Creative writers and copywriting

If you’re a recent creative writing graduate and are wondering how to make a living while you finish that novel or script, you may not have considered copywriting. It’s not on the radar of most creative writing students, and yet it draws on all the skills that are honed on a CW degree, including storytelling, viewpoint, tone of voice, research, characterisation, hooks, and a demon eye for editing. Good listening skills and the ability to cut through complexity to find a clear narrative thread are also useful.

Writing skills are highly sought after in the commercial world, but it can be hard for creative writers to know how to translate their skills for that different context. I wrote this book as a start-up guide for students, based on my experience of running Texthouse, a writing business in rural Scotland.

One of the unexpected privileges of copywriting is the fascinating range of people and businesses you meet. I’ve had the pleasure of working with divers, housing associations, dry rot specialists, hoteliers, chocolatiers, heating engineers, designers… people whose work I’d never normally come across in the comparative isolation of writing. For a curious writer, this is wonderful. And as I discovered, people in the world of small business are a lot like writers: independent, in pursuit of a strange vision, prefer working for themselves…

How to Launch a Freelance Copywriting Business is about startup nuts and bolts for creative writers and journalists, and doesn’t cover the writing side. If you’re a student and would like recommendations and templates around copywriting, email j.horne@open.ac.uk

Jules Horne is an Associate Lecturer on the Open University MA in Creative Writing and module A363, Advanced Creative Writing.

http://www.method-writing.com/launch-freelance-copywriting-business/

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Bringing a major Irish poet back home

As my co-editor Dr. Siobhán Campbell, one of the Module Team developing curriculum for the new MA in Creative Writing, writes in the introduction to Eavan Boland: Inside History, a new book of essays and poems on the work of one of Ireland’s leading poets of the 20th and 21st centuries, we belong to a generation of writers for whom Boland’s ‘presence as a poet, critic and teacher has been of major importance.’ But despite that importance, there had been few recent, Irish-produced critical studies of a poet whose work is so well known on the international stage. As Irish women poets and academics ourselves, we felt that this was something needing to be addressed.

Siobhán first approached me with the idea of a critical study in early 2012; at that point, we were aiming to publish something to coincide with Eavan’s 70th birthday in 2014. And although a number of events took place and celebratory publications were issued during that year (a special issue of PN Review, for example), our own project proved to have its own deadlines. As Siobhán and I discussed the sorts of contributions we’d like, we understood that it would take longer to assemble the range of writers and voices we wanted; not only academics who had written critically about Boland’s work, but also poets and writers who, as her peers, could give their own perspectives on the Eavan they knew, personally and professionally. Quite soon we realised that we’d also like to include poetry from other poets for whom Eavan’s work was significant; either as contemporaries or as writers for whom she was an important influence.

So we began to approach our wish-list of contributing authors. We knew the academics who had already written on Eavan, so the choice of Jody Allen Randolph, Lucy Collins, Patricia Boyle Haberstroh and Peter Dolmanyós were natural ones. But with the writers, it was more complex. Not every poet is a critic too, and although we had a really good response to the idea of the book, not everyone we first approached felt they had the time to commit to researching and writing a critical essay. But many did, and the essays produced by Gerry Smyth, Gerald Dawe, Eamonn Wall, Thomas McCarthy, Nigel McLoughlin, Chris Murray and Colm Toibín offer wonderful insights from the perspective of other writers who had lived through her times, or who had benefitted from her influence in their own literary development.

These essays offer many fascinating perspectives on Boland’s context within Irish literary and political history. For example, Gerald Dawe focuses on the political dimension, exploring the poems produced during the decade 1975 to 1985 in order to make the argument that Boland’s initiating engagement with, and opening-up to, the political and ideological conflict of the northern ‘Troubles’ is often over-looked and that she made a substantial contribution to what he terms the ‘debates’ of those troubled decades. Gerard Smyth concurs, arguing in his essay that beyond the personal in Boland’s work lies an engagement with what he terms ‘less distinct, often trickier notions of national and cultural identity.’ From his own position as an Irish poet based in America, Eamonn Wall takes the perspective of Boland’s position in Irish America, and explores the contention that a priority in Boland’s work is to provide an account of exile that is realistic, personal, and rooted in contemporary times.

The choice of publisher was as important a choice as that of contributors. We needed a person who would embrace our vision of what such a book might look like. In Alan Hayes of Arlen House, we found somebody with the imagination and generosity of spirit to run with our notion, and to improve upon it. We had initially thought that just a handful of poems might punctuate the book; Alan suggested expanding it to the number we now have (14 in total) so that each essay is separated by a poem. We are thrilled to be able to include poems by Paula Meehan, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Sinead Morrissey, Thomas Kinsella, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, John Montague, Medbh McGuckian, Eiléan Ní Chuileanáin, Katie Donovan, Dermot Bolger, Jean O’Brien and Moya Cannon.

Of course we recognised the symbolism of working with Arlen House on this project; Eavan herself worked as an editor there in the 1970s and Arlen published some of her early collections (In Her Own Image, The War Horse) so in a sense we were bringing the poet home. And we couldn’t have done it without the generous help and support of another one of her publishers, Michael Schmidt of Carcarnet, who was unfailingly generous in his granting of permissions to quote from her poetry and who allowed us to reprint the wonderful conversation between Paula Meehan and Eavan Boland – A Poet’s Dublin – that took place on the occasion of Eavan’s 70th birthday at the Abbey Theatre.

Both Siobhán and I feel as editors that with this volume we have just begun an important conversation and reappraisal of Eavan Boland’s position in Irish and world literature. As Irish women poets we both feel indebted to her, for opening doors and creating precedents that meant that neither of us faced the struggle for acceptance or opportunity that she and her contemporaries did. We’re excited to see the reaction this new volume will provoke, and hope that it will contribute to a more nuanced and broader discussion of her work and influence and provide an important new resource to students of her work.

Dr. Nessa O’Mahony, Associate Lecturer, Creative Writing

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Literary writers and the Indie Spirit – from Jules Horne

It’s fair to say the world of publishing is in turmoil. With margins squeezed in commercial publishing, mid-list authors are being dropped, and it’s harder than ever to find a publisher. Writing literary or experimental fiction? Forget it (mostly). I’ve been shocked to hear of major Scottish authors struggling to find publication after mainstream UK publishers let them go.

But while some avenues are closing down, others are opening up. All around, I’m seeing writers publishing their own work, whether as e-books or in print. I’ve been particularly impressed by younger writers embracing indie publishing, and not waiting for permission to have a voice.jules image 2

So I decided to try it for myself. Not just ethereal e-books, but solid, papery ones that have a smell and a heft, and real pages you can write on and fold (I know, I know). With ISBNs and my own Texthouse imprint. The whole indie author shebang.

My poet friend Andrew Forster wasn’t impressed. After all, poets have been producing their own books for ever. And it’s always been possible to get a short run done at your local printer.

But what’s new and impressive to me is the speed and ease of printing a new book. With print-on-demand, you can order a dozen, or even just one. You only pay for what’s printed, so the cost is low.

You do need patience to learn the ropes, and a techie mindset definitely helps. But printing your own book is incredibly empowering. And for literary and experimental authors who may not find mainstream publication, or regional authors with a strong niche, it’s a real eye-opener. The difference between you and a small press is vanishingly small. And what’s good enough for Virginia Woolf…

So here they are:

Nanonovels – experimental flash fiction, written one a day in the course of a year. Wrapped Town – a collection of stories from anthologies, competitions and radio.Jules image 1

Fellow OU tutor and sometime concrete poet Dr Mike Johnson was kind enough to call them ‘vibrantly original tales’ and ‘evocations of the spirit of Ray Bradbury and Angela Carter’. Pints on me!

And now I’ve done it, my mind is racing with the possibilities. Apart from all else, it frees up literary writers to write what they want, and bring it to their readers, without fretting about genres, markets or profit margins. It puts individual creativity back in charge. Exciting times!

That said, national agencies including Creative Scotland, Publishing Scotland and the mainstream press have yet to catch up. They don’t yet recognise self-published work – presumably because they want to avoid a deluge of submissions. But how long can they ignore this creative revolution? Especially with literary authors taking things into their own hands?

I’ll be blogging more about the indie author-publisher journey at www.juleshorne.com.

Jules Horne is a playwright and publisher who teaches on A363 with the Open University in Scotland. 

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A new poetry collection from Joanna Ezekiel

Joanna’s latest poetry collection is Homecoming, published by Scarborough publisher, Valley Press, winner of a recent Arts Council grant. The editors say:

Homecoming provis cover 7 v2‘By necessity, to come home is to look with fresh eyes at what is familiar. Joanna Ezekiel’s exquisite second collection captures this experience with a combination of quiet observation and vivid sensuality. She draws on her British Jewish upbringing and Indian Jewish heritage to explore what it means to belong to a family, to a country, to a culture in poems that sing with warmth and generosity. Playful juxtapositions of characters and landscapes create a sense of the unexpected, and her treatment of the past is as subtle as her commentary on the present. Evocative and tender, Homecoming is a collection that invites the reader into an unfamiliar place and makes them feel at home.’

http://www.valleypressuk.com/

 

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The attic sessions – reclaiming a space for the writer

From Nessa O’Mahony

Nessa atticLast summer, my husband Peter Salisbury and myself finally completed a task we’d been discussing for several years: the conversion of our attic into a workspace for us both.  Once the dust had settled (so much dust) and the cracks began to thread their way along the new staircase (very natural, apparently), we looked at our lovely new work area, with its velux windows opening up to sky and tree-tops, and dreamed about how we might use it to its best potential.

I now need to backtrack a couple of decades in order for the next part to make any sense. In the 1990s, I presented a weekly radio show about the world of writing for one of Dublin’s many community radio stations. Writers Ink. (cunning pun, eh?) ran for more than four years, and I was the regular presenter between 1997 and 1999. I loved the whole experience of finding guests, researching interviews, planning shows and getting to talk about my enthusiasms for a captive audience. The medium made it all the more attractive; I had no idea whether anyone was actually listening, but that didn’t matter in the least. This was community radio; audience figures weren’t part of the vocabulary.

But time passed, I moved jobs, then country for a while, and the connection with regular broadcasting was lost, until nearly twenty years later when I and my husband, a cameraman who had already colonised a neat portion of our new attic for his editing suite, looked at what we had made and wondered why we couldn’t do the show right here? And having dispensed with the notion of calling the show The Madwoman in the Attic (too literal), The Attic Sessions came into being.

The idea is for a series of monthly video podcasts in which we invite writers, musicians and generally interesting people up to the attic to have a chat about what ever interests them and us. We’ve set up a website and broadcast using our own dedicated YouTube channel. Although there are plenty of radio and TV shows that do similar things, the internet space is still pretty empty of this kind of show. There’s no shortage of podcasts on other themes, but we found it hard to find the model of interview/chat/performance we had in mind. So we began drawing up a list of people and topics we’d like to feature over coming months.

I knew that if we were going to begin broadcasts in March, the first person I wanted to feature was Irish novelist Lia Mills, whose novel Fallen, which tells the story of a young Dublin woman Katie Crilly, who gets caught up in events around the Easter Rising of 1916, had been chosen as Ireland’s first Two Cities One Book Festival choice for 2016  http://www.dublinonecityonebook.ie.

The centenary of the Easter Rising is being commemorated throughout the year, but March and April are the zenith of the celebrations so Lia was the perfect choice. She is a wonderful talker, and has done much research into the role that women played during the early years of Irish independence. We had a fascinating chat about why this period fascinated her, and the forgotten stories of Irishmen who went to fight in World War I and who subsequently got written out of the official narrative in newly Independent Ireland. You can listen to the whole interview here: https://youtu.be/KPRrhq_i81c

So the plan is to produce one podcast per month for the next few years, until we run out of energy or guests (the former is more likely than the latter). The next show is going to focus on the links between poetry and traditional music in Ireland; there’ll be a crime special (Irish noir is very big right now) and a discussion of the short story form. And that’s just for starters. The joy about this sort of enterprise is that it can go in any direction we like. We’ve no advertisers, no studio bosses, nobody to obey but ourselves. What fun.

 

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Success in the Summer

Anne Caldwell was long- listed for the National Poetry Competition this summer. She teaches on A215 and also works as a creative writing lecturer at the University of Bolton.

‘I was delighted to receive this news, as I have entered many times over the years and never got this far before’, Anne added. ‘It gives me encouragement to keep entering and makes the piles of rejections seem a little less harsh!’

National Poetry Competition

National Poetry Competition

 

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Morgaine Merch Lleuad’s entry is shortlisted for the Frogmore Prize

FRoggie frog web largeWe’re pleased to announce that Morgaine’s entry for the 2015 Frogmore Poetry Prize made it onto the final shortlist of ten.  This year’s entries were adjudicated by John McCulloch.

http://frogmore-jp.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/sarah-barr-wins-frogmore-prize-2015.html

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A new poetry collection from Mike Johnson

How my poetry collection See What I Mean? got published – Mike Johnson

Rather more than three years ago, I entered a poetry competition, focused on humorous poems for adults, run by Thynks Publications.  To my delight, I won the competition and a small anthology of the winning poems was published.  (More on the age group the winning poem relates to below.)  On receipt of the anthology and a very welcome cheque, I thought that was that, but…

Some months later, Thynks contacted me again and, to my further delight, asked to see more poems, which I was much intrigued to furnish. Thynks liked what they saw and offered to produce a small collection for their Key Stage II range.  A long wait followed, with a couple of reminders from me, but eventually See What I Mean? has appeared. The collection has a wide range of poetry, including action poems, fun poems, more thoughtful poems and my speciality visual poems (wonderful to use my PhD in semiotics imaginatively). There is also an element of teaching what poetry is in the collection, too.See what I Mean

Interestingly, the poem I submitted to Thynks adult competition I simultaneously submitted to an Irish magazine’s poems-for-children competition and exactly the same poem won that one, too! I would say that my most successful poems tend to focus on Key Stage II: this is an age-range to which I have performed many times, in schools.   Children love the chance to write their own poems, but poetry is not necessarily something which is taught well or even attractively fostered in schools and many are permanently put-off poetry early in life, which is miserable.  I would hazard that the better children’s poems (which mine aspire to be and, without flattering myself, I would say that I sometimes achieve) are suitable for adults, too. In fact, I made a decision, in the late 80s, to aim at writing good children’s poems and I have pretty much sold between five and  ten poems to professional publishers every year, since. Indeed, I have just sold eleven already published poems to Scholastic, which hearteningly confirms my original decision. One of my visual poems has been published/re-published at least seven times!

In addition, on Wednesday 24 June 2015 relating to the publication of See What I Mean?  I was interviewed on Radio Wiltshire about children’s poetry.  Anyway, See What I Mean? is now available, if you want to take a look. OU creative writing colleagues should feel free to ask me any questions about children’s and/or visual poetry via our module tutor forums.

http://www.thynkspublications.co.uk/

http://www.scholastic.co.uk/

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The Insect Rosary – a new novel from Sarah Armstrong

For the first seventeen years of my life I spent four weeks a year at my gran’s farm in Northern Ireland. I loved it, the dog and the rain and the wellies, and felt it was very much my other home, while also being very aware that I didn’t belong in lots of ways. Having returned twice as an adult, for a holiday and my gran’s funeral, I saw the many ways the farm had changed. Walls had been knocked through and extensions built. It was still a InsectRosaryFINALhappy, family home, but it wasn’t my farm any more. I became determined to freeze the place as I remembered it and began writing my novel by accessing all the memories I could. In forming these memories into a novel I had to give it a fictional structure to contain everything that was true (true to me, at least). Bluntly, I turned my mother’s family home into a dark and disturbing place. She took the news quite well.

‘All families have secrets, but Bernadette’s are more dangerous than most. On holiday in Northern Ireland in 1982, she and her older sister discover their family is involved with disappearances and murder. Thirty years later Nancy makes a disastrous return to the farm with her own family. The events of the past gradually and menacingly reveal why those sisters have not spoken to each other since that last disturbing summer together.’

My novel uses two viewpoint characters, sisters, and their stories are separated by thirty years. It is about dangerous silences and dangerous words. It was important for me to have this sense of doubling (in events, characters and time) and place has always been an important aspect of my work. Through writing about such an important part of my childhood I have remembered more about it than I thought possible. In getting it published I have realised how important it is to combine truth with fiction, but not to be tied to the truth, and the importance of being nice to your mum.

‘An atmospheric, cleverly written exploration of the intensity of sibling relationships, The Insect Rosary is chilling and evocative: a story full of dark humour, unexpected tensions and unanswered questions, leading to an unbearably tense conclusion.’ Elizabeth Haynes

Sarah Armstrong teaches on A215 Creative Writing. The Insect Rosary is published by Sandstone Press: http://sandstonepress.com/books/the-insect-rosary

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Hannah Vincent’s play wins BBC Audio Award

Hannah Vincent’s radio play Come to Grief has won an award for Best Drama in the Adaptation category in the 2015 BBC Audio Awards, announced on 1st February.

The judging panel said that the script, adapted from Hannah’s own stage play,  ‘brilliantly exploits radio’s unique ability to voice both the conscious and the unconscious mind. It is a play that haunts you with images that can only be realised by the listeners’ own imagination.’

The following synopsis of the play can be found on the BBC website:

Sylvia (Claire Rushbrook) is in hospital suffering from memory loss. She cannot remember anything about her life. The treatment she is undergoing is radical – she is suspended above the floor, hanging by her neck. Medical staff assure her that this way ‘everything will fall into place’.

As she hangs, Sylvia is visited by a series of figures, including her husband (Philip Jackson), her daughter (Emerald O’Hanrahan) and a man (Carl Prekopp), calling himself her friend, whom she cannot recognize.

But are these people real or phantoms? It soon becomes apparent that part of the space of the play is Sylvia’s unconscious, the land of her memory. As she comes to understand this, she slowly starts to remember the appalling events that have occurred….

Hannah teaches both A215 and A363 for the OU.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/TVJPhZL3PWrLlLcV6PT4Dg/bbc-audio-drama-awards-2015-winners

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