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Contemporary Cultures of Writing - Seminars Spring 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 17:30
Tuesday, March 20, 2018 - 17:30
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - 18:30
Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

This series will focus on important matters in Creative Writing today. The first seminar will address the ways in which Creative Writing outputs are assessed nationally as research in the university sector. The second will explore innovations in poetic practice from the perspective of contemporary practitioners.The third will address the sometimes controversial topic of the Creative Writing PhD commentary.

All seminars are convened by the Open University’s Contemporary Cultures of Writing research group in collaboration with The Institute of English Studies, UCL. The first and third seminars are also in collaboration with the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) and their PhD Network Please note the date for the PhD commentary seminar has changed - it has been rearranged for later in March (it was originally scheduled for 6th March). See below. 

The themes and speakers for the seminars are:

SEMINAR 1:Tuesday 20 February, 2018 Room G35

Creative Writing and REF21 – the assessment of practice-based research

The next national assessment of university scholars’, departments’ and faculties’ research performance will take place in 2021. This seminar considers the practicalities of how such assessment is approached with a practice-based subject such as Creative Writing. Led by a poet and panellist from the last two assessments in 2008 and 2014, the seminar will engage with the ways in which literary outputs and articles about the creative process might be assessed. Co-organised with NAWE, the seminar will help those preparing outputs for 2021, along with all those working in, or interested in, the subject area.

Listen to the seminar:


Speakers: Robert Hampson (Royal Holloway). Introduced by Derek Neale (Open University).         

Professor Robert Hampson is Distinguished Teaching and Research Fellow at Royal Holloway. He is  the author of three monographs on Joseph Conrad, and was awarded the Ian P Watt Prize in 2017 for his life-time achievement in Conrad Studies. He is also a poet and critic of poetry. Assembled Fugitives: Selected Poems 1973-98 was published in 2001. More recent work includes 'an explanation of colours' (2010) and 'reworked disasters' (2013), which was long-listed for the Forward Prize. He recently co-edited with Ken Edwards Clasp: late-modernist poetry in London in the 1970s. He was a panellist for the RAE in 2008 and for the REF 2014;  a member of the QAA Benchmarking Group for Creative Writing; and is currently a member of the Practice Research Advisory Group


SEMINAR 2: 20 March, 2018    Room G35
Innovations in Contemporary Poetry: Ekphrastic/collaborative practice

Poets have long been inspired to write about their responses to works of art in other media, a tradition known as ekphrasis. Within a contemporary context, how are poets reinvigorating the ekphrastic tradition and expanding the concept of ekphrasis through their diverse practices? This session will consider the interplay between poetry and visual art, text and image, language and non-verbal art pieces (including video or music), as well as the collaborative modes and interdisciplinary processes that particular writers and artists have recently used to generate innovative work.

Listen to the seminar:


Speakers: Jess Chandler (publisher and editor, Test Centre Press), Denise Saul (freelance writer), and Helen Tookey (Liverpool John Moores University). Introduced by Jane Yeh (Open University). 

Jess Chandler is a publisher and editor. She is a co-founder of the independent publishing houses Test Centre and House Sparrow Press, and also works as an Editor at Reaktion Books. She was formerly the Digital Editor of Poetry London magazine. Currently she is editing a new series of books exploring interdisciplinary poetic practices and featuring extended collaborations between poets and visual artists. Published by Test Centre Press and funded by Arts Council England, the series includes the critically acclaimed collection Nights of Poor Sleep, by Rachael Allen and Marie Jacotey.


Denise Saul is a poet and fiction writer. Her debut pamphlet, White Narcissi (2007), was a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice, and House of Blue (2012) was selected as a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Recommendation. A Geoffrey Dearmer Prize winner, she is currently completing a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Roehampton, researching the representation of speech disability in contemporary poetry. She is also the founder of Silent Room: A Journey of Language (, a collaborative video poem project funded by Arts Council England in association with Connect, a communication disability network based in London.


Helen Tookey is a poet based in Liverpool, where she teaches Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University. Her debut collection, Missel-Child (2014), was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney first collection prize. Her pamphlet In the Glasshouse was published in 2016, as well as the CD/booklet If You Put Out Your Hand, a collaboration with musician Sharron Kraus. Recently she has worked with sound artist Martin Heslop, putting poems together with electronic soundscapes. She has also collaborated with photographer Alan Ward and visual artist Patricia Farrell as part of an interest in processes of ‘translation’ between text and other media.


SEMINAR 3: Tuesday 27 March, 2018   Room G35
Writing about writing: what is a creative writing PhD commentary?

The commentary is a common accompaniment to the novel or poetry collection in a Creative Writing PhD. The student is tasked with writing about their creative process, while making connections to relevant research and cultural contexts. Such commentaries can be controversial, for examiners and those trying to write them. This seminar will be led by three Creative Writing academics who have written commentaries themselves, but also supervised and examined PhDs. They will discuss various genres, including contemporary and historical fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. They will consider various approaches, before inviting open discussion with PhD students and other writers. The seminar is co-organised with the NAWE PhD Network.

Writing about Writing: pdf links and information

Listen to the seminar:


Speakers:    Derek Neale (also introducing), Sally O’Reilly and Jane Yeh (all Open University).

Derek Neale is creative writing lead at the Open University. He is a short story writer and novelist Derek Neale photo (The Book of Guardians, Salt 2012), co-authored Writing Fiction and Life Writing (both 2009 Routledge), Creative Writing: a workbook with readings (2006 Routledge) and A Creative Writing Handbook (2009 Bloomsbury, which he also edited). He is currently chair of NAWE’s HE committee and is principal editor of the journal Writing in Practice. He has supervised and examined several creative writing PhDs.

Sally O’Reilly is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Open University.  She is the author of three novels: The Best Possible Taste and You Spin Me Round, (Penguin, 2004 and 2007) and Dark Aemilia (Myriad Editions/Picador US, 2014). Her short stories have been published in South Africa, Australia and the UK and she has been shortlisted for the Ian St James and Cosmopolitan short story prize. She has also written a guide for writers: How to Be a Writer: the definitive guide to getting published and making a living from writing (Piatkus, 2011). Her research interests focus on historical fiction and its relation to genre and literary fiction, and the status of the novel as practice-based research. She is currently working on a novel set in seventeenth century London.

Jane Yeh’s first collection of poems, Marabou, was shortlisted for the Whitbread, Forward, and Aldeburgh poetry prizes. She was named a Next Generation poet by the Poetry Book Society for her second collection, The Ninjas. She is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Open University and holds degrees in Creative Writing from Iowa, Manchester Metropolitan, and Royal Holloway, London.

Contact Us

Contact Derek Neale or Ed Hogan by email: 

The Postal Address is:

Department of English and Creative Writing
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

Tel +44-1908-652092