NaNoWriMo

Teresa:

I’m not actually doing NaNo this year for various reasons (trying to work part time and complete a full time degree being the main one…) but I wrote for Razz explaining why YOU should give it a go. You can read that here etc.

Originally posted on RAZZ.:

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I make no secret of the fact that I love books, and I love reading. I often visit bookshops knowing I won’t be buying anything, but just wanting to browse, to enjoy experiencing an environment where so many stories are waiting to be discovered. I also find myself frequently lingering at the space where my own stories would be shelved if ever they were written and published. The trouble is, if you’re anything like me, you may need a little push to actually turn ideas into words, and that’s where NaNoWriMo comes in.

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November and has been going on in one form or another since 1999. It is now an international event, and in 2012 over 300 000 aspiring novelists participated.

The goal is simple: you have 30 days to write a 50 000 word novel. That’s it. It’s…

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October Thoughts

Time. I spend so much energy just chasing time, trying to gather it up in my arms, trying to cling on to it, to keep up with it. I waste so much of it, just trying to slow it down. The result is that it slips past so quickly, and I still can’t get past this and live in the moment. I am preoccupied with the fact that I am losing time, as much as I try to escape the notion. I think this is a symptom of my graduation appearing on the horizon. Three years suddenly seems so short.

It’s nice now and again to pause and gather my thoughts, to take the time to reflect on everything that’s been happening. So, that’s what I’m going to do here. This is a summary of my October, now that it is nearly at its end.

1. Dissertation. That word is one that strikes fear into the hearts of students everywhere. Surprisingly, I’m actually not feeling that scared anymore though. A week ago I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. The only thing I did have was an A4 piece of paper with a mind map of potential areas of interest which was pretty much limited to ‘I like the internet’, ‘I’m interested in publishing’ and ‘I am still a child at heart’ (I’m paraphrasing). I had a meeting with the convenor of my dissertation module last week though, and just a ten minute discussion helped make everything clear. I just needed someone to let me know that my ideas were okay; that I could make something of them. I went from feeling completely out of my depth, inadequate, and lost, to feeling like I can actually create a strong and interesting project, and that it’s okay to enjoy it! In fact, I am determined to enjoy it.

2. Careers. I spoke a little about this a few weeks ago. Since then I have taken a few baby steps towards getting to where I want to be. I applied for, and succeeded in getting a place on, a 12 week book publishing course being run at my university. It’s designed to cover everything from production, to proofreading, and right and sales. I’m hoping it will prove useful in helping me feel like I actually have the skills and knowledge I need to apply for the jobs I want when the time comes. I have also updated my CV, my LinkedIn, and have been continuing to work with Riptide Journal.

3. Isolation. I’m at that point in the term when I’m really ready to go home just for a weekend, and relax with family. Unfortunately, I am working part time to pay my way through my degree, so that just isn’t possible for me. I have new housemates this year, and it is a very different experience to living with my closest friends, as I did last year. They are all lovely, but there is not that same sense of ease when I am spending time with them. On top of that, everyone is a hundred times busier this year which makes social time hard to come by. I am feeling a little bit isolated as a result, and am struggling to ignore the feeling by keeping busy. Perhaps not the healthiest method of  dealing with my emotions, but the only method I have, for now. I will be seeing my family for a short visit on Sunday, so that should help and allow me to refocus to get through this term!

The nights are getting longer, the days shorter, but somehow the darkness is a comfort, like a warm blanket keeping me grounded. Winter is the season of quiet activity, of solitude, of stars. Part of me likes that.

Beyond Borders?

As some of you may know, last Thursday was National Poetry Day in the UK, and it was also Exeter Poetry Festival this week, so in that spirit I decided to book a place at a public lecture about the categorisation of contemporary poetry. Instead of spending my Friday evening queuing in the rain, waiting to go into a sweaty, noisy, crowded nightclub in the centre of town, I made my way to a lecture theatre on campus for Beyond Borders.

I had assumed it was going to be busy, and so I turned up a little early to ensure I got a decent seat and avoid trying to get past a row of people to that one spare seat in the middle. I needn’t have worried, as the lecture theatre was not even half full in the end. Waiting outside though, I was struck by the fact that I was very out of place… at least in terms of age. I’m pretty sure I was one of only two undergraduates there, and nearly the only student. The rest of the audience was comprised of academics, poets, and other professionals. Nevertheless, I’d paid for this lecture and I was honestly interested in the subject, so I went ahead and took a seat…

The event itself was actually really enjoyable. There were three guest poets, one representing each category of poetry: the performance poet, the mainstream poet, and the avant-garde poet. They each did a reading of some of their poetry, which I mostly loved, even if I didn’t understand all of it at first hearing. This was followed by a debate which was open to the whole room and this was when it really got interesting for me. The discussion covered a number of topics, and jumped around a lot, I guess due to the number of people trying to voice their opinions in such a short amount of time.

What interested me most, maybe because it affects me directly, was the discussion about education and the place of poetry within education. One of the arguments made was that we need this categorisation of poetry so that it can be taught to students without having to constantly explain to them that the boundaries between the categories are generalisations. This confused me a little, as the students in question were not children but university students. As one myself, I have little trouble understanding that there is a fluidity between these categories of poetry, that some poets, and even some poems, do not fall neatly into one of the three boxes. I feel that education is not a reason for maintaining these rigid borders between different types of poetry. If anything, education is actually a reason to dissolve these borders as those being taught creative writing are the poets of the future, the ones with the power to change the way poetry is written, read, spoken etc.

However, it is also true to say that education is a large part of the reason why we have these categories. The poetry that is taught in schools is the poetry that is published in those compilation anthologies. The curriculum is comprised almost entirely of dead poets and the most famous of the living poets; it is comprised of mainstream poetry, and this is perhaps as much a cause of the formation of these categories as an effect. GCSE students are forced to analyse these poems and pick out similes, alliteration, and lines of iambic pentameter. Never once while I was studying for my English GCSEs was I asked “do you like this poem?”; it was always, “what makes this poem a ‘good’ poem?”. The latter seems like the more complicated question, but in reality they are very much the same question. Deciding whether you like a poem can quickly be followed with “why?” or “why not?”, which can lead to a very similar analysis, but this approach takes into account the tastes of the student, and allows them to form their own opinions about poetry.

I would suggest that outside of those people on my degree course, very few of my friends and acquaintances have read poetry since they were forced to at school. I would also suggest that sadly a large part of this is not down to them disliking poetry, or it being inaccessible, but rather that they were never taught that it was okay to have opinions about poetry, even that it can be enjoyable.

One of the audience members at the Beyond Borders event started talking about how performance poetry (or spoken word poetry) has is now taught in some schools, and this is an instance in which I feel these categories can be useful as it takes poetry away from the mainstream and encourages engagement with poetry in a way that is different and exciting. The next step is to encourage this same engagement with all types of poetry, to make it exciting for a generation that can feel very removed from the world of Hardy, and Keats, and even Heaney. If this means asking the questions in a different way, then why not? After all, fostering an appreciation for poetry must have more long-term benefits than teaching students to write about iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets (the former of which I’m certain nobody in my class understood at all anyway).

Part of me feels a little disappointed that I didn’t really get any sense of a solution to the many problems that were brought to attention throughout the discussion – education being only one of them – although the more rational side of me knows that solutions would be impossible within the incredibly short time frame we had. What I can say is that it definitely got everyone in the room thinking, and that can only be a good thing.

National Poetry Day!

Teresa:

I wrote for Razz again. You really should check out the other posts as well, if you haven’t already.

Originally posted on RAZZ.:

Poems, poems everywhere…

We’re now into week 2 of term, would you believe it? I am definitely liking having routine after the hectic-ness of Freshers’ Week, but I’m already finding my creative side slipping a little as lectures, looming essay deadlines, and – gulp – my career planning takes over. It’s already hard work being a third year! I can’t be the only one lacking in creativity this week though, so with that in mind I thought I’d do a little round up of reading/writing-related things that are going on this week. Specifically, poetry-related things. Oh, yes.

National Poetry Day occurs on the first Thursday of October every year- that’s the 3rd October 2013 – and is a day during which everyone is encouraged to engage with poetry in some form, whether that be reading, writing, speaking, or hearing a poem (or more than one!). Each year there is a…

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A new start… possibly

It’s a new academic year again, probably my last academic year for a long time, if not forever. Yes, contrary to popular belief English students do not all want to be teachers. Like everyone else though, we do have to decide what we want to do after we graduate. It’s that big C. I mean CAREER. Everyone I know is struggling to decide where they want their lives to go or, if they know their destination, how to get there. It’s both comforting and terrifying that everyone is in the same boat. Comforting because I realise that if everyone is feeling like this now, then everyone in previous years probably felt the same way and they’re all still alive. Terrifying because I really need someone to tell me how to sort my life out. A step-by-step guide, if you will.

That is not to say that I don’t have support, because I do. The University of Exeter have a brilliant careers service called the CareerZone which I have found invaluable for a number of reasons, not least the fact that you know there is someone there you can talk to, even if all they do is sit you down and tell you that although it might not feel okay now, it will be eventually. </sap>

My problem – and I don’t remember if I’ve spoken of this before – is that I have always known my path. Up to a certain point. As a child, I loved learning; I have always loved reading, and knowledge, and took great pride in my work. I was never popular, but I was never really unhappy because I had a very clear idea of what was important to me, and that was success. It was as if I was living my life in order to get to my idea of what I wanted my future to be. I’m not suggesting that’s a healthy way of thinking, but I was young. I knew that I wanted to do well at school, and go to university. The trouble is, that’s where my plan ended. I never really had a career in mind, the way some children want to be a doctor or a fireman or a tree… education was the extent of my plan. I hid behind this bookish Hermione-like persona, and I was okay with that.

My point is, that is makes this stage of my life suddenly very scary. I no longer have a plan that stretches years ahead. Heck, I no longer have a plan past my dissertation deadline! I’m already at the end of the first week of the first term of my final year as an undergraduate, and I now know that I want to work in book Publishing. I still want to be a published author, I want to travel, live in the States for a while, I want to get married, have a family, laugh with friends, read anything and everything but especially those things that will hit me hard. I have learnt a lot in two years, and not everything from a book. Like Hermione, I have learnt that friends are important, family, laughter, courage, being forward-thinking, taking risks even on things that are seemingly impossible (S.P.E.W.?!). My career is important, but it is only one of many things that are important and, when you realise that, the big C doesn’t seem so scary anymore.

Walking In Their Footsteps

Teresa:

I wrote for Razz :)

Originally posted on RAZZ.:

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With Freshers’ Week quickly approaching, it’s that time of year again. The time of year when you promise yourself you’re going to make the most of your time in Exeter, whether it’s your first year or your last (eek!). One of my personal yearly promises to myself is to write more, because every writer knows that the first rule of being a writer is to, well, write something. For me, this usually goes out of the window by the time my first essay titles are published, but I decided this would be a good opportunity to compile a list of my favourite writers who have also called Devon home, in an attempt to inspire us all to pick up our pens, laptops, or typewriters (though I would suggest not attempting to carry the latter to campus).

Jane Austen - she is a well-known and much-loved figure all over the world…

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August Already?!

When I was younger, like most children, I wanted nothing more than to grow up, looking eagerly forward to each birthday, to being one year older. I didn’t believe adults when they told me to enjoy being young, not to wish it all away.

Now I’m an adult I’ve realised how right they were. Time is speeding up with each year that passes, and it feels as if I’m on a treadmill that’s starting to move faster than I can run. There are suddenly a hundred things to fit into each day and no possible way of getting everything done. Emails go unanswered, books unread, ironing ignored… okay, who am I kidding? – students don’t iron! My point is that there is an almost constant pressure to keep moving forward, to jump from one thing to the next, filling every waking moment (and sometimes sleeping moments too) with activity.

It’s gotten to a point where I feel guilty every time I do something “unproductive”.

Sometimes I try to convince myself that it’s okay to slow down, and on some levels perhaps this is true. It’s good to slow down and appreciate the things around us and, more importantly, the people around us. It’s also true to say that there isn’t time to slow down, however. We live in a world that is constantly moving, and we must keep moving too if we want to avoid an embarrassing fall off the back of the treadmill.

With this movement comes prioritisation though. We cannot expect to maintain momentum in every area; we must focus in on certain tasks or ideas, and leave time to enjoy the little moments we experience along the way. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

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