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.
Interview with Brunel student and founder of Kypsel, Luca Mouzannar
Brunel Writer – Tell us about Kypsel. What is it and how does it work?
Luca Mouzannar – Kypsel is a platform that directly connects writers with their fans and enables them to take part in the artist’s growth. On Kypsel, writers can freely publish and sell their work with the advantage of keeping full control over their work. We allow artists to publish their work with a few clicks without interfering in the artistic and creative integrity of the product. Once a book, web comic, music track or short story is published any buyer can resell the work to their friends on their own social networks. In return, the fans get a referral commission for every converted sale.
BW – How did you come up with the idea for creating this platform? Did it come from your own experience of trying to publish/sell creative work or did you simply see a gap in the market?
LM – A little bit both actually. One of the co-founders tried to publish work through traditional publishers and faced several issues – mainly low royalties, no flexibility in claiming these and a lot of changes to the creative product. At the same time, being surrounded by artists who do good work, I could clearly see a gap in the market, especially in the era of social media where it is so simple to publish a post but very hard to publish and sell creative work. When we think that Harry Potter was rejected by many publishers before finally seeing the light, it puts a lot into perspective!
BW – Has your experience of studying creative writing at Brunel played a part in the building of Kypsel as you continuously interact with young creatives?
LM – Of course! I have met so many talented people who have so much to express and I can see how difficult it is to get our work out there. Fans should be able to decide what is good work without any buffer. I’ve seen so many artists and creative talents fall into jobs they hate because they aren’t able to monetise their craft. Before we know it, a side job becomes a main job and writing becomes a hobby instead of a craft we can live off.
BW – Why should creatives choose to publish with Kypsel? How does it benefit them over other more known online platforms such as Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, etc.?
LM – The first big advantage is that Kypsel is free to use and offers higher royalties than any other platform. Remuneration is a lot fairer and the creative product itself remains untouched. Kypsel is more of a self-publishing tool than a publisher. It is extremely easy to start and work can be published with a few clicks. It is also a non-exclusive platform which allows creatives to use all the means at their best disposal to get their work out there and see for themselves what works best.
LM – We also believe the referral engine is unique to Kypsel and will incentivise fans to buy, refer and sell the work instead of downloading it for free. It is a great way to fight piracy and we believe it will amplify the authors’ success and give them access to audiences they might not have reached when using other platforms. We like to refer to this video to illustrate a lot of the issues with the bigger platforms.
BW – Do you see self-publishing as the future of publishing art or are renowned publishing companies and music corporations still the way to go?
LM – We sincerely believe self-publishing is the future of publishing because renowned publishers and music corporations take most of the profits and leave very little for the artists who put in the work. Fans are also the ones who promote the art they enjoy, so the role of those companies is becoming more and more obsolete, especially in the era of algorithms and social media. Another issue is speed. People, especially the younger generation, enjoy content more than the form it comes in and want it faster than ever. We also tend to trust people more than big entities so Kypsel exists to cut the middleman who slows down the process and doesn’t split profits fairly.
BW – Finally, where is Kypsel headed? What can we expect from this platform in the future?
LM – We are hoping it will grow exponentially and allow young artists to express themselves so we can keep reading the stories we love and listening to music we enjoy. We want to connect artists with their fans and expand our offer to include any virtual goods such as short movies and apps. Our vision is simply to free content from the boxes that it is usually put into because of industry standards that don’t match the current realities of web and social media and we believe this can go very far.
BW – Thank you Luca!
You can visit Kypsel here and start sharing your work today!
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.
I sit on the green velvet couch in my third floor flat staring out of the closed door to my Juliet balcony, sweltering in the sky-blue heat, and I’ve got no idea why they call it a balcony when it’s just a door that opens onto fresh air mediated by a grey metal railing overlooking the faded tarmac of a car park and the ugly Tetris-piled red brick of the building next door and I think surely Juliet must’ve had better than this as I clutch a navy can of fly and wasp killer, knuckles white, lid off and in a perpetual “position of readiness,” to quote my secondary school PE teacher, Ms Rugg (I wonder what became of her) during enforced netball training thinking they didn’t teach me this, they didn’t prepare me for this, there wasn’t a class on how to deal with wasps building a nest above the door to an invisible balcony during a pandemic and I’ve been googling all morning, clicking on hit after hit of perfect nightmare material – stalker-lens close-ups of antennae and all those legs and stripes and stingers that can be used again and again unlike bees, I wish they were bees, and pictures of round grey nests that look like paper mâché creations from a hell-dimension, and home-remedies offering wisdom like spray surfaces with peppermint oil or a mixture of clove oil and lemongrass and I haven’t even got a spray-bottle let alone the peppermint oil, only lavender and frankincense for my oil burner but there’s no scientific evidence so I panic-order two kinds of wasp killer with Prime with a dose of extremely short-lived vegetarian guilt and after check-out it tells me they won’t be here for another week as apparently they’re not “essential” and the property management team are not answering their phones as it’s not only a pandemic but a fucking bank holiday and no amount of Easter eggs will ever make this okay.
I binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning in an attempt to distract myself from the hive. I somehow managed to forget just how amazing Sandra Oh’s hair is, and the rest of her, to be honest, and think I finally need to watch Killing Eve soon. I’d be under the duvet ideally, but it’s too hot what with the door and window closed and the evil little shits keep nosing at the window. When I turn off the lights to sleep, I see tiny flitting shadows everywhere, but I know they are not in my room – they are inside my head. I dream of wasps, obviously.
My partner bought me a chocolate egg, a posh one from M&S, but I managed to drop it somewhere between the bag-for-life and the kitchen worktop, and it feels like the perfect metaphor for life this Spring. I eat most of my stoved-in egg anyway and feel sick afterwards.
Brian from Rentokil called. He’s coming over tomorrow. I eat the last of my egg and a whole bag of Colin the Caterpillars. I’m on Season Two already (which is impressive, even for me).
Brian from Rentokil arrived a whole hour early and I could’ve kissed him, social distancing be damned (relax, I didn’t).
Dr Emma Filtness is a poet and lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University London, currently zine-making and binge-watching her way through the apocalypse. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Filtness and find her poetry project exploring nature and the dark feminine @cultofflora on Instagram.
As I write this from my bedroom, the sun is shining through the window, the birds are singing and I can hear a neighbour exercising to Andra Day’s song, ‘Rise Up’. My next-door neighbours are entertaining their toddler, and she is giggling at their duck noises while the neighbour across is washing dishes in her kitchen. Separated by windows, walls, and doors, we are all aware of each other and although our lives are different, we are collectively trying to get through this pandemic, each with our individual stories, worries and emotions.
As for many of us, this is the first time I have witnessed global fear and collective grief, not only for the uncertainty of the future, but most importantly, for the lives lost within the NHS, communities, family members and friends. With close friends working in pharmacies and Intensive Care Units, a vulnerable and high-risk parent, and elderly family members, I find myself taking precautions that seemed unimaginable before. In between essential bi-weekly hospital visits and once a week shopping trips, I am haunted by the fear in people’s eyes, floored by older members of the community who are unable to get groceries delivered, and the rising mortality rates where human lives are turned into numbers on the news. In contrast, staying safe at home and smelling of pure alcohol and disinfectant wipes is a small compromise.
Although I limit watching the news and social media, the impact of the Coronavirus is constantly on my mind and I have to remind myself that productivity is not the be-all and end-all. Some days I get on with university work, attend Zoom meditation and yoga classes, read, write a few lines of poetry or exercise. Most of the time, I watch Netflix, funny animal videos on YouTube, or end up daydreaming, aware that my mind is processing this current climate and forcing anything would be counterproductive. As I connect remotely with friends and call members of my book club, I hear stories of struggle, change and resilience. Talking to these members brings intergenerational connectedness centred around individuals who tell me their narratives of surviving wars, migration and several losses. Or my father, who recalls stories of waiting in six-hour queues for essentials such as bread and petrol, while growing up in Sudan. In these moments I am reminded that we are hardwired for survival.
In the future, this will be our story to tell. For now, all we can do is connect with each other, give ourselves time to feel, grieve, and remember, because like the sun that sets, we too will rise.
Marie-Teresa Hanna is a British Egyptian-Sudanese writer, interested in BAME, Middle Eastern and North African women’s fiction. She is currently completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University London. In her spare time, she runs a monthly hospice book club and always enjoys listening to podcasts, and long river walks while contemplating life. If you would like to follow her thoughts and ramblings, find her on Twitter @MarieTeresaHan3.
“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Brunel Writer is a young adventure, borne of the minds of the lecturers and students of creative writing at Brunel University in West London.
Brunel Writer believes in the importance of artistic integrity and knowledge, and here we endeavour to bring these two institutions together. We wish to provide creative minds with the knowledge they need to progress with their work, and the space in which to showcase it. While some websites offer insight into the creative industries, and others offer portfolio space, few offer both. Here we strive to give Brunel arts students to demonstrate their prowess as well as stay up-to-date with what’s going on the industry.
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We are currently accepting submissions of articles and creative work from Brunel University students studying within the School of Arts.