Dark in The Day book launch

Some 50 members of the public attended the Dark in the Day Book Launch at City Central Library on February 7th. The book publishes 8 Staffordshire University creative writing students (6 undergraduates, 2 postgraduates) alongside established writers in the field of ‘weird fiction.’ The project came about when guest lecturer, Storm Constantine (author and publisher) suggested to creative writing lecturer, Paul Houghton, they might work on an anthology together with the students. The format for the evening was six contributors reading six-minute extracts. Before that, co-editor of the book, Paul Houghton introduced the event which began with a particularly luscious and surreal poem by Dr Lisa Mansell, ‘Angels of Anarchy’, inspired by the work of Leonora Carrington. The first story excerpt was by final year undergraduate, Jack Fabian, who read from his eerie story, ‘A New Womann’ about an artist inspired by a disfigured woman. Next up was Sian Davies, another final year undergraduate, with an equally chilling tale, ‘Post Partum’, about a new mother who believes her baby is not her own. She was followed by PhD creative writing student, Paula Wakefield, who read from her story, ‘In Touch’, a psychological zoom-lens analysis of an intense relationship. After a break for wine-bipping, bookselling and chat, lecturer Paul Houghton read an extract from ‘The Strange Case of Quentin Wilde,’ a black comedy which details a dummy’s first night out. Novelist and publisher, Storm Constantine read from ‘The Secret Gallery’, a luscious, dream-like story set in the mysterious Galleria Buiocuore. The surreal tone was continued by guest author Rosie Garland, who read from her dramatic and equally poetic story, ‘An End to Empire’ which has become even more poignant in the light of recent political events in the U.S. Rosie also gave an impassioned speech about the inspiration and importance of public libraries.

After more wine, book sales and chat, a happy audience filed out in an orderly manner.  It was great to see so many people there, even a few former students as well as library users and curious people. Many thanks to Emma and all the lovely staff at City Central Library for all their work and support.

Dark in the Day, edited by Storm Constantine and Paul Houghton is available here:

www.immanion-press.com/info/book.asp?id=492&referer=Hp

Alumni return to inspire current students

This week we welcomed back Kerry Ann (pictured) and Louise, who graduated in 2009. They came to talk to the current students about completing their degrees and going on to employment after graduation. They have remained close friends since their undergraduate days.

After finishing at Staffs, Lou taught creative writing at a further education college, gaining a post-14 teaching qualification at the same time. She is now doing a creative writing Phd, working at Staffs uni, and publishing her work.

Kerry Ann went on to a graduate management scheme with a high street retailer. She left to take up a more personally fulfilling role with the children’s library service. Here she realised that helping children with their personal and educational development was her true vocation, and she trained as a teacher. She has risen quickly through the profession, and in just 5 years is a senior teacher with a school leadership role.

Thank you to Kerry Ann and Lou for their inspiring insights. What I will take away from both of them is that intellectual curiosity, both at uni and in the world of work, will create new and sometimes unexpected opportunities – fortune favours the brave!

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Dark in the Day

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Please join us in congratulating Paul Houghton and Creative Writing students on the release today of  Dark in the Day (Immanion Press).

“In the blink of an eye, around the corner, The Weird is everywhere. It’s in the bird that turns out to be a fluttering newspaper, that white shoe left in a ploughed field, or the curdling smoke on the windscreen of a car, caused by the fast-moving reflection of clouds overhead. Normal is often weird and vice-versa. We’re used to weird dreams but what about the wide-awake weird? This collection celebrates evocative tales of oddness that span the genres of magic realism, the supernatural, the fantastical and the speculative.

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Weirdness lurks beyond the margins of the mundane, emerging to dismantle our assumptions of reality. When we encounter strange intervals, our perception of the natural order is challenged and changed.  It is perhaps in those moments, that we glimpse the hidden truth of all things.

Dark in the Day is an anthology of weird fiction, penned by established writers and also those new to the genre – the latter being authors who are, or were, students of Creative Writing at Staffordshire University, where editor Storm Constantine occasionally delivers guest lectures. Her co-editor, Paul Houghton, is the senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the university.

Contributors include: Martina Bellovičová, J. E. Bryant, Glynis Charlton, Danielle Collard, Storm Constantine, Louise Coquio, Elizabeth Counihan, Krishan Coupland, Elizabeth Davidson, Siân Davies, Jack Fabian, Paul Finch, Rosie Garland, Rhys Hughes, Kerry Fender, Andrew Hook, Paul Houghton, Tanith Lee, Lisa Mansell, Kate Moore, Tim Pratt, Nicholas Royle, Michael Marshall Smith, Paula Wakefield, Ian Whates and Liz Williams.”

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/190773774X/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_c_CJN0xbTSH6EN7

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This is the culmination of an ambitious project with Immanion Press which brings together stories from new writers, many of whom are current students and alumni, and new work from established authors. I am so proud of our students, whose work stands justly alongside well-known practitioners, and I am grateful to Immanion Press’ editor, Storm Constantine, for working with and visiting our students over the past year. #ProudtobeStaffs

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Graduate Publications

Please join us in congratulating two former students of ours on their recent publications.

Emma Cleary, who gained her PhD in 2015 from Staffordshire University, has  short fiction publications in Lighthouse Literary JournalSynaesthesia Magazine, and is anthologised in Best British Short Stories 2015. Read her most recent story, “Moonsuit” in The Queen’s Head.

Holly Ice has just published a horror novella, The Russian Sleep Experiment with Almond Press:

“Four political prisoners living in a 1940s Siberian POW camp volunteer to be Subjects in a Soviet Military experiment. They are promised freedom in exchange for completing the exercise. In return they must endure 30 days without sleep, fuelled by Gas 76-IA. One researcher, Luka, stands alone in believing the experiment needs to be stopped before irreversible damage is done but is he too late? The Subjects no longer want the Gas switched off”.

Holly graduated from Staffordshire University in 2014 with a BA in Creative Writing.

The Class of 2015

The English and Creative Writing staff at Staffs are delighted to congratulate the graduating class of 2015.

It was a glorious day at Trentham Gardens for our students to spend their last day as Staffs students (though we are looking forward to welcoming some back for Masters study). Lou Whotton and Atia Shafique scooped prizes, though so many students did so well and have been great over the last three years that it was almost impossible to choose.

The Stoke Sentinel were there, and you can see their pictures here

We managed to round up most of the students for our own pic, and here we all are before the ceremony.

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Our congratulations, once again, to all our students who graduated this year. We are very proud of you all and have really enjoyed teaching you and getting to know you over the last three years. Please stay in touch and let us know how you are getting on.

Mark, Martin, Mel, Catherine, Barry, Lisa, Paul and Douglas.

English and Creative Writing nominations in the SU Student Experience Awards

English and Creative Writing lecturers Dr.s Lisa Mansell, Martin Jesinghausen and Martyn Hampton have all received nominations from their students for their teaching. The citations read:

“[Martyn] is really motivating, and when he gives feedback it is in depth and always helps me. I look forward to his lectures as I know they will be interesting and passionate!”

“Dr Lisa Mansell is one of those lecturers who really wants you to succeed, a small achievement for you is a huge smile on her face. She engages you, makes sure you know she has time for you, and her office door is always open.”

“I have never met a member of staff [Martin J] more supportive of mental health issues. Always friendly, caring and incredibly helpful in supporting my studies.”

Watch this space to see who ‘the winner is ….’

PhD success

Our congratulations go to Emma Cleary who successfully defended her PhD thesis, ‘Jazz-Shaped Bodies: Mapping City Space, Time, and Sound in Black Transnational Literature’,  last Thursday. The examiners, Dr.s Mark Brown form Staffs and Brian Jarvis from Loughborough), praised the work for its conceptual sophistication, its wide-ranging approach to Black transnational literature (the US, Canada and the Caribbean; the novel, short story and spoken word poetry and rap), and its precision of expression and presentation. The project was supervised by Dr Lisa Mansell.

Congratulations Dr Cleary!

Emma (center) with the examiners (right) and her supervision team.

Emma (center) with the examiners (right) and her supervision team.

 

PhD Success: Emma Cleary

Please join us in congratulating Emma Cleary for the submission of her PhD thesis entitled Jazz–Shaped Bodies: Mapping City Space, Time, and Sound in Black Transnational Literature.

Cleary’s thesis concerns “representations of the city in black transnational literature, with a focus on sonic schemas and mapping, cultural geography, posthumanist thought, and the discourse of diaspora. The research investigates the extent to which the urban landscape is figured as a panoptic structure in twentieth and twenty–‐ first century diasporic texts, and how the mimetic function of artistic performance challenges this structure”.

The work offers a comparative analysis of American, Canadian, and Caribbean landscapes and textscapes, the study of which “negotiates and transcends shifting national, cultural, and geographical borderlines and boundaries that seek to encode and enclose black subjectivity”.

This research offers important new readings of the works of James Baldwin, Earl Lovelace, Toni Morrison, and Wayde Compton.

A Good Week of English Lit. Teaching

I had a good week of teaching (and learning!)  last week, which meant I (and my students) benefited greatly from student input, with particular highlights of two Seminar Presentations, one in my module Modernist Prose Writing on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the other, in the core module level 5 Literature and Modernity, on Poe’s ‘Man of the Crowd’.

The first two presentations of the season, these were of the highest standard immediately, hopefully setting the gold standard for the rest to follow. Both were delivered in a ‘thinking aloud’ manner, either  by way of (one person) speaking to Power Point slides (Conrad; mostly highlighted text passages), or to memorising notes (Poe; pair presentation with pre-arranged part allocation). Both presentations cut to the chase of the two texts. On a very high level, the Conrad one dealt with the complexities of the text’s existentialist message as it cuts across the binary divide, before a backdrop of colonial capitalism, between black/white, individual/mass, first world/third world, primitive/civilised etc.. It also opened up in an ananlytical way the detail in the Modernist techniques of Conrad’s innovative (1899!) prose style. – The Poe presentation delivered a fascinating reading of this short tale, by ‘presenting’ the seminar with more than one option of meaning, before homing in on a number of central points. The prophetic ‘textuality’ (almost post-modern?) of the piece was highlighted. The man of the crowd was identified as a symbolic (Allegory!) incarnation of the new socio/psychological identity model of ‘the crowd’. In the light of this monstrous phenomenon, symptomatic of the late modern age, writing cannot function any longer according to the tried and trusted models of ‘simple’ symbolisation. Symbolic representation (this is Poe’s point, it seems) needs to be designed to incorporate difference. Extended systems of interlinking symbols are needed. The ‘Man’ is an anorganic hybrid of contradictory attributes (‘dagger/diamond’) belonging to different class categories as they are listed with almost sociological precision in the middle section of the story. The possibility was offered that the ‘Man’ could also be read (Poe says, as part of the text of the story in German [missing Umlaut over the ‘lasst’], that he ‘cannot be read’; : “Er lasst sich nicht lesen”) as the narrator’s shadowy alter ego. Reconvalescing from a strange fever: opium, most likely, or syphillis as was suggested, he is obsessively following a figment of his own dark imagination which takes him  into the innermost recesses of his half-crazed mind: the horror of modern crowd identity/ nightmarish loss of individual identity boundaries etc.: ‘ a shadow chasing shadows’, the team said.

Both presentations initiated powerful seminar discussion. In a wonderful way, to me at least, and also to those students, I assume,  who are taking part in these two of my modules, a bridging link became visible between the two texts: the horror at ‘the heart’ (wrong symbol?!) of them both.

Martin Jesinghausen