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.
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.
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?
The Winning Story from Our Flash Fiction Competition
We invited all new first year undergraduate Creative Writing students to submit their best teeny tiny stories to our Flash Fiction Competition for stories under 500 words, and would like to thank everyone who entered for taking part.
We are delighted to announce Kira Nelson as the winner with her story ‘EXIT STAGE RIGHT’. The judges enjoyed the way Kira borrowed elements of the script format for her flash fiction piece, artfully bringing together form with theme in this emotive piece.
You can read Kira’s winning story below.
EXIT STAGE RIGHT
I can’t breathe.
I left home at 10 last night, to buy razors. The little pink disposables from Tesco, so brittle yet so deadly.
I can hear them, in the distance, my name on their lips like a song that never ends. But I still can’t breathe. As I drag the first razor down my arm, the cheers grow louder. Or are they jeers? Is it my name they sing or that of the devil?
I have to feel, something. Relief, control, direction, passion. Guilt. That which the crowds can’t give me. Marco comes in, it’s my cue but I still can’t breathe. Dry tears flow freely, the blood fresh, my throat raw but I’m awake. I’m ready. I know Marco sees the razors, I feel his eyes on me but I can’t stop. The show must go on, after all.
Anna, they scream, Anna! The people’s darling, mother says. She must be so proud. I break into a smile as I twirl and fly and flutter across the boards, my silk dress billowing behind me. I speak lines I would never say to people whose names I half remember and the people revel in it! Whooping, hollering, cheering. I feel the red ink dripping onto my shoes and suddenly the noise goes quiet. The smiles of the crowds dissipate and now I breathe.
In, out, in, out.
Are you alright, he says, as I come to. The stagehand, who bought me coffee a few weeks ago. Did I take him home, or did he? I can’t answer, I’m still dancing, here in my living room in my empty apartment. Are you alright, he repeats, and I nod.
“I worry about you, Anna,” he says. “You shouldn’t be alone tonight. Are you sure you don’t want me to stay over?”
I’ll be fine. I twirl and spin in my head as he picks up his keys and his phone and makes for the door. Exit stage right, I call out loudly from behind the scenes. The crowd applauds, begging for an encore.
One last song and the roar erupts from the bathroom taps as I turn on the light. Tesco light pink razors wait patiently, the glint of the blade catching my eye much as I try to turn away. The light dims and the crowds head home, to beat the traffic most likely. I run the bath and browse my phone, no calls, texts from Marco and Julia. Another performance next week.
The bath turns red. The crowd long since gone, I revel in the silence. One more song? Alright, but only a short one.
EXIT STAGE RIGHT.
Kira Nelson was born in Sidcup, UK and raised in Orpington until the age of nine, when she moved to the Middle East. She generally writes either poetry based on her own life experiences or protest poems covering important world events and injustice. She is also in the process of writing several novels alongside pursuing a BA Creative Writing degree at Brunel University London. You can follow her on Instagram @babyfacekiki_
The Pandemic Era shifted our livelihoods, causing many of us to stay home for longer than we would have liked. Covid, the new World Heavyweight Champion, reigned supreme with no clear end in sight. But in that time, and after lots of introspection, Zoom calls and head scratching, the world started turning. The minds of 2021’s Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy class started churning those old rusty cogs again to do what we love. To write.
It is my honour to be a part of such a tenacious bunch, and to have personally designed the cover and name for our star-studded project. The online poll held for the anthology’s name was an exciting contest I knew I couldn’t miss out on. I studied previous anthologies in the series, like Wizards, Werewolves & Weird Enginesand Robots, Rogues & Revenants, and knew that alliteration had to be carried forward. But the theme? My featured story explores the Islamic myth of Jinn, a human-like race only invisible and made of fire. It was from this idea that I wanted to capture the eeriness and fear I had of them as a child, which led to the inspiration of the name. A race of invisible monsters, causing chaos without us ever knowing… aha! Myths, Monsters & Mayhem!
Before designing the book cover, I had no experience in digital drawing, except in editing existing works. I wanted to create something that carried the tradition of the previous covers, whilst adding my own artistic flair to it. I was playing games such as the action-adventure hit Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and had recently gotten into the Islamic-historical series Resurrection Ertugrul, so I wanted to see if I could combine the barbaric Vikings from the game and mountainous, tribal landscape from the series. Hence, I hand-drew the mountain backdrop, with waves crashing over it symbolising chaos. The warriors dotting the cover were an homage to the stories featured, and the intimidating demon on the left was a nod to the Jinn. When learning of our plan to donate to NHS Charities Together, I knew I wanted the wash of blue from the waves to be more apparent, so I added the blue magic graphic to the eyes and hands of the warriors on the cover as a tribute. The cover of this anthology was a new venture for me, as were many of the stories for the writers. But life is about taking those leaps, and when you have the courage to do so, you share those spoils with the world.
We bring to you explorations of myths, tales of grotesquely intriguing monsters and fragments of absolute mayhem. From the kingdoms of ancients to facing fears, you are in for thrills and chills like no other. Gear up for a collection of provocative madness.
Myths, Monsters and Mayhem is the perfect jolt you need right now, whether that be a spark of creativity for a dormant idea or an actual jolt of fright. Oh yes, this isn’t a book by the beach. Welcome to the world of mighty fights, strange encounters and gruelling, gripping tests. All fun times, I assure you. Each story ignites something different in you, and with each of our champion writers showcasing their finest works to date, your eyes will be racing page to page for more.
The world may not be completely back to normal just yet but, for a moment, join our world where fantasies are realised. Smile, laugh and cry with us as you explore this stellar book we’ve had so much joy in creating. We hope this anthology, and our previous anthologies, inspire you like they have inspired us. Who knows, maybe there’s a writer in you, impatiently waiting to burst through with myths, monsters and mayhem of your own?
Having lived abroad for 8 years, Faizan Ahmed had the pleasure of experiencing a myriad of cultures. Faizan is an aspiring Game Designer and Creative Writer. Enthused with a passion for wrestling, superheroes and historical fiction, he channels his experiences to create compelling content for a variety of media outlets. Follow his journey to become a WWE Wrestler on Instagram: @sher.khan.official and catch the latest in his life: @ahmedfaizan68
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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…