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NAWE Conference Programme 2016

Friday 11 November

11.30 onwards     Registration

12.00-13.00         Network Meetings

Higher Education Network Meeting 

This is an open meeting convened by the NAWE HE Committee.

12.30-13.45        Lunch

14.00-14.30        Welcome and introductory talk by NAWE

14.30-15.45        Choice of:

A1: Flying Sparks
- Kate Edwards, William Gallagher & Jane Commane

Panelists discuss how enabling young writers has had reciprocal benefits on their own writing; creating a more abundant sense of possibility and imagination for all involved. They share their approach to a new practitioner’s handbook they are working on for Nine Arches Press called Ignite. With contributions from over a dozen practitioners from the Writing West Midlands network, the workshop exercises in the book aim to be less prescriptive and more of a collaborative interchange between experienced and young writers in training. Creative sparks will fly when participants have a chance to try out some of the exercises themselves. 

B1: Co-Writing Design Territories - Julia Lockheart

This workshop will explore how design practices can be applied to the initial stages of a collaborative writing project. The tools are taken from my doctoral research (2009 - 2016) Doing Language Together: Collaborative Writing Practices for Design Teams in Higher Education, which focused on M-level Design students with visual spatial strengths who are less confident in committing their ideas to writing. Within this group I focus on the strengths of those with dyslexia, English as a second language, those from a widening participation background, and mature returners to education. During the workshop we will form writing teams, draw stories, co-define a territory, and agree a question that can be used to shape future co-writing. The session will culminate in shared insights for future teaching derived from the process.

C1: Using Publishing Research to Enhance Creative Writing Teaching - Laura Dietz, Helen Marshall, and Tiffani Angus

Publishing education is a rapidly expanding component of higher education, both as a degree programme in its own right and as a component of creative writing courses.  Three lecturers who teach both Creative Writing and Publishing will analyse recent classroom applications of Publishing research, demonstrating how it can enhance teaching and relieve pressure on creative writing tutors (who often serve as mentors and career coaches on the side).  With a focus on classroom dynamics, genre and e-books, Angus, Marshall and Dietz will discuss giving students insight into how publishing contexts shape their work and reception of that work.

D1: a) Using Creative Writing to Explore Motherhood in the 21
st Century - Kate North

This paper will focus on an interdisciplinary research project that sought to explore and express contemporary experiences of motherhood through creative practice.  The Creative Motherhood project drew on the expertise of a creative writer, an oral historian and a public health and policy expert in order to find sustainable ways to record the 21
st century experience of motherhood while improving support networks for new mothers.    

b) I Just Want To Go See My Camels! Creative Use of Drama and Narratives to Involve FGM-Affected Women in Research Design – Sarah Penny 

Can creative writing usefully inform research design for understanding health experiences?  Sarah Penny ran a workshop in tandem with the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University, exploring how using arts therapies can help women to overcome their reluctance to talk about the health impact of living with FGM.  Sarah will be looking at the therapies used, within a wider discussion of why creative writing has a vital role to play in improving health outcomes for marginalized communities in the UK.

c) Crossing Sectors: Taking Creative Writing to Student Nurses - Romi Jones

This workshop will describe a pilot project in which Romi Jones facilitated a programme of creative writing workshops with students from Northumbria University undergraduate nursing courses. The project included an opportunity to reflect on the challenging task of nursing older people with dementia. Each participant reported that learning creative writing techniques had reframed their belief that they were ‘not creative types’. The student nurses reported that the creative writing activities felt more ‘real’ than the reflective practice models used in their academic studies.  A summary article was published in an international academic nursing journal. 

E1: Writing in Time - Julie Primon & Claire Williamson

A first attempt at historical fiction can seem incredibly daunting, whether the writer lived through the time concerned or not. How does one evoke successfully the era they are writing about? How can a writer achieve the right balance between fact and fiction? This workshop will aim at demystifying historical writing through a series of playful, creative activities, and will explore the variety of ways in which personal materials can be used in historical writing. 

F1: a) University of the Arts London: Student to Writing Competition Series  - Jennifer Tuckett

This session will launch the new partnership between NAWE, the MA Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins, Writers at Work Productions and Oberon Books on the new The Student Guide to Writing competition series, which aims to provide access for students and teachers at school and University level to the leading creative writing training coming out of the industry. The session will be led by Jennifer Tuckett, Course Leader of the new MA Dramatic Writing and Director of Writers at Work Productions which works with the industry to increase access and diversity in the writing industry.

b) Playing with Words: Encouraging Failure in a 1st Year Space - Paul Williams 

The first year experience for creative writing university students is no longer a  triumvirate of the traditional forms of fiction, poetry and drama. Today’s students demand an experiential play with many more forms of creative writing practice. The new introductory courses I am introducing next year offer a radically different first year experience. Lectures and tutorials are a thing of the past; students will collaborate on projects, publish anthologies of their best work at the end of the course, organise public performances of their works, and experiment with many innovative forms in a course that encourages failure. No longer is our assessment measurable in terms of a polished piece of work, but an attempt to try and fail hard at many genres to push ourselves into areas we do not usually go, for fear of failure. A range of narrative forms is explored, including flash fiction, creative non-fiction, writing for the new media,  graphic fiction, interactive narrative (in collaboration with our Serious Games Program). Classic poetic forms are explored, but also contemporary performance poetry - slam, rap, song lyrics are encouraged. Dramatic writing for stage and screen (and The Cave II) will be written and performed in collaboration with the Drama and Media Programs.

15.45-16.15        Tea/Coffee

16.15-17.45        Choice of:

A2: a) How WAPPY (Writing, Acting, and Publishing Project for Youngsters) Works – Akuba Quansah

WAPPY is a newly-registered social enterprise, founded by its Director ‘Akuba’ as a voluntary community organisation in 2008, with the prime aim of developing the creative writing and illustration skills of young people aged from 5 to 18 years from diverse backgrounds, with varied abilities and disabilities, and training them to become skilled performers of their creative work, which they will later have published, exhibited and/or recorded.   Since its inception, through literary partnerships, it has empowered numerous youngsters to become confident writers, readers, storytellers, authors, researchers and performers, simultaneously, at local and international levels. This workshop demonstrates how WAPPY works.

b) A Space to Write  - Amanda Harris & Wyl Menmuir

What environments are best suited to developing children’s independent writing? How can a consideration of time and space in the teaching of writing in schools contribute to the writing process? Wyl discusses the findings of a small pilot in three schools in Cornwall and his research into this area. Amanda will link this to a publication of the same name exploring, through photography and interviews, the spaces in which professional writers choose to work, their processes and how, maybe, these can influence practice in the classroom. How many writers choose to write in a group with 30 other people?

B2: a) Whither Justice? Reflecting on Justification, Rationale and Temporality in the Creative Writing Workshop on Character – Namita Chakrabarty

Referring to Orwell’s ‘Why I Write’ (1946), in the context of creative writing teaching, this paper proposes fiction as a space for a justice seeming sometimes beyond reach in the external world. Using the Critical Race Theory I have used in earlier creative-critical publications (Chakrabarty 2011; 2012; 2013), I reflect on the justice and justification at work in the production of visibly raced characters in the creative writing seminar. Exploring the impact on my own creative research of published writing and student discussion on writing, I focus on the question of fictional characters’ futurity reflecting post-9/11 ambivalence to the other.

b) Creative Writing and the Psyche: the Depth Psychology of Writing - Kylie Fitzpatrick

In this paper, Kylie Fitzpatrick will discuss the cross-over between Creative Writing and Depth Psychology, paying particular attention to unconscious processes, life writing, and the use of the first-person as a means of activating that part of the brain which neuropsychologists call the ‘empathy-hub’. Fitzpatrick will suggest that more can be done, in Creative Writing degree courses, to support the creative development and mental health of young writers.

c) Disturbingly Dangerous: Teaching Structure and Selection in the Process of Life Writing - Catharine Frances

There is a fear of addressing the personal with young people whose identity is in great flux and, surely, it must be disturbingly dangerous to unleash a self-pitying, internally focused writing practice? Some students choose to take the course, others need it. All report that it doesn’t turn out to be what they had expected. This paper will reflect upon 20 year olds learning that narrating a life is always an act of selection, always subject to a chosen (not necessarily coherent) narrative structure, always partial and always unfinished. It is a process that has the potential to transform all their writing.  

C2: a) Word Rocket – Caleb Parkin and Paul Hurley 

Caleb Parkin and Paul Hurley present an experiential introduction to Word Rocket: a platform bringing together their expertise in writing, art, engagement and research. Uplifting research through creativity, Word Rocket works with academic researchers beyond creative subjects. Our participatory approach uncovers the rich potential in reframing the language of research through creative writing activities. It aims to equip researchers with divergent thinking skills for their work and wellbeing, to imagine new audiences and interdisciplinary contexts, and to develop more accessible ways of communicating.

The NAWE workshop will model Word Rocket’s approach: expect play, glue sticks, post-it notes and challenging questions!

b) The Ferry Tales Project: Travelling Through Poetry, Picture and Song – Robyn Bolam 

Ferry Tales is a community-based project, linking the Isle of Wight to mainland ports, supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Until March 2017, poets and songwriters are involving groups, from ferry travellers to the socially and physically isolated, in making songs and poems exploring arrivals and departures in their lives, using commissioned photographs. There will be exhibitions, events, a CD and an anthology, April-July 2017. You, your students or community writing groups, can also come aboard via our website, Discover how this works!

D2: The Washing Line – Liz Hyder and Jean Atkin 

In this fast-paced and fun workshop you’ll create at least one freshly laundered poem inspired by the everyday world of washing. Choose an appealing garment, take inspiration from our special Soapbox, extract favourite words from the collective whirlpool or out of the grime of the Filter and create a sparkling masterpiece ready to peg on the Washing Line. The Wordshoppers, Jean Atkin and Liz Hyder are noted for their inventive and energetic writing prompts, and their warm and encouraging people-skills. Jean and Liz will be on hand throughout to ensure you don’t mangle your words.  Unless you really want to! 

E2: a) The Not So Simple Simile – Andrea Holland

Simile has been described as the sensible older sibling of metaphor. The suggestion here is that simile takes less risk in the act of describing something, is more judicious or well-reasoned than metaphor and emerging writers can often feel more ‘secure’ in using a simile in a poem in order to show, suggest, or denote an object or feeling; where metaphor insists, a simile suggests...This session will investigate how and why similes work in creative writing, with a brief very simple exercise as an example. Tutors and teachers, as well as writers (myself included) sometimes take it for granted; its easy to spot similes that don't ring true, especially for abstract concepts such as love and death, where ‘our love was as rotten as autumn leaves/ as corroded as a rusty roof/’ and so on. Here we’ll look closely at the simple simile, to see how it can shake things up…

b) Metaphorically Speaking: Metaphors in Poetry and Plastics Workshop - James Cole 

As with air to breathing, metaphors are an essential part of creative expression - they help bring writing alive, adding texture and nuance, allowing images to leap off the page.  We will use as a starting point the UK’s only accredited museum with a focus on plastics - the Museum of Design in Plastics.  You will have the unique opportunity to explore online the recent exhibition - Is That Plastic? Skeuomorphs and Metaphor in Design - whilst developing your own creative responses to the virtual collection through exciting poetry exercises and readings.

F2: Drinking Stories: An Anthology, edited by Karen Stevens and Jonathan Taylor

From folk songs to classical art songs, from Purcell to Schubert to Verdi to Mahler to Orff, there is a long and well-known tradition of ‘Drinking Songs.’ This anthology, which is currently in the planning stage, and which will be edited by Karen Stevens and Jonathan Taylor, will tap into another, less-well-known, yet equally powerful, tradition: that of the ‘Drinking Story.’ Of course, there are many writers across history who have constructed stories around the subject of alcohol, its positive and negative effects – effects which, for various writers, not only shape content and behaviour, but also have an impact on style and narrative structure.

This anthology will consist of a collection of short stories by contemporary writers who investigate the comic, tragic, pleasures, pains and horrors of drinking through characterisation, theme, imagery, plot, style, narrative. The panel, hosted by the editors, will include a discussion of the theoretical context for the anthology (by Jonathan Taylor), followed by a reading (by Karen Stevens), and finally a short writing exercise on the theme of ‘Drinking Stories.’ The panel will represent an unusual opportunity to reflect on an edited anthology as a work-in-progress, rather than as a finished article.

18.00-18-30        DRINKS 

18.30-19.30        DINNER 

20.00-21.00        EVENING EVENT: Patience Agbabi 


Patience Agbabi
8pm: a reading by Patience Agbabi    

Patience Agbabi was born in London to parents from Nigeria and grew up in Wales One of the UK’s foremost poets, she studied English Language and Literature at Pembroke College, Oxford University, and is a former Poet Laureate of Canterbury. Her writing and performance has been featured on radio and TV worldwide.  In 2015, she was a recipient of The Cholmondeley Award for her latest poetry collection, Telling Tales (Canongate, 2014), and during the same year, was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Prize for New Work in Poetry 2014. 

Telling Tales is a retelling of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales for the 21st century. Mining the Middle-English masterwork for its performance as well as its poetry and pilgrims, her boisterous and lyrical collection gives one of Britain's most significant works of poetry thrilling new life.  Following a book launch at Southwark Cathedral, Patience has toured the book with literature producers Renaissance One to a range of literary festivals and venues around the UK.  She lives in Kent.