So You’re in the Middle of a Global Pandemic: An Abridged Guide to Surviving the Boredom of Lockdown

by Kasey Smith

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I find there is nothing greater about living under glorious capitalism than the never ending list of pointless tasks it spawns, which pile up in the back of your mind and fill you with so much anxious stress that you are forced to constantly self-motivate to make sure you don’t slip down a rung on the towering ladder of meritocracy. So, now that we find ourselves in a time without structure, like a tacked-on poem in a portfolio submitted five minutes before a deadline, it is important to seek out things to do. Because God forbid you stopped working, even in the midst of a global crisis.

1. Structure

Keeping a routine to your day is important, so here’s a list of things I like to do to ensure I make the most of this period of isolation: enforce a regular sleep schedule; eat three meals a day and stay hydrated; scream out of my window, ‘next, please’ and ‘would you like a bag?’ so as to not lose the authority in my customer service voice; exercise; meditate to keep the existential dread at bay; rearrange my room and then walk around it as if it isn’t the same room I’ve been in every day for the past… how long has it even been? What day is it? Who am I? Will we ever be let out? I miss Brexit.

2. Creative Output

Hahahaha you have no excuse now! All those novel ideas, poetry concepts, short story inspirations have all been waiting patiently to finally meet the page, and what better time than in a period of impending societal collapse? Think of the witty commentary you can make on the Boris government. Of the flourishing nature outside that reminds us everyday that we were, in fact, the fucking problem. Of how America seems to be eating itself alive. And how, no matter the amount of students that are on campus, the smell of weed still drifts in through my open window to remind me that someone is having a far more relaxed afternoon than I am. So, sit down at your desk (or equivalent) and start writing. After all, great art is born from interesting times, or so they say. Who says, you ask? They. Them, over there.

3. Self Care and Mental Health

I consider myself to be very lucky when it comes to the support network that I have. That’s why, if, like me, you are unfortunate enough to have to deal with a mental health issue, I just want to remind you to take care of yourself. Even if it is just doing one thing a day that makes the burden a little bit lighter. I understand how difficult it can be to force yourself out of bed in the morning after a night of staring at the ceiling, or to force yourself to eat when you feel so nauseous you could vomit, or to reach out to friends or family for help or even to just be sociable. I can’t say I know how you feel exactly, but I’ve been in very similar situations and I’m sorry. At the bottom of this post are some links that you may find useful.

I know I run the risk of sounding very cliché but fuck it, I believe that everyday you prove that negative voice inside your head wrong, it gets quieter. And honestly, that little bastard has done nothing for you so far. So just do your best, even if that means doing something small every so often.

It’s a strange time to be alive, especially when you consider that in ten to fifteen years time a reluctant seventeen year old is going to write a really half-assed history essay on everything happening right now. But, at least this lockdown gives us all a chance to work on the stories we will tell future generations. You want to know what Grandpa did during the great lockdown of 2020? Well, come and sit on my lap and I will tell you about the time I stared at a wall for two whole months and forgot what we called the days of the week.

Mental Health Helplines

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Kasey Smith is a first year creative writing student at Brunel University London, who hopes to go on to write novels, poetry, and plays and maybe have some of them published.

Nest: A Covid-19 Easter Mini-Saga

by Emma Filtness

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Friday

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.

Saturday

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.

Sunday

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.

Monday

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).

Tuesday

Brian from Rentokil arrived a whole hour early and I could’ve kissed him, social distancing be damned (relax, I didn’t).

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meDr 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.

Living in the Age of Coronavirus

by Marie-Teresa Hanna

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.

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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.

 

Brunel Creative Writing MA Students Write, Record and Mix an Album in a Week

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By Alex and Simone Ayling-Moores

The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone. Whether it’s our collective isolation and restrictions leaving home comforts, or those fears and concerns for both loved ones, and those we’ll never meet: it is a uniquely uncertain time for almost all of us around the globe.

As both musicians and music teachers (and aspiring writers too!) we had the prospect of losing  a big chunk of our income so, instead of twiddling our thumbs, we decided to try and make something positive from all of this.

Thus the challenge to write, record and mix an album, all in one week, was something we set ourselves… and WE DID IT! Pushing through early mornings and very late evenings, the compositions were crafted and recorded with passion (and a lot of persistence!).

It wasn’t easy. But that’s not to say that it wasn’t fun too!

The album, entitled ‘Escapism’, was started on Monday (March 23rd) and was released Sunday (March 29th). It’s an eclectic album, which presents listeners with a smorgasbord of musicality. From dark harmonies, and electronic distortions, to offbeat lyrics and exotic rhythms, the album blends styles and genres to surprise, entertain and delight.

Like its title suggests, we want it to be a space you can escape into for forty minutes or so, and catch a little novelty and intrigue in moments of dismay and doubt.

‘Escapism’ is available for download through the link below for merely a fiver.

Any download or share really is massively appreciated – if we can make up even an hour’s worth of lost earning from this, it will all have been worth it!

https://alexandsim.bandcamp.com

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Brunel Writers Series 2020

Hosted by Bernardine Evaristo

Be sure not to miss this year’s Writers Series at Brunel! Starting this Wednesday January 29th, our very own Emma Filtness will be interviewing author Christy Lefteri in an event around her bestselling novel, The Beekeeper of Aleppo. Attendance is free, with refreshments provided! You just need to book your spot here.

All of the events in the series will take place on Wednesdays at 5.30pm, in the Antonin Artaud building room 101 (except for the final session with Frazer Lee on March 4th, which will be hosted in Gaskell 012). Check out the full line-up of writers in the poster below, or click here for more details on each event.

We hope to see you there!

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

Brunel Creative Writing students win 1st Prizes in short story competitions

1st Prize Winner R.V. Maloney. Source: http://www.dorsetfictionaward.co.uk/uploads/1/0/2/0/102049858/published/shortlisteepicture_1.jpg
Dorset Fiction 1st Prize Winner R.V. Maloney

Congratulations to 2nd year Brunel University London Creative Writing student R.V. Maloney, who was awarded  1st place in the international Dorset Fiction competition for her short story ‘The Greater Crested Tern’.

R.V. wrote the story following her weekly Creative Writing coursework prompts. She will be awarded a £500 cash prize, and her story will be featured in Dorset Fiction’s yearly anthology.

The judges said, “Within a thousand words, the story is threaded with blooming motifs and detail which are in turn sewn in to a wonderfully metaphysical piece. The writer uses an interesting range of sometimes obfuscated literary devices, which bed well into the prose. The creative and multilevelled story instantly caught our attention, and continued to blossom in our minds long after reading.”

Check out an interview with the author, and read her award-winning story, at the Dorset Fiction Award website.

Photo Credit: Scarlet Page / Henley Literary Festival
Photo Credit: Scarlet Page / Henley Literary Festival

Joint Honours Games Design and Creative Writing graduate Aimée White was awarded First Prize in the 2017 Dragonfly Tea Short Story Competition.

Aimée’s winning story ‘Generation Lotus’ was written to the contest theme of Journey and was selected by a panel of judges including comedian/writer Helen Lederer, journalist and novelist Paula Cocozza, and Daily Mail Literary Editor Sandra ParsonsAimée’s impressive £1500 1st Prize in the Main contest category was announced at an Awards Ceremony at Henley Literary Festival.

You can view all the 2017 Dragonfly Tea Short Story Competition winners and runners up in the Main and Children’s categories here.

 

Calling all budding designers: Book Cover Design Competition #Horror #SciFi #Fantasy

Book Cover Design Competition
Horror, Sci-fi & Fantasy

Brunel University London’s English & Creative Writing department is developing its first ever Horror, Science-fiction & Fantasy anthology entitled:

‘FAERIES, FIENDS & FLYING SAUCERS’

The anthology features a range of English & Creative Writing students’ short stories and non-fiction writing and launches on the 21st of March 2017.

The competition for the cover design is open to all Brunel University London Undergraduate students and as well as seeing your design used on all copies of the book (paperback & ebook) you can win 10 paperback copies of the book. Plus if you’re an aspiring graphic designer it’s a great addition to your CV.

The anthology includes three distinct genres –
Horror
Science fiction
Fantasy
– as the title suggests. So let your imagination run wild!

The design needs to be:

  • High-resolution, 300 dpi .tif/.jpg format OR vector eps format.
  • Size: A5 (148x210mm) plus a spine on the left (17x210mm).
  • Please keep back-up copies of your working files so if you win they can be easily edited.

Entries must be submitted by:
Friday 3rd of February
by 5pm

to Mr Frazer Lee via email (frazer.lee@brunel.ac.uk)
AND in hard copy form in an addressed envelope handed in at the Gaskell Building reception.

Good luck & happy designing!

 

Don’t miss: Hillingdon Literary Festival

image002When: 7th-9th October 2016

Where: Antonin Artaud Building, Brunel University

What: A FREE weekend of literary performances from over twenty-five bestselling and globally renowned authors with a lively festival atmosphere.

The festival will be home to  vibrant conversations, inspiring readings, book signings, masterclasses and workshops. Some of the author highlights this year include:

Amit Chaudhuri – Celebrated novelist, critic and musician, author of Oysseus Abroad

Samantha Shannon – Internationally bestselling author of The Bone Season series.

Will Self – Professor of Contemporary Thought at Brunel University London; journalist, political commentator, literary critic; author.

Ken Livingstone – Prominent Labour Party member, former Mayor of London, author of Being Red: A Politics for the Future.

Benjamin Zephaniah –World-renowned performance poet, activist and commentator; Professor in Creative Writing at Brunel University London.

Matt Haig – British novelist. His book Reasons to Stay Alive, a memoir about the author’s experience with depression, has been chosen as a World Book Night 2016 book.

Shappi Khorsandi – Author and comedian who has appeared on Channel 4’s Comedy Gala and Sport Relief. Her debut novel is Nina is Not Ok.

This year’s Hillingdon Literary festival also features its first communitysam_1204-768x576 writing competition, with shortlisted entries published in an anthology ‘Writing Local|Thinking Global‘ and an overall winner of £250 to be announced at the event. Several of our Brunel Creative Writers are on the list so come along to support them and read their work!

All events are free, but “Weekend Ticket” reservation via the website is strongly recommended, as tickets are selling out quickly! 

More info & tickets @ www.HillingdonLiteraryFestival.com

Screening: Xiaolu Guo’s UFO IN HER EYES

What: Screening and Q&A

When: Tuesday 24th May at 5-8pm

Where: Antonin Artaud 003

As part of next week’s Brunel Festival (http://www.brunelfestival.co.uk) there will be a free screening of  Xialou Guo’s ‘UFO in Her Eyes’, a feature film about a peasant woman in a Chinese village who claims that she has seen a UFO. As a result everything in her life and that of her community undergoes a tremendous transformation. The film explores identity, feminism and globalisation.

Xiaolu Guo has created a vocabulary of her own, both visual and linguistic, that reflects her sense of bXiaolu Guoeing caught between Chinese and English, and her experience growing up during her home country’s wild transition from totalitarian enclave to the new shrine of global capitalism. An “alien” at home and in the global intellectual elite, Guo is an ideal interpreter of the sense of alienation generated by social upheaval and globalization“- Toronto Film Festival, 2011

Xiaolu Guo wrote the novel, script and directed the film and will available for a Q & A session after the screening; a great opportunity to pick an acclaimed novelist and scriptwriter’s brains, as well as see an award winning film. Don’t miss it!

“UFO in her Eyes is surrealist and ironic, but also pierced with melancholy and beau­tiful photography. With startling detail, Guo reshapes reality into a hyper-vivid portrait of chaotic contemporary Chinese society.” – Toronto Film Festival

 To learn more about the author: http://www.guoxiaolu.com/index.htm.