Opportunities in Creative Writing and English Literature at YSJ

The English Literature and Creative Writing departments offer more than you may realise. There are secret perks hidden in the nooks and crannies of the offices – including a bookshelf full of freebies!  There are places you can get your work published you might not of thought of, so in this blog post I aim to enlighten and surprise – have a read to find out what’s available to you!

Point Zero – A blog that this may appear on. Run by Tutor Adam Stock, the English Lit blog is a space for students to blog about their interests. You’ll find most of my posts revolve around sex with robots. Nothing is off-limits! http://blog.yorksj.ac.uk/englishlit/

Contact: a.stock@yorksj.ac.uk

Extra Lectures – Interested in a lecture but you’re not in the module? Email a tutor! Most tutors are more than happy to let you sit in on a lecture!

LGBT history month – LGBT History Month offers tonnes of events, 50 during February this year – to be exact, and a lot of them revolve around reading. From reading groups to pub poetry readings, don’t be afraid to tag along and talk gay writing! https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/events-calendar/events/lgbt-history-month-/

The Literary Festival – York holds an amazing Literary Festival. Including the likes of Sue Perkins and Mark Gatiss, the upcoming Literary festival has a whole host of events enabling networking, learning and open mic readings. https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/events-calendar/events/festivals/event-title-28032-en.html?timestamp=1490783160&ref=ecal&

Beyond The Walls – If you came to an open days, you may well have been handed a copy of the Beyond The Walls anthology. Run by students for students, the anthology is taking submissions until the 25th of February. Entry is free! https://www.facebook.com/BeyondtheWalls2017/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Student Showcase – An opportunity for students to give readings of their work to a wider, public audience! Currently taking submissions until the 28th of February, entry is free. https://www.facebook.com/YSJshowcase17/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

Writing Workshops – Although not specifically for English Lit and Creative Writing students, keep an eye out around Holgate for leaflets on extra-curricular seminars on essential academic writing skills! An upcoming timetable of which can be found here: https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/media/content-assets/student-services/documents/Workshops-16-17-sem-2-programme-v2.pdf

Black History Month – Black History Month is developed mainly by the English Literature team. Frequently involving projects developed by students, and visiting authors, the month is inspiring and enriching – don’t miss it this October!

Writer in Residence – Royal Literary Fellow Mark Illis has been writing novels, short stories, TV and Radio dramas for around 30 years. He’s done it all, and can help you with developing your writing. If you head to a meeting, you’ll get 45 minutes of literary goodness. Check it out here: https://www.yorksj.ac.uk/student-services/learning-support/study-development/writer-in-residence/

Programme Representatives – Your elected Programme Reps are there to help – I’m one of them! Currently working with the SU to provide a book selling system in university, we are willing to voice any opinions you have about your course – let us know what you’d like to see, and stand for rep if you’d  love to help with feedback collection and course development.

The University Website – The university website hosts a tonne of resources. Indexed here are the key writing materials: https://www.facebook.com/BeyondtheWalls2017/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

And more! – Check your emails frequently and flag up opportunities as they roll in. Thanks to the email system here at YSJ, I’m currently involved in a scriptwriting project for a suicide prevention short and will soon be heading on a trip to London to learn about literature and bees! There really is no limit to what you can achieve when you embrace the huge volume of opportunities to hand. If you want something, don’t be afraid to enquire with careers services or your tutors!

Seven Spooky Novels for Halloween

By Rachel Louise Atkin


It’s October! Cue the soundtrack to The Nightmare Before Christmas! Or maybe dressing up in uncomfortable outfits and singing along to animated musicals isn’t your thing, so instead let me recommend you seven books which I think capture the essence of Halloween perfectly. Whether through their use of gothic tropes, ghostly inclinations or murderous tendencies, all of these books are frightening in their own unique way.


  1. The Shining, by Stephen King

You might think I could put any old Stephen King book on here, but I’m a firm believer in reading his novels strategically. His prose has developed significantly through the years as he experiments with voice and genre, and many of his classic horror works sit at the beginning of his career. This is why I recommend you begin with The Shining. Turned into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980, this novel follows Jack Torrance and his family as they move in to the Overlook Hotel for a season. If it’s not uncanny enough living inside an empty hotel in the middle of winter, there’s also a bunch of creepy ghosts, telekinetic powers and fire extinguishers that turn into snakes. It’s a staple for fans of the horror genre, but I believe it also plays on a fear of confinement that was prominent in Britain during the 18th century. Asylums, like hotels, were places where people were temporarily contained inside individual rooms, and had the same sense of belonging-but-not-belonging.

Can't Look Away, The Lure of Horror Film - The Shining axe (15198227343)

 Hollywood Cinema’s most famous axe?

Prop from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

  1. War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells

Although usually listed under ‘science fiction’ rather than ‘horror’, this classic is just as terrifying as a ghost story. Set in Victorian England, the novel is told from the point of view of a man who hears that a mysterious ‘shell’ has landed near where he lives. After a few days, the shell starts to open. And it’s aliens. The entire country is thrown into a panic and our main character races to London in an attempt to reunite with his fiancée. I can hold my hands up and say this is the scariest book I’ve ever read in my life. Wells’ descriptions of the way the Martian’s heat-ray sweeps across the ground and their movement through the country on spindly, mechanical legs makes me cringe with fright. Again, this novel has been adapted into film various times – most recently by Steven Spielberg in 2005. The book has such a different atmosphere that all they appear to share is a title, but I guess that’s up to you to decide.

War of the Worlds original cover bw


  1. The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris

This novel is actually the sequel to Harris’ ‘Red Dragon’, but it seems to be better known than its predecessor. It appears in a tetralogy of books surrounding the serial-killer-slash-cannibal Hannibal Lecter, famously played by Anthony Hopkins in the 1991 film adaption. It is a horror novel which feels like it could belong comfortably with crime-thrillers, but it is the horrific descriptions of torture, murder and gore which makes it an extremely uncomfortable read for anybody even slightly squeamish. The head of the FBI Jack Crawford is psychologically manipulated by Lecter, meaning that this book frightens you in a more personal, realistic way than a science-fiction or a ghost story could. Maybe it’s because when you’re reading about something so intimate, it’s hard to distance yourself from the idea that this isn’t fantasy – it’s more about the horrors of real life.


  1. Dracula, by Bram Stoker

Another staple of the horror genre, Bram Stoker’s vampire novel is thought to be the work that has sparked our obsession with vampires across the globe. From TV to literature, theatre to comic books, vampires are everywhere, but Dracula is always the name that keeps coming back to us time and again. The novel is told in an epistolary format to get you uneasy from the get-go, and follows Jonathan Harker as he goes to stay with Count Dracula for a real estate transaction. He starts to notice weird things about his host though, and Harker soon realises that he’s become the imprisoned by the Count. Although most people think they already know the story of Dracula, when reading this for the first time I was surprised by how little had been filtered into modern culture from the original text. In fact, all that we really have remaining now is the idea of Count Dracula has a guy with a cape who lives in a castle and sucks blood. I’d encourage you to read the novel, just because it’s a fascinating insight in to what a whole modern subculture has based its entire aesthetic on (looking at you Whitby).


  1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

This is one I haven’t read, but that’s not because I’m lazy. It’s because even the physical idea of this book kind of freaks me out. House of Leaves is something difficult to describe if I don’t have the novel with me, but is famous for being written so erratically and fragmented that sometimes you won’t actually be able to read the words on the page. They might be printed backwards, or they might be overlapping with other letters so all you see is a smudge. Other times there can be only one or two words on a page, whilst on the next there will be text so small you will have to squint to read. As far as I can gauge it is a novel about a haunted house, but readers keep the details of the plot well buried so that you can go into it knowing close to nothing about what’s going on. If this hasn’t intrigued you enough to want to know what the hell this literary creation is, go and find it in a bookshop and flick through it yourself.


  1. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Most people already know the plot twist at the end of this novella. If you don’t, I won’t spoil it, but the key with this one is to go into it like you haven’t heard anything about it before. The use of science and technology reflected the ideas of rationalism becoming prominent during the Victorian Era, which could’ve made it uneasy for many readers in the way it was being used. In essence, Dr Jekyll has defied God (in a similar way to Dr Frankenstein) and this goes against many of the principles adopted by society. It’s less scary for modern audiences, but the plot-twist at the end still channels some important uncanny elements such as the idea of ‘the double’.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde poster


  1. Locke & Key, by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez

Locke & Key is one of the best graphic novels I’ve read to date. It follows the Locke family as they move into a new house after the murder of their father. Once inside, they start to find various keys lying around which give them specific supernatural powers depending on which key they use. Intertwined with this are flashbacks to their father’s youth where a ghostly mystery is brewing, and if that doesn’t sound cool enough then you should probably know that Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. The series has a few nods here and there to some of his father’s classic horror works, but also has its own modern flair and really showcases Hill as a talented writer.


I hope you’ll decide to check some of these out before the month is over. If none of them take your fancy, there’s still a wealth of gothic and horror literature out there for you to get lost in. If you think you can handle the monsters, that is…

Black History Month 2016: York/New York Exhibition Launch Night.

by Amy McCarthy


Live jazz music fills the air and guests are chattering, armed with a glass of wine. York St. John University has transformed its Arts Foyer into a guided history of 1930s Harlem, New York.

Last year a group of second year English Literature students on the ‘Literature at Work’ module created resources based on the Harlem Renaissance and now their work is on display for staff, students, and members of the public to see. The exhibition includes film, models, photography, and slide shows. To promote Black History Month, the students have the opportunity to talk about their work and express their enthusiasm for the cultural movement.

Although the students created their works of art separately, together the pieces complement each other to display the rich culture of Harlem. One of the works on display is a York/New York trail, where famous Harlem Renaissance landmarks are matched up to locations in York. The brochure is displayed on one of the walls and is accompanied by a short film in which the creators follow the trail they made around York.

Below the York/New York trail is a 3D model of key landmarks from the Harlem Renaissance. Accompanying each building on the miniature version of Harlem is a plaque listing the pop cultural references relating to the locations used.


Visitors also cannot help but admire the beautiful collages occupying some of the boards at the exhibition. These wonderfully creative pieces combine vintage styling with a contemporary artistic edge to inform the audience about key areas of culture. One golden frame discusses music of the Harlem Renaissance while a few smaller frames look at the works of the great literary mind Langston Hughes.


At the exhibition launch, the crowded room was testament to how student work is valued. The launch night was a huge success, bringing members of the university and the public together. Attendees left feeling better educated about the Harlem Renaissance, and hopefully inspired to pick up some literature from the era.


The ‘York/New York’ Exhibition will be displayed in the Arts Foyer at York St. John University until the end of October.

Black History Month Creative Writing Competition


October 2016 sees a month long celebration and remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated across the world as has been a feature of the UK calendar since 1987.

At York St John we will be participating in Black History Month with a series of events taking place on campus. This will include a month long exhibition in the Arts Foyer and three evening events celebrating art, literature and cultural history.

As part of our programme we are running a creative writing competition with the winner to be announced at a special evening with the poet Jack Mapanje on 27th October.  We are looking for submissions of no more than 500 words that explore any aspect of black history. We are happy to accept work in prose or verse and encourage you to draw on your educational experiences and beyond.

BHM Jack Mapanje

If you are interested in submitting work then please email it as an MS Word document to Fraser Mann  (f.mann@yorksj.ac.uk) by midnight on 15th October.

The competition is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate students currently studying at York St John.

Happy writing!

Beginning University: a 2nd year perspective

By Tom Young


Beginning university is a time of uncertainties. Will you make friends easily? Can you manage to balance a social life with your academic activities? Is there anywhere local that still serves booze at four in the morning? In a period of your life where everything seems a bit up in the air, there is one certainty that will keep you sane: who you are.

Local boozer: gargoyle on York Minster depicting a Medieval student night out. Perhaps. Credit: SaraJB (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
If there is one thing I can tell you about my first year studying at York St John University, it’s that I discovered more about who I am in that single year than I have throughout the rest of my life. I have worked with a faculty that tailored my education to suit me individually. My lecturers observe what interests me, how I want to work and encourage me to take the path that I have chosen, not one that has been chosen for me. I have been provided with independence, so that I can take pride in knowing that what I achieve is mine. I have been presented with opportunities to work collaboratively with others, to learn how I can contribute to build something bigger than myself. Engaging with alternative perspectives to convey the messages of many feels like the first steps you take to become a member of a global society, one that is intelligent and progressive.

When you are in an environment that constantly challenges you and encourages you to overreach your perceived grasp, you are not just being educated; your identity is being revealed to you. I would argue that the greatest reward you can take away from your time at university is the knowledge that you have your own style, your own method and your own way. With this knowledge, you can begin the rest of your life striding with confidence, excited by the momentum your hard work continues to create. You could be forgiven for believing that success is a fruit that simply needs to be plucked from the tree. Be ambitious, reach out and take what is yours.


I began my degree with the question “What am I going to do with my life?” and here I am a year later, only a third of the way into my studies, saying “There is nothing I can’t do with my life”. This sense of identity and assurance in yourself is the invaluable certainty York St John University provides you with, the sturdy buoyancy you need in a time that can make you feel like you’re treading water.

Exchange Semester Experiences

By Vasilena Chogolyanova


I’m a second year student in English Literature and Linguistics at Malmö University, and I spent this semester (Spring 2016) at York St John. My main objective was to take practical modules, so I can get some more experience in the field of publishing. I ended up choosing “Publishing, Production and Performance” (PPP) and “Literature at Work”, which proved to be the best combination of modules. I took part of two amazing projects, the goal of which was to put together and print out pamphlets.


The aim of the Text & Contexts project in the Literature at Work module was to produce an anthology from some of the excellent work of Level 3 students in the English Literature programme. It was exiting to have the opportunity to read through their critical essays. The PPP project’s objective was to publish the first ever York Literary Review – a journal of new writing. This project took most of my time this semester, because our team had to read through over 700 submissions of poetry, fiction and non-fiction coming from all over the world for our first issue.


vasi post pic



I think that the PPP project especially provided me great insight into the life of an editor and the amount of work one has to go through. I worked very hard on both projects, but it was worth it in the end when I got the two finished pamphlets in my hands and could see my name on them. I’m so proud of my team and myself for putting together these amazing publications. I have already put them in my CV, and I believe the experience I’ve got from these two university modules is as good as doing a placement.


Studying and living in York proved to be a truly lovely experience. The university is filled with life, creativity, and amazing people. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get an immersive experience of York – the best small city in Britain – and York St John University.

Scarborough Writing trip

By Rachel Louise Atkin


Gothic fiction is actually pretty great. In YSJ Creative Writing society we talk about it a lot, as many of the novels in the genre make up a lot of our favourite books. We like to see Gothic fiction as something to do with the supernatural, contamination and Victorian repression, and with two of the committee members studying the ‘Gothic and Horror’ module, it has become a genre we are confident talking about and exploring.


In February we took a day trip to Scarborough with the University of York’s own creative writing society, the Inklings. Initially, we went for inspiration (or really an excuse for a day out), but we ended up taking more away from the trip than we hoped we would.

The weather was overcast and windy without raining, making it perfect kite-flying weather. We ran around for a while on the beach first, writing our names in the sand and dipping our toes into the water which was way too cold to swim in. Far behind us was the seafront, revealing a stack of homes and winding streets which run all the way up a steep hill to Scarborough castle at the peak. The castle looks across the whole beach like it’s staged for a photograph, but it has been there since the 12th century and was used through the English Civil War. It’s open to visitors during the day, and once it closes it’s nice to have a stroll outside its deserted walls.


A trip to the sea wouldn’t be complete without arcades, and so we spent a little of our time getting frustrated at 2p machines and getting our fortunes told. Stopping for lunch, we swapped writing tips with the Inklings. We discussed how we generate and organize our ideas, as well as sharing our favourite books with each other. Poems were written and read out using the sounds of the shore as inspiration.

Moving further along the literary trail, the five of us from YSJ headed to Waterstones (inevitably). After purchasing some books we began climbing the hill towards the castle and St. Mary’s Church which is home to the grave of Anne Brontë. It was here where we started making connections with Scarborough and the Gothic. We stood amongst the graves and looked down at the water lapping against the sand, hearing the whistling of wind through the branches above us. It was easy to see how people like Bram Stoker and Emily Brontë had become inspired by landscapes similar to this one.


Walking up to the castle and finding it closed, we sat on a bench at the bottom of the cliffs and looked out to the sea, sharing story ideas and brainstorming ideas. The five of us didn’t really want to leave this spot. Though it was cold and I could hardly hold my pen, the atmosphere was like a machine for generating ideas between us. We were desperate to get indoors so we could write down everything we’d experienced.

The day rounded off when both universities sat together in a pub and discussed everything they’d enjoyed about the day. 90% of people sat with notebooks and were scribbling things down about graves, trees, ruins and haunted mansions. It seemed quite funny that although we’d joked about going to a place like Scarborough for inspiration, we all came out of there with something we were completely itching to write about.

It’s amazing how we manage to find literary connections everywhere. Scarborough seems underrated compared to its neighbour Whitby, but I found its seclusion and uniqueness to be something akin to the isolation and individual feel to books of the Gothic genre. We hope to recreate the experience by heading out on more day-trips, and hopefully uncover more of the hidden literary world as we go.