Category Archives: Meet The Team

Living the dream…almost.

‘To write my next album’ are the words that my ears keep hearing my mouth push out like a cuckoo each time someone asks me why I’ve decided to go back to uni. I’ve been using the statement, almost like a line of defense and now I’m wondering – when did wanting to study become not enough?

But I suppose it’s a good question. Why am I here? What do I want to get from this?  I guess there’s a part of me that very much enjoys imagining how it would feel when the bank clerk, or library assistant, or mortgage broker asks what my profession is and I look them straight in the eye and reply with the words (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill “I am going to kill Bill” style)  “Why, I am a writer”. But, if I am being frank, the reasoning lies much deeper than that. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, as cliched as that sounds, and a writing qualification, seems the obvious prerequisite.

As a teenager I had dreams of becoming an English lecturer at an old world university where I would stroll the gothic grounds and spend Autumnal afternoons on benches reciting my latest paper, ankle deep in dead leaves. In my twenties, I had ambitions of working as a top copywriter in some lush London agency, the kind that have a bar trolley service on a Friday afternoon and take their morning brainstorming sessions in the jungle room at Sketch. And, as a thirty something I now aspire to be a novelist, living in the countryside in a big farm house with a beautiful view, a labrador and a roaring open fire at my disposal.

My reality? Well, you could say I’ve flashed my marshmallow in the camp fire.  I have managed to become a singer songwriter in my spare time at least. And yes I have managed to make a living from being a self employed writer.  But have I pushed my dreams to their limits? Probably not. The bulk of my writing career has been in the realms of marketing and within that world I’ve felt extremely confined and extremely frustrated. On the playing fields within it, there’s this massive tug-of-war going on, with sales and targets at one end and creativity and perception at the other. Quite often, the fight to make things more creative, is at the expense of targets and sales and vice versa. And more often than not, it’s the sales and targets that win (‘booooo’ goes the crowd). I know, its really annoying. Whilst the savviest of marketers know that a successful marketing strategy relies upon an even balance between the two, the reality is that the marketing world is driven mostly by number crunching maniacs who I’ve heard, too many times, saying to me, ‘just stick to the brief Nic’. How about shaking things up a bit? I want to reply. Adding the sparkle? A twist? Making people people think? Where does my five years of studying Saatchi and Saatchi strategy come into this game? Instead, my eyes glaze over, my heads nods like one of those dogs you see on dashboards and my spirits sink as i say ‘ok’ whilst I ask myself for the fortieth time that week why i didn’t just elope to London in my twenties to work for one of those lush agencies before my ivy creeping life anxieties had time to crawl all over me.

Next possible bus out of civilisation?

An Mlitt in Creative Writing.

Single fair for me please.  

But escaping the confinements of the marketing world isn’t the only forceful wind that’s pushed me here.  

It’s emotional.  Writing for me has always has been.  It’s an outlet. A therapy if you like.  As a child i often felt as though my voice was the weakest in the pack. And often found myself, alone, in my room, writing down how i felt rather than talking about it. I also found that I went into character a lot too – imagining my life as another – as someone who was outspoken, someone people listened to, someone with a much more interesting life than I.  That’s seemed to stick with me and even now as adult I find that words come to me much more easily if I write them down.  I wonder if it’s the same for most writers?  As the course progresses I’m finding that homework tasks and workshop exercises are opening up all of these tiny doors inside of my mind. Emotions are surfacing all over the place and the more I write, the more they ooze from every pore. I have no idea what’s about to come out of me next.

 

And i guess that’s why I’m really here.

Reading between the lines.

I’ve just started reading The Bell Jar. I’ve always been forcefully drawn to Sylvia Plath but equally aware of a strong rope-like feeling around my waist, pulling me back from her work simultaneously – the way that something inside of you draws you back from the people you know you could fall hopelessly in love with during one conversation, but who with them, bring the atrocities of heartache that you’d rather not deal with.   Her darkness, her wordsmithery, her independent thought – she has everything that makes me weak at the knees. I’m only thirty pages in and I’m already dreading arriving at the last full stop on the last page – for I know that it will signify the end of much more than her only novel.   I plan to take my time with this one, however even that is proving difficult. There’s just something so compelling about the way in which she constructs her sentences that each time I put the book down, she leaves me wanting more.  The words she uses and the way in which she assembles them so fluidly and interestingly, leaves me living and breathing the main character, Esther Greenwood more and more with each line.  I am reading each word out loud (in private of course) in an accent similar to the one of the mid-century socialite character, Holly Golightly, from the movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and I am enjoying convincing myself that I actually am indeed Esther Greenwood and having a lot of fun in the process receiving free beauty samples from designer houses and ordering straight vodkas.

Before The Bell Jar, I enjoyed Reservoir 13 which was longlisted for the Man Booker prize 2017.  It’s a beautiful read that took me on a journey through time, vividly unfolded by beautiful descriptions and measures of the changing seasons of nature, which gradually became a strong theme of the novel.  That in itself, was a welcomed and unexpected surprise – when I first picked up the book and read the description of it being about a missing 13 year old girl, I anticipated crime tents and dead bodies rather than swallows nests and lambing seasons. The reason I was initially drawn to it was that it referenced my lucky number and fortunately for me, it didn’t disappoint as it took me back to childhood memories of long summer holidays spent enjoying the countryside at my grandparents home in Strathblane (a small village sandwiched between Loch Lomond and Glasgow). The book isn’t set there but I imagined the main village in the story to be similar and I enjoyed the nostalgia that came with that.  Its undercurrent is very much a message that Mother Nature, regardless of what is thrown at her by the human race, stops for no man and this made me think a lot about my own life, at this moment in time and how currently, through taking on the MLitt course, I’m trying to keep afloat in waters that seem to be constantly rising.

Well, the pile of books on my sideboard at home (materialising as a result of my never ending reading list) is  certainly rising and becoming a constant reminder of the volume of work I need to get through  over the coming weeks.  Although at times it feels a little daunting, this large wad of waiting stories also excites me immensely. It’s been a long time since reading was at the top of my priority list and I am welcoming the hours that I am now ‘obliged’ to spend with my nose in a real book as opposed to a blue and white digital one!  My social media presence may be suffering, but my imagination is thanking me to no end.

 

 

Half-Blast from The Past

Hi, it’s Nate here.

Easy to forget since I’m not there much; looking at you, Jennifer. I should be honest, that first class broke me. As soon as the word poetry was mouthed I was sending an email to counselling, begging for an appointment that same day. I’ll stop with the poetry jokes, honest…I’ve developed a fondness for some of it, even if it continues to baffle me.

I’ve re-written this blog post more times than I can recall. I know that probably sounds strange. It’s just a blog post, right? Just a short introduction that no one will pay much attention to. That was my first thought, and then I realized just how different this field is to my area of comfort; computing.

I think in this class it’s fair to say that the smallest of details will not go unnoticed. Every tiny black statue that is constructed as I type will be examined as closely as art in a gallery. If it doesn’t fit? Well, it will be torn down by reviewers in the same fashion as angry mobs once tore down statues of dictators…or so I would hope. I’m not a writer by any means, I’m a programmer, so I fully expect to receive bad feedback by the bucket-loads. As I told my writing-buddy Daniel; don’t pussyfoot around with feedback. Be brutal.

Approaches to this task included witty jokes and eloquent words – most of which I had to ask Google to define for me. I’m quite jealous of writers such as Luke and Daniel who seem to spit out half a thesaurus in each stanza with minimal effort – but none of these are me and I’d be lying to myself and all of you if that’s the approach I took. My jokes are typically darker and slightly self-referential compared to witty, so if you’re not easily offended then we’re good!

I’m taking a leaf out of others book, so to speak, and going for the honest approach. Sarah Jane was brave enough to be upfront on the Facebook group, and in the first week a lot of you wrote extremely honest pieces about your lives. I have a lot of respect for that. I’m usually an open book. I feel it’s about time I reclaim that aspect of myself and I’m using this as a catalyst.

I’m quite a quiet guy, unless you take the time to get to know me, at which point I never shut up. Daniel only puts up with me for a few hours at a time, and there’s always beer involved to make it easier for him. I’m not going to talk about myself, you can get in touch the old-fashioned way if you want to know about me.

Hi, I’m Nathan and I have Anxiety and Depression. Feels good to put it out there, rather than hiding from it. You might think, who cares? Why is that relevant? I recently completed an Undergrad in Applied Computing and lied to myself the entire time. I skipped around 90% of the classes in my four-year degree due to my mental health. I ended with a 2nd class hons degree but very little else.

Exactly what do I hope to gain by this? I won’t go into detail on my mental health, this isn’t the place. Feel free to reach out if you’re inquisitive, or for anything in general! I focused on mental health during my hons year, the aim was to build an app to improve student’s mental health. Working alongside a great supervisor in the School of Computing and a group of women from the Mental Health Society, we came up with an incredible collection of ideas and many of those were made reality. The app was well received on a technical level, but the lack of testing and appearances from myself in the latter half of the project meant it took some serious hits. The app could have made a monumental difference for people if I had stopped running from the same issues I was working on fixing for others. This is a subject I’m very passionate about, and one that is apparent in my writing (I got onto the course partly because of a mental health first-person piece) and I’m not willing to let my second degree be ripped to shreds based on the same circumstances resurfacing.

So what do I want from this course?

This is a good question and in many ways I have already got what I want from the course. Writing can be a lonely pursuit and more than anything I wanted to be part of a vigorous writing community. A place where writers engage with each other, share and critique their own and each other’s work.  I feel so lucky to be working with such a generous, talented and all round brilliant bunch of talented fellow students. Like everyone else I want to become a better writer and by working together I am sure we will achieve this.

At times in the past I have been a bit precious about my writing. I like to work at home with everything laid out neatly on my desk.  I have a jug of water, a bowl of snacks, a special pencil and a special pencil sharpener.  Over the back of my chair I have a purple poncho, which keeps me warm and also makes me feel arty if inspiration is lacking. So one of the main things I wanted from the course was to become more flexible when writing, to grow my mindset and to be pushed out of my comfort zone. The Creating Writing sessions with the no-time-to-think-on-the-spot-writing tasks are doing the trick!

Another thing I want from the course is to get over my fear of poetry. A recent tutorial on rhythm in poetry and in writing was a revelation and helped to allay some fears. I am now trying to think of it like this.  Just as a landscape painter studies life drawing to see how the light falls on the subject and how the shadows are created, an understanding of poetry and rhythm underpins writing in all genres.  I think deep down I’ve always known this, but haven’t ever been brave enough to embrace poetry and I’m glad of the opportunity to finally do this. My writing to date has been mainly short stories and life writing and I have little experience of writing poetry.  However, I think the course is teaching us that its all about having a go at different genres of writing. I have surprised myself and I am looking forward to writing a poem for our homework task.

As the course progresses I am looking forward to finding out how it all works with agents, editors and publishers.  I am becoming less precious and find myself writing on trains or wherever else I happen to be. I have noticed how people on trains are surprised to see someone writing in a notebook. Often they  strain their necks and try to read what I’ve written.  Should I share? Should I hide my scribbled notes? Should I ask them to do a quick edit? If anyone has any tips, I’d be glad to hear what they are!

 

Hello friends!

I’m Lynsey, a very small Dundonian with a very large fringe.

I left this lovely place in 2008 the first time around, and now I’m back for a postgrad. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bricking it but I’m VERY excited!

I’ve always loved to write but it’s taken me a long time to realise that it’s the thing that makes me really happy and the thing that I’m good at. Well, at least I used to think that until I started this MLitt! There is nothing like being around talented writers to give you a huge dose of The Fear.

I love reading fiction involving nature writing and if there’s a quirky, funny character chucked in there too, then all the better! Earlier this year, I read The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, which I cannot stop banging on about. It was a glorious read and truly inspired me to get cracking with my own writing.

So, here we are, week four. I’ve managed to avoid any meltdowns, but I give it another two weeks before I lose my mind over iambic pentameter or the difference between ‘voice’ and ‘point of view’. When I was working towards my undergrad, I was easily distracted from the task at hand, so this time I will be working extra hard and avoiding hangovers caused by the Union’s wonderfully low prices. Lessons have been learned…

I’m also so glad to be struggling onwards with such an ace group of people. It blows my mind to be surrounded, every week, by people who are just as geeky as me. Who knew! Particular high-five to my writing buddy, Jed, who has already put up with a mountain of questions that I should definitely know the answers to. He is an MLitt saint.

 

 

*Please write something here*

Hey up all,

Jennifer or Jen here. Well that’s enough about me, let’s talk about you. How the cherry blossom are you? Go on be honest, rant and rave at me, get it all out! You can tell me anything, I’m a good listener but be warned I may forget everything you’ve just told me three seconds later 😉

I’m to post this in the ‘meet the team’ tab and what a team! We’ve got:

my newly adopted son (according to my daughter) Daniel who is just a wonderful, smashing, great guy who loves to play with big words I can’t understand.

Marie! Marie is just like the captain of all us pirates, keeps us in check and looks out for our student rights-she is the glue that keeps our ship together!

Jed is just the go to guy for absolutely everything-he is seriously awesome!

Ian who I think is secretly a stand-up comedian with his cheeky face and twinkle in his eyes, the man’s got charm!

Luke, the type of gentleman you really wouldn’t mind your daughter (or son, no prejudice here) bringing home. Superb young man, what talent, what knowledge and what grace!

Loretta, mother of snow white and now my, most probably very reluctant but doing it out the kindness of her heart, theatre buddy.

Lynsey is  Lynsey, likes to trick us with her new hair styles, making us think there’s a new person on the course. Give her any challenge and she’ll just give it her all and how fabulous her all is!

Kirstie, quiet but boy when she reads her work aloud she makes an impact!

Rachel is the beautiful red head of the team, nails all the writing tasks every single time and just never disappoints.

Nic is the most prettiest human being you’ll ever meet, pretty on the outside and pretty on the inside which reflects in her work I’ve heard so far, renewing your soul and reminding you what it is to be human.

Jane, gentle Jane, so softly spoken, so comforting and just pure loveliness. I can never wait until it’s Jane’s turn to read aloud, she puts you in this dream like state with her writing and voice, makes you think Jane please be my mum (it may just be me).

Tracy, Tracy, Tracy, definitely the crazy one of the team, she panics, she stresses and she worries but she always gets it done and gets it done mighty fine.

If I’ve left you out Nathan, it’s because I’ve forgotten about you.

I look around everyone and think how did I get on this course? I really couldn’t have landed here at a better time with better people!

And Gail and Kirsty, I know this post is suppose to be about me, but I’m a self confessed rebel ;-P And it is subtly about me-if you read between the lines.

Our lecturers are great and put up with a lot from me and it’s only week 4, bet they’re now regretting not giving me an interview before offering me an unconditional offer for this course *laughs wickedly*. And I’m here to stay *laughs wickedly again*.

A word wifie from Aberdeen

Hello! I’m Jane a mature student from Aberdeen and its great to be in Dundee. It’s quite a thing, at such a great age to be back at Uni.  But everyone on the course has been so welcoming and friendly.  I have noticed how many of the students hold doors open for me! I wonder if they think I’m a visiting aged Professor or something? Whatever, I’ve made the right choice to be on the MLitt programme at Dundee.

At the moment I am reading ‘Sunstroke’ a collection of short stories by Tessa Hadley.  She writes about families, children, love and the eccentricities of life.  Her imagery is brilliant. It’s concrete and real and quite unforgettable.  To paraphrase, she talks about one character as having  sorrowful emotions stamped on her face like a boot print.  This set me thinking how I might have looked on my first day at Dundee? Maybe I could describe it as, apprehension nipped my face like the nip of a new pair of hiking boots? Not as good as Hadley, but you get the idea.  Next on the list, are the short stories of Mavis Gallant.  So far I have only had time to read one story, which was brilliant – I’ll keep you posted on the rest. Before I started the course I had never come across either of these writers and its been a joy to discover them.

I also like to read creative non-fiction in particular books about landscape and travel. I have just finished a book written by the artist Anthony Schrag, called ‘Lure of the Lost.’ He walked from Huntly in Aberdeenshire to the Venice Biennale in Italy. Its a sort of contemporary pilgrimage, as he walks he reflects on the landscape and on art. He was accompanied at times by fellow artists and family members who shared his journey. I’m interested in how walking can help with the creative process of writing. On my bedside table I have a copy of Rebecca Solnit’s ‘Wanderlust’ which is a history of walking.  I’ll get to it eventually, at the moment there’s too much other reading to be done.

As someone who struggled with the acquisition of literacy at school, I came to appreciate books a little later than most.  I think this is the reason that some of the books I studied at school continue to influence my writing.  If I’m struggling with creating realistic characters I turn to Dickens every time. If I’m struggling with telling a good story I turn to Thomas Hardy or Laurie Lee. I think the poetry element of the course is going to be a real challenge, its time to dust down my old poetry books from school.  Yes, I still have them in the loft.

I have never blogged before and rather I’m proud of myself for having worked it out! At this moment, I have a smile stamped on my face like the sparkle of a diamante Jimmy Choo shoe.

 

 

An A to Z, all about me.

Hello I’m Nic. I’ve just started the Writing Practice and Study MLitt and I’m new to blogging (bear with me). I’m in love with words and I’m here because of that. I’d like to tell you a little bit about me, from A to Z.

A is for what I am – an artist. I write and record songs and I am currently working on my third album.

B is for Broughty Ferry – the place I’m from. A small seaside town on the east coast of Scotland, just outside of Dundee.

C is for creating which is something I like to do.  Lyrics. Music. Food. Mess. If i can create something interesting with my time, my life becomes a little more fulfilling.

D is for what makes me nervous – due dates. They’re looming and multiplying and making me feel sick.

E is for excited (see F).

F is for four. And for friends. I don’t mean I only have four friends. But that I am in week four and have made quite a few new ones. I’m excited to see what the year brings for us all.

G is for grateful. For finding the time, eventually, in my life to undertake this course.

H is for heart. Something my new classmates and I have been sharing pieces of from the get go. It’s been a terrifying yet warming experience of getting to know each other.

I if for iambic pentameter. A tool i’ve used but not realised ‘till now.

J is for Joni Mitchell. My queen. My literary heroine. My inspiration. My unmet friend.

K is for King – the surname of one of my favourite authors, Stephen King. He’s been by my side since I was 16.

L is for laconic. Something I’m known to be.  Quite often, I get so caught up in the anxieties around the reactions to my spoken word that it becomes easier to say nothing at all and to write things down instead, which is another reason why I’m here.

M is for moon. The make of my most recent guitar purchase. Jimmy Moon guitars are made in Scotland and as well as the gift of music, they bring with them the gift of magic, both of which also begin with M.

N is for my first name which is technically more rightfully my second. ‘Pre Nicola’ i was Caroline as a baby, for two weeks.

O is for observing which I do a lot of. I’m interested in the psychology of people and would happily spend hours and days just people watching.

P is for pencils which, in my book, rule over pens any day of the week.

Q is for the Queen of Cups – a tarot character and a muse of mine in many ways.  She is described as:  ‘nurturing, caring, compassionate and sensitive.’

R is for recording – one of my favourite parts of the music making process.

S is for Selene, the name of my album which I released earlier this year.

T is for trees. I try to be surrounded by them as much and as often as possible.  They make me feel more like me than anything else.

U is for ubiquitous which is a word i like. It’s meaning, how it looks, the way it tumbles from your mouth.

V is for volume. Not external volume, but internal volume. Something I’m learning how to control, to my advantage.

W is for water which I love. I live by a river and never tire of its ever changing aesthetics, rhythms and sounds.  

X is for erm…..

Y is for yoga which teaches me (and reminds me) how to breathe.

Z is for zep, the second part of the name of the best rock band of all time.  

 

Do it with passion or not at all!

Everybody,
my name is Marie-Bernadette, I am currently sitting in an IT suite at University and am somewhat at a loss what to write. Having just been asked to spontaneously come up with my first introductory post for this blog, I wonder what would be best to say.
To be honest, as much I enjoy meeting new people, I have never been a fan of introductions, do you feel me? I find them to be rather awkward, almost as if you are desperately trying to squeeze your identity into a few sentences. And therefore, I usually just go with my name (which is long enough) and wait for my conversational partner to ask questions.
If we were sitting face-to-face right now, what would you like to know about me?
Having noticed the ragged accent in my voice, you would probably go with the classic, but uninventive, “where are you from?”, upon which I, rolling my eyes on the inside, would reply with suppressed ennui, “Germany”. Then, depending on what your opinions and knowledge about my home country are, you would ask a clumsy follow-up question or swiftly change the subject. Other than my nationality, what else might come up in such an introductory conversation? I am a compulsive traveller, I am obsessed with Edgar Allan Poe, I enjoy learning languages, I hate ice cream, I have about twenty-five hours of tattooing under my skin so far, I treasure my friends more than anything in the world, and I am “a poet to a T”.

Also, I am a juggler. Literally and metaphorically. I learned to juggle as a primary school student, and found out that anything more than four balls at a time is not feasible for me. At the moment I am juggling the MLitt (full-time), a rather thankless job (part-time), a marriage (full-time), several volunteer positions (part-time) and the question why I am not given more than 24 hours a day (constantly). I am afraid that sooner or later I will actually drop the ball on something.
I have to say though, coming from what lies behind me, I could not be more grateful: For this city, which has welcomed me so sunnily on my first visit and had me from the moment I arrived and that stuns me every morning with its seagulls and the water; for this amazing team of people that I am just in the process of getting to know – no honour could be greater than being your Class Rep (well, there is the Nobel for Literature, but let’s not ruin the moment); for this course into which I was so graciously accepted (I’m not going to say anything sarcastic about being the token foreigner right now); and for life finally letting me back on track.
I look forward to this year more than anything.
Or, as I dramatically wrote in my University application, “a writer is all I ever wanted to be”.
Well then, let’s make it happen.

“You don’t get prose in anapaestic dimeters” from Tom Leonard’s ‘100 Differences…’

Or, do you?! It would seem you might if you read your prose aloud!The  focus of my reading (quietly intoning in private) has been mainly contemporary poetry  of late in a desperate attempt to find a suitable collection for review (by suitable, I mean something I can readily understand and communicate its sense and meaning in a review form ) and recommend new collections by Rachel McCrum and Miriam Nash. But,  I much  prefer reading  North American prose fiction by writers such as Paul Auster, Richard Ford and Margaret Atwood (although, I’ve only just started reading from  her vast back catalogue). Anyone read/looked at Margaret Atwood’s comic book, ‘Angel Catbird’! I now wonder after Wednesday’s class on rhythm if anapaestic dimeters and the like(?) fly like ravens through comic books, too!