Friday 20 September 2019

"Between the Lines" by Matthew Bright and Christopher Black

By Matthew Bright

Between The Lines (I realised only when I sat down to write this post) was originally written ten years ago. It was the penultimate project of my Creative Writing undergraduate degree, and the theme was 'writing for publication.' It was a collaborative project, and so my classmate (and housemate) Chris Black and I decide to produce our project together, reasoning that surely this would be easier (it was not). In preparation we toured a printing press, which gave us an unnecessarily thorough understanding of CMYK colour matching and not much else, but what it did spark was the idea that we wanted to create something that could only work when published in print. 

Then naturally, we let the six weeks we had to produce the piece go by, until the deadline loomed a mere week away. We were proud of ourselves for getting to work so ahead of schedule.

Over four long, long nights – working on two computers and somehow patching the whole thing together with a pirate copy of Powerpoint – we pulled together what would become Between The Lines. We hit on the idea of two books on a shelf whose stories bled into each other, and extrapolated from there. It begins as two separate stories: a Victorian gentleman unhappy with his social lot, and a contemporary student negotiating drugs, drink and ennui. They begin to exchange messages across time and, as the book continues, the stories begin to literally merge on the page, eventually becoming one single story. Contrary to expectation (Chris being mainly renowned for his drinking skills, and me being known for a fondness for top hats, bow ties and Victoriana), Chris laboured on the story of Mr Dashby, and I wrote the story of his modern counterpart, Bex. But of course, it wasn't that simple—writing something of this nature was complex for all the usual reasons writing is complex, but also in numerous practical ways. To make the stories work, we had to inch through each one slowly, keeping them moving at the same pace, mirroring each other. Sometimes we had to write character, and make it work for the layout; sometimes we had to write for layout, and make it work for character. Of everything I wrote in my three years of undergraduate work, Between The Lines taught me more about the intricate workings of text than anything else.

And somehow, by 9am Friday, bleary-eyed but proud, we had Between The Lines complete.

Years later we came back to re-read it. That's normally a pretty horrifying experience, returning to writing and finding it's now juvenilia, but we were delighted to discover that Between The Lines still stood up. The version now released in the Stretto Fiction series of Roman Books is largely the same as the original version; there's some cleaning, some softening, some polishing—it turned out Mr Dashby drank a lot of tea; it was symbolic tea-drinking, but nonetheless, some of it really had to go—but otherwise this was the Bex and Mr Dashby that first came to life in a small back bedroom of a student house in Leicester. And now it's the Bex and Mr Dashby who are out in the world for everyone else to discover—this strange, unusual book that we created. We hope you love it as much as we do.

You can see more about the book here

You can read a review of the book here

About the authors

Christopher Black is a relentless optimist despite a total lack of success or recognition. He works as a Data Manager for clinical studies specialising in oncology and makes music with dated rock outfit Rhyn. 

Matthew Bright is a writer, editor and designer who’s never too sure what order those come in. He is the editor of several anthologies and his fiction has appeared in various publications. His short story collection, Stories To Tell In The Dark, is out from Lethe Press this October.

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Work Experience, Copywriting and Journalism

By India Wentworth

It all goes back to A-Levels. I knew I wanted to go into journalism but also wanted the option to teach at some point in the future too. English was always my favourite subject, and kept things broad, so it seemed like the best option as my undergrad. 

Now that I’ve graduated, I’m about to complete my journalism diploma with the National Council of Training Journalists (NCTJ). This is an accredited qualification that allows me to eventually secure a trainee journalist position (fingers crossed). I decided to do this as a distance learning course, and gain work experience by taking advantage of the flexibility this route offers. I was advised on Linkedin that the NCTJ accreditation with lots of work experience was what employers would want. As a side note, I’d definitely recommend using LinkedIn as a way to ask questions, because although a lot of people will never reply, some will, and as a result you gain valuable advice around the industry you’re interested in.

My experience with DeltaNet International came up with an email from the university careers team that went out to all students. They were looking for a copywriter, and I figured that any experience in writing was worth having. The role wasn’t limited to writing for the website; I was working on a large-scale digital PR project, as well as getting involved with other ad-hoc marketing duties, such as creating a marketing hand-out for exhibitions and conferences. 

I was in charge of creating databases to work out what questions people were asking on Google around the topics DeltaNet dealt with as a company. From these databases I then went on to write the articles – they were like an extended FAQs section to the website. These pieces explained things that might seem quite dry and confusing (like cyber security) and turned them into an approachable, easy-to-understand articles for people to read. The result of these articles have been an increase in business for DeltaNet because more people are coming to the website, and consequently their numbers of customers have shot up too.

I may not be aiming for a career in Marketing, but the skills I gained from my two summers with DeltaNet have enriched my CV massively, as well as getting my work read by hundreds of people - some of the articles have more than a thousand views! 

Experience is everything nowadays. The extra things you can get on your CV, in addition to your degree, will make you stand out, especially in the creative industries. 

About the author
India Wentworth has recently graduated from the University of Leicester in English. Her aims are to go into broadcast journalism after completing the NCTJ diploma over the next year. As a northern girl from York, she is looking to take advantage of the ever-growing media in the northern cities such as Leeds and Manchester.