Guest blogger Shania King-Soyza, runner-up in the English writing prize 2018-19

Congratulations to Film Studies and English undergraduate Shania King-Soyza who was a runner-up in this year’s English writing prize at Brunel University London.

Read on for Shania’s blog entry!

Being a Black British Girl Uninspired by Meghan Markle

by Shania King-Soyza

 

The façade of Meghan Markle’s acceptance into the Royal Family continues to reinforce Eurocentric standards for black women: civilised, dignified, thin, pale and modest are stereotypical characteristics black women are internally conflicted to appeal to. The idea of Markle opposing this standard is improbable…I thought she was white?

Within a BBC article, black British women commented that Markle’s presence “empowered” them as they caught a glimpse of optimism for diversity – she can “introduce black culture to the Royals” they said. Personally, the idea of a black princess dutty wining her way down the aisle, fresh curls popping through her veil as the wedding party feast on curry goat and plantain, and dance to ‘Candy’ is a bit unrealistic…I mean just a bit. However, if she can indeed project positivity and confidence as these women suggest, then who am I to critique their reactions? Some say her marriage is as momentous as Barak Obama becoming president – therefore she must be significant.

Although, it still doesn’t make sense to me…

Genetically and culturally, Markle does not characterise an average black British woman:

Genetically – Markle is biracial and has never referred to herself as a black woman as (rightfully so) she accepts both her cultures and prefers not to reject either. Markle’s complexion is very fair (almost an olive skin tone); she has straight hair, thin lips and nose – she is a very beautiful woman, yet she shouldn’t be idolised by young black girls. The reality of black women being able to see a representation of themselves in such a hierarchy as the Royal Family is still non-existent, as Markle continues to follow the mainstream, Eurocentric standard of beauty. Being able to see a black princess is still confined to Disney as Markle isn’t a Tiana (2009) – though perhaps a Cinderella (1950)?

Culturally – she was born and raised in America – a vastly different environment. Though American culture is highly influential worldwide (affecting Britain massively), she has not experienced the best of British culture– I mean…does she even like Sunday roast dinners? Dead ass. Not all middle- and working-class British women can relate to Markle’s upbringing (or the life she lives now) because it wasn’t British. She didn’t go to Morley’s after Secondary school; she can’t go to Morley’s now – so in what way is she relatable? Sure, anyone can wear outdated clothes, be a philanthropist and besties with the Queen…right?

Meghan Markle does not inspire me. She’s different and that’s okay.

There are many black British women to idolise and feel empowered by such as Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Letitia Wright, Beverly Knight, Emeli Sandé and Estelle. Rich in melanin and black-girl-magic, they can truly inspire the younger generation to love their skin and prosper. The ‘Markle Effect’ is purely a façade of black excellence trying to infiltrate the monarchy. Uninspiring and improbable, she does not represent me…a black British girl.

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Shania King-Soyza identifies as a black girl though her ethnicity is mixed – Barbados and Sri Lanka.  Location and family influence her perception on current affairs. Though she describes herself as unpatriotic, she embraces British culture and is committed to exposing what life is truly like for those whose voices are often unheard. 

Winner of the Brunel Writer Flash Fiction Prize 2018

All Creative Writing students starting at Brunel University London in September 2018 were invited to submit a piece of flash fiction in any style or genre, which reflected some aspect of becoming a student at Brunel. The quality of the submissions was very high but one piece in particular was felt by the judges (drawn from Brunel’s Creative Writing academic staff) to be the strongest. This is a very well executed and imaginative piece of writing by Chloe Perrin. Many congratulations to Chloe!

You can read Chloe’s winning entry below.

The Creative Writer

by Chloe Perrin

A flock of pigeons scattered as I sprinted through the square. I waved one particularly flustered pigeon out of my face while I dodged a doughnut stand.

“Stop! Police!”

There was no way I was stopping. I was this close to getting away. I skidded so hard I fell and scraped my knee on the damp pavement, which bloody hurt, but at least it gave me a chance to chuck my bloodied screwdriver into a bin before I raced down another alleyway.

I could still hear the police behind me, but further away now. This was good – I was sweating pretty bad and had a stitch like you wouldn’t believe. All I had to do was carry on down the busy street, keep shoving tourists to the side and once I was around the corner I’d be home free, there was nothing in my –

“Chloe?”

I swear I had to stop so fast I probably left a dent in the pavement where my feet skidded. The lady in my way was only marginally better than the police. I tried to stop gulping for breath and stretched my cheeks into a smile.

“Aunt… Olivia,” I panted. “Lovely… Surprise… I’m actually in a bit of a –“

“What are you doing in London? I thought you were up North! Don’t tell me, the job didn’t work out?”

I tried hard not to groan, but Aunt Olivia made it difficult. She was difficult. I could see her already drafting what she was going to say to the family as soon as I left: “Oh yes, she was running through the street like a crazy person, such an oddball. Scruffy, too. Still no job”.

“Actually,” I said. “I… Go to uni here.”

Aunt Olivia’s eyes widened. “You got into university? How marvellous!”

Somewhere in the distance I heard angry voices – “Which way did she go?” I couldn’t wait around too long.

“Yeah, well, clearing so…”

“Which one?”

I blinked. “Hm?”

“Which university?”

Oh, Aunt Olivia, you crafty fox. I started tapping my foot, antsy to leave, when I saw an advertisement on the side of a passing bus. My eyes followed the name…

“Brunnle.” I said.

Aunt Olivia smiled wide. “I think it’s pronounced Brunel. To study Art?”

“Creative Writing, actually.” I tried to sound casual but I definitely heard the clatter of a bin being overturned, and the sounds of steel toe capped boots getting closer.

“Oh,” said Aunt Olivia. “I just assumed Art because of all the red paint.”

She nodded to my jumper. I swallowed.

“Yeah, well, I’m in a society so…”

“There she is! Stop! Police!”

“I really do have to run,” I side stepped my aunt before she could say anything else and gave her a quick wave.

Aunt Olivia waved back. “I’ll call in sometime! I live in Hillingdon, just down the road!”

I turned and ran as Aunt Olivia was bowled over by a group of angry police officers, but I was already down another alleyway, wondering how late Brunel accepted applicants for Creative Writing degrees.

2018 Brunel Writer Flash Fiction Prize Winner

About the author

Chloe Perrin is a 25 year old from Wales and would always rather be reading. While she hopes to be an accomplished novelist and script writer in the future, her main ambition for this year is to keep her cactus alive.

 

 

Anthology Launch: Wizards, Werewolves and Weird Engines (Sat. Oct 6th, 1pm)

Join us at Hillingdon Literary Festival this weekend for the launch of a new anthology:

‘WIZARDS, WEREWOLVES AND WEIRD ENGINES’

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featuring short fiction and non-fiction writing by English / Creative Writing undergraduate students at Brunel University London.

– LIVE READINGS
– FREE REFRESHMENTS
– BOOKS WILL BE ON SALE AT £5 PER COPY

– DON’T MISS IT!
Saturday Oct 6th, 1pm
in the Artaud Building (AA101)

Hillingdon Literary Festival features a wealth of events, from creative writing workshops to poetry readings. Free tickets for the festival are available at Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hillingdon-literary-festival-tickets-49331946179

Calling All Poets!

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Bear with a Sore Head is now recruiting a select number of people to write, perform and record a one minute poem about what childhood reading meant to you. If chosen, your video will be published on our social media, and used to advertise our website, plus it’s an excellent CV booster! For more details please get in contact via email: bearwithasorehead.dyslexia@gmail.com or over the Bear with a Sore Head social media pages: BWASH Facebook BWASH Twitter

We’re very excited to see the kind of work that only talented writers like YOU can create.
(Topics can include: how reading shaped you, what books meant to you, what effect reading had on your childhood etc).

Alternative Comedy Now Conference

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2nd-3rd May 2019, University of Kent, UK

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR)

On 19 May 1979, the Comedy Store opened in Soho, London and precipitated the alternative comedy movement, which would revolutionise the style, subject matter and politics of British stand-up. The current UK comedy industry, from the smallest DIY comedy club to the arena tour, can arguably trace its origins back to the alternative comedy movement of the 1980s.

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) at the University of Kent and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) at Brunel University London, Alternative Comedy Now will be an international interdisciplinary conference taking stock of this crucial cultural movement, forty years on from its inception. In addition to academic papers, the conference will feature involvement from some of the key figures in alternative comedy, a festival of alternative comedy performance, and an exhibition of early alternative comedy material from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

We invite proposals for papers exploring such issues as: precursors and influences; the Comedy Store; the Comic Strip; Alternative Cabaret; the effects of alternative comedy on material and/or performance style; the politics of alternative comedy; the comedy club; individual alternative comedians; the cabaret elements e.g. ranting/dub poets, street performers, etc.; the American alternative comedy scene e.g. UnCabaret, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, etc.; alternative comedy in the provinces; alternative comedy on TV; the legacy of alternative comedy; etc.

We would also welcome non-standard presentations (e.g. performance papers, workshops, etc.).

Please send a 300-word proposal and a short 100-word bionote to Oliver Double (o.j.double@kent.ac.uk) and Sharon Lockyer (Sharon.Lockyer@brunel.ac.uk) by 28th September 2018.

The Brunel Writer Prize 2018

The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student who achieves the highest graded non-fiction article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing programme. The piece of non-fiction should be ‘fresh, original, compelling and well balanced’. This year’s prize is shared between two students: Adam Johnson and Fleur Rollet-Manus. Adam’s piece tells of the video game, Overwatch, and its online community’s refusal to embrace the progressive vision of its creator. Fleur’s article debunks the Hollywood myth of the magazine industry via her personal experience of securing a position with Suitcase Magazine.

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Overwatch: The game that brought the world together (And tore it apart)

Hello, I am a video game nerd. It’s okay, I am comfortable in my albeit pasty skin. Every video game nerd has a weapon of choice, a game they hold in high esteem above all others, and mine is Overwatch. This game was first conceived when Blizzard executive Geoff Kaplan dared to ask the question, ‘what would happen if first person shooter Call of Duty and Disney Pixar Studios went on a blind date, and that date went really well, and it led to a wholesome marriage and inevitably, a beautiful video game birth child?’ Well Geoff, Overwatch happens, and it’s pretty good.

This is an online video game: players are split into two teams of six and battle against one another for an objective, like King of the Hill, for example. It boasts beautiful landscapes, set in a utopian future, and has a roster of twenty-seven characters for players to choose from. There’s an equal number of male and female characters and not all the females are sexualised (this is a rarity in the video game world, so good job Geoff, I guess) but, above all else, what makes this game so special is its diversity. It celebrates so many cultures. For example, there’s this guy from Brazil who’s a successful DJ, he’s called Lucio. Then there’s Diva, a South Korean professional gamer, and there’s Angela, a medic from Switzerland, and she’s going out with a cyborg Japanese ninja called Genji but they can’t meet and have to send forbidden love letters because he’s training in the Tibetan mountains with a robotic monk who is a badass. See? It sounds awesome. It’s wonderfully progressive, there are so many indiscriminate characters and they are all working together for a common cause. So, according to Overwatch the future couldn’t be brighter. According to Overwatch race relations surpass even Martin Luther King’s wildest dreams.

But there is a problem and it’s a big one. To reiterate, Overwatch is an online game. This means that real people are playing the game. Real people are asked to work together, as a team, with people they’ve never met before. Now, it’s all well and good that the characters in the video game are so tolerant of one another, but real people…that’s a whole other story.

Foolish Geoff Kaplan. Much like Dr. King before him, Geoff too, had a dream. This dream was simple. He sought to unite pasty nerds across the globe in a first-person team-based experience. They would greet random strangers online with open arms and together, they would achieve ultimate victory, much like the beloved characters they play as. Overwatch would set a shining example of what the world could be, if discrimination was but a bitter memory. This was Geoff Kaplan’s extraordinary dream.

But Geoff, oh foolish, delusional Geoff. Human beings are terrible, mate. I believe it was Edelman that once said:

‘Man is evil. By nature, man is a beast.’

Of course, Marek Edelman was talking about Warsaw, but I think the point more accurately describes the Overwatch online community. They are just awful. Since playing Overwatch, I have experienced racism a total of fifty-two times and I am white. My sexuality is constantly inferred. I am encouraged to kill myself on a regular basis. The list goes on. I won’t bore you with the details. But it’s bitter irony that a game that celebrates tolerance and diversity couldn’t have a more toxic community.

Poor unfortunate Mr Kaplan. All he wanted was for people to make friends. But a horde of angry nerds across the globe that make up the Overwatch community, have taken Geoff Kaplan’s beautiful dream in their sweaty hands and smashed it into a million tiny pieces.

Way to go humanity.

You suck.

Adam Johnson PicAdam Johnson is a writer, actor and shameless gamer. Hailing from Kent, his proudest achievement is co-writing the musical Super Hero which had a mini pop-up tour around the country with the National Youth Music Theatre. He is soon to perform at the Camden Fringe, and finally, he is better than 51% of all players on Overwatch (he insisted we include this).

 


 

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The Devil No Longer Wears Prada

It’s about time we debunked the myth that the magazine industry is full of angry, designer-clad, triple-shot-half-soy-half-milk-from-mars-extra-hot coffee wielding Miranda Priestly clones. Whilst lifestyle journalism does bring with it the same glitz and glamour displayed in the hit movie and best-selling novel that thinly veils the life behind the glossy pages of Vogue, the stereotypes that suggest the industry is full of girls that survive solely off diet coke and lettuce leaves under a fearful, but perfectly-groomed dictator are both inaccurate and damaging.

Last year through the power of social media, I landed an interview at SUITCASE Magazine, the publication I’d been fangirling over ever since I’d been (unfairly) sacked from playing Farmer Fleur on an Australia banana farm – truly a story for another day. After much to-ing and fro-ing (the then Deputy Editor had commitments in Palm Springs, Havana, Nice) a date and the location was set. I arrived at the swanky, marble-topped bar of Soho House’s member-only Dean Street Townhouse early, by an hour. Unsurprisingly, I had yet to be in a financial position to shell out for a House membership therefore was denied entry and asked to leave until the Deputy Editor (who naturally was a member) arrived. Was this the first sign that I wasn’t elite enough to be writing for the cool kids? Was my tube-creased Zara shirt evidence that I wouldn’t cut it against the clean lines of Valentino’s latest capsule collection? Apparently not, I started the next day.

Having religiously poured over the pastel, perfectly symmetrical, witty pages of every published edition, I expected the SUITCASE offices to be filled with clean, minimalist lines and equally intimidating staff writers. The kind that you long to ask where their boots are from, but already know they’ll reply ‘they’re vintage, duh’. For the second time in as many days my stereotypes were being torn at the seams. Instead, I was met with a sea of articulate, bright and funny individuals who were keen to welcome any new talent – intern status or not.

I’d brushed up on my tea-making skills the night before and had practiced my telephone manner, only to quickly find this to be a waste of time. Making tea and screening phone calls were at the bottom of the agenda and instead within the first hour I was set numerous writing and research tasks. As the weeks went on and my writing went from strength to strength having mastered the SUITCASE voice, my portfolio grew and the contacts I was building within the industry would soon provide me the stepping-stones in which to launch a freelance career. A far cry from juggling multiple Starbucks cups that the film predicted.

The Devil Wears Prada Fashion Editor Nigel sarcastically retorts ‘Yes, because that’s really what this whole multibillion-dollar industry is all about, isn’t it? Inner beauty.’ Well, in fact at SUITCASE it is. Celebrating life through the culture of travel lies at the crux of the publication ensuring that the women, and men, featured have a desire to initiate change through their creative skill set. Perhaps this is why independent publications such as SUITCASE provide invaluable industry experience to hard-working and driven individuals who are eager to absorb the publication’s unique ethos.

One thing that The Devil Wears Prada does correctly reiterate is that a million girls would kill for this job. Yet it brings into question whether it’s just the lure of jet-setting and frequent Heathrow Terminal 5 departures that pulls them in? Remembering the reason why we pursue a creative career has to remain at the forefront of our motivation, as without this we will turn into a bickering clack of airheads and lose the strong, empowering voice that the industry can, and does, possess.

In the words of Miranda Priestley – that’s all.

fleurolletmanus-profileFleur Rollet-Manus can often be found racking up air miles, sitting on an oversize suitcase wrestling with an already strained zip or clutching an extra large coffee while penning her latest travel disaster. She’s currently the Contributing Editor for SUITCASE Magazine and has just landed her first junior editor role at Food and Travel.