Thursday 28 February 2019

Featured Poet: Charles Bennett

Before establishing himself as an academic, Charles Bennett was the Creative Director of Ledbury Poetry Festival, and has acted as writer-in-residence for Wicken Fen. Additionally, his work with choral composer Bob Chilcott has seen him hailed as a memorable and mesmerising librettist. He lives on the edge of Northamptonshire & Leicestershire with his wife, daughter and dog. His website is 

Charles's new collection, Cloud River, is a book of lyrical landscape poetry set in the Cambridgeshire Fens; a landscape which, at first impression, seems flat, dull and featureless. The startling originality of the book stems from its delighted mission to revise and overturn these impressions. Through an examination of lines (on fields, maps, the sky and the page) it slowly but powerfully reveals the intrinsic interest, peculiarity and dynamism of the Fens. In so doing, it calls for aesthetic concepts of beauty to be re-examined; and, in its flowing music, exemplifies how a confrontation with level lands, straight rivers and big skies can result in a balancing of spirit and a fresh appreciation of England’s lowest and newest landscape. Featured below is a poem from the collection.


Slung through a thrown ascent
and tuned to the sweet track of its destination,

the polished arrow of a plough
smoothes the air apart to let it breathe.

Drawn like the fine nib of a deft pen,
the cleft of its blade is a cut that does no harm.

In the wake of its stroke, the sky unzips her skin.
The seeds of clouds are planted in a white scar.

As if I were being sown with fine weather,
I read its opening line on the blue field.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Call for Participants: Distributed Reader Study of Preclosure in the British Short Story

By Dan Powell


Preclosure sentences are those sentences within a story, prior to the story’s actual closing sentences where the reader feels the story could end. Preclosural method is an attempt to uncover what endings and the staging of closure can reveal about the cognitive processes experienced when reading a piece of short fiction. My research-led creative project examines how authors of short fiction employ preclosure in their work and investigates how preclosural method might inform the short story writing process.

Aims of this short research study:

  • to gather preclosural sentence selection data from multiple readers of four stories
  • to discover whether consensus exists between readers regarding the placement of closural sentences and the arrangement of putative stories within given stories.

As a participant in this short project, you will be asked to:

  • attend an introductory lecture presentation on ‘preclosure theory’ where you will learn how preclosure theory can be used in textual analysis and as a pedagogical tool. You will discover how the data from this study will be used to help to identify closural staging in the British short story and develop frames for the writer/practitioner of short fiction.
  • read four short stories (over a period of four-to-six weeks) – 'Tamagotchi' by Adam Marek; 'The Leafsweeper' by Muriel Spark; 'Markheim' by Robert Louis Stevenson; 'The Death Bed' by Amelia Opie.
  • while reading each story you will be asked to identify any sentences prior to the story’s final sentence where you feel the story could end. Each sentence of each story will be numbered to facilitate a quick and easy response and you will only be required to list the number of each sentence you identify in each story on the simple response form provided.
  • attend a closing presentation and discussion where the findings from your selections will be delivered. During this session you will have the opportunity to discuss the stories, your response to them, and the preclosural selections made by participants.

Attendance of the introductory session and your participation in the study will provide you with practical experience of and engagement with preclosure theory. Your participation in this project will develop and deepen your understanding of how authors structure narrative and how readers both perceive and interact with that structure. Experience of these ideas and their practical exploration will be of interest to all readers of fiction and useful to all students of narrative arts, in particular those studying literature and creative writing. 

The introductory session will be held on Weds 6 March at 11am in room CW2 BPA, Charles Wilson Second Floor LR Belvoir Park Annexe, University of Leicester, where the information above and other details of the Distributed Reader Study will be discussed to ensure you fully understand the aims and objectives of this short project, the narrative theory behind it, and your role in the gathering of the key data. Distance Learners at University of Leicester and participants from other institutions will be able to access the introductory session and the study materials digitally. 

If you are interested in taking part in this study, please contact Dan Powell:

Wednesday 13 February 2019

How to Make the Most out of a Writing Course or Workshop

Guest post by Becca Parkinson from Comma Press

Writing courses and workshops can be a fantastic springboard to advance your writing, whether you’re stuck in a rut or looking to experiment with a new form but looking for further guidance. Here are some top tips compiled from feedback we’ve received from some of our writing course alumni:

Use deadlines to your advantage – If you’re an infamous procrastinator, there’s nothing like a deadline that isn’t self-imposed to motivate you. A group deadline can often force you to write when you’re struggling and will push you to focus your mind on writing. Often writers don’t allocate enough time to their craft, but participating in a long-term course can help change your lifestyle to create time and space for writing, and allow it to become more important to spend time on. A deadline can also help you dive back in after a long pause, get back on the horse etc.

Take confidence from feedback – For many, a class environment can be nurturing and supportive and can gently encourage your work-in-progress. As we know, constructive criticism is key to improvement, whether it’s from your peers or a knowledgeable tutor. Let it give you the confidence to develop your ideas and narratives further. Sharing your work with others can be scary, but it will be hugely productive for your writing.

Get to know your peers – A number of people who attend our courses do it to make friends and meet their local peers who also have a passion for writing; often they can be people who become vital during and when the course is over, to bounce ideas and drafts off, help you edit your stories and make you aware of writing opportunities such as competitions, call-outs and further learning. 

Discover new authors and stories – A syllabus and/or reading list is a great tool to push you out of your comfort zone. Reading new authors, styles and genres can be like hitting refresh on your writing and help you find a new and improved voice. Also going back to basics and learning about different types and structures of various forms will open up an entire playground of writing techniques to you.  

Comma Press runs six-month courses which specialise in the short story genre, and are delivered by a knowledgeable and esteemed writer. Over six workshops, you'll become familiar with short story narrative structures, and be able to apply them to your own work. Structured, peer-driven feedback and personalised tuition will contribute to your completion of three short stories. We make our courses as accessible as possible: they span the UK and take place routinely throughout the year; you don't actually need any previous experience - just enthusiasm for short story writing.

There is a course taking place in Leicester which begins in April 2019, led by Dr Rebecca Burns: Rebecca Burns is short story writer and novelist. Her work has been published in over thirty online and print journals, and she has won or been placed in many competitions including the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition, 2013 (winner and runner-up in 2014), Black Pear Press Short Story Competition (2014, winner) and Chipping Norton Short Story Award (2016, shortlisted). 

Her debut collection of short stories, Catching the Barrmundi, was published by Odyssey Books in 2012 and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Award, the UK's only prize for short story collections. Her second collection, The Settling Earth (2014), was also longlisted for the Edge Hill. Her third collection, Artefacts and Other Stories, was published in 2017. Her novel The Bishop's Girl appeared in 2016 and her second novel, Beyond the Bay, was published in September this year. 

For more information please contact or head to 

Monday 11 February 2019

Featured Poet: Kelli Allen

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. She has served as Poetry Editor for The Lindenwood Review and she directs River Styx’s Hungry Young Poets Series. She is currently a visiting professor of English Literature at Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China.

She is the recipient of the 2018 Magpie Award for Poetry. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her full-length poetry collection, Otherwise, Soft White Ash, arrived from John Gosslee Books (2012) and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Her collection, Imagine Not Drowning, was released by C&R Press in January 2017. Allen’s new collection, Banjo’s Inside Coyote, will arrive from C&R Press March, 2019. A poem from the new collection is featured below. Kelli's website is:

The tortoise shell maps every star 

No bull knows the thickness of its own rough horn. Some 
blue jays steal only the scarecrow’s left foot, and like us, 
he is left leaning too far against husks. There is a war

in the attic. Hounds’ jaws lining baseboards,
silk windless in every corner, hemming 
shut what we leave open each winter. 

Disregard bundled egrets. We know better
than to trust feathers or beaks in tessellation. 

The zodiac is a tablature you pocket for storms
at sea. When two calves are archboard painted,
the closest shore will never be to the east.  

I have flown the absentee pennant, not noticing
moth appetites until both sun and setting moon
cooed pinpricked lights across unfurled backstays. 

Barley and snakeroot in the same barrel means 
jealousy, indicates reluctant shepherds will gather
both at dusk and in the softer curl of virgin morning. 

Let’s not go on pretending that disquietude is anything
chaste. There are miles urged open past this undertow
and we swim steady, siphoning wind, aerialists in the salt. 

Sunday 3 February 2019

Two Inspiring Guest Lectures

By Karen Rust

This week we were treated to two very different, but equally inspiring guest speakers in the School of Arts.

Kim Slater, full-time author, known for her award-winning Young Adult novels and bestselling crime novels, gave us a guest lecture with the fantastic title: ‘From MA to a Million Copies Sold’ - the holy grail for aspiring novelists.

Kim outlined her lengthy journey from wannabe to bestseller: the countless rejections, the roller coaster of emotions as doubt and lack of self-belief set in and the turning point when she decided to go back to University and study. She completed a full-time BA in English Literature and Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University whilst holding down a job and looking after a family, which says a lot about her. Moving straight onto the MA, she experimented with different genres and discovered she enjoyed writing for young adults.  A short story written for that module received a universal thumbs up from her course peers and went on to become her first novel Smart. She had it professionally edited and sent it to six literary agents, five of whom offered her representation. The book sold quickly, so by the time Kim graduated she had both an agent and a publisher. 

She soon found she wanted to write more than one YA book every two years, even though she was still working, and returned to her first love – crime writing, as K.L. Slater. 

Bookouture, an innovative digital publisher, new to the market at that time, signed her up and she’s gone on to write full time and sell over a million copies for them. 

Kim has created a lovely balance for herself; the YA books are more literary and have won tens of awards, whilst the crime is commercial, formulaic but fun and pays the bills in a big way.

Her hard work, tenacity and self-belief has got her to this point. Writing three or four crime books a year as well as a YA novel every two years is no mean feat. An inspiring journey. 

Our second guest speaker this week was another inspiring woman, Crystal Mahey-Morgan. Crystal wrote for The Guardian and Face magazine aged sixteen, as well as running open-mic sessions for poets and hip-hop artists whilst performing herself. She became marketing Manager for the Raindance film festival aged nineteen, and then moved into traditional publishing for several years.

Seeing a gap in the market she set up OWN IT! with her partner, Jason Morgan, a storytelling lifestyle brand that cuts across books, music, fashion and film. 

Crystal spoke with passion about her experience inside traditional publishing and the lack of diversity of voices she saw being published. OWN IT! aims to make books accessible to young people by publishing stories they can identify with and come across in the kind of places they frequent – for example, titles are stocked in West Indian takeaways in London.

Books published so far include an exploration of black masculinity set against a backdrop of crime and violence, a memoir from a young lesbian raised in a Catholic family on an inner-city housing estate, and a journey exploring family ties across generations by a woman with Maori heritage.

The company also publishes music, collaborates with film makers and produces fashion that sits alongside the other art forms. Mixing media and art forms sits at the core of their ethos.

Instead of a standard launch party at Waterstone's with cheap white wine, OWN IT!’s first book launch took place at Hackney Empire with hip hop and grime musicians taking to the stage alongside poets and readings from the book. Thirteen hundred tickets sold out for the event.

They are constantly on the look out for something fresh and different, across any genre. Their publishing contract is also innovative – a 50/50 split on the net profit between publisher and artist. Most recently, they have set up an agenting arm with Crystal at the helm.

I, for one, am super excited by their approach and rooting for them to show the publishing industry establishment the way to go.

About the author
Karen is an aspiring novelist, currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester.  Check out her blog at: