Creative Writing Anthology

crest

A selection of Fiction, Poetry and Playwriting
2008-2011
Creative Writing students at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Hannah-Jamieson

Hannah Jamieson

The Conscience Chest

If anyone came up to me today and asked me exactly what my style of writing was, I would have to crawl into a corner and think very carefully, to the point where my brain would become ever so sore. I am in essence an eclectic person. I aim to not pigeon-hole myself to one genre or a certain style simply because I take pleasure in writing different things each and every single time. I like to be a bit chaotic because I refuse to plan out my stories; I instead allow them to evolve and move me whilst I write. I go where my story takes me, even when they lead me onto random tangents and dead ends I still enjoy the process. It’s the thrill of discovery which has gotten me hooked. What I thoroughly love is the development of a character. They materialise as I write and I learn who they are during the journey, never before. This method has its flaws, which is that I always then have trouble with having the resilience and determination to undergo the discipline of writing a full length novel. I usually end up just abandoning a project because I have a need to move onto new pastures. However, thanks to my final year project I believe I may have curbed this flighty enthusiasm. I am now a writer struggling between structure and bedlam; a tricky medium but I lack the capacity to write any other way.

Chris-Pritchard

Chris Pritchard

The Revolution of Time

“I write because I just can’t help making things up. I think in order to write creatively, you have to know how to tell lies, from little white lies about stealing teapots to great, mysterious, tangled lies about alien invasions, long lost civilisations; about things that will destroy the world and things that will save it.”

I wrote those words three years ago at the very beginning of my degree. I was a little bit nerdy back then. My main ambition was to become an author, no matter what – university was for writing. In September of 2008, I planned to write five thousand words a week and have a full length novel by July of the next year. That didn’t happen, of course.

Other things happened: life, love, alcohol. Not necessarily in that order. In fact, the bottle was probably the first to steal the pen’s inky spotlight. Writing never stopped, and the dream never died: both were merely introduced to a world that was just as terrifying and comforting and hilariously bizarre as the inventions within my mind. I learned to look at the world and tell the truth – writing is still all about fantastic mesmerising lies, but what I have realised over these past three years is that it’s so much more about telling the truth. Most importantly, writing became less about pleasing myself and more about pleasing other people; specific people. I can only hope it will earn me a little bit of cash one day soon to please these people even more.

Frances White

Frances White

The Peculiar Life of Adonis Wells

It is somewhat a tradition in the study of literature and authors to relate their work to something in the author’s own life. But this is something which I have always had trouble relating to my own writing practise. Rather, the tradition in my work is that I will always do everything in my power to create a world far removed from my own. This places fantasy and sci-fi as my primary passion in writing. I love the freedom that these genres give me. However I also enjoy attempting to see the world in which we live in a different light. I delight in combining the fantastical with the historical, colliding the ordinary with the extra-ordinary and witnessing the results.

But I’m making this all sound very grand and that really is not me at all. The main reason I write is because I love it – because it’s fun. I love creating characters and coming up with ideas to force them together. I write about people who make me laugh and I just hope that other people might have the same brand of insane humour as well. I take inspiration from respected, talented artists and write things that couldn’t be farther removed from their work if I tried. All I can do is type out the things that make me smile, and hope that other people might read and enjoy it too. Simple as that, I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

David-Bullen

David Bullen

PROPH/FIT

From the moment it first congealed into the complex and contradictory web of stories we still read about today, ancient myth has been a source of inspiration for artists of all types. When I embarked on the project that culminated in Proph/fit I was seeking to find a means to address audiences in the third millennium through the cultural narratives of the first and I was determined that the Greek tale of Niobe and her children would be the narrative for the job. For me, Niobe stands as a midpoint on the Greek mythological timeline – preceding her are the proto-myths represented by her father Tantalus and beyond lies the Homeric cycles of the Trojan War, kicked off by the misdeeds of her nephews. She is in great company, for at a similar point on the scale there is Jason, Medea and the latter adventures of Heracles, the subjects of some of the greatest tragedies in antiquity. Although Niobe’s plight has many resonances for us in the twenty-first century, it was the most minor of political scandals that proved a way into the drama, when then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown was caught cussing about a voter while still wearing a mic. This one news headline became the centrepiece for the play and the rest of the actions and its characters crystallised around it. Both Sophocles and Aeschylus wrote a play entitled Niobe, both now lost, but in the latter’s version the grieving queen sat veiled and silent. I wanted to give Niobe back a voice I knew struck a chord with today’s political landscape. When much of the twentieth century was spent divorcing religion and politics, the awful moment of 9/11 radically threw them back together again and that is the world Niobe inhabits – a place where certainties are few and everything, be it political, spiritual or private, is afflicted by the paranoid angst that haunts contemporary Britain.

Naomi-George

Naomi George

Held Between

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a writer:

  1. It makes me feel neurotic.
  2. There’s far too much ego involved for my liking.
  3. Most of the time I feel lost. I can’t figure out which direction to walk in, so I run instead hoping for the best.
  4. I feel guilty when I don’t write and crappy when I do.
  5. I daydream for far too much of the time.
  6. I watch people on trains a little too hard.
  7. I find myself stealing the phrases of loved ones and stockpiling our conversations for later use.
  8. Looking for inspiration is surprisingly tiring.
  9. I find myself getting jealous when I do finally unearth inspiring things.

The only thing is that writing is the only thing I feel like I’ve always done.

  1. The feeling of neurosis has become like breathing to me.
  2. Part of my ego likes to say ‘I’m a writer’.
  3. When you find the thing you’re searching for, some of the knots unravel and the world makes a little bit more sense.
  4. The moment you crack something, or finally finish makes up for any bad feeling you had before.
  5. I like my world of fantasy.
  6. I’ve developed a knack for noticing so I’m convinced I’d make the perfect witness.
  7. Things feel more familiar when my friends and family permeate work.
  8. I stumble into beautiful things because I’m always looking for them.
  9. Once the jealously has subsided, I can start making something half decent.
Laura Schwanbeck

Laura Schwanbeck

Do I Know You?

Laura Schwanbeck is a novelist and performance poet from Berlin. Her written work is a fusion of philosophical ideas mixed with realistic fiction. "Living is philosophy," she says. "Making ideas relevant to the here and now is important." Laura Schwanbeck has already written a novel, Those Roads Ceased to Exist, and is currently working on her second project.

Chris-Johnson

Chris Johnson

4 Works

EXPERIMENT I (extract from Experiment I-IV, A Life and Work of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, mixed media, 2010-2011)
Line Breaks, 2009.
A Cornish Love Story, 2011. Collaboration with Phoebe Nicholson.
The Poetic Diagrammatic, 2010."

Amber Hillier

Amber Hillier

This Life

‘This Life,’ follows the mind frame of an expectant mother, considering the impact that her child will have on the world, and also the impact the world will have on the child. Its main cause was to highlight the psychological viewpoint of someone overwhelmed by their place on earth — someone looking for direction, searching for an understanding they realise can never be found.

The narrator finds herself desperate to separate her mind from her body — an act of distancing herself to form an unbiased observation of herself and her situation. The surreal events that unfold are all products of her fear and her lack of understanding — her desire to search for a meaning, to find a meaning for her child that will not result in death — her plea for a final answer… should she keep the baby? Or should she go ahead with the abortion?

In undergoing this journey, she bears witness to places in her mind she never thought existed — resulting in a conclusion of self-revelation, no matter how disturbing.

Sophie-Jayne-Wortham

Sophie Jayne Wortham

Runaway Sodality & Tabula Rasa Rosa

‘Runaway Sodality’ was installed at The Centre for Creative Collaboration in King’s Cross in March 2011. Beginning as a visual poetry project that dilated on Catherine Clément’s definition of syncope as ‘an absence of the self, a “cerebral eclipse” so similar to death that is also called “apparent death” ’, the collection explored syncope as a temporary absence of self, in which that self is seized and suspended in another. The final installation intended to relate thematically to these spaces in-between, and as such comprise an instantiation of the overall aesthetics of the visual poetics; that is, resonating with the poetics. Through the sequential loop of the soundscape and video projection, it was intended that there would occur a dislocation of time to aid extracting the viewer from the progressive order of linear time. The video projection depicts a woman running and then falling, but never completing the fall, and as such, intends to convey the suspended, liminal state syncope engenders. Furthermore, the soundscape which consisted of random fragments of the visual poetics being spoken on a loop, served to further dislocate time and challenge the viewer’s conceptualisations of time, whilst immersing them directly into the stop-time they have encountered.

‘Tabula Rasa Rosa’ is a series of poems written in response to the quotation ‘But always prior inscriptions. Incessant marking. A writing whose condition is over writing. (Rachel Blau DuPlessis, ‘Otherhow’) and the contextual debates that surround it. As a heterogeneric collection incorporating multiple innovative writing strategies such as collage, heteroglossia, intergenres and self-reflexivity that refuse narrative structure and the inscription of authorship, the collection intended to present a de-poeticization radical enough to rupture the ideologies of the lyric, and as such, overwrite prescribed versions of femininity.

Saria Khalifa

Saria Khalifa

Embroidery &
Metal Bed, Foreign Lisp, Establishments

My writing explores the various seemingly incompatible facets of my identity; feminism, Islam, African, Arabic. Through exploring, questioning and breaking down language I am able to examine rigidly enforced labels and traditions. By fragmenting diction and providing alternative spelling I highlight the gendered nature of language and its inability to fully describe and portray reality.

I aim for my writing to make readers question what they know, open avenues for discussion and provide alternative ways of looking at the world. Moving away from the didactic I attempt to show a glimpse into the shades and nuances of my life laid open for examination and interpretation.

Tom Watts

Tom Watts

The Word’s Waif

‘The World’s Waif’ is a single poem divided into seven distinct episodes that are separated by form and language. It is an attempted study of the very core of poetic aesthetics, a detailed look at the mechanics of, and relationships between, form, structure, language and sound. It is a study that, even when at its most lucid points, adheres strictly to its aims. It is a meld of the rigid and fluid, the loud and quiet, and the old and the new, drawing its inspirations from a wide variety of sources.

In particular, I was very much infatuated with Joyce’s ‘Linati Schema,’ which detailed the influences, allusions and rules for each episode within Ulysses and so decided to shape my own poem around a similar schema. The schema is built upon my favourite authors and poets, coupled with areas of interest and other limiting factors, such as colours and the human body. Through this the poem became divided into three acts: an opening act of three episodes focussing predominantly on form and structure, a conduit act, signalling a change, and a third act of three episodes, that focuses on language and sound.

Prudence Catley

Prudence Catley

I

Pain, despite being subjective to an individual, is none-the-less an experience worthy of communal empathy, according to laws of universal experience.

'I', attempts to simultaneously describe causes and consequences of distinct accounts of pain (physical as distinct from emotional, and so on-) whilst connecting such individual affectations and nervous sensations to the multiple social connections that create a wider community: domestic, national, and international.

The poem takes the shape of a nervous impulse; the signifier of pain from the physical source to the synapse, through the shifting alignments of text and interweaving of content from one expression of pain and consequence to another in quick succession.

The lack of any concrete linguistic template or poetic structure, allowed the free-verse of first drafts to adopt a natural rhythm, which could then be altered as, and if necessary. In this sense, the content was manifested from personal perspectives of pain as encountered by the poet; originally composed as a stream of consciousness prompted by the phrase “I/ am in pain/ and please don’t think you can pretend you don’t hear me.”

However, this piece is not only an exploration of pain; ‘I’ is also an exploration of the role of communal recovery in promoting the healing of the individual; how, and if we can ever convalesce after prolonged periods of trauma.

Antonia Zanotto

Antonia Zanotto

Sailing Stones (Fiction) & 4 Poems

Hello there, I am a 21-year-old Brazilian who in 2008 believed that in order to help my roots unravel, I had to first journey through unknown lands where the oldest spirit of man can be found in new age Indie music and the upper stiff lip.

I believe that our generation is on the brink of a backlash to which all this global modernity, speed, and virtual affections are pushing us back to our very foundations. To pick up a book and feel its rugged edges; to read said book and to formulate thoughts; to accept desirable or unwanted realisations; this is what keeps us from having pixels running in our veins. I believe we are more informed, yes, how could we not be? But being informed does not make us educated and being informed does not make us cultured either. Under slight reluctance, I was assigned to read about American thinkers such as Thoreau and Emerson, as well as English Romantics like Shelley and Keats. Little did I know it would form the basis of my naïve beliefs in what we can and are still waiting to achieve. I find that the importance comes in breathing the words of our founders and exhaling our own voice onto the page.

I like writing about things I imagine. I like writing about the frustration of not being able to write about the things I imagine. I think the current atmosphere for the youth of our days is bubbling with fearful tensions, a talent we don’t yet understand, but above all, with an intense energy and insight that surpasses any megabyte. If all goes according to plan, perhaps students in a developed Africa, or in a housing complex on the southwest side of the moon will be reading our meandering thoughts, a few hundred years from now.

Sonja Farrell

Sonja Farrell

Cascading Style Sheet (Poetry) &
Pimps in Meth-ville (Fiction)

My most recent work explores how locations of distorted reality manipulate the production and evolution of language and content. ‘Cascading Style Sheet’ is a work born from a web-based paragraph of text which comments upon the Internet and how it draws us into a virtual type of reality where we lack intellectual substance and physical corporeality. The web-based passage is the ‘lorem ipsum’ filler text: a paragraph of Latin words used in web design to show the layout and typography of the text on a page. By grounding the work in dialogue with the ‘lorem ipsum’ clause I anchored it thematically within the virtual world of the Internet and its content comments upon the effects that world has on the writing that exists there. I saw the screen as a multilayered and more complex version of the page and there was a sense that ‘going online’ was about crossing a border into that complex location that has the power to really change how we think about writing.

Similarly ‘Pimps in Meth-ville’ is about crossing a border into the alternative reality that is Las Vegas. I experimented with the fine line between fact and fiction by using a completely artificial setting as the backdrop to an actual account of events that happened to some friends and I when we went there. The piece appears handwritten in a small booklet that becomes a sort of alternative travel guide with space for others to add their own accounts to.

Hazel McMichael

Hazel McMichael

Gravida Zero (Fiction) & 3 Poems

I create painfully personal poetry from fragments of language, photography, object and sound. In my work I attempt to externalise the internal, speak from the body and locate a sense of home in varying habitats — currently this is London.

Within my work I am frequently preoccupied with ellipses, cats, maternity, phenomenology, pain, domesticity, touch, memory, family, psychoanalysis, photographs, trauma, childhood, London and myself. I am a narcissistic, reflective, voyeuristic storyteller, and with poetry as my medium, I am constantly rewriting my autobiography within endless confines: 15 pale grey lines in my notebook, the back of 12 postcards, one photograph, a bed sheet, a 3 minute projection, my body, your scrap of paper, your camera, your eyes, your ears, your body... in my work I stand naked before you and will you to reach out.

In my latest work, which was part of my final undergraduate poetry project, I inhabited the Centre for Creative Collaboration space for a week where I installed a bed with projections. In this piece I utilized the poetics of space, photography, object and text in order to spawn a discourse on memory and domesticity.

When I am not studying I am adding to a large portfolio of charcoal, collage, textile and photographic artworks. In the past I have also recorded avant-garde folk music with artist jinnwoo and featured in his photographic exhibition at The City Gallery in Leicester. More recently, I have been collaborating frequently with London photographer Hannah Daisy, featuring in a photographic exhibition at the Proud Gallery and in a variety of online and paper publications.

Profile photograph by Selina Mayer

Eleonore Beahan

Eleonore Beahan

Half Jack (Fiction) & Cardboard Boxes

I guess what it all comes down to is communication. Writing is about communication.

It’s about using words to a particular end, being aware of that end, and feeling responsible for all the damage, and the hope, left in the wake of your sentences. Words have power. Words carry messages. Words can make people feel mad and sad, or they can say I think it will be okay. Words pick brains and clutch at hearts. Words become weapons, laptop keyboards clicketing like gunfire, since pens and swords are kind of obsolete.

Words cut open, rummage about inside, and words find the moment that brings writer and reader onto the same page. These are the words that mark, that get under skin, that turn into a gesture saying hi and also me too.

The thing is, words can ostracise, or they can include. Some people read to escape, others want to come home. When I read, I want to say I understand you. When I write, I’m saying understand me. I’m saying let’s share how this feels.

When I write, it’s a muddy wade through identity. When I write, I want to write about all the important things that intersect to make a me — gender and culture and sexuality, age and place and time — in the hope that they’re the kinds of things that make also make a you.

What it all comes down to is communication. When I write, the hope is that the words will communicate something that will make someone, and me, feel a bit less alone.

Foreword

This is the first published anthology of creative work produced by graduating students at Royal Holloway. We hope it is the first of many reflecting the combined efforts of talented individuals and becoming a kind of record of their year, as well as the years that follow. It will say: these are the things the students were thinking about in 2011 — not only death and sex, but the invasion of technology into our privates lives, the cuts to social welfare funding, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will solicit: moments of quiet reflection, loud shouts out toward a future unknown, perhaps a few laughs in between. We hope also that this anthology is something the students who contributed to it will look back on, in ten years or twenty or thirty, and think: how did I ever come up with all that stuff?

It isn’t always clear, even to Creative Writing teachers, what exactly it is that we teach. We teach a few rules of thumb; a few things to be suspicious of; a few books. But maybe the most important thing we teach to any student is just this: that someone is watching you. And part of the point of any Creative Writing course is to introduce its students to a readership — which is made up, of course, not only of their professors but their fellow-students, whose advice, responses and feedback are at least as important as anything we have to say. Someone is watching you — and the lazy sentence, or the insincere thought, or implausible plot-device or clichéd turn of phrase are going to be as clear to your reader as they are to you, the writer. There’s nowhere to hide on the page.

Of course, you also need something to say, and the students represented in this anthology have not only discovered within themselves a few things to say but made hard professional decisions about how to say it — they have become poets, dramatists, story tellers, memoirists and novelists. ‘Becoming a writer’ involves finding forms and learning how to exploit them, but it also means, on a more basic level, being published — taking private thoughts and turning them into public ones. And with this anthology the class of 2011 have become a group not of students but of writers.

Doug Cowie
Kristen Kreider
Ben Markovits