Tag Archives: D.D. Johnston

Cheltenham Poetry Festival 2017 begins on Thursday 4th May

27 Apr

CPF brochure 2017It’s just one week until the Cheltenham Poetry Festival kicks off with appearances from UoG’s own D.D. Johnston and Tyler Keevil. They’ll be talking from 7pm to 8pm at Smokey Joe’s on Thursday 4th May, and you can book your tickets here.

But, wait, it gets even better. Stick around! After that, it’s the turn of some of our many talented students. They’ll be reading flash fictions full of laughs and tragedy, in the same venue, on the same night, from 8:30pm. Admittance to that event is free, but space is limited so please reserve your place here.

And that’s just the first night of the 2017 Cheltenham Poetry Festival! Here are three other UoG-related events to look out for: on Thursday 5th May, English Literature lecturer John Hughes will be discussing how to analyse poetry, in Oxfam Bookshop at 11am; on Wednesday 10th May, there’s a chance to see PhD student Howard Timms’ play Oscar Wilde’s Women at 7:45pm at the Cheltenham Playhouse; and on Thursday 11th May, Anna Saunders (an alumni of our Creative Writing MA and the Festival director) will be reading alongside three other poets at the Cheltenham Playhouse at  8pm.

But that’s just a small sample of what’s on. The Poetry Festival runs until May 15th, with an exciting and eclectic range of big stars and local talents. So be sure to check out the full list of events here.

 

 

Lecturer D.D. Johnston talking at Suffolk Anthology Bookstore this Tuesday 17th November

12 Nov

Cheltenham is lucky to have a lovely new independent bookstore – Suffolk Anthology. Situated in the leafy Suffolks/Montpellier area, Suffolk Anthology is a relaxing spot selling great books and great coffee. Charming and elegant, with a Victorian fireplace and a sunny conservatory, it’s also one of the few places in town that sells genuine Moleskine notebooks – an essential item for any bohemian author! But if you’re still looking for a reason to visit, why not head up this Tuesday for UoG lecturer D.D. Johnston’s talk on his new novel, The Secret Baby Room, and everything he’s learned about writing in the last ten years. The talk is at 7:30 on Tuesday 17th November at 17 Suffolk Parade. Tickets cost £3 (which covers a glass of wine or two) and can be reserved from the shop by phoning 01242 361 362 or emailing info@theanthology.co.uk. More information follows below.

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In 2004, when he’d never have done anything as pretentious as call himself by his initials, D.D. Johnston realised it was his destiny to write. The fact he knew nothing about literature and had never demonstrated any facility with written language was unimportant; only in writing could he adequately express how alone he felt in this cruel world. He produced an eighteen-volume magnum opus of bad love poetry, a grand Künstlerroman, which he imagined was the 21st century’s answer to The Sorrows of Young Werther. But it wasn’t. It was crap.

Then, one day, he saw something that changed the direction of his literary oeuvre.  He was living in Manchester, where, because he was unemployed and had no money, he used to wander the city. One day he saw a woman cradling a baby in a boarded up council housing block. Why would anyone take a baby into a boarded up council housing block that was primed for demolition?

So he began to work on the plot of a crime thriller, The Secret Baby Room, which was finally published in 2015. The struggle to complete and publish his novel was painful but life-changing – it lasted slightly longer than the Trojan War. Along the way he published two other novels: Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs was a Sunday Herald book of the year in 2011 and has been translated into Spanish as Paz, amor y cócteles Molotov; The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub was a Morning Star book of the year in 2013 and was longlisted for the Goldsmith’s Prize. Today he is a Dr of literature, a senior lecturer in Creative Writing, and the founder of onlinewritingtips.com. Along the way he’s learned a thousand things about writing, and he’s now ready to share everything he wishes he’d known in 2004, so that nobody need ever again take a decade to finish a book.

Creative Writing Lecturer DD Johnston publishes new novel

2 Jul

Secret Baby Room coverToday saw the launch of The Secret Baby Rooma new novel by UoG lecturer D.D. Johnston. Johnston has recently been described by The Morning Star as one of the country’s most versatile novelists, and certainly this book is far removed from his previous two. The Secret Baby Room is a mystery suspense thriller:

In the taut, suspenseful opening pages, Claire, just moving into her new house, looks up to see “the strangest thing. High up in the abandoned tower block that overshadowed their estate, a woman was bottle-feeding a baby.” The woman disappears, but the mystery haunts and deeply disturbs Claire. The tower is condemned, fenced off and surrounded with yellow-black warning signs, its entrances boarded “and clearly marked: DANGER”. Obsessed with breaking through into this forbidden zone, Claire fears that she is actually going mad, as she sits “staring at the concrete, as though the Secret Baby Room might somehow reappear…She suddenly saw how crazy it all was.

As her own life falls apart, Claire risks everything in her quest. It’s an investigation that leads her not only towards the dark knowledge of past crimes but towards an understanding of the damaged lives of those around her.  Johnston offers us a wonderfully gripping read, but also a compassionate and moving story of people struggling to survive at the margins of a rapidly changing city. (CrimeCulture)

This morning he discussed the novel – which he started ten years ago – with Mike Sweeney on BBC Manchester, and you can listen to the interview here. And you can read the story of his life before lecturing, and how he came to write the book, in this article in Northern Soul.

Introducing online writing tips .com

4 Jan

online writing tips logo white croppedWelcome back to all our students and warmest winter greetings to all our graduates! We hope everyone has had a relaxing and fun festive season (sorry about the assessment deadlines), and we hope 2015 is bringing you happiness. We’re looking forward to seeing you this week.

The nightmarish news is that you need never be without your dose of writing advice again. DD Johnston, supported by Tyler Keevil and Lucy Tyler, launched onlinewritingtips.com on January 1st. It’s a site for showcasing video clips about writing, and many of the clips are going to be short extracts derived from the tutors’ lectures. So if you missed a class, or need a reminder, or if – masochistically – there’s a lecture moment you want to relive, onlinewritingtips.com will soon be the place to go. It’s also on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, You Tube, and other platforms we’re ineptly struggling to use.

Happy New Year and see you soon!

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Author and comedian Rob Newman at the University of Gloucestershire, Wednesday 26th March

19 Mar
Rob NewmanRobert Newman: Fiction, Politics & the Past
19:30, FCH TC001, March 26 2014
Free to students and staff at the university
 
Rob Newman is the author of four acclaimed novels and the star of television shows including The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Newman and Baddiel in Pieces, A History of Oil, and A History of the World Backwards. Since turning away from his superstar status in the 1990s, Rob has turned down most approaches for public and television appearances, so we’re grateful that he’s joining us at the University of Gloucestershire as a guest of the School of Humanities. He will discuss politics, fiction, history, and his new novel, The Trade Secret – an outrageous, continent-crossing epic that subtly blends fact and fiction, and is described by The Guardian as ‘a rollicking Elizabethan yarn that has much to say about the origins and nature of modern capitalism.’
Robert Newman read English at Selwyn College, Cambridge, before finding fame as a comedian on the BBC’s The Mary Whitehouse Experience. He was then half of Newman and Baddiel, described by The Guardian as ‘the most successful comedy duo of all time.’ But after a pioneering, record-breaking tour that famously sold out Wembley Arena, Newman turned his back on main-stream stadium comedy, pursuing a solo career as a novelist and political comedian.


His first novel, Dependence Day, won the £10,000 Betty Trask Award, and his second novel, Manners, was published by Penguin. His return to comedy saw him produce a series of erudite politicised solo shows that have toured in Britain and America, and have seen him compared to Lenny Bruce and described as ‘the funniest comedian I’ve ever seen’ in The Sunday Times, and ‘breathtakingly, heartbreakingly, goosepimplingly brilliant’ in The Scotsman.

In 2005, he finally returned to television comedy when his show A History of Oil screened on More4, and in 2007 the BBC screened a six-part series, A History of the World Backwards. 


However, Newman continues to make his name as one of the most exciting and unusual of contemporary British novelists. His third novel, A Fountain at the Centre of the World, was chosen as a book of the year by Dave Eggers and described in The New York Times as ‘the talismanic Catch-22 of the antiglobalization protest movement.’ The Guardian argued it was a ‘wonderful, big-hearted, textured, funny, moral and deeply unfashionable book’, while The Independent asked if it could ‘herald a resuscitation of the English “literary political novel”, almost dead in the water since the best work of Malcolm Lowry and Graham Greene’.
 

Fire Anthology: Launched and available to buy online

6 Mar
A few drinks as books are snapped up

A few drinks as books are snapped up

Many thanks to everyone who joined us last week to celebrate the launch of our new anthology. Around 100 people were treated to brilliant readings of prose and poetry, and between them made short work of 10 litres of wine and 2 kegs of lager! The celebrations continued at The Feathered Fish, and as someone said while we were arm in arm singing ‘Champagne Supernova’: ‘if any of us can remember this in the morning, it’ll be one of those memories you never forget.’

The audience begins to gather ahead of readings

The audience begins to gather ahead of readings

Meanwhile, the books were bought up so fast that we’ve now sold out already! While we replenish our supplies, fear not: you can order copies online. The book’s available from many distributors (including Amazon), but we recommend you order direct from the printers via this link: that way your books will arrive quicker and more of the cost will go towards future projects. Happy reading!

Fire Anthology, launch and after-party, on Thu 27th February

11 Feb

Display copies of the Fire anthologyThe venue for our after-partyYou are cordially invited to the launch of the University of Gloucestershire’s brilliant new anthology of Creative Writing, Fire. Join us on Thursday 27th for a wine reception at FCH Campus, with readings from the book and refreshments, from 7:15-9:15pm. Then we’ll be celebrating at the Night Garden at the Feathered Fish (pictured), a few minutes walk from FCH, from 9:30 until midnight. Everyone’s welcome at both events – students and alumni, their friends and relatives, and members of the public. There’s no need to book with us in advance, but to help us estimate numbers, we’d be grateful if those who plan to attend could indicate so on the Facebook event page. There’s a voluntary dress code of smart/ smart casual, so feel free to dress to impress. See you there!

Thursday 27th February, TC001 & TC002A at FCH Campus, from 7:15pm

 

Fire: New Writing II – UoG Creative Writing anthology coming soon

10 Jan

We’ve just received a preview copy of Fire from the printers, and it’s looking beautiful. The new anthology of Creative Writing from the University of Gloucestershire features prose and poetry from thirty-seven students and graduates. From the experimental to the classic, from the shocking to the heartwarming, it’s a book that contains something for everyone. We’re exceedingly grateful to two professional artists – both university alumni – who gave up their time to help with the cover: the image was kindly donated by the very talented Greg Farndon, while the design was created by the brilliant Sean Strong. We’ll soon be announcing a date for the launch (which will be some time in February), and please check this blog for details of how to purchase the anthology online.

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Keevil V Johnston: The Event in the Tent – Tuesday 8th October

30 Sep

Keevil V Johnston

The Drive CoverIt’s officially on: the event in the tent, the argy-bargy in the marquee, the affray in Montpellier, the… Call it what you will, Tyler Keevil V D.D. Johnston, refereed by Martin Randall, is happening. They won’t be boxing, unfortunately (that really would be worth seeing). No, they’ll be reading from their new novels, and possibly engaging in light banter. Yes, it’s the rumpus off the campus, the free-for-all at the festival, the mêlée in the tepee, the… I’m out.

Cover for D.D. Johnston's novel, The Deconstruction of Professor ThrubWhen is it? Tuesday 8th October at 6pm.
Where is it? The University of Gloucestershire Tent, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Imperial Square, Cheltenham.

It’s free and everyone’s welcome.

See you there!

Lecturers’ new publications

29 Jul

Scenes from a diverse world coverThis month sees a rush of publishing activity from the University of Gloucestershire Creative Writing lecturers. Just out is Scenes from a Diverse World, an anthology of play extracts, compiled by the International Centre for Women Playwrights. The anthology includes an extract from Lucy Tyler‘s Measurements of a Murderer, a play that was originally performed in 2009-10. The play takes a surreal look at the custom of holding beauty pageants in Russian women’s prisons, and tells its story with poetry and striking imagery.

ABC Studies coverMeanwhile, there’s a chance to get a glimpse of Dr Martin Randall‘s novel-in-progress, Ostend. The opening chapter is published this month in American, British and Canadian Studies journal. From what little Randall’s revealed, Ostend is a metafictional novel about a man’s search for his missing brother, a response to contemporary European fiction, a meditation on photography, a love story, and a tour of a dilapidated seaside town. Those lucky enough to have heard Randall read extracts will know the beauty with which all this is expressed.

Cover for D.D. Johnston's novel, The Deconstruction of Professor ThrubDon’t forget that D.D. Johnston‘s new novel, The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub, has also recently hit the shelves. Discussing it on Monocle Radio, Georgina Godwin described it as ‘a great book – and really funny’. It was originally written as a PhD at the University of Gloucestershire, and you can hear the author discussing that process with Martin Randall and Martin Goodman here.

Finally, we’re just weeks away from the launch of Tyler Keevil‘s much anticipated new novel, The Drive. If you don’t already know, here’s the synopsis:

The Drive Cover

A single call from his Czech girlfriend catapults Trevor into a serious crisis. Desperate to get his mojo back, he blazes down Highway 99 in a rented Dodge Neon. But soon his journey to California is fraught with peril, and all he has for protection are a semi-automatic pistol, his trusty plastic visor and a flea-ridden cat. As the drugs and the heartbreak kick in, the question is no longer whether Trevor will get over his girlfriend’s infidelity, but whether he’ll get out alive. A fast-paced and hilarious contemporary odyssey, The Drive has all the adventure and surrealism of Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but overlaid with heartfelt yearning and hope.

We’ll have more about the launch of The Drive soon, but in the meantime, don’t forget to pre-order your copy.

Lecturer publishes new novel

23 May

The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub, the second novel by University of Gloucestershire Creative Writing lecturer D.D. Johnston, is now available to pre-order from retailers including Amazon and Waterstones.

The novel

Cover for D.D. Johnston's novel, The Deconstruction of Professor ThrubThe novel, to be published in June, was originally written as a doctoral thesis at the University of Gloucestershire. It’s presented as a PhD that’s been written by an eccentric, love-sick student, who is supervised by an even more eccentric professor. It asks big questions about the limits of free will, how social change is possible, and the pitfalls of Kantian metaphysics. It interweaves fact and fiction, plays with ‘fraudulent artifacts’ (to borrow the phrase coined by David Shields and Matthew Vollmer), quotes psychology papers, and satirises our socio-historical moment. It crashes around the twentieth century, trying to write history in a way that recognises the interminable chain of cause and effect. But it’s also a campus novel that’s full of laughs and scandal and appalling behaviour. It’s a big historical epic that charts the rise and fall of revolutionary optimism. And above all else, it’s a love story.

The Publisher

barbican_press_logoBarbican Press is a new publishing venture based in London and Hull. Its directors are Martin Goodman – award winning author of fiction and non-fiction, and BBC New Generation Thinker – and James Thornton – the CEO of Client Earth, whom New Statesman named as one of ten people who can change the world. The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub will launch Barbican Press’s Doctored Books series: novels written in universities as part of PhD creative writing programmes. They say: ‘We’re looking for modern classics – books so different they can always seem new. Books that rose to so many challenges they forgot to compromise. Books with minds of their own for readers with minds of their own. If you’re a reader who doesn’t need pandering to, whose life has been shaped by books that dared to be different – welcome to your new home!’ You can follow Barbican Press’s evolution on Facebook.

The Author

DDJohnston1compressedD.D. Johnston lives in Cheltenham and works at the University of Gloucestershire, where he is a University Teaching Fellow and a lecturer in Creative Writing. You can read his Q&A about the new book on the Barbican Press website. He is currently trying, and failing, to understand the world of social media; he blogs at ddjohnston.org, and you can follow him on twitter @dd_johnston

Fire Anthology: Submissions Closed

2 May

FireThe editors of the 2013 University of Gloucestershire anthology of Creative Writing, Fire, wish to thank everyone who has submitted work. We received more than 60 submissions and expect to publish work from 25-30 students. Please note that we have replied to acknowledge receipt of work to everyone who submitted, so if you submitted and didn’t get a thank you note, we haven’t received your work; in that case, please contact us (fire@newwriting.org) as soon as possible.

Once again, the standard looks to be very high, and the selection process is not going to be easy. What’s more, before we can start the selection process, we have to finish assignment marking. So please don’t worry if you don’t hear any news for a while; we will announce our selections to everyone simultaneously (probably some time in June). Thanks again and good luck to everyone who entered – we have some happy hours of reading ahead of us.

The editors: Tyler Keevil, Lucy Tyler, and D.D. Johnston

Fire Anthology: Two Weeks to Submit

16 Apr

FireThe new creative anthology, Fire, is still accepting submissions – but only for two more weeks. We won’t be able to accept any writing submitted after midnight on Tuesday 30th April. Fire is the follow up to last year’s excellent anthology, Smoke, which we reccomend you read before submitting to Fire. Smoke is available to buy online here, and the submission guidelines for fire are available here. Good luck!

Photos from the anthology launch

14 Dec

Today is the last day of term and a good time to wish everyone a happy winter break and a successful new year. The launch of the Smoke Anthology on Wednesday night was a great way to close the curtain on another eventful term. The readings were excellent, and through book sales we made more than £300 to help fund a future anthology. Also, even before we hit The Railway for the after-party, sixty-five guests and authors managed to drink sixteen litres of wine and a keg of beer! Thanks to everyone who came and everyone who submitted to the anthology. We hope you all had a great night, and we can’t wait for 2013. In the meantime, here are some photos from the first part of Wednesday’s launch, and you can see many more by following this link.

Tyler and Martin opening bar

Smoke Launch 1

Smoke Launch - perusing the bar menu

Keely and Claire selling Smoke

Nigel Smoke Launch

Tyler introducing Smoke Launch

More photos

Two new stories from UoG Lecturers

28 Nov

University of Gloucestershire Creative Writing lecturers Tyler Keevil and D.D. Johnston have published new short stories in On Spec and The Lampeter Review.

Tyler’s latest story, ‘Canine Court’, appears in the current issue of On Spec, Canada’s premiere magazine of slipsteam and speculative literature. The story is about a young immigrant trying to find his place in a small town in rural Wales. He is faced with a moral dilemma when he discovers that the family he has married into harbours a secret. There’s a dash of the supernatural in a tale that offers a new twist on genre conventions.

D.D. Johnston’s story, ‘The Invitation’, is in Issue 6 of The Lampeter Review, which you can read online here (the issue also contains new work by Patricia Duncker, Joe Dunthorne, and many others). In Johnston’s story, expecting parents Roy and Emily host a creepy visitor who seems obsessed with pregnant women. An earlier version of the story was shortlisted for the 2012 Bridport Prize.

Smoke Anthology – Launch Night

25 Nov

We’ve now booked a date for the launch of Smoke: the exceptional new anthology of writing from students on the University of Gloucestershire Creative Writing courses. We’ll be launching Smoke at a wine reception on Wednesday 12th December at FCH Campus (TC006). The wine reception will run from 7pm until 9pm, and there will then be an after-party at The Railway. Since I like a bit of pomp, the suggested dress code is smart/ smart-casual (though casual-casual’s fine too). Throughout the night, the book will be on sale at a discounted price of £5 (RRP £7.99). Everyone’s welcome at both events – students and alumni, their friends and relatives, and members of the public. Book the date in your diary now!

Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire

29 Oct

We think there’s no better creative writing programme in the country, and our recent graduates seem to agree: this year the Creative Writing BA at the University of Gloucestershire was one of few writing courses to achieve a 100% satisfaction rating in the National Student Survey. This has got us thinking about things we’re doing right. Here are ten suggestions for why the course achieved a perfect score in the NSS survey:

1. We have great students! The students on our Creative Writing course write great work and offer each other sophisticated critiques. In the last five years, six University of Gloucestershire graduates have gone on to publish books and many more students and graduates have published poetry and short stories in journals such as Envoi, Acumen, Agenda, Iota, Zouch, The London Magazine, and Magma. Over the last four years students and graduates have been shortlisted for the Arvon Poetry Prize, the Bridport Prize, The Guardian Short Story Prize, The Cinnamon Press Prize, and The Templar Poetry Pamphlet Prize, while Angela France, a graduate from the MA programme, won the Lightship International Poetry Prize. Our BA course has produced successful writers in every genre: recent BA graduates include K.J. Moore, whose novella, Monster Porn, was published by Blood Bound Books in 2011; and Lucy Tyler, whose plays have been produced in Europe and America, and who is now part of our teaching staff.

2. We’re an active community of writers. The students on our Creative Writing course aren’t producing their work in isolation; they’re also busy organising and attending events and socials. Students organise regular open mic nights at which they share their work in progress – 68 students and staff attended one recent event at the Frog and Fiddle pub. Meanwhile, the Creative Writing Society organises regular social events. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and of a writing community in which students support each other.


3. There are opportunities for publication and performance
. At the time of writing, we’re just about to launch Smoke, the University’s latest anthology of student writing. This excellent collection of new writing showcases prose and poetry from 32 of our many talented students. We’re also in the process of setting up our inaugural novel writing competition, in which the winner will receive a cash prize and have his or her work critiqued by a London-based literary agent. Meanwhile, dramatic writers have had their work produced by students on the university’s radio production course, and five of last year’s third-year students showcased their work to a large audience at one of Cheltenham’s theatres, the Parabola Arts Centre. In summer 2013, a play co-written by the new third-year drama students will be performed by a professional theatre company at The Everyman Theatre.

4. We have a good balance of staff expertise. All our Lecturers are active writers established in their respective fields, and each brings something unique to the course. On the poetry side, the course benefits from the experience of Professor Nigel McLoughlin (The Waters’ Clearing, Songs For No Voices, Blood, Dissonances, and Chora), whose work has been published and anthologised in Ireland, Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan, Nepal, and Malaysia; and has featured in The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, The London Magazine, Poetry Review, The Irish Times, and Sunday Tribune. Dr Martin Randall (9-11 and the Literature of Terror), primarily a prose writer, comes from an English Literature background and contributes a wealth of knowledge on literature, theory, film, and cultural criticism. Dramatic Writing is covered by Lucy Tyler (The Measurements of a Murderer, Claudia Schiffer’s Mind, Saviours, and The Operators), whose plays have been performed in Europe and America. On the prose side, Dr D.D. Johnston (Peace, Love, and Petrol Bombs) teaches the fundamentals of prose technique, while Tyler Keevil (Fireball), an award-winning novelist and prolific short story writer, specialises in short fiction, memoir, and the writing industry.

5. We are all committed to quality teaching. The lecturers at the University of Gloucestershire are passionate about their own writing, but they’re equally passionate about teaching – nobody here views teaching as a way to pay the bills while pursuing their own career. In addition to our 100% NSS satisfaction rating, our high teaching standards have also been recognised in awards to individual teachers: in 2011 the Higher Education Academy awarded Nigel McLoughlin a National Teaching Fellowship in recognition of his individual excellence as an educator, while in 2012 D.D. Johnston received the University of Gloucestershire Students’ Union award for the University’s ‘most outstanding lecturer’.

6. We have relatively small class sizes and students receive regular, in-depth feedback on their work. The high volume of feedback is facilitated by maintaining smaller than average class sizes, which allows us to focus on each student’s work. Our cohort is big enough that students encounter a wide range of personalities and writing styles, but it’s small enough for students to get to know each other and their lecturers. Many modules on our courses are taught using workshops, during which students receive weekly or fortnightly feedback from members of staff and their peers. Before their first official assessment, first-year prose writers also have the opportunity to receive graded feedback on a practise assessment and to discuss their work with the lecturer in a one-to-one tutorial.

7. We use a variety of teaching methods to impart key information while encouraging active learning and critical thinking. Unlike some creative writing courses, in addition to workshops and seminars, most of our modules involve weekly lectures. These allow the lecturers to convey core knowledge and present thorough analyses of contemporary literature. Creative Writing is part of the University of Gloucestershire’s strong tradition of English studies – in the 2012 Guardian league tables, English at the University of Gloucestershire was rated 19th in the whole of the UK. However, in addition to the lecture format, many classes are built around discussion and debate. We encourage students to think for themselves and we value experimentation and originality.

8. There are great opportunities for postgraduate study. Many of our BA graduates progress to study on the University’s strong Creative and Critical Writing MA programme, where in addition to creative and academic projects, students can get hands-on classroom teaching experience, while some serve relevant internships (e.g., on the editorial team of the poetry journal Iota). The Creative Writing department also benefits from the input and knowledge of postgraduate research students, who study PhDs in topics as diverse as nature poetry and ecology, free will and determinism in contemporary historical fiction, personal pronoun use in confessional poetry, transgressive writing, and fourth-wave feminist poetry.

9. Our programme has a history of innovation and we regularly update and refresh our courses. We are the first writing programme to include formal study of creativity and the creative process at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and our MA was one of the first to include a module devoted to teaching Creative Writing. This popular module focuses on the pedagogy of writing and provides students with practical training as Creative Writing teachers.

10. Finally, Cheltenham is a great place for aspiring writers. In 2006 it was named the best place to live in Britain, and the town’s motto – Salubritas et Eruditio – celebrates Cheltenham’s long-standing reputation for academic excellence. It hosts the world’s oldest literature festival – the internationally-famous Cheltenham Literature Festival – a thriving poetry festival, great second-hand bookstores, and three excellent theatres.

Smoke Anthology: Sneak Preview

16 Oct

We’ve got preview copies of the anthology, and they look pretty sweet 🙂

The rest of the books are on their way, currently in a boat. I like to think that at this moment they’re somewhere near the Cape of Good Hope, but wherever they are on their journey, god spede ye sturdy mariners!

We’re excitedly awaiting their arrival, but in the meantime, here’s an impression of the cover:

Dramatic Writing showcase this Friday

7 Mar

You are cordially invited to a performance of scripts in development at the Parabola Arts Centre this Friday (9th March). You will be treated to extracts from five plays (read script-in-hand), which have been written by third-year Dramatic Writing students at the University of Gloucestershire (Genevieve Allen, Luke Dean, Claire Holland, Rachel Kelby, and Keely O’Shaughnessy). The students have reworked five classic plays – A Doll’s House, The Rover, Antigone, The Glass Menagerie, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle – and their performances will take you from dystopian alternative realities to a Mediterranean resort filled with boozy Brits who’ve travelled in search of sun and sex. You’ll also get to enjoy spoken word in the gallery bar and hand-picked performance pieces in the auditorium. If you’ve not been to the Parabola Arts Centre before, it’s a beautiful space that includes a 325-seat auditorium. It’s situated on Parabola Road, opposite Cheltenham Ladies College. The show starts at 7:30 and student tickets cost just £5 (full price £8). Don’t miss it!

posters and flyers can be downloaded here.

A Review of Creative Writing at the University of Gloucestershire in 2011

30 Dec

It’s time to wish everyone a happy new year and to review Creative Writing at The University of Gloucestershire in 2011: we think it’s been a great year.

COURSE NEWS

The year started with the full-time appointment of Lucy Tyler, who had previously been teaching first and second year dramatic writing. Lucy, whose plays have been performed in London, Berlin, and New York, graduated from The University of Gloucestershire BA in Creative Writing and then completed the prestigious M.Phil playwriting program at Birmingham University. One year in, she has already made her mark on our Creative Writing programme. She has developed links with the University’s excellent Radio Production course and teaches a second-year semester on writing for radio. In 2011, three students – Claire Leek, Laurent Dayment, and Claire Holland – had their radio plays produced, and you can listen to the results on the audio page of our blog.

In another of Lucy’s innovations, second year Dramatic Writing students last May hosted a day of table-top and staged readings with Paul Milton, the Artistic Director of The Everyman Theatre, and a group of the theatre’s creative associates and actors. Twelve plays, written over the course of the year, were rehearsed in-house by Paul and his team, and actors commended students’ ability to write for performance. You can watch a sample of the readings via this link.

Lucy is continuing to develop her collaboration with The Everyman Theatre, and in August the University’s Janet Trotter Trust awarded a grant to facilitate the production of a community play written by third year undergraduates. We hope that in 2013 undergraduate students on a new, optional module will have the unique opportunity to see their work performed on tour in local theatres.

This is one of several developments we’re planning for the new academic year, as we aim for change and continuity. At undergraduate level, we want to keep our core provision to ensure that every student has a wide grounding in poetry, prose, and dramatic writing; but we also want to offer choice and variety to complement the interests of individual students. In addition to the proposed new Dramatic Writing module, possibilities for 2012 include a module on ‘The Writing Business’ and a chance for students to study ‘Writing, Language, and the Brain’. On our Master’s course, a new module, the ‘Employment Focused Research Project’, offers students a chance to focus on the skills most relevant to their interests and career plans; for example, they might embark upon a supervised project in translation or adaptation, or they might develop a critical article for a particular publication. Another option is a period of work-related internship; for example, in arts administration or with a relevant journal. In recent years several students have served internships with the poetry journal Iota, whose editorial team is headed by Professor Nigel McLoughlin. This has furthered their understanding of the business end of writing, increased their own confidence as writers, and afforded them the opportunity to help shape an internationally regarded journal – and to have that experience on their Curriculum Vitaes.

But we also aim for continuity because this year we, and our external examiners, have again been impressed by the excellent work produced on the undergraduate and master’s courses. In 2011 we received our Periodic Review (a quinquennial inspection of every university course), and in declaring the academic health of our programs, the reviewers especially commended the enthusiasm and passion of our teaching staff – that’s one thing that isn’t going to change.

STUDENT NEWS

Congratulations to post-graduate student Angela France, whose successful 2011 was capped by winning the Lightship Poetry Prize. The prize, which this year was judged by Jackie Kay, earned Angela an envy-inducing £1000. In July, she published her most recent collection, Lessons in Mallemaroking. Penelope Shuttle has written of the collection, ‘Angela France has the craft to sustain her compelling and varied subject matter, and she uses language with controlled intensity, lyric energy, and an unerring sense of how to balance a poem.’

 

The prose writers have been busy too. PhD student KJ Moore, who holds a BA and MA from the University of Gloucestershire, has recently published a novella, brilliantly titled Monster Porn (Blood Bound Books). The story, which was originally written for her MA dissertation, was described by Brandon Wilkinson as ‘beautifully written, descriptive to the Nth degree, with a shocking twist that will leave you gasping for air.’ Those of us who attended her book launch in November enjoyed her witty introduction and lively reading (not to mention the shocked expressions on the faces of those who hadn’t yet read it!).

Undergraduate student Keely O’Shaughnessy has had success with her short story ‘The Breakfast Bar.’ The story, which was originally written for a second-year prose class, was selected from a strong field to be produced by students on the University’s Radio Production course (you can listen to the audio story here), and later in the year it was selected for publication in volume six of Duality.

On the academic side, PhD student Lauren Hayhurst has published a paper, ‘Fictional Futures Vs Historical Reflections’, in Foundation 109, the journal of science fiction. In June, Lizzie Rogers presented her paper ‘Me, My Clit, and I: A Feminist Suggestion’ at the 14th Annual Great Writing International Creative Writing Conference, at Imperial College, London. Additionally, Rowan Middleton spoke on mythology and ecopoetry at the Oxford University English Graduate Conference (June), and at the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment postgraduate conference (September).

STAFF NEWS

In November we were delighted to hear that the title of Professor had been conferred on Nigel McLoughlin in recognition of his professional standing. Three months earlier, the Higher Education Academy had awarded Nigel a National Teaching Fellowship in recognition of his individual excellence as an educator. Nigel said: ‘I’m delighted and honoured to receive a National Teaching Fellowship award. Because the award is intended for the recipient’s future professional development in teaching and learning, I have no doubt that the Fellowship will enhance, enrich and broaden my teaching, which will be of enormous benefit to my current and future students.’ In 2011, Nigel was editor of the poetry journal Iota and the pedagogical journal Creative Writing: Teaching Theory and Practice. He was also co-editing a special edition of TEXT: The Journal of Writers and Writing Courses.

Dr. Martin Randall this summer published his monograph on cultural responses to the September 11th attacks. 9/11 and the Literature of Terror (Edinburgh University Press) is an eloquent and readable analysis of work by Martin Amis, Don DeLillo, Ian McEwan, Simon Armitage, Mohsin Hamid, and others. Reviewing the book in Scotland on Sunday, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Stuart Kelly described it as ‘an important milestone in our understanding of how culture can encompass those events.’

For Tyler Keevil, the year started with his short story ‘Liberty! Fraternity! Sexuality!’ being anthologised in Best Gay Romance 2011 (Cleis Press), while his article on the Coming-of-Age film soundtrack appeared in New Welsh Review 93. But it was Tyler’s novel, Fireball, that continued to make the headlines: it was longlisted for the English language section of the prestigious Wales Book of the Year Award and it won the Media Wales Readers’ Prize – the popular choice for the best English language book published in Wales this year. The prize was announced at a red-carpet ceremony in Cardiff, on Thursday 7th July. Tyler said ”I’m really grateful that people have taken to the book in the way they have, particularly in Wales. A lot of readers have told me it reminds them of their own childhood, regardless of where they’re from. It means a lot to hear that, and also to win an award that’s picked by those readers.” The New Wales Review described Fireball as a ‘breathlessly readable and confident debut that pushes beyond the bounds of its genre, capturing the dynamics of friendship, seduction, and loss to impressive effect….’ In September, Tyler discussed the novel in an interview with The Raconteur.

Lucy Tyler’s most recent production, ‘The Operators’ (The Georgetown Theatre Company, 2010-11), in summer 2011 ran in Washington to critical acclaim. The Washington City Paper wrote that ‘Lucy Tyler‘s The Operators strays farthest from history, recasting Beatrice as an abused modern-day 14-year-old attempting to report her father’s crimes to an abuse hotline, where the operators are helpless beneath their veneer of caring. The failure of societies 400 years apart to deal appropriately with abuse and find justice for real victims hits with heartbreaking immediacy in what may be the best of the five [plays].’

Finally, this year D.D. Johnston published his debut novel, Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs, much of which was originally written while he was studying for an MA at the University of Gloucestershire. The novel was a Waterstone’s 3 for 2 book in August and he hopes the sale of the Spanish translation rights will soon be completed. Popmatters described it as ‘a humorous and poignant novel about anarchism,’ which ‘deserves wide acclaim’, while The Morning Star wrote ‘Rarely has a recent work of fiction so naturally and unpretentiously articulated Marx’s analysis of worker alienation explicitly and implicitly in its plotlines and dialogue. (…) Peace, Love and Petrol Bombs has a very urgent relevance now and for the immediate future.’

LOCAL EVENTS

Thanks to the efforts of Matt Benson and other students, 2011 saw the continuation of the ever popular open-mic nights. These student-organised events are a chance for the university’s creative writers to read their prose or poems, read someone else’s prose or poems, or stand nonchalantly at the back attempting to look vaguely bohemian. The last event of the year, held on Tuesday 6th December, was especially memorable: it was hosted by the University’s new avant-garde performance group, the Jolly Autocratic Committee. By the time we arrived, the function room at the Frog and Fiddle pub was decorated with mobiles and streamers and giant origami cranes.

It looked completely amazing but it took a few moments for us to realise that every piece of decoration was inscribed with quotes from novels, writing advice, or interesting and unusual words. Everybody received a writing themed ‘Merry Quotemas’ card, which inside contained a stanza of poetry, or an extract from a great story or play. We also received complimentary CDs – each hand-prepared and covered with individual artwork – with readings by Kathy Acker, Kenneth Goldsmith, Samuel Beckett, Gertrude Stein, and many others. When we’d crammed into the room, the show began; if you missed the night, or want to relive it, then here’s a sample. First, a frocked and jet-lagged Tim Smith laying down new commandments; next, two great pieces performed by Jess Searle: ‘Nice Shot’ and ‘Family Dinner.’

The University of Gloucestershire open-mic nights are not the only regular local performance spaces. Buzzwords, which is run by PhD student Angela France, is Cheltenham’s regular live poetry event, held on the first Sunday of the month at The Exmouth Arms, Bath Road. Every Buzzwords evening includes a Writing Workshop (commences 7 pm), followed (at 8 pm) by readings by a guest poet and an open-mic session. The first Buzzwords night of 2012 will be on Sunday January 8th, when the guest poet will be Jonathan Davidson.

Speaking of poetry, 2011 was also the year of the inaugural Cheltenham Poetry festival, where performers included Angela France and MA course leader Nigel McLoughlin. In addition to the University’s finest, the festival starred John Cooper Clarke, T.S. Eliot Prize winner Philip Gross, and George Szirtes, who read in The University of Gloucestershire chapel, accompanied by a group of Georgian singers. The 2012 Cheltenham Poetry Festival will run from the 18th to the 22nd of April.

If the Poetry Festival is a welcome addition to the local calendar, the Cheltenham Literature Festival is as established as the Gold Cup. It’s the oldest literature festival in the world and, despite its ever-increasing commercialisation, it continues to include many interesting and important writers. In 2011 invited speakers included Howard Jacobson, Penelope Lively, AD Miller, Víctor Rodriguez Núñez, Jo Shapcott, A.L. Kennedy, Will Self, Ben Okri, and Erica Jong. But the highlight was the appearance of one of America’s most exciting talents, David Vann. After his talk, Vann was kind enough to share some writing tips with University of Gloucestershire students. Of course, there’s always someone who tries to spoil the fun, and during the festival D.D. Johnston spoke at Cheltenham Waterstone’s in an event titled ‘Not the Literature Festival.’ Around 75 people, many of them UoG students, listened to him read from his novel and complain about the general state of things.

The Cheltenham theatre scene has always been an exciting part of the literary life of the town, and 2011 was no exception. For a long time, Cheltenham has had two theatres: The Cheltenham Playhouse and The Everyman. This year, the Playhouse presented a varied programme, hosting local and political drama, as well as the clipped voice of Mamet. The Everyman this year received a multi-million pound refurbishment and its 2011 programme complimented its exciting new interior. There has, it seems, been a celebration of vintage Alan Bennett with The Everyman playing host to The History Boys and The Madness of King George. Both of these productions were excellent, well-made pieces of theatre, but The Everyman did not restrict itself to traditional plays. University of Gloucestershire Dramatic Writing students enjoyed a trip to see Kneehigh Productions’ The Wild Bride: an inviting and innovative play that combines physical theatre with a musical element. This year, Cheltenham has more innovation to celebrate with the opening of a full season of plays hosted by the Parabola Arts Centre. This beautiful theatre is welcoming some of the most contemporary productions available to audiences in Cheltenham. Students organised a trip to see Littlebulb Theatre’s Operation Greenfield, a play which makes use of acting techniques from other mediums to get across its central point: theatre is still relevant and is as flexible as television and film. Plus, students stayed to talk to the actors after the show. We look forward to more theatre trips in 2012.

Finally, in 2011, a group of students including Becca Edwards, Emma Potter, and Rea Hunt formed The University of Gloucestershire Creative Writing Student Society. They’ve organised discussions and extra workshops and a whole lot of partying. If you’ve not yet been out with the society then make a new year’s resolution to join in with this welcoming and friendly group.

ALUMNI NEWS

One of our ambitions for 2012 is to establish an alumni group to maintain closer links between previous graduates and those still at the University; in the meantime, here’s news of a few former graduates. MA graduate Jemima Hunt this year started working as a literary agent with The Writers’ Practice. Hunt, who in addition to publishing her own novels has worked extensively as a ghost writer, is currently revising her third novel. In November she spoke as a guest of the Writers’ Guild, and by following this link you can listen to a podcast of Hunt’s interesting reflections on her writing career to date. MA graduate Lucie Brownlee, who in 2010 was short-listed for The Guardian Short Story Prize, has been working on her first novel and recently had a short play produced on local radio, while Ian Morgan, who holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Gloucestershire, has this year published ‘Pour Homme’ in Lyrotica: An Anthology of Erotic Poetry and Prose.

HERE’S TO THE FUTURE

What’s next for 2012? Well, here’s a date for your diary. March 7th 2012 is the deadline for submissions to Smoke: a new annual anthology showcasing the best prose and poetry produced by students on the University of Gloucestershire’s Creative Writing programme. The selection will be by competition and submissions for Issue one should be sent to smoke@newwriting.org (please see submission guide). Entry is open to all students who on that date will be enrolled on at least one module of the University’s Creative Writing programme, and it is our intention that the anthology will feature work from all levels of study, including postgraduate. This is a great chance to see your work in print and we plan to launch the anthology in September. We think 2012 is going to be our best year ever – see you there.