My Writing, PhD

Winter thoughts

Like much of the country, there has been snow here in Staffordshire the past couple of days. But despite the cold, there are signs of spring emerging. I’m lucky to be getting out for a daily walk around my neighbourhood, enjoying the daylight and the frosted trees, looking out for snowdrops peeking through the frozen grass.

Photo of snowdrops in the grass

I’m fortunate that I’ve had a lot of writing to keep me busy over the past few weeks. The main focus in January was preparing for the mid-year review for my PhD, which involved submitting a sample of my writing and a research statement outlining my project so far and how I hope for it to progress. Thankfully I got that all submitted in time for the 1st February deadline. In a few weeks’ time I’ll have a mini viva interview to assess my work so far and check I’m on track. I find talking about my research can be really interesting, but I still feel at the stage where articulating it all feels challenging! But I am enjoying my PhD, and have been doing some really interesting reading for it this past week, exploring published mental health memoirs, as well as doing my own creative work. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to focus on something I’m so passionate about.

I’ve also had a few articles to work on recently, as well as seeing ones that were commissioned towards the end of last year being published. My feature “Art in the Everyday” is in the current issue of the absolutely gorgeous Oh magazine. I love the front cover of vibrant daffodils – I can almost feel the spring warmth and scent of flowers just looking at it! My piece is about how we can all make art and poetry out of the items we’re surrounded with, drawing on the idea of found object art and movements like surrealism and dadaism. It was a fascinating feature to write, and I’m so pleased to have it published in such a wonderful magazine.

Photo shows front cover of Oh magazine with an illustration of daffodils

There are a few more articles of mine due to be published in the coming months which I’m excited to share. I also submitted a draft of my new novel to my literary agent recently, and I’m nervously waiting to hear her thoughts. She really gets my writing and always has valuable insights into how to make it better, so I’m confident that her feedback will be so useful.

I hope that you’re doing okay in this difficult winter lockdown, finding ways to get through. I can’t wait until the evenings are light again so I can go on an after dinner walk. And, of course, I can’t wait until things are safer and lockdown can start to ease. I hope things will get brighter soon.

MA, My Writing, Uncategorized, Workshop

Zine Module and Zine Workshop

I’m doing an MA in the Teaching and Practice of Creative Writing at Staffordshire University and last week I handed in my latest assignment in the form of a zine.

zineIn his book Notes From Underground:: Zines and the politics of alternative culture, Stephen Duncombe explains that zines are “non-commercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish and distribute by themselves” (Duncombe, 2008, p10-11). They can be on literally any topic, from a favourite hobby to a political cause to writing about your life. I made my zine Interruptions for my module about my experiences of mental ill health, drawing on a variety of techniques. The main feature of the zine is a piece of life writing, and for this I used the Surrealist technique of automatic writing, where you write freely on a topic, as this helped me to get to the root of what I wanted to say without censoring myself. I also used the Dada cut out technique, taking reports that have been written about me, cutting the words out and rearranging them, so that I reclaim what’s been said about me.

I am drawn to using zines as a medium for my life writing as I love the physicality of zines. The researcher and author Alison Piepmeier talks about a gift culture around zines, where zinesters benefit from making and receiving zines. My friend Anahita and I have exchanged handmade art before – I made her a zine as a graduation present, filled with in jokes, a recipe for vegan tiffin, collages of Simpsons quotes, and photos. I like to – because I am vain like this – imagine her rummaging through her room and stumbling on the zine which she flicks through and smiles at the memories.

Anahita and I are running a free zine making workshop together in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday 5th August, 11am-3pm. You can find out more and book on Eventbrite, and there’s also a Facebook event page. It’ll be a fun creative session and it’d be great to see you there.