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Wendy Allen is an unpublished poet.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.
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.
After the success of our Warsan Shire event in February, we are pleased to announce that our next talk in the Brunel Author Series will be with the internationally acclaimed author, journalist and broadcaster Will Self.
Professor Self will read from his work and then discuss his writing with Matt Thorne, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University.
Will Self is currently the Professor for Contemporary Thought at Brunel University, and has a worldwide reputation for his award winning writing. At the time of sending this e-mail, he is the prolific author of nine works of fiction, including the Booker short-listed Umbrella, six collections of non-fiction, three novellas and six short story collections. Will is a well-known face on several television programmes such Newsnight and Have I Got News For You, as well as a contributor to many BBC Radio 4 programmes. He is perhaps best known at Brunel for his Psychogeography course, a form of urban geography that employs walking around liminal spaces as a way of exploring the relationship between the environment and the mind.
Matt Thorne is the award nominated author of several books of fiction including Booker long-listed Cherry and most recently a biography of Prince.
The event will take place at 6pm on Wednesday 21st May in the Library, Bannerman Centre, Brunel University, Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH. Booking is essential. Free places can be reserved by e-mailing email@example.com.
Books will be available to buy on the evening from Waterstones.
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 here.
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.
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.
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