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Conference Programme 

Friday 10 November

11.00–12.00 Registration

12.00–13.00 Higher Education Network Meeting: Beyond the Creative Writing Benchmark

12.30–13.45 Lunch 

14.00–14.30 Welcome and opening plenary 

14.30–16.00 Choice of:

A1: Teachers as Writers Research Project: Exploring Shifting Identities, Co-Mentoring and Pedagogy – Becky Swain and Teresa Cremin 

This Arts Council England funded research project is a partnership between Arvon, the Open University and the University of Exeter. In this session we will present the findings of the yearlong research study which involved a randomised control trial (n:32 classrooms) and case studies of 16 teachers from the South West who were offered sustained opportunities to write during an Arvon residential and build co-mentoring relationships with professional writers in school in order to improve student outcomes. The session will in particular highlight the shifting nature of the teachers’ and professional writers’ identities, the pedagogical consequences of their new forms of engagement and the implications for writers seeking to maximise the educational benefit of their work in schools.

B1: Building & Sustaining a Writing Culture – Oz Hardwick, Amina Alyal, Liz Mistry, Hannah Stone

In a 2005 article for the English Subject Centre Newsletter[1], David Kennedy raised the challenge facing HE in encouraging students ‘to think of themselves as writers: i.e. as people who write,’ and posed the question: ‘how do we seed and sustain an inclusive writing culture in our individual institutions that will support students in this?’ In this article, he wrote of the idea of Writers’ Festival days which, in close collaboration, were launched at Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds (as was) and York St John’s College (as was) in that year, with a view to broadening students’ understanding of – and enthusiasm for – writing. In the intervening years, the HE landscape has changed dramatically and, along with this, so have student expectations. Within this shifting landscape, both institutions have also changed in many ways. This session will reflect on how the seeds sown in 2005 have grown over the years into a rich, varied, and sustaining crop at Leeds Trinity University (as it is now), both within the curriculum and beyond, through curriculum development, community engagement, publications, and other activities.

This session is in memory of David Kennedy (1959-2017).

C1: Writing to Sustain All Life – Gale Burns, Jean Atkin, Jennie Bailey 

A panel of writers share their interaction with the environment and climate change, in a session that includes a chance to review your own perspective in small groups and to write creatively in response, the panel will lead a discussion of the inspiration and challenges of the work. 

The panel includes Gale Burns, a writer in residence at Kingston University and vice-president of the European Association of Creative Writing Programmes; Jean Atkin, poet in education who writes about layers of time in the landscape; and Jen Bailey, who is interested in ecology in urban environments. 

D1: a) The Boat: Word and Image and Refugees  – Andy Melrose

In the world of art, fiction and media for children, the picture book maker’s job is to help provide a story which allows children to explore experiences and that which is new to them in the world. Not as a didactic sermon but through words and images which allow them to explore the imaginative realm of storytelling alongside their own developing knowledge of the world. To give them something which will not stand still, for it will never be new again, but will always be, Penelope-like, starting over, as they come to assimilate what they already know with what they know not. This means creating a text that helps to bring the child reader into a shared experience, mediated by a story. In the case being emphasised in this session, The Boat is a story about those unfortunate enough to be called or at least represented in the media, as ‘Boat People’ (a tag which is slowly disappearing as the tragedy of the refugee crisis across the world begins to unfold). I will be unveiling 'free' education material for schools and parents as well as discussing the artwork and other ideas.

b) Write Here: Sanctuary: Rich Goodson, Writing East Midlands 

Write Here is the Writers in Residence scheme programmed by Writing East Midlands, placing writers in educational, socially and culturally significant venues since 2009. Working in partnership with the Cities of Sanctuary and other refugee support groups in Derby, Nottingham and Leicester, in 2016/17 Writing East Midlands engaged over 140 refugees from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in spoken word, storytelling and creative writing activities to enable them to tell their stories, articulate their identities and provide a platform for their creative self-expression. Join lead writer Richard Goodson as he discusses the benefits of using creative writing with this target group, the difference creative writing can make to the social inclusion of refugees in the UK and build practical ideas in setting up projects in this area. (60mins)

E1: Writing & Teaching as a Business – Helen Stockton & Danielle Lloyd 

Earning a living as a writer is notoriously difficult, yet it is not impossible, particularly when combined with freelance teaching. Find out how to create a portfolio of up to sixteen teaching and writing activities and projects that can provide a sustainable and reliable income in this interactive workshop. Evaluate and prioritise your work according to remuneration and balance the writing and teaching you need to do against the writing and teaching that you want to do. Share freelancing ideas that meet your needs as a writer, as an educator and are truly rewarding.

F1: a) Flight of Fancy – Vanessa Harbour

What does it mean to be creative? Who decides if we’re a writer? Academically I’ve an MA and a Creative Writing PhD that says I am. I wrote continuously within an academic environment but it wasn’t until I wrote my first novel totally outside the academic confines that I really felt I found my voice. It was a flight of fancy. However, being an academic and mentor of aspiring writers means that my head is often full of other people’s words. My mind can be fragmented. Stifling said creativity. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Japanese art of mending broken pots with gold – Kintsugi – I use poetry both reading, and occasionally writing, as my own form of gold to mend the mind and feed the creativity. This paper will explore how my creativity changed and how I support it.

b) You’re Only Doing Creative Writing – Joanne Ashcroft 

I am in my fourth year of part time study for a practice-led PhD. My research explores Sound-rich poetry and voicelessness of outsider figures in the work of Geraldine Monk, Bill Griffiths and Maggie O’ Sullivan. My research methodology, which follows certain guidelines in the NAWE Creative Writing Research Benchmark Statement, includes the acts of making poems, creating poetics, and writing a literary study of three contemporary poets. I will give an account of the complexities of engaging with, and using this methodology and of the impact it has been having on the development of my poetry writing practice.

c) A Writer In Education: A Teacher’s Journey Through a Creative Writing PhD – Patrick Doherty 

Patrick Doherty was a teacher for thirty years before embarking upon a PhD in creative writing aiming to write a memoir of a childhood in Donegal, The House with the Red Roof.  What started as a simple memoir-writing exercise became an intense exploration of representing a child’s age-appropriate voice in a story drawn from the troubled borderlands of Ulster. Patrick will share the struggle he has had between the academic and the creative in his attempt to represent ‘truth’ based upon his multi-layered and unreliable memory. 

16.00–16.30 Tea/Coffee Break

16.30–18.00 Choice of:

A2: a) Tricks to Teach New Writers – Moniack Mhor  - Cynthia Rogerson  

With 25 years’ experience running residential, day and outreach courses for schools, Moniack Mhor Writers Centre is committed to continued improvement in the area of young writer development. Learn some tricks to stimulate young writers from novelist Cynthia Rogerson.  This workshop/discussion will focus on the value of literary creativity and effective ways to achieve it.

b) Page Fright – The Poetry Society – Nazmia Jamal  

Page Fright is a dynamic resource from The Poetry Society offering a fresh look at canonical poets and poems by inviting spoken word artists – including Hollie McNish and Benjamin Zephaniah - to perform a piece which inspires them, a poem of their own and to talk about the influence that poet has had on their work in a series of short videos. In this presentation Nazmia, the Poetry Society’s Education Manager and a former teacher, explores how the Page Fright project can help make sense of page poetry when your students don’t think the set poems are speaking to them. (20+10 mins)

c) Performance Poetry in Primary Schools – Conrad Burdekin 

In this talk, I will discuss how I inspire primary school pupils to create their own poems and, furthermore, how I then teach them to perform what they have created. I will give several examples of how I have done this, and also illustrate how successful this has been to the children involved – not only in terms of their confidence but also in terms of their improved speaking and listening skills. My approach is simple, yet effective, and always an inspiration not only to the children involved, but also the staff.

B2: a) Polaroid Moments: Teaching Undergraduates to Mine Their Life Experiences for Fiction – Jonathan Gibbs 

One problem with teaching Creative Writing at undergraduate level is that young students often don’t have the ability and/or confidence to make use of their own life experiences as raw material for their writing, be it fictional or otherwise. They don’t have the distance on their own lives that adult writers do (and may not know how common this self-plagiarism is!). This workshop presents ways of collecting and reflecting on events young writers have experienced or witnessed, shows the ‘tricks’ whereby they can be developed or twisted to be turned into fiction, and ‘gives permission’ for them to do so.

b) Engaging the Dis-Affected: Tearing Students Away From Their Smartphones – Julie MacLusky

Following a disappointing induction week visit to a National Trust property, a series of ‘writing prompts’ were drawn from research completed for books written for the Trust.  The prompts were designed to help students acquire an imaginative understanding of the way such properties have impacted regional history and culture. As a result, the visits generated enthusiastic work from students and their writing subsequently secured wider publication. Academic staff enjoyed the breadth and depth of student writing resulting from the prompts.  The National Trust is now working with the author to further expanded upon the potential for these prompts to engage disaffected populations.

c) Imagined Borders: Scenarios of Exile in the University Creative Writing Workshop – Kathleen Bell 

This paper outlines and reflects on a series of workshops I have devised and taught in a second-year university Creative Writing module on Writing Place. Exile is a common experience which has, historically, fed into many writers’ work. Students draw on the sense of exile, experiences of crossing borders, being interviewed, feeling out of place, etc. as imaginative triggers to initiate work and as a means to develop writing technique. Reading, analysis, improvisation, speed-writing, collaborative work and independent homework help students to see place through a succession of lenses and move characters through space and time.

C2: a) Workshop: Urdu, Panjabi And Persian Poetry ‘Taster’ – Nabila Jameel 

This session or presentation is an introduction to classical and modern poetry, mainly in translation. You can practise reading some of the poetry in Roman script to hear the sounds and rhythms of poetry these languages offer and even attempt to write a Ghazal in English. These sessions are designed to raise interest in and awareness of poetry in languages underrepresented in this country and to offer writers inspiration through the beautiful sounds and rhythms of these languages.

b) Creative Writing: The Joy of Play – Chiki Fabregat 

One of the best ways to communicate with children is to play. One of the best ways to make children love something, is to play. So, is it not logical thinking that one of the best ways to teach Creative Writing to children is by playing with words and stories? The purpose of this session is to show examples (and to practice them) of Creative Writing Games and tips that will make students enjoy writing.   

D2: Freelancers’ Forum – Sue Burge & Michael Loveday 

Freelancers face particular challenges – not least often working with less support. This session allows you to connect and share knowledge with peers working as freelancers –whether in healthcare / wellbeing, further education, community projects, schools, universities, creative residencies, charities etc. The focus will be on sharing a current challenge / future goal, for problem-solving in a small group, gaining ideas and advice through brainstorming, informal coaching, and knowledge-sharing. This will be followed by a plenary group discussion, sifting through the issues raised and looking for common themes and solutions. 

E2: a) Writing for Wellbeing (W4w) In Higher Education: Process V/S Prescription – Anne-Marie Smith 

This session explores the potential of transgressing the prescriptive writing that Higher Education demands of academics, in favour of writing that centres on process rather than output. I recently established a monthly ‘Writing for Wellbeing Group’ for staff to explore new ways of writing for personal and professional development. This has initially revealed a need for safe spaces for authentic writing and attention to the emotional self. I will offer some tentative reflections and initial thoughts on how W4W can bridge the gap between production and creativity in the context of Higher Education, and will include short reflective writing exercises.

b) Putting Together the Pieces: Trauma, Aces and Serial Autobiographical Narratives  – Catharine Frances 

This presentation will examine serial self-representation in writers’ autobiographical trauma narratives. It will examine autobiographical texts, in fact and fiction genres, that writers employ to present and re-present their selves especially where those selves may be read as a version of dialogic self-processing and reprocessing. Taking Jeanette Winterson’s works as a key example of a writer writing herself and her childhood through texts that range from autofiction to memoir, critical essays, short stories, interviews, arts’ programmes, newspaper columns, online platforms etc., this paper aims to consider how current trauma theory informs an understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), their impact upon narrative form and the implications for a reconfigured (compassionate?) ongoing autobiographical pact. 

c) Using Poetry in Therapeutic Writing – Lindsay Reid 

This paper discusses the researcher's experience facilitating a therapeutic poetry writing group at a charity in the North East, working with those who had experienced emotional distress, and the results of her research demonstrating the benefits of therapeutic poetry writing. A particular benefit found was the way in which therapeutic poetry writing can help those processing trauma. Based on interviews with participants in the therapeutic writing group, the paper considers the specific benefits the participants experienced, the reasons why poetry may be more helpful than other forms of therapeutic writing, and the skills required to facilitate a therapeutic writing group.   

F2: a) Exhortative Texts – Deak Kirkham

 Although peripheral in teaching and writing, exhortative text, that urges readers to undertake some course of action, affords unique opportunities for creative writing development and exploration. This workshop will use examples of exhortative texts (from Gibran’s The Prophet and Coelho’s  The Manual of the Warrior of Life through to Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen and Polonius’ advice to Laertes), both to motivate a typology of features of the genre and develop therefrom a pedagogical framework for creating such texts. Attendees will be invited to use this framework to create one of a set of exhortative texts to share with another individual.

b) Balkan Noir – Cal Smyth 

The presentation will talk about the story behind the research for my Balkan Noir novel, from bursaries to primary source investigations. Aided by a Serbian publisher, I interviewed a police inspector in Belgrade and gathered first-hand information about the Balkan drug route and corruption. I was assisted in my research by a linguist with a bullet in her leg who provided insights into the Serbian underworld. With fiction turning into reality, I ended up getting my researcher out of prison in a story that involves tapped phone calls, prostitutes in witness protection and a prosecutor who had an accident on the day of the hearing. 

18.00-18-30  Launch:  Oz Hardwick, The House of Ghosts and Mirrors 

Oz Hardwick is a York-based writer, photographer, music journalist, and occasional musician. His work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media: books, journals, record covers, programmes, fabric, with music, with film, and with nothing but a slightly West Country-tinged voice. He has published six poetry collection, most recently The House of Ghosts and Mirrors (Valley Press, 2017) and has edited several more. As Prof Paul Hardwick, he also finds time to be Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the Creative Writing programmes and teaches Medieval Literature.

18.30 - 20.00         Dinner

20.00 - 21.00        Reading and Q&A with Sarah Howe 

Sarah Howe is a British poet, academic and editor. Her first book, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. Born in Hong Kong to an English father and Chinese mother, she moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism. She has held fellowships at the University of Cambridge, at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute and at University College London.

21.00  Open mic! (with MCs Andrea Holland & Helena Blakemore)

Join us for a smorgasboard of poetry and short prose! Put your name down at the NAWE desk until 7pm on Friday.

First come, first served.


[1] [1] David Kennedy, ‘Writing Culture,’ English Subject Centre Newsletter 8 (June 2005), 9-12.


Speaker 1

8pm: Reading by Sarah Howe    

Sarah Howe is a British poet, academic and editor. Her first book, Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), won the T.S. Eliot Prize and The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. Born in Hong Kong to an English father and Chinese mother, she moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism. She has held fellowships at the University of Cambridge, at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute and at University College London.