Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Article Published: Manchester Writing School Visiting Teaching Fellows to Attend Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature – Interview with Sherry Ashworth & Anjum Malik

In the last few days I had the opportunity to do something I hadn't done before, and that was to interview two people about their work. It was an interesting experiment, for sure! I found the key thing about interviewing people and then having to do a written piece of work, is not trying to keep up with the typing up of the recording (that's what the pause button is for!), but to use their words as much as possible in the final product when people don't speak in clearly defined sentences.They also tend to change the meaning of what they're saying part way through after they've started to speak, then hit on exactly what they mean, then emphasise that. Tricky for a first timer like me, with a lot of respect for the people I was interviewing. See if I've pulled it off:

Manchester Writing School Visiting Teaching Fellows to Attend Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature

It's also a different part of MMU that I've written for this time, so I feel proud that I have helped the university and Manchester Children's Book festival more directly. The book festival runs every other year in Manchester and there are always big name writers in attendance. Worth a visit if you have kids and have both enjoyed the books you've read to them or shared. Check the website for details.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Article Published: Does Sexual Harassment Matter in Philosophy?

Earlier this week I attended a public lecture at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) as part of their Humanities in Public series. I reviewed the lecture for your enjoyment!

The series is running for a few more months and worth checking out if your interested in the subjects under the Humanities. I'm particularly looking forward to the ones on the senses and perception in May and June, but before then there's more stuff on Feminism and then Body Images from mid-March.

Seriously, the lectures are free, check them out and satisfy that urge to feel smarter than you did an hour before.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Article Published: Carol Ann Duffy & Friends Season 8 Finale

On Monday night I was invited to attend and review the last of Season 8's Duffy and Friends at The Royal Exchange. Humanity Hallows has published the review here:

Carol Ann Duffy & Friends Season 8 Finale

It was a great opportunity to get paid for something I love - I've attended all but one of Season 8's events and can't wait for Season 9 to start in April.

Take a look at the article and come along to the next one!

Monday, 10 February 2014

2014 is already a busy year

The year started off with a decision to work harder and be less hard on myself. Christmas’s break from uni didn’t feel like a break due to the awful assignment I had to write on surrealism, a much harder task than writing verse or fiction, but it was all over with a few hours to spare and back into uni the same day.


But over Christmas I submitted 15 poems to three different magazine publishers, and another 10 in the second week of January. January also saw a submission to the Pighog & Poetry School’s pamphlet competition and a prose monologue to another magazine. I’ve definitely been working hard on my creative writing and it’s paid off. Almost. One of the magazines (Confingo, due out in April) accepted one of my poems for publication and the monologue has been accepted too, in Mslexia. I celebrated declaring myself self-employed by popping open the left over bottle of 4% Bucks Fizz, as a Champagne celebration simply wouldn’t have been covered by the fees I'm being paid.
But as other rejections start coming back, it’s the vicious cycle of a new working poet’s life, that successes are short lived and rejections more common. The only hope is that the work I continue to produce will improve and be accepted in other places. In the meantime, there are 2 competitions and 3 magazines to hear back from, and I’ve written several pieces over the last few weeks which could be developed into good pieces. Humanity Hallows were good enough to print one of my new poems, very time linked, on their blog here.

Another new thing this year has been the opportunity to collaborate with students from the Royal Northern College of Music, which is right next door to my uni, Manchester Metropolitan University. A nervy meeting, I don’t know if any collaborations are going to form, but its reminded me of my desire to try my hand at writing lyrics and music. BBC Radio 4 were on hand to make the day more awkward so if nothing else, I can listen to hear whether my stilting voice can be heard.


When, as a writer, you have more than one interest, it’s fairly frequent that someone will kick you when you’re down. A lecture at uni from an industry professional shattered any dream of writing scripts for the screen by saying it was impossible to get TV scripts commissioned without knowing someone in the business, through having scripts used on stage, or by becoming a film producer myself. Little shards of torture from an industry that seemingly relies on who you know, and not how much talent someone might have. It’s been a week and I’ve pulled myself back up to believe that if I can create some great scripts, I can achieve things baby step by baby step. The industry might be difficult to get into, but it only takes one script to open it up.

During January, I wrote a TV script for a unique drama series and booked myself on a TV script writing course at Arvon in the summer. I have another script in the writing, which is going to be for radio. Scriptwriting, I’ve decided, is a better method for me than prose, because I have a bit of a hatred for writing lengthy descriptions that don’t move things on quick enough. I’m not a great prose writer. It’s a bit scant, a bit scarce. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy poetry, the paring down of language whist retaining its meaning and story.


I took a step back from looking for articles for the blogs in January while I concentrated on script work and poetry, but February knocked on my head and reminded me that it’s worth keeping my foot in on the blogging front. To that end, tonight I’m covering the Carol Ann Duffy & Friends event at The Royal Exchange in Manchester for the Humanities Hallows blog and edited a film review for them over the weekend. My editing skills were a bit rusty, but I hope my article will be OK.

At the moment I’m wary about spreading myself too thin to produce great work in any particular genre, and writing drivel in all. The lack of a real winter has probably helped me, but my urgency for Spring brings on its own panics about what I haven’t achieved by then. It’s almost like I need to keep my head up without the support of a neck. I hope there will be more success to come in the next few months, if only to keep my head in the clouds where it belongs.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Article Published: Coming to a Spaceport Near You!

Today, Humanities Hallows has published my article on the commercialisation of space, as we get closer and closer to the first commercial space flight in 2014. Space is something I've always got an eye on - from research developments to flights to mining. But there's still a very important area of humanity that hasn't been up there yet - artists.

I don't think that people will begin to experience space until it becomes a place for artists, poets and musicians. No one really cares about the commercial side, but once the arts get up there, there will be an exciting new arts movement that will blow everything we've ever seen out of the water. 

Please take a look and leave a comment on here, or on HH's blog, whether you agree or disagree with what I'm saying.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Why Synaesthesia Matters to Poetry

I was in my mid-twenties that I realised I had Synaesthesia, and I was pretty happy about it. I’d always noticed the colours and had wondered about the sounds, but to put it together as the same thing was pretty interesting.

What am I talking about? OK. For me, words have a colour. Any words, different kinds of colours. My name ‘Justine’ for example, has a hazy yellow to it. The word ‘hazy’ has a green one. The word ‘word’… I can go on all day. Spelt-out numbers are the same, but not really digits. If you read the line "watch puppets argue of war and love" do you see what colour I'm writing in? Apart from "of" and "and", they are all surrounded by red.

Kandinsky had Musical Synaesthesia
The colours in words are the most vivid to me, but I also have aural synaesthesia. If I tell you a line from a poem I wrote the other day, don’t think about it as poetry but as an actual description of what’s happening: "[hearing] wrapping paper polka dots fizz". I can tell it’s not the sound of something fizzing in the room, it’s an internal sound inside my mind.

But this is where it gets interesting to poetry. It’s easy to read a piece of poetry and think a poet is talking nonsense, but why not consider for a moment that the poet actually sees or hears the world that way, and is trying to give a good representation of their senses?

A quick internet search has brought me to the Poetry Foundation with three examples:

“Light laughs the breeze in her castle of sunshine,” from Safe in their Alabaster Chambers by Emily Dickinson

“dull blunt wooden stalactite / Of rain creaks, hardened by the light.” from Aubade by Dame Edith Sitwell

a woman’s heart is made to “drink the pale drug of silence.” from Modern Love: I by George Meredith’s

There’s also a fine blog about Synaesthesia in Poetry by someone with more time on their hands and commitment to research: PoemShape. If you’re more interested in your Romantic poets like Keats, then this is a good place to be.

So synaesthesia is relevant to poetry because it’s already in there, but actually, I want to take it a step further. 

Yesterday, writing the poem I mentioned above, it was written purely out of synaesthesia. I chose words from summer’s Poetry Review and arranged them in a colour coded table, then I wrote stanzas using words of yellow, one of green, one of red, and one of blue.  I also wrote four stanzas describing the effects of hearing images. I might extend this, split it apart and create a series of short poems instead, and then find out if people recognise what’s happening, to see if they have synaesthesia and never knew it existed.

Synaesthesia can possibly be developed further if someone already has it, and I think that would be a beautiful thing to have in their life if they look after it.

Next time you’re reading a poem and the description switches from one sense to another, think about where that came from, and enjoy it all the more for knowing the poet actually experienced that description.

You can read about synaesthesia on the University of Sussex’s website or UK Synaesthesia.