movie ‘Blue Story’ at Genesis, which turned the pressure up a notch.  ‘Blue Story’ is an adaptation of Rapman’s 2014 YouTube series of the same name that explores gang rivalries in London. 

I teamed up with six participants, and we were allocated a mentor for support.  We brainstormed ideas about what London meant to us, and how we could capture our message cinematically through the plot as well as visuals.

Initially, there was a miscommunication on our first idea, as everyone had slightly different visions, which was confusing.  Thanks to our mentor, we managed to narrow it down enough to pitch to the other groups and their mentors.  Receiving feedback was essential as it helped us to clarify our concept and make it appropriate for younger viewers, as our film was going to be screened in schools. 

My group and I decided to tell the story of a protagonist, who on her way home, reflects on London’s vibrant culture and how it shaped her into a successful adult, using flashbacks of her past.  It only made sense to add an inspirational spoken word poem to talk the audience through her journey.  Since I am a poet, I volunteered to write and perform the voice over.

After receiving training on how to use film equipment, we solidified our storyboard, then set out to film in Stepney Greene.  The first day turned out to be experimental, and we decided to extend our filming location to Stratford as it had more landmarks that would benefit the visuals.  We spent the next two days knuckling-down, ensuring that we had enough footage to make a high-quality final draft. 

The final day of the course was crucial, as we had to complete a rough draft of our edits and create a shot list for Chocolate Films, who would polish it.  We had a guest visit from Amani Simpson, the creator of his autobiographical short film ‘Amani’, and one of the main actors, Ellis Witter.  It was inspiring to see a director who had no experience, establish connections, and gain enough funding to compose a successful short film with over one million views.

On the 24th November, I attended my first red carpet premiere in Hollywood.  Okay, it was at the Genesis Cinema.  Watching my first short film on the big screen was a powerful experience, as I was able to witness how a project, I made in under a week could transform into a dynamic yet professional piece. 

LDN Filmmakers taught me that if you strongly believe in your vision, it is possible to execute it with the right equipment, no matter the time constraints.  Now that I’ve gained confidence as a filmmaker, I am determined to make my mark in the film industry, and that starts now.

You can find Perri’s short film “London Made Me” on LDN Filmakers.

Perri Wickham is a flourishing Creative Writing Graduate looking to make her mark in the Entertainment Industry.  Hailing from Southeast London, where the trains run slower, Perri currently freelances as a blogger for Fledglink, a journalist/comms assistant for Brits + Pieces, and writes poems as well as scripts in her spare time.  If she goes MIA it means she’s working on a special project.  Her material is very audacious!

The Brunel Writer Prize 2019

The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student(s) who achieves the highest graded 600 word article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing programme. This year’s prize is shared between two students: Renée Dacres and Russell Christie. Renée’s article discusses diversity in the publishing industry and a new publishing venture that aims to address diverse representation in children’s books. Russell’s article focuses on autobiographical writing and in particular, perceptions related to working class fiction and autobiography.

Congratulations to Renée and Russell.


THE KNIGHTS OF CONUNDRUM:

Is the publishing industry really changing?

by Renée Dacres

Knights-Of-logo-01-787x175So, you want to be able to sniff a freshly printed book hot off the press? Maybe even a book you’ve had a hand in publishing?

As Creative Writing students, it’s often assumed that many of us have a love of books (but don’t worry, I won’t tell Will Self if you don’t). To that end, it’s also assumed that many of us want to get involved with the publishing industry.

As a Brunelian, you are part of a very diverse community and some of us may be guilty of taking that for granted at times. University is enough of a bubble in its own right, without taking into consideration what and who comprise our environment.

The Equality Act 2010 prompted the start of Brunel’s Student Success Project following their five-year plan for 2015-2020. The scheme looks specifically at why there are gaps in the attainment of 2:1 and first class degrees for BAME students. Whether there is actionable proof of improvements is unknown because of the lack of available data.

The progress of racial diversity within the publishing industry is also questionable. There is certainly a push to encourage more BAME candidates to apply for entry roles, what with initiatives like Hachette’s Fresh Chapters eight-week internship programme or HarperCollins’ BAME Traineeship . If you ask me, it seems likes these schemes amount to noise and not much else. After all, research by The Publishers’ Association from 2018 shows that the percentage of BAME respondents to the Diversity and Inclusion survey fell from 13% to 11.6% compared to 2017. The 1.4% fall suggests that these schemes aren’t doing enough to encourage BAME candidates to apply for roles.

Let’s compare these figures to those of us studying at Brunel.

In 2014, there were 14335 students at Brunel. Of those students studying at Brunel who are UK-domicile (i.e. home students) almost 38.8% of the total student population was classified as BAME, not accounting for those who did not wish to disclose their ethnicity. That is around 5590 students. If the publishing industry was to use the student body at Brunel, they would have to increase the number of BAME employees by 27.2%.

That’s over a quarter of the entire workforce!

However, with the birth of Knights Of, it seems that there is actionable proof that the publishing industry is trying to change. Knights Of is a publishing house dedicated to increasing diverse representation in children’s books.

Their shake-up of the submission process is also worth logging in your writer brain. Authors are free to pitch their novel ideas through a “Live Chat” function with one of the team and if they like your idea enough, they’ll ask you to send over a synopsis. This seems a lot less scary than submitting to an agent or publisher the way we normally would, don’t you think? I think this level of approachability is very important; not only when it comes to encouraging BAME authors to submit their novels, but also when it comes to making job applications. The publishing industry is notoriously aloof, so it seems that a shift in tone is necessary if the PA truly wish to achieve their goals of improving ethnic diversity.

The Publishers’ Association suggests that 15% of employees should be Black, Asian and minority ethnic. This is despite the fact that the 2011 census data suggests that 24% of the population in England and Wales would be considered BAME.

Alternatively, the publishing industry should be aiming for a workforce which is representative of the country’s demographics. Hence, they should aim for closer to Brunel’s representative 38.8% BAME demographic. After all, even if that target is not met, it’s still a significant improvement on current conditions.

Maybe if more of us felt like we were represented by the books being published and the people who publish them, we wouldn’t be so worried about offending Professor Self? Because we’d all love books.

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Renée Dacres is a writer of stories, screenplays and personal essays hailing from the grey area that is the Essex/ London fringe. Which one is it? Nobody knows. She has hopes of writing a novel in the future, with interests in both publishing and television development. If you have penchant for ramblings, you can find plenty on her blog.

 

 

 


FACTION FICTIONS

by Russell Christie

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Unfortunately, the Spread-the-Word, life-writing competition email didn’t tell me why my submission had not made the longlist for this year’s prize, just that it hadn’t. Leaving me to my own speculations as to why my story had not made the cut. Was my life-writing too fictionalised for their category? Memoir may be the new novel, but is novel the new memoir? What is the relationship between autobiography and fiction and how does the autobiographical fiction I had submitted differ from what is categorised as life-writing? And: is memoir what it used to be?

An event at Brunel – an examination of autobiografiction in light of The Burnett Archive of working class autobiographies – offered to further stoke my grief-fuelled speculations, or ameliorate them with free wine!

Working class investment in writing autobiographically based fictions has historically been modulated by conscious political positioning of the texts by the genre’s major exponents, apparently. Autobiography fictionalized enables distance and circumspection in using the material of a life. It is a different mode of exposition from the promised authentic intimacies of memoir: it takes place in a fiction form. Significant scenes are often transposed onto other incarnations and protagonists in a distancing that mediates against easy nostalgia. Stripped of the requirement for a psychological accounting of self, this fictionalising ‘shows’ the basic facts. The distinction between fiction and memory in this context is one of genre markers based on style and perspective rather than documentary truth. Fiction is showing, memoir is telling, life-writing is telling by showing.

I reflected that the frequent designation of working class fiction as inherently autobiographical, characterizes working class people as inescapably marked by their situation in a way that middle class writers supposedly transcend. Working class fiction gets categorised as autobiographical because it is suffused with a coal dust which does not appear in the milieu of a middle class oblivious to its own saturated marking with clean crockery and Evelyn Waugh conversations. The middle class, of course, are equally marked by the biographical limitations of the bourgeois imagination. Aren’t they, Alan Hollinghurst?

Denying autobiographical pertinence to your writing – even to speculative fiction – is to pretend that the imagination is undetermined and un-situated: a standard bourgeois conceit and ideological ploy. Fiction no more exists than freedom. Everything I write displays my historic circumstances. I cannot help but express the autobiographical configurations of my life, channelling the people who have influenced me, the travel I have been privileged to, the language that gives birth to this tongue and no other. How would I write outside of this? There is no universal writing, or even any universal to know, apart from this binding we are all subject to: this thrown-ness into our own narrow and total worlds, which we then only transcend through sharing as a limitation, as a specific embodiment, as ourselves.

And where is the proof that would differentiate fact from fiction? Even if you video your whole life, what would you be evidencing in the editing: psychological structure, political reality, one story among others? It’s a naïve understanding of truth that easily marks fiction from documentary. As in the contemporary shift from nostalgically reflective, purple prosaic memoir to the stripped back, New Journalist, first person prose of life-writing, it is the form that distinguishes genres rather than the events these forms are built around.

It is the tenor, the intimacy, the pose, the hands-up, the hidden-ness, the sentences, the perspective that distinguishes fiction from life-writing and memoir. These are genre markers. Fiction has a fiction form, irrespective of its factuality. Self assertion, ownership and marketing is part of the form of contemporary autobiografiction. And what you remember, told as fiction, is not memoir. Except perhaps for Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time And The River and, ahem, my submission to the life-writing prize. Is there more wine?

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Russell Christie is a novelist and procrastinator who’s lived in several countries, often undercover and in various states of legitimacy. He enjoys throwing in curve balls from left field, especially dialectical materialism (still!) and Buddhist ontology. He came to Brunel (like everywhere) to escape the forces of the state but ended up quite liking it (like everywhere). His first novel, The Queer Diary of Mordred Vienna was published in 2015.