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.
Brunel Writer had the pleasure of talking to author Kirsty Capes about her debut novel Careless and ask about the process of writing and publishing it. Have a read at the conversation and don’t forget to check out Careless and Kirsty’s social media page (@kirstycapes.author).
Brunel Writer: Hi Kirsty, it is a pleasure to have you at Brunel Writer! Your debut novel Careless is out now, can you tell us about the story and the inspiration behind it?
Kirsty Capes:Careless follows a young girl named Bess who is in foster care when she falls pregnant at age fifteen. The book follows her, and her best friend Eshal, as she decides what to do about her pregnancy, and as both girls navigate the treacherous terrain of female adolescence. I wanted to write a book about someone in foster care, as there are so few out there in the mainstream right now. I also wanted the book to tell a story about female friendship and unconditional love above all else.
BW: You have been working on this book for over five years, is that so? Which has been your favourite part of the process?
KC: Yes, I started writing the book when I was 21, and now it’s coming out when I’m approaching 28! I think my favourite part of the process has been getting to know my characters and getting stuck into the story. I also found the editing a really fun process which brought me closer to the text and helped me to get more out of the story.
BW: You studied Creative Writing at Brunel and started writing Careless whilst completing your PhD, how do you think your time at Brunel has influenced your journey?
KC: I’m a bit biased, but I think creative writing at Brunel is the BEST. The faculty are amazing. Every lecturer who taught me during my degrees at Brunel shaped my writing and my approach to storytelling in really profound and positive ways. I am forever grateful to all of them for being such relentless champions of the students and their work.
BW: We have seen you have been working on your second book, how much can you tell us about it at this point? Is going to be a sequel to Careless or a new story? And when can we expect it?
KC: I can’t tell you very much at all! But it will be a new book, not related to Careless, although it will explore similar themes of coming of age, loneliness and learning to love yourself. It will be out in 2022.
BW: Lastly, what advice would you give to any creative writing student thinking of writing their own novel?
KC: Hard work pays off! Don’t give up, even when you get knockbacks. Take all of the advice you can get, and read as much as you can.
BW: Thank you and we wish you the best of luck!
Careless by Kirsty Capes is published by Orion and is out now. You can order your copy here.
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…
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 email@example.com . We ask that the texts don’t exceed 800 words and that you include an author photo and short bio.
The initial idea for what became The Grim Reaping of Harvey Grieves arrived in 2015. It was the start of my first screenwriting module at Brunel, and I had to come up with an original idea for a ten-page short screenplay. Our tutor, Max Kinnings, had been very fair, giving us a week to produce just a title and logline to share with the class. Being completely unable to think of a dramatic idea I could do justice to in only ten pages, I decided on a comedy about an old man running away from the Grim Reaper. Quirky, right? Original? Fun? I certainly hoped my peers would think so because the only thing rivalling my fear of sharing my work is the eternal need for validation.
Though the insistence on having us share severely unpolished ideas with the class took me some time to recover from, that second year screenwriting module was one of the most enjoyable and – perhaps more importantly – most useful of the course, and for one reason in particular. Far more than any other, this module stressed the importance of developing an idea and editing your story before even starting the first draft, ensuring that major issues are resolved before they become deeply embedded in a full-fledged script. It’s something that has helped me a lot in my writing post-graduation, and something I wish I had kept in mind while writing my major project in third year – but the less said about that, the better.
So, I wrote the script, I wrote an essay about the script (why, Brunel?), I handed it in and… I got a B+. Not bad. I guess it was actually kinda funny. After that, the script just sat in a drawer (well, on a USB, this is the 21st century) for a few years, I graduated, didn’t write a thing for a shamefully looooong time, until…
2018. I’m back home with my parents in the North, I have no job, no social life, and no local production company wants to exploit my unpaid labour in exchange for ‘experience’ (believe me, I tried hard to persuade them). In my attempts to find creative opportunities that may help me scrounge something resembling a career, I sign up to a script surgery being run as part of the Independent Directions (INDIs) festival in Leeds. The only problem is since I have barely written a thing since graduating, I have no new scripts to submit, only that old thing gathering virtual dust in the digital drawer. My assigned reader was writer and actor Gaynor Faye, and her feedback (along with the fresh eyes that come after not looking at something for years) gave me a new perspective on the script and a new desire to work on it.
So I did. And then… back in the drawer. It didn’t come out again until this year when I submitted it for feedback at the recently-formed Northern Screenwriters Table, an online writer’s group that meets bi-weekly to feedback on members’ scripts. The response was very positive, and even before the meeting went ahead, I received an enquiry from one member asking if I had spoken to a director or producer about having it made.
Up until this point, I had always considered production for this script to be a non-starter. All the advice on making short films says to keep it simple, with one location and a limited cast. They don’t say ‘how about a chase across town involving a hospital, a bus, and an ambulance?’ I had no experience in making short films, and this script seemed too complicated, too expensive to make. This changed when Simon came on board because now the project had a producer with experience compiling budgets and who knew how to go about sourcing the necessary funding. Of course, the process of making the film cannot go ahead until that funding is secured, and at this stage, nothing is certain. We have applied (and continue to apply) to a number of industry sources, and are asking individuals to invest in the project through Kickstarter, where we are offering a selection of perks (such as exclusive merchandise and behind-the-scenes access) to backers.
The journey from that class in 2015 to here has been a long one, and with any luck, it will end up longer still, seeing the project through production, post-production, and the festival circuit. Most of it until this point though, has been spent with the script sitting untouched on my computer, so I suppose the moral of the story is (and this is something I am still reluctant to learn myself) – your work goes nowhere if you never show it to anyone. And if you do… perhaps you’ll find someone as passionate about it as you are.
You can follow the project on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) at @harveygrieves.
Alice Lassey graduated in 2017 with a first-class honours degree in Theatre and Creative Writing. An aspiring filmmaker, she currently writes on film at her blog Extended Cut (www.extendedcut.co.uk) alongside developing script and prose fiction projects. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @alicelassey.