This is the link to the form you can use to express your interest in writing and/or editing for the exciting and dynamic YSJ Creative Writing Blog –
Please complete this form if you are interested in writing for The CWB (The Creative Writing Blog.)
These are the options available to you:
Be a Staff Writer: We occasionally identify topics to be covered or events to be reviewed. These are first offered to our Staff Writers (typically a staff writer will contribute 3-5 pieces to the blog per academic year).
Be a Sub-Editor: In addition to writing regularly for the blog, co-editors also format and upload work by other students, workshop ideas for features and series and recruit fellow students to the blog team. They are also a friendly, informal point of contact for new writers.
Be an Assistant Editor. PLEASE NOTE, THIS ROLE IS ONLY OPEN TO POSTGRADUATE APPLICANTS. As an Assistant Editor you will work closely with the blog editors to shape the character and content of the blog. You will be responsible for managing Sub-Editors and commissioning and editing new posts. This is an excellent role if you are looking to acquire experience in publishing or journalism.
There is just one month left to enter the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award 2016, presenting an opportunity for emerging and established writers and poets to showcase their work and further their involvement in the literary world. Now in its 10th year, the award is an internationally renowned prize presented by Aesthetica Magazine and judged by literary experts.
Short Fiction entries should be no more than 2,000 words. Poetry entries should be no more than 40 lines. Works previously published are accepted.
Deadline for submissions is 31 August 2016.
To enter, visit www.aestheticamagazine.com/cwa
Writing and The Natural World was the first event of the York Literature Festival held at York St John and also the first free event of the festival. The panel was hosted by Naomi Booth and consisted of prose writer William Atkins and award winning poet and non-fiction writer Kathleen Jamie. Both writers read extracts from their books which spoke about the Natural World. Atkins’ read from his first book The Moor (2014). The book takes the reader on a journey across the moors of England exploring both their history and their present beauty as well their relationship with man. Atkins is currently working on an account of desert journeys to be published in 2018. Kathleen Jamie read an extract from her book Sightlines: A Conversation with the Natural World (2012) in which she explores her native Scottish landscapes. The extract she shared was the story of four Killer Whales swimming amongst Seals in the most northern part of the Hebrides which she watched with great excitement and wrote very vividly. She also shared three other poems from her extensive collection of work. At the end there was a short Q&A in which both writers voiced their discomfort with being labelled as ‘Nature Writers’ as they believe it limits their writing topics, instead the prefer to be known as ‘Travel Writers’.
The most striking thing about the talk was the idea of “Don’t research: Encounter” a beautiful piece of advice for any aspiring writer hoping to write nature or anything else!
Benji Goldsmith is a writer of comics and resident comics expert at Travelling
Man in York. He runs sequential art workshops for school children, is a proud
member of York based writers group, and is currently working on a comic with artist Abz-J-Harding.
They plan to release the book in both web and print format later this year.
Benjamin was born in Coventry, England and raised in Cheshire. He originally
started out as a sound engineer and music producer, moving to the area of
Teesside in 2006 where he obtained a B.Sc. in Music Technology with frst-
class honours. Since graduating University Benjamin has done everything from providing a
sound installation for The Old Truman Brewery at Brick Lane in London as part
of Free Range to producing his own electronic music (which has been aired on
BBC Radio) and more recently his work as a flm composer and sound designer
for a multi-award winning flm and animation company based in York called
Benji’s creative focus has steadily shifted over the years towards another of his
greatest passions, comics. He now feeds all of his time, passion, energy and
creativity into writing.
Q Whats your work gonna be about?
A I’m currently writing the first book in a series of comics inspired by the representation of
Wolves throughout history, mythology and folklore. The story is routed in speculative fiction,
quite dystopian in tone and heavily conspiracy laden. It focuses on sociocultural factors and
explores themes such as industrialisation, social inequality, spirituality and identity.
Q How did you find the artist to work with?
A It was actually a case of serendipity. The artist I’m working with named Abigail J Harding is
a customer at the shop where I work in York called ‘Travelling Man’. That’s how we got to
know each other and also how I discovered her art. I was completely blown away by her
talent and immediately asked her to do a book with me.
Q Which authors inspire your writing?
A If we’re talking comics then Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka without a doubt. In
terms of prose I would have to say Philip K. Dick, H.P Lovecraft and likes of Kerouac. I have a
broad taste in reading.
Q When do you find time to write?
A I carry a notebook and a pen with me everywhere I go and tend to use my phone a lot for
note taking. I write at every spare minute I get, which is most evenings and whenever I have
time off from work. I have a strong work ethic and tend to give myself very little downtime.
Q How have you scheduled yourself?
A I set myself fairly rigid goals and objectives for every month and then every week. For
example with the book i’m currently writing; I aim to have the outline and structure for the first comic finished by the end of April and then scripting will be completed throughout May.
I’ll then break those sorts of things down into smaller milestones week by week to ensure I
keep on top of things.
Q Do you have anyone proofread for you as you go?
A I’m part of a writers group based in York comprised of friends who also write for comics. Through that group I’m able to gain valuable feedback and commentary on my writing, it’s like having a team of editors. I think a fresh perspective is always welcome and absolutely invaluable.
Q How have you gotten the connections in the industry that you do?
A I’m quite lucky because I work for a chain of independent comic shops which have strong
ties to the industry and association with things like ‘Thought Bubble Sequential Arts Festival’.
This undoubtedly affords me greater opportunities to network, make contacts and get advice
and guidance from people in the industry.
Q What other works have you been involved with?
A I’m a fresh face. I worked/studied as a sound engineer and produced electronic music for
years. My focus seems to have naturally gravitated towards writing over time. My fathers a
writer and a poet amongst other things, it could be his influence on a subconscious level
perhaps. It started off with a bit of work writing reviews for comics blogs and then I began
submitting pitches for short stories to comics anthologies; one of which was accepted recently and i’m about to begin scripting for. I’m basically working as hard as I can and throwing myself head first at the industry. The aim with the book i’m currently working on is to have a 6-page preview printed and ready to take to DICE (Dublin International Comics Expo) in late September, to publish the comic online shortly afterwards and then launch the comic in print around mid November at Thought Bubble.
Q Know of any good alternative literature events for people?
A I was hoping you guys could maybe tell me about one or two…as a writer trying to break into the comics industry it’s all about the conventions for me, but I’m always open to writing for different mediums and being involved in anything that might help me improve my writing skills.
Q Dogs or cats?
A Definitely cats, they’re naturally aloof, clean, tidy and good at taking care of themselves….a
bit like me 🙂
Your character receives an email from an unknown sender with a subject line that reads “I can help you”. They open the email to find details of their weekend to come, plans that they themselves have made, and what is to happen during them. The sender also provides an address at which to find them should they wish to take up the help and wishes your character luck. Your character doesn’t like the sound of the details listed but shakes it off– how could anyone know about things that haven’t happened yet?
However, when your character carries out their weekend plans, things that they’d been informed of happening begin to. How does your character react? Do they go about their day convincing themselves that it’s merely a coincidence? Or do they eventually take up the help the stranger had offered? Who is the stranger? What things have happened that have driven your character to want their help?
We are a group of second year Creative Writing students producing a collection of poetry and prose to be sold at the CREATE event in May. This is an annual publication, celebrating the work of all graduating Creative Writing students. Therefore, we have opened up this exciting opportunity to art students. We are asking you to help us design the cover for the anthology publication.
Here is a link to the ‘Behind the Walls’ blog, so you can see last year’s anthology and find out more information about the event: http://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/creativewriting/anthology-2013/.
This is a fantastic way to expand your portfolio, add to your CV, and get experience being a published artist. The anthology will be printed professionally, and will be sold at a YSJ event.
We have given the writers a suggested theme of York, so please could you reflect this in your designs. We would like you to get creative, so your designs can be in any medium, such as paint or photography.
If you are interested in submitting work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please submit your work no later than 31 March.
If you would like to receive more information regarding the anthology, or have any questions, please contact the email address above.
The Creative Writing Anthology Team
Imagine a character who needs to forgive another. What is it they need forgiving for? Does forgiveness come easily to your character or not? If so, will they ultimately forget the issue ever existed? If it doesn’t come so easy, what hurdles do they face in coming to realise the other character needs to be forgiven? Or won’t they? Will they simply retaliate instead? See how the interaction plays out.
Jack Fallows is a comic book artist and illustrator from Newcastle Upon Tyne. He has been self-publishing comics for the last 12 years and reading/making them his entire life. He worked at the Travelling Man comic book shop for 5 years, where he founded the Paper Jam Comics Collective in 2007. Between 2008-2011, he delivered workshops in schools, libraries and youth centers teaching young people how to make their own comic books. This eventually led him to pursue a career in primary teaching. His work has been sold and exhibited internationally and his latest title Axolotl has been reviewed highly. For more information on his works, go to: http://jackfallows.com/
What inspires you most? Do you act on all inspiration or choose which ones will be worth it?
I consume quite a lot of art and I think that’s an important thing to do regardless of which creative sector you’re working in. I’ve had movies inspire my music, I’ve had paintings inspire writing, I’ve had music inspire comics etc. I find artists who care about their craft and who have something new to say most inspiring. But what motivates me to sit down and do things is really just looking back over the last thing I did and hating it. It sounds kind of cynical but being able to pick fault with your own output, striving to make it better and wanting to make sure it isn’t the last thing people see before you die really lights a fire under you.
If you do any contract work or commissions do you just do what they’ve asked for or strive for something inspired?
It really depends on the client. I do a lot of commissioned work in the local music scene here in Newcastle and that’s always a lot of fun. Lots of the bands and promoters know my work now and give me a lot of free reign to take the seed of an idea and put my mark on it. Because I teach full time now and don’t need the money as much as when I was self-employed, I’ve decided these are the only commissions I’ll be taking on for the foreseeable future now. It can get extremely arduous and self-deflating working with clients who are trying to get an end result from you based on work they’ve seen by other artists, without really considering your own merits or limitations. Unfortunately, even as a freelancer, you mostly have to subscribe to the motto of ‘the customer is always right!’
Have you ever started writing anything and changed it radically mid-way through because you’ve been inspired differently?
I don’t think I’ve ever sat down with an idea and stuck with it right until the end. Even the act of creating something changes it from an abstract notion in your head to a concrete thing in front of you. A lot of the time, I’m making decisions as I go, especially with illustration work and with prose. Comics don’t have quite as much leeway because you have to consider everything at the same time but they do constantly evolve and change.
Is it okay to have multiple projects going at the same time?
For absolutely no reason whatsoever, I’ve spent most of my creative career under the assumption that it isn’t okay to have multiple projects going at the same time. In the last year or two, however, I’ve been trying it out and the results have been incredible. Instead of trying to plough through those not so enjoyable projects and really struggling to motivate myself, getting behind on deadlines, scolding myself etc. I’ve been balancing those out with other, smaller and easier jobs. That means all the projects are getting done faster and to a better quality, and I’m not going gradually crazy. I guess everyone works differently but I’d definitely recommend trying it both ways to see what works for you. Of course, the danger with taking on multiple projects is spreading yourself too thin and not being able to manage time properly. But as long as you’re sensible and keep dates and deadlines in mind, you should be okay!
How do you begin your writing/drawing?
It’s different for each project. With longer stuff like The Big Bang, I started by deciding on everything that needed to happen in an issue. Then I broke that down into events, pages, panels etc. Then I wrote a script for the whole issue and kind of did thumbnails as I went to make sure everything flowed okay. After that, I took it a page at a time and pencilled, inked, scanned and shaded each page in order, on A3 paper that would be reduced to A5 for print. But I found this really laborious so I’ve taken a completely different approach for my new (and I believe, better) title Axolotl. A lot of this, I’m making up as I go along. It’s an anthology of short strips, so I can dip in and out of each story depending on whether the ideas/motivation are there. This way, nothing is forced and I’m having fun doing it – which will always improve the quality of the output. I’ve given up on adding greyscale because I don’t think the results are worth the effort – at least not with my work – and I’ve been enjoying the challenge of making striking images in pure black and white. I’m also working entirely in A5 Moleskine sketchbooks now and drawing when I’m out and about in coffee shops and pubs etc. which breaks up the monotony of sitting at a drawing desk alone for 8 hours and gives the stories more context.
What about music, do you do lyrics or music first?
From time to time, I’ll be humming away and come up with a little song in my head that I’ll then set music to. But usually, I just mess around with different instruments and if a nice sounding riff or melody emerges, I’ll let the mood of that dictate what the song will be about and set lyrics to it. I love making and performing music but I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing, most of the time.
Do you then use an editor to finalise your work?
When I’ve worked on anthologies, there has usually been editorial input. Alexi Conman worked as a co-writer and editor on The Big Bang but that was a very natural, collaborative kind of arrangement. If I’m self-publishing, I take complete, megalomaniacal, creative control over everything that happens. I think listening to and acting on feedback from peers is really important though, so I’ll often take works-in-progress along to the Paper Jam Comics Collective meetings to see what people think.
When you were younger did you decide to become a writer/artist/musician/teacher?
Since I was about 5 years old, I’ve always enjoyed writing and drawing and making comics and playing songs. I think everyone pretty much keeps doing the things that they enjoy for as long as they enjoy them and I’m still not tired of any of it. It wasn’t until I had to start thinking about GCSE subject choices and A-Levels and job prospects that I started researching ways to make money from any of it. While I was self-employed, I started running comic workshops for kids and realised that I loved the creative challenge of teaching and that’s what led me down that career path.
Should new writers accept working for free?
A horrible drawback to working in the creative sector is that unfortunately, yes, it is the industry standard for you to prove your salt for no money to begin with. That’s why it’s best to do this while you’re still in education so that you can make inroads and do some networking before you’re out there in the big wide world. I did a lot of free gig posters while I was at university and that’s why I’m being paid to do posters and album artwork etc. now. Writing and drawing are extremely competitive fields and getting yourself noticed is a big challenge. Equally, you need to realise your own worth and not be afraid to make that step into saying ‘you need to pay me for this service’ when the time is right.
Any advice for aspiring writers or students?
If you don’t enjoy writing or drawing or whatever it is you’re hoping to turn into your career, don’t bother. You’re setting yourself up to either fail or somehow succeed against the odds and be unfulfilled for the rest of your life. Enjoying what you do enables you to keep things fresh, stay motivated, meet deadlines, improve your craft and put out the kind of work that people want to pay you to do. The worst thing that can possibly flash into your brain is ‘Hey, this seems really popular and lucrative, maybe I’ll give it a shot’. I often meet people new to the comics scene, who have seen a handful of superhero movies and come to conventions with an idea for a 500 page graphic novel. You need to take the time to understand what you’re getting yourself in for before taking a dive as big as that otherwise the rejection can be really discouraging. Dip your toe into lots of things and figure out what inspires you the most.
A long time ago you told me that things get so much better after high school. When would you say are your best years?
Hopefully I’m yet to have them! My school years were pretty rough but everyone has different experiences. I think I might have just been listening to ‘You Were Cool’ by The Mountain Goats a lot when we had that conversation.
How do you market your self-published works?
I go to comic conventions, get work stocked in comic shops and use Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, Etsy and my own personal website online. I’m very proud to say that the comic scene is extremely welcoming of new-comers, so don’t be afraid to use any of these avenues if you’re looking to get involved.
For more of Jack’s writing, artwork and music, go to http://jackfallows.com/
So it’s been a pretty exciting November. On the 7th we had a fabulous book launch with Nuala Casey and Matt Haig here at YSJ. Matt read from his latest novel, The Humans, and reminded us all why it’s great to be a human, from the point of view of an alien. Matt’s lively and moving writing is highly recommended. Nuala Casey, a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing here at YSJ, read from her debut novel, Soho 4 a. m. Nuala held the audience with her atmospheric and gritty prose, taking us through the shady streets of Soho. Nuala doesn’t wait around either, her next novel, Summer Lies Bleeding will be out next summer. Both writers responded to questions from the audience with generosity and refreshing honesty, and we all got an insight into the discipline and hard work necessary to become a successful writer.
Last week we were incredibly proud to see our first cohort of joint honours Creative Writing students graduate in the grand York Minster. We were all dressed in our finery, struggling to balance our hats and comparing our gowns. JT Welsch definitely won that particular contest…
We know that all our students are going on to do great things, and are happy to have the pleasure of continuing to teach some on our MA.
Finally, novelist Barrie Sherwood gave a wonderful reading of his latest work, Sandia, yesterday evening. Barrie was a lecturer here at YSJ for five years and recently left to teach in Singapore. It was lovely to see him again, and lots of his previous students turned up to wish him well and thank him for being an inspirational teacher. Barrie’s new novel is remarkable, a work that shows a novelist at the height of his ability. I was bowled over by the control and power of the prose. I can’t wait to read the whole thing.
There are more exciting events coming next year, including a reading of Holophin by Luke Kennard, who will be joined by Tom Chivers of brilliant independent press Penned in the Margins. We are also welcoming an literary agent, and looking forward to the York Literature Festival, where we’ll get to see Germaine Greer, Nicholas Royle, Alison Moore, Emily Berry, Helen Mort, Rebecca Goss (to name only a few).