Writing the Future – Lit Fest Review

Rating: 3/5


The workshop led by Abi Curtis and Luke Kennard was definitely afternoon. Set out much like a University session we explored a broad range of Science Fiction writing and genre tropes. Some excellent writing was created from the exercises given to us, especially great writing from some people who claimed to have no prior knowledge of Sci-Fi, so the workshop must have worked! Being quite a Science Fiction buff I found it quit enjoyable to get together with a group and discuss the genre, the only thing was it all felt a bit short for time! Maybe next time a longer session would be great to really explore some more in detail. But as I say I’m a great admirer of anything Sci-Fi so I may be biased! For someone trying to get into the genre it’s a great way to start! If it’s on again next year I would recommend attending.

York St John Con – Lit Fest Review

Zine Workshop – 4/5


The short creative workshop was a great start to the day full of creativity. Not a lot of literature is about getting you hands dirty, but this workshop really helped set the tone for the creative nature of the day and got everyone involved waking up! The crafty nature of this exercise was a great way to meet other people too, everyone sat around tables having to share scissors and glue definitely got the ball rolling, This was a great experience that I would recommend to anyone, artistic or not, it’s just great fun!

Poetry & Comics Workshop – 4/5

poetry comic

The creative skills only carried on for the next section of the con. Exploring the works of visual poetry and what exactly a poem or a comic really is was a great discussion that almost certainly sparked debates between everyone attending. With even more cutting and sticking of some famous poems and even a Wikipedia article (and some daunting drawing) everyone got to share their work which made it that little bit more fun! Though there was two hours though there wasn’t much chance to go rogue and create your own thing, it was quite structured, but hopefully everyone is sitting at home creating their own poetry comics.

Video Games and Story Roundtable – 4/5

video game

This enthralling discussion about the relationship between game play and story managed to get everyone thinking in new ways about the nature of gaming and game media. The talk discussed issues such as how much the player is allowed to impress on the character, comparing very in depth characters to the more generic ones and which pulls you into the story more. Whilst some of the blogging team were debating the use of “video” in the term video games, the experts were teaching a whole new viewpoint on how to read the gaming universe!

This section was written by Jonathan Ford who kindly covered our blogging team lunch break!!

Keynote Event: Bryan and Mary Talbot – 5/5

20160312_172708 20160312_161031 20160312_182031 20160312_182114 20160312_182139

Bryan and Mary, both amazing artists, discussed their works in graphic novels as well as several riveting themes and events throughout history. Bryan discussed his work Grandville and the anthropomorphic traditions in history and art which was an excellent experience and made everyone question some beloved childhood characters! Whilst Mary discussed the historical basis for her upcoming The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia (due out May 2016) and some lucky audience members and bloggers managed to get copies (!!!) no spoilers will be shared here though! It’s definitely worth a read! The two speakers were available at the end of the session for a chat and to sign their graphic novels as well as Bryan gracing the pages with a quick sketch for the reader.

Fan-Fic: Open Mic 4/5


The first annual YSJ Con concluded with the sharing of peoples own fan-fiction, Hosted by local poet Henry Raby. Many brave writers stepped forward to share work inspired by their favorite books, films, video games and even Dragons! The work shared was well written and showed the writers passion for the characters and stories they wrote about including, Red Vs Blue, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Les Miserables and Chinese Gods. Controversial yet lighthearted conversations arose about fictional worlds including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the setting of Pokemon. The session ended the day on a high. The only way it could have been better is if more people were willing to share their work. Hopefully next year more people will come forward.

Writing and the Natural World: Kathleen Jamie and William Atkins

20160311_191144 20160311_193248 20160311_195406


Rating: 4/5


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!

Next Week at the York Lit Fest!

Here’s a quick list Just to remind you all what’s going on next week in the lit fest! Be sure to book tickets before they all go – free events for YSJ students will be in bold!

Monday 14th March

  • We’re not in Kansas Anymore: Creating Engaging Worlds in Fiction Writing – King’s Manor, 10am to 12noon (£8)
  • Literary Walk – Museum Gardens – 10:30am to 12noon (£6/£5 pay on the day)
  • U A Fanthorpe: Berowne’s Book – Quaker Meeting House, 7.30pm to 9.15pm (£5)
  • Tanya Landman, Carnegie Medal Winner – St Peter’s School, 6.30pm to 7.30pm
  • Writing Comedy: The Art of Stand Up – Temple Hall YSJ, 7pm to 8.30pm

Tuesday 15th March

  • Stalin’s Englishman – The Lives of Guy Burgess – York Explore Library and Archive, 2pm to 3pm (£6)
  • Margaret Drabble in Conversation – St Peter’s School, 7pm to 8.30pm (£7)

Wednesday 16th March

  • Sci-Fi Workshop with Adam Roberts – Skell 037 YSJ, 2pm to 4pm
  • Why Sci-Fi Conquered the World (And What You Can Do to Stop It!) – Fountains Lecture Theatre YSJ, 7pm to 8pm
  • Professor Steve Jones: Why Genetics Matters – St Peter’s School, 7pm to 8.30pm
  • Dave and Miles’ Rumbustuous Book Quiz! – City Screen Basement, 8pm to 10pm (£3)

Thursday 17th March

  • Writing The Sonnet with Lizzi Linklater – King’s Manor, 10am to 12noon (£8)
  • The Frigate Anthology Launch Event – Quaker Meeting House, 4pm to 6pm (£5)
  • John O’Farrell: There’s Only Two David Beckhams A Football Fantasy – St Peter’s School, 7pm to 8.30pm (£7)
  • Student Showcase – Quad South Hall YSJ, 7pm to 9pm

Friday 18th March

  • Uncut Cords: Changing Families, Changing Carers – Quaker Meeting House, 2pm to 4pm (£3)
  • Poetry and Migration – Temple Hall YSJ, 7pm to 8.30pm
  • Vince Cable: After the Storm – St Peter’s School, 7pm to 8.30pm (£7)

Saturday 19th March

  • Pennine Poets 50th Birthday Party – Black Swan, 1pm to 3pm (£3)
  • York Literature Festival/York Mix Poetry Competition Results – Black Swan, 3.30pm to 5.30pm
  • No More Champagne: Politicians and Their Money – St Peter’s School, 7pm to 8.30pm (£7)
  • Austen Society Lecture: Jane Austen’s Emma in Context – Quaker Meeting House, 2pm to 3pm (£8)

Sunday 20th March

  • Family Day – York Explore Library and Archives, 11am to 4pm, (£2)

For more information look here. For tickets look here, and register to see individual events! Hope to see you there!

Next Week at the York Lit Fest!

To get you all pumped for the Lit Fest we’re going to tell you everything that’s going on before every week! Enough time for you to grab tickets and make arrangements to see some awesome literature being performed, spoken about, and maybe even write some! (Events that are free for YSJ students will be in bold)

Thursday 10th March

  • VIP Festival Launch: York Stories – At the York Theatre Royal three novelists will discuss setting their novels in York! Check out how York shapes modern literature for just £10 with food and wine included.

Friday 11th March

  • Writing and the Natural World – A reading and discussion on writing the natural world with contemporary authors Kathleen Jamie and William Atkins! Catch this event at York St John in Temple hall at 7pm!
  • Saw Owt Slam Presents: International Women’s Week Word Riot – Held at the City Screen Basement you can explore the wonders of feminist poetry with headliner Sophia Walker and even some local poets, before signing up for the open mic and sharing your own poems. Just £7 for this inspiring event
  • Right Here, Write Now – Fancy seeing a performance where you write the script? Come see the comedic hilarity of improvisation, simply give them suggestions to act out and enjoy. Hosted by Paul Birch at the Frigate theatre this event is only £5, a bargain night for comedy.
  • Michael Portillo – Michael Portillio, former politician now broadcaster, talks about his exciting career in the media, but mostly, there will be talk of trains! This event is held at the National Railway Museum, a great day out for any train lovers!

Saturday 12th March

  • York Novelists Workshop: From Ideas to Publication – This is a must attend for the creative students! Held at Bennett’s Cafe and Bistro see how to transform your ideas into print.
  • York St John Con – The event we’ve all been waiting for! Held in Temple Hall the YSJ Con will be filled with great experiences all day including; a Zine Workshop, Poetry and Comics Workshop, and even a Fan Fic Opem Mic. If you fancy sharing your embarrassing Harry Potter fan fiction, give it a go!
  • Hoglets – An adorable event for children (and their parents) aged 2 to 5, a mixture of songs games and crafts to introduce kids to the theatre, held at the Frigate Theatre.
  • How NOT to submit your manuscript – Exactly what it says on the box. Three of the UK’s leading literary agents will tell you how to get your novel published, as well as how not to! Complete with a Q&A this event is held at the Frigate Theatre, so all unpublished writers should check it out!
  • Wendy Cope – Come see one of Britain’s most popular poets discuss her work and her life. A great event for fans or anyone interested in poetry held at the Grand Opera House.
  • Bedtime Story – Another one for the kids! Mini Custard Children’s Theatre are recounting a wonderful story for children and their tired parents at the Frigate Theatre, be sure to bring a blanket and warm milk!
  • Arthur Smith plus Support: Mike Barfield – Arthur Smith, playwright (amongst many other things) recounts his life and work and general grumpiness that led him to where he is now. With support from Private Eye Cartoonist Mike Barfield it’s sure to be a fun night! Held at the Grand Opera house.

Sunday 13th March

  • Val McDermid in Conversation – One of the biggest names in Crime Fiction will be in conversation with Festival Director Miles Salter about her work, and crime fiction. A must see for all crime lovers (fiction that is!) as there will be a book signing afterwards! Held at St Peter’s School in Clifton.

For more information look here. For tickets look here, and register to see individual events! Hope to see you there!

Student success stories: Miles Salter

Dr Abi Curtis, Head of Creative Writing, caught up with MA graduate Miles Salter. Miles has written three books. These are a novel for teenagers, A Song For Nicky Moon (shortlisted for The Times / Chicken House children’s writing award 2010), and two poetry collections: The Border (Valley Press, 2011) and Animals (Valley Press 2013). He also organises the York Literature Festival. He completed the MA in 2013.
Miles S

Hi Miles – when did you take the MA here at YSJ, and what made you choose this MA?

I started the course in October 2011 and finished it in July 2013. I have a family in York and it made sense to do something locally, plus I’ve studied at York St John previously and felt a bit of loyalty to the University. Partly, I wanted to extend my academic qualifications, but I also wanted to get some incisive comments on writing. Being part of a group of people who are writing can be very helpful. Writing is a lonely business sometimes and having that sociable aspect is valuable. I’m still in touch with several people who were in my study group. I was lucky that it was a nice group, everybody worked hard and they were pretty easy to get on with. The tutors were very good, too.

You already had success as a published writer, what did you feel the MA could add to that?
Success is very relative. I don’t feel I’ve been very successful, so far, in the scheme of things. But in 2011 I was at a point when I was taking my writing more seriously and wanted to develop. Dr Barrie Sherwood (who was then one of the tutors) asked us early on what we wanted to achieve by the end of the course. I said I wanted to get an agent, which I did in February 2013. This may have happened whether or not I’d been on the course, but again, it’s part of a mind-set I think. You need a bit of creative pressure sometimes, as well as a creative atmosphere around you.

How did you feel about sharing your work with other writers on the course?

It was fine for me, as I’d been part of a creative writing group in Hull where we’d all offered feedback to each other. If you’re serious about writing you need to look for the wisdom that other writers can offer you – especially people who are more experienced or older than you. It’s so important to get a ‘critical friend’ when you’re developing your work. The M.A. group were pretty good at feedback – we listened to each other. I’ve still got some of their comments in a file somewhere!

You’re very busy, especially being involved with the York Literature Festival – how did you juggle your other commitments, including family life, around the MA?

The evening classes were good – once a week for 2 hours isn’t too onerous, and worked well for me as I had family commitments. I was fairly disciplined at doing the academic work, and found it very constructive. The Part-time option allowed more time to think things through. I was glad I took that route. I do wish there were more hours in the day sometimes. Trying to find time to write in a disciplined way can be a challenge.

You run the York Literature Festival, which has a close relationship with York St John. What are the benefits of this relationship. Can you tell us more about the festival? animals

The festival started in 2007. The first one I ran was in 2008 and I’ve been involved since then. It’s great to see the festival develop – nearly 5000 people came to festival events in 2015. I think it’s great for York. We work with York St John and it’s a fantastic partnership. Abi and JT and others help by programming events, and this means we get a more interesting and diverse programme. This year there were a lot of events that were done with some sort of partnership, and I thought it went really well. The agents event had people from all over the north of England attending, and the 24 Hour Play, Quick Fictions, Emerging Writers and others were all good. I’m proud of the link between the festival and the University because I did my B.A. at York St John in the early 1990s and had a brilliant team of Literature tutors. They really inspired me to read more after I left in 1994. So it feels like the staff there inspired the festival, in a way.

You won the prize for the highest MA mark the year you graduated. How did that feel, and how did you achieve that over the course of your studies?

I was pleased to get the prize. I wanted my written work to be good, although the final dissertation took a lot of re-writing before it was presentable!

How did the MA make you think differently about your writing?

Being asked to read a diverse range of texts was fantastic – writers need to read as widely as possible, and the MA requirements here were great. A wonderful mixture, from Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’ to Alice Oswald’s ‘Dart’ and from ‘Madame Bovary’ to ‘Lolita’ and ‘Riddley Walker’. The first time I read ‘Scorpion’ by Jo Shapcott was on the M.A. and it was inspiring to see a text that was so challenging and different.

I thought a lot about poetry during the M.A. and my dissertation in 2013 co-incided with my second book of poems called ‘Animals’. I tried with that book to push the boundaries of what I was writing, and the way I was presenting my work. I’d read lots of poetry from the last 15 years or so, and the studying was very constructive because it made me think critically about post-modernism, how to write a voice, and why modern poetry is so often ambiguous. It helped me clarify a few things.
What are you up to now with your writing?

I’ve written a children’s book which my agent is presenting to publishers. It’s an attempt to write something that has commercial potential. I’m currently working on a novel for Young Adults, and writing poems every so often. I also write bits of journalism once in a while. Everything takes an age. I wish I was faster!

What advice would you give budding writers?

If you’re serious about being a writer, I’d suggest tough love. Remove the scales from your eyes and learn to see clearly. It’s very, very hard to get published. Even if your book is published by a main stream publisher, it could vanish without trace. For every Kate Atkinson or Robert Harris, there are thousands of writers who struggle. At the agent event at this year’s York Literature Festival, Jo Unwin (a literary agent) said she gets 5000 submissions in a year, and will maybe take on a handful of those writers. Lots of people turn to self-publishing, and although some amazing people have self-published (including Virginia Woolf), a lot of it is mediocre of worse. Set your sights high but be willing to work long and hard to achieve your goals. Writing is a wonderful activity but it’s very hard to do it well.

Also, I’d advise people to read as widely as you can – fiction, poetry, journalism, biography – anything. Be a bookworm. Start early – if you’re in your early 20s, now is the time to read and write often – every day for an hour, if possible. Write poetry for a year or two – the discipline of producing a strong poem is invaluable to your skills as a prose writer. As I said earlier, get a critical friend. Learn to spot your own failings, and challenge yourself. Spend several years getting better before you send anything out. Writing well is a life’s work. You have to be very patient with yourself, and the whole industry of writing. It can take an age. In the meantime, don’t give up the day job!

Actors and Directors Urgently Wanted

There are still places available for both performers and directors to take part in an exciting upcoming event. As part of the yearly Literature festival York St John students are hosting a 24 hour play event. This will constitute of the writing of, directing and performance of four original play in just 24 hours. Each play will have its own writer and director and the performers will be split into teams.

Volunteers will be meeting the writers at 7:30 PM on the 25th so as to allow the writers to gain a sense of who they are writing characters for. Actors and directors are then needed on the 26th from 11:30 AM for rehearsal that will make up the majority of the day. Breaks will be made throughout the day and food and drink will be provided. The final show will begin at 7.30 PM and is expected to last until approximately 9:00 PM. Should the directors wish to come early to discuss the work with the writers they are free to do so.

There has been some online interest but we are now looking for people to commit to the event. Those who commit now are asked to put their full dedication into the project (personal circumstances and other unforeseen incidents are of course exceptions) and to ensure they are available for the times and dates as stated above.

York Literature Festival Programme Announced!

YSJ  is hosting a number of exciting events at the upcoming York Literature Festival in March 2015, including novelists Emma Jane Unsworth, Jen Ashworth and Evie Wyld; poet Clare Pollard; a quick-fire Quick-Fictions contest and 24-hour play-writing.

Check out the programme:



Upcoming events at York Literature Festival

York Literature Festival Events taking place tomorrow.
(Monday 24th March

Recovering Lost Voices: Writing Historical Fiction with Sophie Coulombeau
King’s Manor: Room KG33
9.30am – 4.30pm

Burglar Bill by Janet and Allan Ahlberg
York Castle Museum
11.00am – 11.30am

Andrew Motion
St Peter’s School
7.00pm – 8.30pm

Narrative and Alternative Futures
York Theatre Royal
7.00pm – 9.00pm

York Theatre Royal
Mon 24 March – Sat 29 March 7.30pm with a 2.00pm (Thu) & 2.30pm (Sat) matinee


For more details click this link: www.yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk/2014-programme/