The English and Creative Writing students visit the British Library


We had a fantastic day on Thursday in that London visiting the British Library with this year’s new first years. Hedley and Karen from the library gave us an insight into research using the library’s resources and a fantastic tour – our thanks go to them. While there we saw the original draft of Hardy’s Tess, Austen’s Persuasion, some Dickens and Nelson’s last, unfinished letter to Lady Hamilton (with a note on it from Capt Hardy explaining why it was unfinished). There was also a great little exhibition on punk. And we had a fantastic lunch on the sun-soaked British Library terrace.

We were whisked there (at the uni’s expense!) on the train straight into Euston (right next door to the library). The quiz on the way was won by Amy and Becky with a spectacular 46 (out of a possible 44!). I am quite concerned by the new intake’s lack of knowledge of the home grounds of London’s lower league football clubs, darts and 1970s and 80s sit-coms, but we have 3 years to put that right.

Our thanks go to the students for their great company on the day.


Sam and Umehra with the statue of John Betjeman – the poet of the London’s suburbs, Metroland – at St Pancras Station (which he helped to from the bulldozers)

Dark in the Day


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.


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.”

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



Sex and death in the short story

There was a great article in the Guardian last week about the short story form. Writer Sue Hall describes how:

Short stories are strange, almost impossible language systems. They are acts of        compression, without seeming to compress. They concentrate, without clotting. They provide a focused view of an expanse, and, in the best examples, the weight of the exterior world, a universe even, can be seen or sensed outside the narrative frame. (Guardian Review section, 20 Aug 2016)

It is also, she insists in a collection she has edited with Peter Hobbs, a perfect form for exploring creation and endings, sex and death. This is particularly true of one of the most famous short stories, ‘The Dead’ by James Joyce (in Dubliners). Here, while in the throes of desire for his wife, the middle-aged Gabriel has an epiphany (one of the features of the modernist short story) that his wife has always loved a lover from her youth in the west of Ireland who was willing to die for her (and did). As Hall says; sex and death, creation and endings. Joyce’s use of free, indirect address is mesmerising as it transports the reader from Gabriel’s very personal erotic and emotional disappointment to the landscape of the whole of Ireland (through the motif of snow, which inhabits much of the story), and then to the history of the resistance of the Irish people to British rule.

Across the teaching of English and Creative Writing we consider the short story in some depth. The collection of short stories connected by character and event has been employed by American modernists such as Sherwood Anderson (in the masterful and influential Winesburg, Ohio) and Faulkner (‘The Bear’ in Go Down, Moses is one of the most complete pieces of writing you can hope to read. He just makes you weep with the beauty of the language. Here, the contradictions of the American South are compressed into the incestuous relationships of a handful of its inhabitants), to the Native American literature of Sherman Alexie (in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, 500 years of conflict and oppression are compressed into the image of a Native American standing in front of the reservation store beer cooler).


NUS advice on bank accounts for students

For many students starting university, dealing with finances for the first time can be quite daunting. You need to open a bank account to receive your student finance, and the banks are offering a bewildering array of incentives. Then there are lots of other financial responsibilities like rent, travel, insurance, TV licenses, car tax, and many others.

The SU have done some research and provided advice for students facing these challenges for the first time. Click here to read the NUS advice, and click here for a useful BBC article on first-time finances for students.

The SU Student Advice Centre above the Ember lounge can provide free and impartial financial advice for all students. The SAC can help all students with budget planning, income maximisation, benefits, housing, debt, and any other financial issue you might encounter during your studies.