Category Archives: Guest Post

Beyond The Walls 2018: The Art Of It All

Now that both the York Literature Festival and the launch of Beyond the Walls 2018 have drawn to a close and the excitement has begun to subside, there is finally a moment to pause for a breath before the rush of assignments begins. Now there is an opportunity for us, Editorial team 2 of the Beyond the Walls Anthology 2018, to share our experiences from the last 12 weeks.
Nobody can quite prepare you for the volume of work organising a cover for an anthology is, combined with the task of then having to select readers for an event as grand as the York Literature Festival: Beyond the Walls launch. It was a big ask, and an even bigger weight of pressure, made greater by the continual praise of our module director, Dr. Kimberly Campanello, for the previous year’s hard work and success on the module. The reputation of our predecessors was upon us, and we weren’t about to be the team that couldn’t maintain it. But amidst all of that pressure, we pulled it off and in doing so learnt a little about the industry and gained some valuable skills for the future.

So, here’s how we did it:

The Process
The process of selecting the cover started on the rocks. The call for submissions showed us that even though there is a wide community of artists at York St John, to begin with not everyone was as excited about Beyond the Walls as we were. Initially, we didn’t receive very many submissions, but thanks to the hard work of the Promotions team, we eventually had a total of 27 artwork submissions, all of a high standard, meaning that our decision wasn’t an easy one. We were presented with a variety of styles and forms of art work for the cover, meaning that we had to decide what the overall vision we wanted for this year’s cover was going to be, in comparison to last year’s. Once we had decided, we compiled a list of our first choice down to our last to be reviewed by Kimberly and our Subject Director Dr. Naomi Booth who agreed our choice:

The winning design above was sent across to Jamie McGarry, who integrated it into Valley Press’s house style, producing this result:

When the final choice was made, our work was by no means over. Preparations for the event itself were well underway and with the main attraction out of the way we were then tasked with selecting five readers for the launch event. Which in itself was difficult because all of the work included in the anthology as selected by Editorial team 1 was of a very high standard. This was an important part of the process as we had to ensure that we selected a nice range of both forms and styles. Being involved in the event first-hand meant that we were able to see the event start to come together at the dress rehearsal, and hear some of the beautiful work from the anthology spoken aloud.

The Module
We thought we would also use this opportunity to briefly discuss the Publishing Production and Performance module and the valuable information we have learnt about the industry over the course of the semester. For anyone in first year joint or single honours creative writing, we would highly suggest selecting this module in your second year. Not only do you learn so much from guest speakers who vary from writers, to publishers and agents, but you also come away with a better understanding of running events, writing cover letters to publishers and the importance of literary movements. All of this helps to shape your own writing through a better understanding of the publishing industry.

This module forces you out of your comfort zone in the best sort of way.

Valley Press
The contact with independent publishers such as Valley Press, who we have been collaborating with to publish the anthology this year, was an enlightening experience and introduced us to the pressures that publishers face regularly to create high-quality events and products. It feels rewarding for all of on the module to have this opportunity and knowing that at the end of it all we were part of creating a successful launch and a beautiful anthology. What other module on the English literature or creative writing degrees would allow you to work first hand with a publisher and even visit their headquarters?

Editorial Team 2
Beyond the Walls 2018

BA Creative Writing Student Profiles

Students on the 2nd year BA (Hons) Creative Writing module Publishing, Production and Performance compiled writer profiles from their colleagues.

Alex McGowan

I am a second year Creative Writing and English Literature student. I love studying at York St John and I have learnt so much more about my craft by coming here. Now my writing is so much stronger and I have the confidence to try new forms, for example script.

My writing tends to lean towards the spooky and macabre, but I adore grounding this in friendships and ordinary life. Currently, my favourite author is V. E. Schwab, I adore her world building and the way she develops character. At the moment I am slowly working on an urban fantasy novel known as ‘Late Nights’, here is an extract from it:

It was recommended that tourists avoid the street of Hallow Way in Barebrough. It was the site of the towns graveyard and Mason House. This building was an old block of flats overrun by ivy and virginia creeper. The house was comprised of three storeys each with its own unique style. The ground floor was made of brown brick and has blacked out windows, designed for the more sensitive guests. The first floor had bricks that appeared to be burnt black and the arched windows curved inward. The second floor was red bricked and had Georgian style windows.

Even after living here for three years Isaac still found that the longer they stared at the building the more askew it became. Though they had bigger things to worry about right then. Isaac had left their keys at work, again. No amount of bag rummaging and muttered swearing had helped to solve the problem. All their bag had coughed up was a tub of chocolate spread, a broken mug and two strips of Strattera. Isaac made the executive decision to give up searching when a shiver ran up their arms. At the obscenely large door they whispered, “Please.”

Twitter: @alex_h_l_m

Charlotte Bennett

I joined York St John University in the Autumn of 2016 to study Creative Writing. I am currently a member of the Promotional team for the launch of Beyond the Walls 2018. I am also a part-time tutor of English and maths at Explore Learning. After reading poems written by my Dad, the spark of my interest in the creative arts was lit. I enjoy reading all lengths of fiction, and my preference of writing surrounds the world of poetry and short stories.

I was published in the 2017 edition of Beyond the Walls with my two poems: ‘We March’ and ’26 Letters of Courage’ which you can read below:

26 Letters of Courage 

Always breathing

Courage does

Exist. Forged

Godlike her

Imagination jumps,

Kicks. Levitates

Minds. Never

One person.

Questing radiantly

She thrives

Untamed. Voyaging

With xenia,

Youthfully zoetic.

She is courage.

 

WE MARCH

Hands holding, minds moulding, we unfold the truth

We the people, the women, the men

Our Future is female

The present ours to take

 

Why are you marching?

We march to change lives, save lives

We march to live a better life

Free from aggression, oppression is not progression

March forwards

 

Fight like a girl

I will not be silent

We will not be silent,

So Hear our voices

Respect existence, expect resistance

 

Twitter: @charlottesvoice

Instagram: charlotteee666

 

Tia Welsh

I am a Second Year Single Honours Creative Writing Student. I absolutely love this course. Reading and writing is pretty much an everyday habit for me (I can’t get enough of it!) My writing is inspired by everything and anything. Authors such as Neil Gaiman, Ransom Riggs and Joanne Harris have influenced my writing style, which tends to relate a lot to water.  I have even been lucky enough to meet Joanne Harris at my home’s literary Festival; Manx Lit Fest in the Isle of Man and have my own poem published as part of an anthology.

I also happen to be a Course Representative and enjoy supporting all my course mates, ensuring they remain happy during their time of study. I have written opening chapters for two of my novels and a play on homelessness-I hope to develop these further into the future!

You can follow me on:

Twitter: @TiaWelshIoM ‏

The Trip to the Beyond: Editing Beyond the Walls 2018

Editorial Team 1 developed many lifelong skills and useful industry knowledge during the production of Beyond the Walls 2018, including how to face and overcome professional challenges. This blog post will give insight into what was expected of the team, activities we have completed, and the numerous valuable experiences we have had on the Publishing, Production and Performance module.

Overview of our role

Our team was tasked with organising and reviewing all submissions for the anthology. We also decided on the acceptance of pieces based on specific parameters provided by the module director on behalf of the YSJ Creative Writing course. This included selecting work by all 3rd year and MA students and ensuring that the material was appropriate for international distribution, whilst also doing our best to guarantee that York St John’s reputation, including all individuals working on this project, remained at a high standard. We also had to make sure the length of the anthology didn’t exceed the price point for the publisher and its eventual readers. This process was overseen by the module director, Dr. Kimberly Campanello, who made final decisions on the manuscript.

Another important aspect of our role for the Beyond the Walls Anthology was producing the manuscript. We imported all final pieces into a document and focused on finalising format and layout, writing the preface and acknowledgements, and ensuring that all names were spelt correctly whilst adhering to other requirements. Arguably, this was our favourite part of our role since we could finally witness the anthology coming together; the challenges we had endured at the beginning of the project were non-existent at this point since we only felt euphoria at producing the final manuscript.

Beyond the Walls 2018

We thoroughly enjoyed reading the variety of pieces submitted to the anthology, which had doubled since last year thanks to the work of the Promotions team, and we found it extremely difficult to not exceed the word count as there was so much strong work to potentially include. Working with Valley Press for the first time this year meant we had stricter deadlines than previous years, which pushed us to use a professional manner and maintain our editorial integrity at all times.

 

Trip to Woodend

Woodend in Scarborough

We visited Valley Press in Scarborough during this module to learn about the publishing process from the professional who would be assisting us with Beyond the Walls 2018, publisher Jamie McGarry.

We were informed of the short background of his company as he then explained all aspects of publishing from costs and printing, to roles in his team, genres preferred and the importance of an audience. This information was invaluable and encouraged us to change our approach to the anthology, ensuring professionalism and working closely with the other teams on the module to ensure that this project was to the highest standard; a piece of work we could be proud of.

Guest Speakers

Throughout the module we have had many guest speakers visit our class to share their professional experience. For our team, the speakers who have had the largest impact on our work include:

  • Rob O’Connor, the Director of York Literature Festival, who shared with us the importance of planning ahead, providing insight into areas we were not fully aware of, and expressing how important all our roles are to the York Literature Festival in regard to the anthology.
  • Donald Winchester, Professor Abi Curtis’s literary agent, who spoke about the agent-author relationship, offered advice on how to write to publishers and agents, and gave us knowledge of what to expect of writers submitting to our anthology.
  • Jamie McGarry, founder of Valley Press, who shared all aspects of publishing with us and has worked closely with our entire group to produce Beyond the Walls

Teamwork

From the beginning of this project we attempted to delegate jobs to different individuals at various times depending on who was available, therefore trying to create a fair workload for all. Being a team of 13 was extremely beneficial at the beginning of the project as it allowed us to read the submissions and gain an overall majority very quickly. However, towards the end of the project this became more difficult due to the various documents we had to write, making it challenging for us all to approve the style of writing and information included. We relied on our weekly meetings to discuss any issues and focused on creating documents during this time. We solely used professional communication channels, specifically Trello and email, which was sometimes challenging for us as students who are used to using social media in our personal lives.

To conclude, this project has been extremely valuable in developing our professionalism, creating a relationship with the publishing world, and forcing us to work to the best of our ability individually and as a team. This project is one we will never forget.

 

Editorial Team 1

Beyond the Walls Anthology 2018

Publishing, Production, Performance Module

 

Report on University Camarade by Abby Knowles, MA student

I’ve never been very good at sharing. I’ll be polite to your face during tapas but when you take the last olive I will abandon you quicker than I dropped my plan to wax at home on a weekly basis (pretty much immediately).

University Camarade performers and their lecturers

With this in mind, I applied to be part of University Camarade. This show is part of a wider event called The Enemies Project, that is being curated by SJ Fowler (www.stevenjfowler.com). The project is about ‘Contemporary poetry in collaboration, Innovative live literature and Performance Art’ (www.theenemiesproject.com). It’s basically poets sharing; their experiences, knowledge and performance space.

I was accepted onto the project and together with Tom Young, David Yeomans and Joe Shaw, we were paired with a student from another University and asked to create a five-minute experimental poem to perform in London.

What the Chuff is Experimental Poetry?

Good question. Apparently, a lot of things could be classed as experimental poetry: lists or streams of consciousness or shouting a nursery rhyme while sitting on a melon thinking about George Osborne.

The lovely thing about this genre is that you get to throw the ‘traditional’ rule books out the window. You can chuck your stanzas and your enunciation and your commas. Experimental poetry, for me, is all about the experience of the performance and the process reading of a non

                                                                                                                                                                        traditional

                                                                                                                                                                                                poem

                                                                                                                                                                                                               (ta-da!).

The Weekend in London Town

‘Kimberly Campanello’s love of books is more contagious than impetigo’, is a well-known phrase in the Creative Writing department (made up by me, just now).

As part of the weekend, Joe, Tom, David and I were accompanied to London with Kimberly and shown some of her favourite sights around the city. We visited the British Library, The Poetry Library, had half a pint at The French House (they only serve halves so it takes longer for all the writers to get pissed) and went to the alley where Dryden was stabbed to smile for a selfie.

This may sound strange for a Creative Writing student, but before I applied for this course I didn’t read a lot. I used to read when I was at school: I was avid and would write quotes on my bedroom walls in silver pen and I could spend hours in a book shop or library. When I read I felt clever, worthwhile and bloody marvellous.

Little by little I stopped reading. I worked. Ate. Had a baby, turned on the tv. I stopped being curious.

But then I went to London at the weekend with some writers and an engaging tutor. That young, intelligent girl I’ve kept stuffed full of reality tv and Maltesers got to peep out. I was spoken to as a writer and I felt encouraged and valued and really fucking happy.

I ended the trip in a bookshop. I bought myself something random just because the cover looked interesting and I bought my daughter a book about amazing women to read to her bedtime. I’ve hardly watched any tv since.

The University Camarade Process

Tom (partnered with Michael Sutton from Edge Hill University): “We had the balance of getting on with our own things but we came back and wrote in response to each other.”

David (partnered with Kieran Wyatt from Edge Hill University): “We emailed our poems back and forth with increasing frequency. I found I was looking forward to each new draft.”

Joe (partnered with Jennah Fletcher from Kingston University): “It was a challenge with distance and communication, but it’s made me learn about my own writing process and style.”

Me (partnered with Vilde-Valerie Torset from Kingston University): “I worried we wouldn’t have any common ground but once we started talking the process became easy.”

The subject matter for our poems varied: David and Kieran wrote about entrapment and enclosure, an intelligent piece conveying characters in contrast to one another.

Tom and Michael focused on their train journeys home (this is a basic description for what was an ELECTRIFYING performance – put your tea down and watch it now, right now).

Joe wrote about Sophia the Robot and how it has got Citizenship when a lot of humans don’t have that basic right. Jennah’s subject matter was different but their performance together was cleverly timed and delivered so that the poems became one entity.

Vilde-Valarie and I wrote about the performances we do as women, she from a young person’s point of view, me from a married mother’s point of view.

The Performance

Was fucking terrifying. The microphone looked enormous and I could hardly look up from my piece of paper.

Having said that, there was nothing but encouragement and support from the audience and fellow poets. Looking back at the performance, you can’t even tell I’m shaking and now I can’t wait to get back on stage and do some more poetry.

I will know for next time that microphones aren’t that intimidating and that five minutes is not a long time once you’re up there. If you get the chance to be part of this project you really should (even if it’s just to visit a library with Kimberly – that was worth it in itself).

As Tom so succinctly put it: ‘can we do that all over again?’

To view all our trip photos on Twitter click here.

An Evening with Sameer Rahim of Prospect Magazine

On Monday 27th February students on the Publishing, Production and Performance module attended a session with guest speaker Sameer Rahim, a reviewer for the Telegraph, and Arts and Book Editor for Prospect. During the session, Sameer delivered informative insight into the literary industry, and gave some valuable guidance to students looking to work in that line of business.

YSJ Creative Writing Lecturer Kimberly Campanello interviews Sameer Rahim in our class session

Lecturer Kimberly Campanello interviews Sameer Rahim in our class session

 Career Trajectory:

Sameer fell into literary journalism as an editor for the student newspaper during his studies at Cambridge. He went on to teach, and then worked on the Oxford English Dictionary; he looked through English words derived from Arabic and Persian, checking and correcting them.

Fact: The next Oxford Dictionary will be published in 2037.

After several stints in various professions, Sameer sent out letters looking for work and valuable experience. For a year, he interned at the London Review of Books (LRB). During his internship, he developed his editorial skills to a high standard; as a fact-checker, he had to read each written piece carefully. He revealed how the editorial process produces a very different finished piece from what was originally put forward. An editor can do a lot to help a writer develop their craft during this process. Sameer pointed out that using as few words as possible is the best way to write; clarity and structure are important features of good work.

Fact: Sameer went to Syria after his internship at the London Review of Books for six months and studied Arabic.

Sameer went on to review for companies like The Sunday Times and London Review of Books. He then got a job at The Telegraph and remained there for seven years before moving on to Prospect as the Arts and Books Editor.

Reviewing for The Telegraph:

The average day consists of receiving up to fifty books a day. From that selection, only fourteen books are reviewed for publication in the ten/twelve pages the public sees. Four reviews are 2500-3000 words long. Each review works to be honest, point out the good as well as the bad, and entertain the mass market readership The Telegraph attracts.

Reviewing for Prospect Magazine:

There is a clear difference between Prospect and The Telegraph and Sameer points this out through his experience with both companies. Reviewing for a monthly magazine enables the texts reviewed to be in-depth and explorative of the ideas highlighted. There are five/six long reviews that consist of 2000-2500 words, followed by eight short reviews each 250 words. The length of these reviews means they must be economical. The magazine centres their reviews on non-fiction texts, not leaving much room for fiction. Two supplements were developed as a result; one is published during the summer, and the other in the winter.

The Cons of the Job:

As Sameer started with the not-so-glamourous technicalities of the job, so shall we. Sameer’s job is one of organisation and time management. There’s a lot of sorting stuff out and making sure others stick to the time schedule, as well as yourself.

If you wanted to work as a reviewer, it’s important that you know exactly who you work for, and that doesn’t mean the name of the business. You have to know your audience. What you write is a reflection of who your work for; there is often an in-house style you will be expected to write in.

The Pros of the Job:

Editing is incredibly fun.

Sameer suggests we probably disagree, but this is where the real writing begins. Moving paragraphs to create structure, line-by-line edits and directing the writer to address these changes results in a distinct and coherent piece that is ready to be published.

Sameer laughed with students about how we should feel in pain if there is a spelling mistake, or a grammatical error: it’s the key to making your work great. Typos are a common mistake, and there is no denying that we all do it. Except there is no excuse. Typos have the ability to colour another person’s view of your character. Readers and editors are likely to assume terrible things – you have a laziness of thought, you haven’t thought about it as much as you might have, or perhaps there’s a lack of pride.

Read, read, and reread your work. That goes for everything.

Advice to Students:

It’s easier than it’s ever been to get in touch with the literary industry. Twitter is a great platform to connect with these individuals. Social media enables you to talk to people you wouldn’t normally be able to meet, and these interactions are visible long after they have ended. It’s a great way to prove your involvement with the literary environment, especially now that we live in a world where our potential employers can check our social media profiles before offering us a job.

Work experience is another great way to get yourself out there and learn hands on about the industry. Whether your spend a few weeks somewhere, or a whole year, you can build contacts with people in-the-know.

Sameer points out that the editor and writer are two separate identities. They are frames of mind you must differentiate between. The editor is unafraid of the work in front of them. They look at words on a page and scribble in margins, crossing out words and sharpening their prose. The writer, however, is controlled by self-doubt; there is an anxiety towards the words they write. It is because of these two mind-sets that it is difficult to be the editor of your own work, and you have to turn that inner-editor off. Seek out people you trust to read your work. The best writers are those who are able to accept the constructive criticism thrown at them. If you struggle with writing, maybe you are dyslexic, don’t let your struggle hold you back. We all need to be edited, even the majestic J.K Rowling.

The literary industry is powered by luck and keen-minded individuals. You should be curious. If you want to specialise in something, go specialise.

Keep going and don’t be discouraged was a theme of the night.

This post was written by the Promotions Team on the 2nd year BA (Hons) Creative Writing module Publishing, Production and Performance.  

Behind the Scenes with Beyond the Walls and York Station Stories Promotion Team

Planning an event and constructing an anthology of contemporary writing is no small feat.

As writers, we are more comfortable hunkered over our laptops or notebooks feverishly writing (what we hope is) a next bestseller or work of great literature. Usually we don’t dabble in promotions, or outreach, or marketing.

Until now.

On the Creative Writing degree’s Publishing, Production and Performance module, we are learning and applying these skills.

Now we are faced with contingency plans. We are combing through project deliverables. We are setting ourselves deadlines and goals.

In a guest lecture by Dr. Brendan Paddison, Senior Lecturer in Business at York St John, our eyes were opened to implements of project management. Project deliverables in particular, were stressed as a key aspect of planning. With deliverables we learned we could give the project clear definition by categorising specific outputs for each project milestone. Taking heed of Dr. Paddison’s words, our team assembled into a tighter, more focused force, assigning each person a specific job to help lighten the workload within the group and ensure that every task is complete.

Dr. Brendan Paddison, guest speaker on our module

Dr. Brendan Paddison, guest speaker on our module

As of late, our team has been fixed on promoting submissions for the Beyond the Walls anthology through social media. But, as with any project, there have been setbacks, particularly in regards to submission numbers.

However, when Louise Gash, the Conference and Events Manager at York St John, had her guest lecture she talked about how to successfully plan an event and see it through.

Louise Gash, YSJ Conference and Event Manager

Louise Gash, YSJ Conference and Event Manager

During this lecture she also gave us some valuable pro-tips about what we should have in mind when promoting the submissions for the anthology over social media, such as how often to post and when it’s most likely to be read by our followers.

Thereafter, we focused a lot more on gaining followers on our social media accounts, to then regularly updating it with information and spreading the word about the anthology.

Tweeting effectively

Tweeting effectively

We also decided that only promoting the submissions online weren’t enough, so we contacted lecturers at York St John and went to their classes to speak to the students for a few minutes in order to promote submissions for Beyond the Walls.

Promoting YLR Submissions

Promoting YLR Submissions

After this the submissions increased, and at the time of the deadline we’d got a good amount of submissions for our editorial team to go through and pick out the best works.

Promotion and outreach is quite a bit more difficult than what one might think at first. There’s a constant updating of the social media accounts, managing deadlines and making sure that the word gets out about what you’re promoting. We’ll be taking all of this experience with us when we now start promoting the third year York St John Creative Writing students’ event York Station Stories, which will take place on the 21st of March during the York Literature festival.

So write that down in your planners, York Station Stories 21st of March, 7.00-9.00pm in Quad South Hall, York St John University. It is a FREE event, although you need to sign up for it, which you can do here.

Until next time,

– The Promotion/Outreach Team

The annual Beyond the Walls anthology is edited, promoted and launched by students on the 2nd year BA Creative Writing module Publishing, Production and Performance.

Student Showcase – Spy in the Den

 

On the 28th of March York St John University is hosting a prestigious event – The Student Showcase and Beyond the Walls Anthology book launch. As part of York Literature Festival, students have a wonderful opportunity to get their writing read and heard by the public.

Whether you’ve dabbled in words or see yourself as a seasoned writer, the Showcase curators want your creative work to create a unique performance of York St John’s writing talent.

While we avidly await your submissions (details of how here), here is what’s happening behind the scenes of our 2017 Student Showcase.

Our Outreach Team are currently promoting the event. You might have seen our tweets at @ysjshowcase17 and if not, check out our Twitter. You’re missing out on 140 character gems like this:

Conversation Tweet

Outreach Team Tweet

 

And of course:

Dinner Tweet

Outreach Team Humour

 

We already have several submissions, and our Editing Team are hard at work. While half our seminar are reading through your creative work, others are working side by side with YSJ’s design students to create our stunning broadsides which your work could be printed on.

Editing Team

Editing Team

Many of our editors, when asked, have mentioned how they look forward to the “challenging” time ahead, and how they look forward to “reading through [your] work, and seeing the talent” YSJ is helping to develop.

Our Events Team are working hard to create a gorgeous evening of drinks, food and the written word. They’re creating plans to put our rehearsal together, organising potential guests, and making sure YSJ’s Student Showcase and Beyond the Walls Anthology book launch runs as smoothly as the words you create.

Joe Shaw of the Events Team told us he looked forward to “seeing our vision come to life” on the night, 28th March at Quad South (QS/030) 6-8pm.

Events Team

Events Team

If you don’t want to submit, but want to join us for the evening follow this link to book your free ticket: CLICK HERE

Did we mention there’s free food?

In the meantime, get writing and send us your submissions by 8 pm on Tuesday 28th February.

–The Outreach Team

The Student Showcase is curated, promoted and planned by students on the 2nd year BA Creative Writing module Publishing, Production and Performance.

Nuala Casey’s advice for freshers!

YSJ MA Creative Writing alum, Nuala Casey – whose debut novel, Soho 4AM, was published this summer – has this advice for new students just starting university this year: 

Image

As another university term begins, and a fresh influx of slightly scared but eager students enters the golden gates of academia, it is worth pausing to reflect on just how precious those three short years really are.

There are many things that stand out to me when looking back at my days as a student at Durham University.

The warm and slightly unreal atmosphere of sitting in a tutorial room and being privy to ideas that make your brain hurt with their ingenuity and your soul leap as it recognises ideas you had thought about but never been able to articulate before now.

The sheer pre-school novelty of playing at real life. Grocery shopping freed from the shackles of parental control and buying just enough food to survive and enough beer and cheap wine to keep you warm in body and spirit.

Part –time jobs that double up as the best exercise in role-play you’ll ever receive outside of RADA. For Sociology students, a job waiting tables is the ideal way to explore first hand the concept of Goffman’s Symbolic Interactionism, with free meals thrown in. And for English Lit students, the sarky David Brent – style boss can be endured because despite his condescension and cliché-ridden commands, he might just provide the inspiration for an unforgettable character in that play/novel/film you will go on to write.

The student digs that, to your unwary eyes, represent a blank canvas of self-expression. Your own room, your own agenda, no one shaking you to wake up at seven in the morning, no one vacuuming around your feet as you try to watch TV- unless you are very unlucky in you choice of housemate. And after all, however dingy the house may be, however thick the mould on the bathtub may grow, you can put up with it because it is not forever. At the end of three years, that grim two up two down in the dodgiest part of the city, becomes the stuff of legend, a romantic escapade that will crop up in conversations for years to come, and give you a grittier edge on your more pampered peers.

Fast forward ten years, and in my case, life couldn’t be more different from my time in a tiny student house with coal-fired heating and a housemate who liked to indulge in a spot of primal screaming during times of stress – usually the night before an exam.

The singular person of my university days has been replaced with a team of three – myself, one husband and one six year old. I have gone from being the front-runner in my world to being a co-referee, blowing the whistle and frantically organising the daily life of this little garrison I have created.

My writing career has to be fitted around a tight schedule with my writing day beginning at 5am. Not, as would have been the case back at university, because I am just returning from a heavy night out, but because the hours between five and seven in the morning are the only time I get any peace and quiet. Add to this, budgets strictly kept in place and grocery shopping with a small child who likes to speed down the aisles like a bowling ball trying to see how many human skittles he can take down with him, and you get some idea of how much life can change in a few short years.

The absolute gift of university is something you can never fully recapture. It is the joy of having access to the most profound, weighty, life-changing discussions you will ever have. Because you will never have the fresh, optimistic, un- jaded heart of an eighteen year old again.

It is not seen as strange to discuss Kafka at ten in the morning as you queue up for coffee in the college café. In fact it would be rude not to. Every conversation is loaded with an urgency that you never really experience post graduation.

Of course, adulthood has its upsides too. Finding your place in the world, establishing a life unique to you, revelling in your independence and making just enough money to indulge in all those luxuries you promised yourself as you cried into your Pot Noodle back in 1999.

And for me, twelve years after leaving university, I’ve finally found an outlet for the thoughts, ideas and dreams that I so carefully crafted all those years ago. My first novel, Soho 4am, has just been published and I am currently putting the finishing touches to my second novel The Last Day of Summer. For me, writing Soho, 4am helped me make sense of my years at university. It is a book that captures the sense of being lost without a map in those early years after graduation, a time when everything that is solid seems to shift and liquidise into a strange new form, that only later do you recognise as adulthood.

My advice to the freshers of 2013 would be to indulge yourself in every new idea, every inspirational book, every unforgettable song, every stolen glance, and every chance you get to stay up all night with friends and lay out your vision of who you want to be in ten years time.

You never know, it may just come true.