Memories Are Made Of This – Part 6

So here it is, part six of my hugely successful trip down Memory Lane and into English and Creative Writing at Edge Hill University Avenue (quite a long street sign isn’t it?). Today I’m writing about something that could be fairly easily overlooked in the creative writing spectrum. It ain’t poetry, scriptwriting or fiction, and what else is there I hear you wonder? Life writing is the answer to that query. It formed part of the first year of my course at Edge Hill, and I only wish I could have done more of it!

One branch of life writing is travel writing (hence the picture, it wasn’t just eye candy). It’s really inspirational when you think that this course could get you a jet-set job. If you are a creative writer and you’ve been abroad, chances are you already keep journals and whatnot, but studying this at Edge Hill has really given a good perspective on what’s out there for you and your passion.

Even more interesting for me was the look at columnists, such as Charlie Brooker, and the techniques they use to write articles. Humour is a massive part of it, hence why I enjoyed this part of the course so much, but also touches of surreality, all to convey (and, yes, over-emphasise) an opinion. However outrageous! After all, isn’t that one of the greatest things about writing? Right and wrong are just shades to paint with as opposed to moral absolutes.

That leads me on to autobiographies, biographies and memoirs. The reading list for this part of the course is fantastic, I really got to sink my teeth into a great book called And When Did You Last See Your Father by Blake Morrison. The debate about truth really comes alive here, and you’d be surprised how you might write your own life story after looking and analysing other people’s.

To sum up, the structure of the course has been brilliant at Edge Hill. They fitted a lot of high quality, stimulating and thought-provoking lessons into a reasonably small module, and although I miss it, I’ll never forget it!

Memories Are Made Of This – Part 5

If anyone read my last post, talking about the start of the Premier League season and A-Level results day, I sure hope you had much better results than Liverpool against West Brom! Feel free to comment, let me know how well you did 🙂

Anyways, on with the show! Today I’ll be looking into one of the most intrinsically interesting bits of the English and Creative Writing course at Edge Hill. The ‘Creative Writing’ part is self-explanatory, but the ‘English’ bit is made up of Literature (already covered in one of my earlier posts) and Language, which is today’s feast for the mind. The diagram, which I hope you’re curious about, shows the parts of human head that are used to produce speech.

Overall, the Language part of the degree is as well structured as the Eiffel Tower. When you start off at the bottom, the focus is fairly wide. In the first year I was looking at an introduction to the history of the English language one semester and linguistics the next. The second year saw a development of the history side of things, but introduces modules that you are free to choose yourself (I chose an introduction to sociolinguistics, combining my interest in linguistics with social theory. Hard work, yeah, but it really brought home that linguistics is an impressive science that we can see at work in everyday life). The third year had even more freedom as there were no compulsory modules so, according to my Eiffel Tower analogy, you can taper it to whatever end you want. My only regret is that i couldn’t do everything!

The whole point of my ‘memories’ series of blogs is to look back at best bits. So then, what exactly are the best bits now that I’ve outlined the overall goodness of the course? It’s another genuinely tough question… Could it be the discovery of how changeable our linguistic behaviour is in different social situations (for example, do you speak to your best friends in the same way as you would to your grandparents? Do you swear more in some circles of interaction than others? Well, you’ll find out so much about things like this that you probably hadn’t even thought of before)? Could it be the module called ‘Beyond English’ that shows how English has influenced the rest of the world, and how different languages can be from each other on every level?

You know what, I know it’s a cop-out but I can’t pick out one moment over another. There really is something for everyone; historians, scientists, sociologists and even more can find modules that will interest them, expand their knowledge and improve their employability when they graduate. I think the best bit has been the whole experience, especially working with the most passionate tutors you could ever wish for (including someone who had a big part to play in a recent popular film francise. If you ever have the pleasure of a class with Prof. Anthony Grant, ask him to tell you more, though you may have to wait until the third year before he spills the beans!).

Though it may sound odd, I hope that after you come to Edge Hill, and have a fantastic experience like I have, you have as much trouble picking out a favourite moment. The thing is, when the university is so brilliant overall it is a positive – rather than a negative – that it’s difficult to pick a stand-alone moment. I hope you’re looking forward to having an awesome three years here soon.

Memories Are Made Of This – Part 4

Hello and welcome (back) to my Edge Hill memories series, focusing on my three years studying English and Creative Writing. Yes it has been the best three years of my life, but if you’re thinking about coming here then you’ll want to know more about the ins and outs, so I hope you enjoy!

Today I’m looking at Scriptwriting, which is the main reason I went to Edge Hill in the first place (so far I’ve looked at the Literature, Fiction and Poetry parts of my course, hope you enjoyed them too!). I remember when I first arrived, I had no idea how to even format a script, but true to the Edge Hill way, I was supported right from the off. We were given advice by the tutors, extremely handy handouts and even got pointed in the direction of industry-specific software from giants such as the BBC. This kind of approach, I feel, really is at the cutting edge. It really gives you the tools, tells you how to use them and then lets you practise, even showing you ways from the start that you could impress employers.

My first memory of scripts at Edge Hill was bringing my first short film in to a seminar to be looked over and workshopped by my peers. They were too nice about it, so the tutor came along with a red pen and scribbled alllll over it. After he went away from our table they started saying ‘wow, he was harsh,’ but I didn’t think so at all. He put me on the right path from day one, made sure that I stayed that way throughout the course and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Another great memory (there are almost too many to choose from, believe me!) has come at the end of the course in the form of the module known as ‘The Writers’ Workshop’. It’s not specifically dedicated just to scriptwriters, it’s actually down to each student to choose what they’d like to work on. The idea is that you’re working towards a larger piece of work that you’ll be able to present to employers as a kind of calling card. It differs from other modules in that there’s a bigger focus on the writers’ community and constructive criticism from your classmates. It’s been a great experience (hard work but well worth it!) and all the students can be proud that they’ve helped not only themselves but others too.

I think that’s a fitting tribute to the uni as a whole; it really is a great way to get ahead personally, but there are so many opportunities to get involved with others as well. Edge Hill is not only going to educate you and improve your chances of gettng your dream job, but the community you’ll be a part of will also be part of the reward.

Memories Are Made Of This – Part 3

Okay, so here is the third part of my ‘Memories’ series, where I look into the most memorable parts of my English and Creative Writing Degree. I think today I’ll look into the fiction writing part of the course, which is generally what most people I’ve spoken to think about when you mention that you write (specifically novels).

Again, all I can say is that in general Edge Hill has had the most positive influence in terms of challenging stereotypes and letting your passions run wild. When I first came to Edge Hill, I was thinking that I would write novels. Novels are what I’d read for GCSE and A-Level study, so I kind of naturally assumed that fiction revolved around the novel. How wrong I was.

Put simply, I’ve loved every moment of my time writing fiction at Edge Hill, but the time that I found most inspirational was when we looked not at the short story, but at something even shorter: flash fiction. The short story is something that Edge Hill is very passionate about, there are a number of short story competitions, but the fact is that their competitions are respected far more than just locally, and have genuinely improved the reputation of the short story as an art form within the country and beyond. All you need do is check the university’s press releases to see how much impact is has on the local area and even further.

But these flash fiction stories go beyond even the challenge of the short story. I recently entered a ‘flash’ competition recently where the word limit was 250 words. A whole story in 250 words? Believe me, you will feel inspired to tackle such challenges and then feel hungry for more when you come to Edge Hill. Our lesson in flash fiction included ‘stories in a sentence’ (think about Hemingway’s famous flash, as seen here: http://www.sixwordstories.net/2008/12/for-sale-baby-shoes-never-used-ernest-hemmingway/) and seriously, you will not find a more vibrant and inspirational atmosphere as you will at Edge Hill.

I used to be able to write fiction badly. Then I came to Edge Hill. Then I could really write stories. Narratives became easier to create, but then craft appeared and it became easier to write short stories and then flash fiction. I couldn’t have asked more from a course, when most people’s original perception of your creative area is ‘simply’ the novel. That’s why I recommend coming to Edge Hill. You don’t just learn, you’ll become creatively electrified.

Memories Are Made Of This – Part 2

Here lies the second in my series of posts on Edge Hill’s English and Creative Writing course’s ‘best bits’. Today I’m all about the poetry modules, which have all been great and it’s hard to pick out any single moment that’s better than the rest. I think the most memorable moments were at the start and the end of the three years to be honest, but that’s not to say that the second year was sub-par!

In fact, the second year had a well-structured and very inspiring look at different types of sensory poetry. That is to say, we looked at poetry for the ear, poetry for the eye, ‘mind poetry’ (based on unmediated thought, rather than self-censoring) and more. Looking at these different ways of writing poetry not only leads you to enjoy other poetry more on other levels, but also gives you a confidence about writing that is invaluable.

Even more striking than that though, was the module where it all kicked off: first year poetry. I think it could quite easily be described as explosive in the sense that a whole load of preconceptions and things I thought I knew were just blown out of the water. The enthusiasm of the tutors really was infectious (and they maintain that enthusiasm for the whole three years, believe me), and thought the attitude of a lot of people has been that poetry is their least favourite type of writing, I think we’ve all enjoyed poetry more than we thought we would based on their support.

 I’ve talked about the ‘Experimental Writing’ module from the third year before (I’m sure you love my writing so much you’re dying to check it out, so here y’are http://blogs.edgehill.ac.uk/martin/2012/02/12/the-forefront/), and I think it just gets the top spot for the best moments of the poetry part of the course. If the first year was explosive in dispelling myths and injecting energy, the third year has gone above and beyond. The look at different sensory poems has been developed in the sense of looking at new ways of performing and new ways of looking at the world and how that feeds into your writing. For example, using other people’s work to make a new poem is explored very thoroughly, and though you may be reluctant to enjoy poetry, this module will seem like something else.

Again, I’ve loved every minute of what Edge Hill’s offered me, and I don’t see how anyone else could fail to!

Memories Are Made Of This – Part 1

I’ve been to the English office recently to get some assignments back (which Edge Hill is actually really good for, all feedback is usually well within four weeks so you don’t spend too much time fretting over the mark!) and reading back over the work and looking at the comments made me think back over the years. All this thinking (it doesn’t happen too often, I can assure you) led me to think a collection of ‘favourite moments’ would be a good theme for a series of these posts, giving you, dear reader, a look into the Edge Hill experience.

For English Literature, it’s very tough to pick out a favourite moment because there are so many to choose from. Even though it’s one of the smallest parts of my degree (a quarter of the credits in the ‘English and Creative Writing’ degree), it has covered a massive range, from the ‘birth’ of the novel, Shakespeare, the Romantics, the Modernists and, in the first year, we studied a modern novel too. That’s a time span of centuries, and this broad view of literary culture has really been inspiring. I think spending a whole year on one movement (namely Modernism) has been brilliant, because I have formed a really in-depth understanding of it, rather than a less developed sense. Of course, when applying to Edge Hill, there are many different options and combinations of degrees to suit your taste, so make sure you research and consider your options thoroughly.

Overall I think my favourite moment has been the completion of a long essay on the concept of Modernism. This was the last Literature assignment, and the longest one of all three years (2,500 words, give or take the customary ten per cent). The work put into that really showcased how much I’d learned throughout the year, drawing on knowledge that had been growing every lecture and seminar. It was also a pleasure to write the essay with all the support I got from the tutors. They not only did a great job getting me to learn about the topic in the first place, but also made sure I was ‘on the right tracks’ with regards to the essay. In-depth notes were available to everyone online via Edge Hill’s ‘Learning Edge’ system to give advice on how to tackle the beast, which worked really well when coupled with face-to-face time in seminars to discuss any issues.

I bet you think I’m joking, but I miss doing those essays! Edge Hill really does nurture your passion for your subject, and I hope that my upcoming ‘memories’ posts will stimulate you too.

The Start of an Era

Last Friday saw my final lesson as a BA student at Edge Hill. It was quite a poignant moment – realising that your three years’ study is coming to an end and that you and all the friends you’ve made will all be moving on. Rather than being sad, though, we had a great send-off and kept up a Creative Writing tradition: the end of year reading.

As tutor Robert Sheppard pointed out, this is a form of publication (i.e. making public) of your creative work, and a fantastic opportunity to show your skills. It took place in the newly refurbished Hale Hall (you can see it looking all new and sparkly in the background of the picture there) and there was a reasonable turnout too, which doesn’t help the nerves, but the more the merrier when it comes to sharing your work.

The past two years, the reading has been grouped according to the year you’re in, but this time first, second and third years were all there to listen, and some to perform. Mostly people read poetry, but there was a short story and even some music, which just goes to show how diverse the range of chances is at Edge Hill.

It’s not compulsory to read out at this event, so don’t let it put you off if you don’t feel comfortable, you can just sit back and enjoy the other performances. As you can see by the picture (apologies, I know I’m no oil painting!), I couldn’t resist reading out one of my pieces (from my own writing, rather than class work) and, as always, the reception was very supportive.

I bet you’re itching to give it a go, aren’t you? Well, all you need to do is come to Edge Hill and you’ll get the chance!

Looking Forward

Well folks, unless you’re on a gap year or currently out of education then it’s the Easter break! There’s a bit of a difference between the holidays I used to have back in the old days of secondary school, namely that there’s more work to do when you’re at uni. Hey, this isn’t a moan though. This is what us students sign up for, though, and since I’m in my final year I’m enjoying this final push before graduation.

There’s still plenty of work to do with my creative writing: I’m ploughing on with my long script, my collection of poems and have to figure out my poetics. For literature I have a pretty long essay to do on the nature of the Modernist period. The subject I have most of a ‘holiday’ in is language, because I don’t have any more assignments, just an exam.

This is just to give you guys an idea of the responsibilities that you have when you’re a student. That’s not to say that now the beer garden weather is here I’ll be stuck inside working all the time. Far from it, given all the places to go to in Ormskirk!

Things at Edge Hill at the moment are great, the course is getting more and more enjoyable as the end draws ever nearer and, even though it’s the break, I’m still very much looking forward to getting stuck in 🙂

Another Visit From a Legend

To anyone thinking of coming to Edge Hill to study Creative Writing, I’ve got to say that you’re thinking of a great choice. Last Friday we were visited by Cliff Yates, a poet, who came into our class to read some of his poetry and do some writing exercises with us.

I saw Cliff a year ago at a reading at The Rose Theatre on Edge Hill’s campus, and I really like his poetry. It is warm, amusing and evocative, yet can be very poignant and startling too. As a man, he really is the epitome of a good bloke: open, talented, energetic and friendly. The session he ran went really well, I’m actually developing a poem further that I wrote in one of the exercises.

When you’re looking at universities, ask exactly what you’re going to get out of it. Edge Hill’s Creative Writing tutors are all published and practising writers, but the course is never allowed to get stale with the inclusion of these visiting writers. They really do bring a fresh burst of inspiration into the room and, if you have your common sense hat on, they bring an opportunity to expand your network of contacts in the industry.

Your course will benefit you massively in what you want to do with writing; your skills will vastly improve and your employability will be better. What more could you ask? Oh yeah, your course will genuinely be fun, inspiring and awesome, take it from me!

If you’d like to know more about Cliff Yates, here is his blog: http://cliffyates.wordpress.com/

The Forefront

Today I thought I’d blog a bit more about my poetry classes, being fairly controversial as they are at the minute. I don’t mean controversial in a bad way, but they are dividing opinions amongst me and my friends, so I thought I’d let applicants know what they may be letting themselves in for!

The module I’m studying has been titled ‘Experimental Writing’ by the tutors, and it certainly does have a feel of alchemy about it. It essentially deals with multi-sensory approaches to poetry (for the mind, the ear and the eye). I’m sure we’ve all been brought up on the kind of poetry that rhymes and conforms to a certain metre (Sonnets being a classic example of people counting out syllables), so when you learn in the first year that ‘to rhyme is a crime’ and making the metre regular is a waste of time, it’s a bit shocking. This module goes ten steps beyond that, believe me!

An alphabet-structured poem using associative cognitive methods of writing sounds interesting. A poem involving two different words (‘like’ and ‘attracts’) placed in a certain way around the page is bizarre. Poems inspired by the five vowels, including Monty Python-esque screeching in their performance are unsettling. This is a small sample of what we have covered in one lesson. That gives you a flavour of what we look at, and you might be like some of the students who say ‘that’s definitely no poetry’. You could be like some of the others who say ‘there’s method in that madness’. You might even be like me, you can see the pros and cons and aren’t really sure what poetry is anymore (not that I’m sure I’ve ever really put my finger on it!).

But in this kind of confusion, in this place that is so far out of our comfort zones, there is a rich diversity of new possibilities for writers. Right or wrong as our opinions may be (if there is such a thing in this case), the potential is immense, and I think that if you want to come to Edge Hill, you have to be prepared to walk the untrodden paths, get a little lost in it all but be safe in the knowledge that your hard work is going to produce breathtaking results in the end.

P.S. The poem featured at the top of the page is the one that’s currently on our module handbook, Bob Cobbing’s ‘Square Poem’.