Guest Blogger – EMMA FILTNESS!: ‘Keeping it Local’ – Event

Hello fellow writers,

I am a Creative Writing PhD student, a part-time lecturer in English and Creative Writing, and Brunel’s Publications Officer. I came here originally to do the Creative Writing MA and loved every minute of it, so I stuck around for more.

It is shaping up to be a busy but fun start to the 2014 academic year, and I am here to tell you about some great community Creative Writing and Arts events that are happening at Brunel and in the surrounding area over the next month or so, with the hope that some of you might come along and maybe even take part! I have been working quite a bit lately with the wonderful Charlotte who is Arts Programming Officer for the local borough (Hillingdon), and she is keen to get Brunelians involved…but let’s start with me, me ME!

1. As well as teaching some of you for modules such as Introduction to Writing Fiction and Drama, I run a weekly Creative Writing class at Brunel’s Arts Centre. Classes consist of themed writing exercises, prompts and related activities suitable for all levels of experience. Classes are open to all Brunel students, staff and members of the local community. If you are an arts student at Brunel, you can come to the class for free (yes, FREE!). You may want to sign up soon, though, as places are limited (classes begin Tuesday 30 October, 6pm). These classes are ideal if you want somewhere to try out ideas and have the space to write without the pressure of looming deadlines and grades. I make a little anthology of work produced on the course each academic year, so these classes also give you the opportunity to see your work in print (I will even furnish you with a spare copy so you can give one to your mum). View the Arts Centre web pages to find out more, or email me (contact details below).

ArtsCentreAnthology

2. Charlotte is running Bigfest, a one-day festival in Uxbridge town centre on Sunday 28 September, 2014. There will be music, theatre, street performers, a food market and, most importantly, a live literature tent! Brunel writers and locals will be reading poetry or prose between 12 and 4pm. I will be reading a short story from my thesis (stories based on the life stories of little old ladies), Joe Norman who is an English PhD student, lecturer and Brunel’s Communications Officer will be reading a short story (once he manages to find one of his that is suitable to be heard by delicate, innocent ears and does not make people want to be sick) and Brunel Creative Writing MA alumna and local journalist Barbara Fischer will read to you from the memoir she is currently working on in which she recalls her time as a “hack”. Come along and listen (again, it is FREE!) or, if you are feeling brave, why not sign up to read a story or poem? If you would like to give this a go then email me soon so we can reserve you a slot (contact details below)

Bigfest2014

3. Charlotte has also set up an open mic evening at the newly-refurbished Uxbridge Library. The open mic sessions will run every other month or so, with the first one taking place on Friday 3 October at 7.30pm. You don’t need to book, just turn up, pay the teeny tiny £3.50 entry fee (it is free if you sign up to read/sing/strum), and listen to poetry, prose and other acoustic offerings from local writers and musicians. Again, if you are feeling brave and fancy reading, strumming or singing, then let me know and I will make sure there is a slot with your name on it. There will be some empty slots left for those of you that prefer just to rock up on the day and see how you feel…

Open Mic Poster

I should probably stop there before I wear out your eyeballs…if you want to know more about any of the above then please send me an email at E.Filtness@brunel.ac.uk

Please also keep an eye on the Brunel Library blog for information on the Brunel Author Series…thanks for “listening” and I hope to see some of you at one, some or all of these awesome local events!

Happy scribbling,

Emma

‘If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.’

While I have to agree with Benjamin Franklin for the most part, I did start wondering the other day about planning our creative work, and whether we were really setting ourselves up for failure when we just run with an idea without really thinking about where it’s going.

I’ve always loved writing, and until I started my dissertation I didn’t really plan what was going to happen. Sometimes I’d hit a bit of a wall or have some discrepancies in the story, but for the most part, I’d love being surprised by the twists and turns that happened along the way – sometimes it was even as if I was reading the story for the first time. That kind of writing is great because it’s fun and based on reactions, and let’s be honest, sometimes doing something without any real structure is really freeing, and can really lift your writer’s block.

However not planning what direction you’re going in can be really detrimental to your writing. If you have no guidelines, how do you know where to go next? I found this as I got further into my degree. I realised I didn’t have writer’s block just because it happens, I realised I had writer’s block because I didn’t consider which direction I was going to take in the long run.

I don’t think I would have done as well at university if it hadn’t been for the screen writing module I did in second year. The level of planning that goes into writing a screenplay was something completely alien to me at first, but I slowly accepted the fact that I needed to adopt at least some level of structure (and the planning documents contributed to my final grade…)

Once I learned to plan, my work was completed faster and to a much higher standard, and while I still enjoy the freedom of not planning, I can’t actually do it any more. Even something as simple as a blog post, which used to be like stream of consciousness when I’d write on emphaticpanda.blogspot.com, has become a process which begins with a title, followed by in-depth bullet points before I finally open a ‘new post’ tab and actually write down what I’m thinking.

I found a happy medium between planning and having the freedom to be surprised by what I’m writing however. I think it was one of my tutors who suggested we wrote the key events of our narrative on post-it notes and stuck them to the wall, then we knew what would happen, but if we got bored of the storyline we could move around some of the key events to shake things up. Planned freedom. A strange oxymoron.

What do you think? How meticulously do you plan your narratives? Get in touch in the comments, or tweet us at @BrunerlWriter

A Guide to Surviving the Summer

No, this isn’t about safety abroad or using sun protection; (although we do advise those things) this is about how to get through the long summer months which fall between exam period and fresher’s week without losing your mind.

Summer

The last week of term after exams always feels free, and celebratory, but what then? What do you do from late May to September? Of course, a lot of students have jobs or internships, but in the last few years it has seemed more difficult to find these opportunities, which means you may lose motivation.

So what can you do? Well…

Write something – you have all the time in the world now to just write something you want to write, not because you’ve been told to, not because you have an impending deadline. You could write something fantastic that would get published, you could write something utterly terrible that you never show to anyone, that won’t get you a bad grade. You could explore and develop some of the things you wrote over the academic year (because don’t we all improve so much between week 1 and now?) The point is that if you do something which feels productive, it is likely to motivate you to do other productive things.

Take up a hobby – It doesn’t have to be a new craft, it can be something that slowly became less prominent as the academic year got more and more crazy. What do you love to do? Think about it, do you miss it? Do it. Again, sometimes it’s difficult to get motivated to even do things that you know you love doing when you feel like you have nothing to do, but seriously, go and make a pie, bake an upside down cake, build a computer, make your own dress, plant some vegetables. Seeing and holding the product of your own work is extremely fulfilling.

Read a book – Read two books, read ten, read a hundred. This is your opportunity to pick up any book in the world and read it just because you want to. Apart from being one of the best feelings in the world, it will still hone your reading skills and your writing skills. One of the first things I was taught at Brunel was ‘the more you read, good great or terrible, the better your writing will be’.

Do voluntary work – If you’re looking for actual paid work, then voluntary work won’t get in the way. It is flexible, it’s far easier to get into than a paid position, because in general, if you have the time, you are qualified. It will also look great on your CV and will get you out of the house for a few hours each week.

Start a blog – This kind of goes hand in hand with ‘Write something’, but then again, you blog doesn’t have to be for stories or your other creative work. You can take anything you enjoy and blog about it. Film reviews, books, games, crafts, cooking, health and fitness, nail art. The world, as the say, is your oyster when it comes to blogs, and it’s hard to explain how surreal and satisfying it is seeing views accumulate from all over the world.

Those are a few tips, hopefully they’re useful to you in some way. What are your tips for staying productive over the summer?

*** Don’t forget to follow @brunelwriter on Twitter for information about competitions, job opportunities and quotes of the day.

*** Want to contribute? Check out ‘Submit’ tab!

The Voices Inside Our Heads Launch Party

On the 19th March, the team of editors and writers behind Brunel’s first ever anthology of short stories came together to celebrate its launch at the Antonin Artaud building. Please click on the poster image below to see photographs from what was a wonderful evening. For further details of this ambitious project, please see the press release and earlier post hereBrunel-Anthology-Launch-1

 

Dark Aemilia and the Creative Writing PhD by Sally O’Reilly

Dark_Aemilia

I enrolled on the MA Creative Writing, The Novel at Brunel after being published by Penguin books – and then dropped when my second book didn’t sell. I wanted to go back to basics, re-ignite my love for writing and develop a stronger awareness of genre and the commercial possibilities of writing. I enjoyed this experience so much that I ended up studying for a PhD and writing a historical novel about Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, one of several women who may have been Shakespeare’s muse and the inspiration for his later sonnets: his Dark Lady.

Writing fiction in an academic context was a major departure for me, and I found it challenging and strange to begin with. My first two novels were written instinctively and intuitively, and I was loathe to plot or plan anything. My third was carefully crafted, researched in great detail, and forced me to write in a way I had never tried before. I found that I could only make the story ‘live’ if I wrote it in the first person, and this meant trying to produce a convincing facsimile of a sixteenth century voice.

This would have seemed like an insurmountable problem if I had not had the support and advice of my supervisor Celia Brayfield and my second supervisor Dr Elizabeth Evenden, an expert in Early Modern writing and publishing.  They provided me with structure and feedback, asking pertinent questions about the direction of my draft and the rigour of my research, and giving me their notes and comments to help me shape and develop my drafts. One of the areas that really stretched me intellectually was the critical component of the work, which was an analysis of the various invented versions of Shakespeare which writers have imagined over the last two hundred years. I was fascinated by this, and it helped me invent my own version of Shakespeare with more confidence and sophistication. I realised that so little is known about this iconic figure that writers have carte blanche to concoct their own version, and to project their own fantasy of an uber English writer onto this empty space.

The result was not only a doctorate but a marketable novel I could be proud of. I found the writing and research process hugely rewarding – my time at Brunel was one of the most productive of my writing career so far. And I certainly succeeded in my goal of reinventing myself as historical fiction writer.

Dark Aemilia is published by Myriad Editions in the UK this month, and by Picador US in June. Rights have also been sold in Italy and Turkey.

Sally’s blog, How to be a Writer, is here.

The Voices Inside Our Heads

Brunel University’s first anthology of short stories by Creative Writing and Creative Writing & English Students at Brunel University

Anthology

BOOK LAUNCH 19th March 2014, 6pm, Antonin Artaud Building

Readings & Minglings

EVERYBODY WELCOME

Just turn up on the door

ENQUIRIES: brunelanthology2014@gmail.com

BOOKS will be ON SALE at £5 each

29 students, 29 stories

The characters in this superb book of short stories by Brunel undergrads range from a self-harming schoolboy to a Buddhist monk in Thailand; from cheating husbands to a mother hell-bent on plastic surgery. You’ll also find ghosts, broken relationships, loss of religious faith and a devastating flood in Burma, as well as fantasy fiction including a sea witch, a warrior girl who turns into a wolfhound and warring squirrels. You’ll come across quite a few crazies too, including a pathological liar, a serial killer, a boy stalker and a man whose itch gets so out of control he loses it completely.

Writers

Lauren Anderson, Neelam Appaddoo, Chloe Bines, Kirsty Capes, Charlotte Chappell, Stephanie Dickenson, Laura Dunnett, Emily Elicker, Mafaal Faal-Mason, Johno Fagan, Nathan Feldman, Vanessa Gibbs, Bryn Glover, Veronica Grubb, Sophie Hart, Emma Jeremy, Sophie Jones, Jemima Khalli, Molly McCabe, Rebecca Passmore, Rebecca Pizzey, Xenia Rimmer, Ashley Roye-Banton, Joanne Showunmi, Romany Stott, Samantha Symonds, Matthew Thomas, Hannah Varney, Rebbeca West

Inspiration

Inspiration can strike at any given moment, although it most likely will strike at a really inconvenient time. Unfortunately that’s just how inspiration is. Last term I was just sitting quietly in Starbucks when all of a sudden I had a great idea for a novel and a few characters. For those writers who don’t always carry a journal I highly recommend you do so you can avoid texting yourself the idea.

When you go for looking for inspiration you most likely won’t find it. Inspiration is a tricky little bugger. Fortunately, for the times when we are looking for inspiration, we can easily cultivate it.

  1. Music

The relationship between music and writers is often a fond one. Most writers nowadays have a playlist of music they create for each novel they write. This can be a really useful tool if you want to create a certain mood in your writing. If you still don’t have an idea for next writing piece, flash fiction exercises where you have to write down the first thing that comes to mind when listening to a piece of music can be a great way to get started.

  1. Photography

It is often said that one photograph is worth a thousand words. Photographs can provide you with a certain setting, mood or tone that you potentially could capture in your prose. A few good photography websites worth a look are the Lonely Planet and In-Public.

  1. Experience, experience, experience.

I am a firm believer in ‘write what you know.’ Writing from past or present experiences can provide you with interesting scenes in your prose that are unique to you.  Writing what you know can also make your writing more authentic and believable. This does not only apply to creating events and circumstances in your novel but can also be used to create characters. More often then not, when I am developing characters for my prose I take the traits and personality of my friends and family and mix them to create a realistic and interesting individual.

You can also gain inspiration many different ways but these are just a few to get you started. If you’re still staring at that blank page not ready to dive in at the deep end then try something on this list. You never know, you might just find you’ll be inspired.

Kate McKim.