Happy Week 5 #creativewriting

I can relax a little bit as I feel that I have found what I will do for my first assignment. Assessment does create stress! If we don’t fully get what we have to do or even get a sense that we can do it.

While all the sessions so far have been extremely valuable and opened windows to new worlds, this week’s session really helped me to connect with my love of picture books. While we didn’t really look at any of them, I did in my own time as I found it useful to relate the theory about happiness as articulated by Ahmed (2010) to these. The module so far confirmed to me that I learn best when I can combine theory with practice. With something that interests me as I seek to find applied patterns of the theory and make meaningful connections. I read the whole book in advance of the session and two other ones by Ahmed, but after the session, I felt that the discussions we had with Caroline and my peers really helped me deepen my understanding about happiness and unhappiness further.

Also, finally knew what I would be doing for my first assignment and confirmed this with Caroline. I actually had written the first draft over the weekend, in advance of our session about happiness and before I confirmed with her that it would be ok. I just couldn’t stop myself. Did I just had a feel that it would work? I immersed myself into the picture books and the theory. It was fascinating what I was discovering. I felt like an archaeologist… sort of. My original plan was just to make a start with the essay over the weekend, maybe 500 words max, but I wrote over 3500… I was pleased I had written that draft before we discussed happiness in class. It really helped me further deepen my understanding about what I had read and what I was discovering in the picture books. So I soon started editing. And reading studies about the literary form of picture books more generally. I can’t stop now. I find it all hugely exciting and invigorating.

… C.S. Lewis is right… “ A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest. ”

So what is Ahmed’s happiness work all about? I articulated my understanding of her theory in my essay through analyzing three contemporary picture books. I love the picture books I selected:

Pandora (Turnbull, 2016)
South (Duncan, 2017)
The bear and the piano (Litchfield, 2015)

My interpretation in a few lines>>> Pandora an ex-killjoy with a pessimistic outlook, the Fisherman in South, an initial happy migrant but then a melancholic one similar to the Bear, indicate that creativity enables us to live happiness in the moment when we are immersed in it as a basic emotion, but that there is a real desire for something else and that is experiencing happiness as a social emotion, something that is shared with others based on a common value system.

More in the essay.

Ahmed’s work definitely gave me the language to articulate what I was discovering. Ahmed’s work is serious stuff. I had no idea what I would discover in the three picture books. I analysed the text and the illustrations. And they are right. The main vehicle to communicate emotions seems through the illustrations. Now, I am unsure if I will I ever again read picture books in the same way as before writing this essay? And what about writing my own stories?

I worked on the essay systematically and am now ready to share the draft with somebody who would be interested in reading it. Just would like to see if what I have written makes any sense to anybody. Could also share with the writers… I follow one of them in Instagram (Litchfield). But would he reply?

I have also, because of the above, that emotions are mainly depicted through the illustrations, been thinking about illustration and that I should perhaps step out of my comfort zone and do a little bit of drawing regularly and see if I can warm up to illustrate one of my stories. In all three picture books The writer was also the illustrator. Now that I have the draft for the first assignment ready, I am thinking about the second one. This can be a creative piece I have written. Thinking of my refugee story in English and the Greek translation and one more I will do, the German one. A new challenge for me as I haven’t used my German for nearly 20 years in my capacity as a translator.

Through a clip on youtube, I discovered Goodreads.

Looking forward to next week.

References

Ahmed, S. (2010) The promise of happiness. Duke University Press.

Duncan, D. (2017) South. New York: Abrams.

Litchfield, D. (2015) The bear and the piano. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Turnbull, V. (2016) Pandora. London: Quarto Knows.

The picture books I analysed

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Week 4 money, money, money #creativewriting

This was hard and this is what I said when asked at the beginning by Dr Chris Vardy. when he asked the whole class.

I thought the previous sessions and materials were difficult but this was super hard. Learning is. It is never just fun. Reading all these texts about finance and economy or mainly finance from four different theorists (Ferguson, Jameson, Arrighi, La Berge) was a real challenge. Hard to follow and digest. I am still trying to. Making notes on the sheets of paper helped. I definitely wasn’t able to follow them by reading on screen. The discussions in class were useful and made some of the concepts clearer. I am pleased I had read everything in advance. The discussions in class really showed how we can co-construct knowledge through questioning, active listening and sharing ideas to develop and move out our collective understanding forward and into new directions. The text analysis of specific passages was a valuable strategy in this process. Much better than any Powerpoint could ever do… as we were all engaged and actually immersed in the texts. Thinking as an academic  developer, I am wondering if some of the questions could be discussed in smaller groups? What difference would this approach make?

What did stick with me is that it appears that the economy has been reduced to finance (is this because capitalism is the only economic model for some time now and a reality we seem to be unable to escape?). It doesn’t seem to be a good thing… in my little world as we seem to have stopped questioning the fundamentals of an economy.  And the current status quo helps the rich get richer and pushes the poor to and off the edge. Inequality is amplified and opportunities too, but not for all. Just for the privileged. And according Ferguson (2009) it is the lack of education we should blame that basically a large proportion of the population is financially illiterate. But this also feeds the current system and is convenient for the few who are as they directly benefit from this reality. What else do I remember? We are moving rapidly away from making money through producing something. Money is now made through investing in stocks for example, turned into capital and converted back into money. This works again for those who know how to play these financial games. Games was not mentioned in any of the texts but it just popped into my head as it is tempting for the wider masses to get involved in the stock market for example but if you don’t know the rules of the game,and if you are not a confident and competent player, you will soon loose everything in your quest for the “good life” you all you will experience cruel optimism (Berlant). what is the real value of money? Is it power? are there other ways to gain power? And why are we after power anyway? Does power, or perceived power, give us the opportunity to make change happen or stop it?

One of the authors put a case forward that actually finance is not evil, it is actually what drives innovation, I think it was Ferguson (2009). It is interesting, but not surprising that it is the privileged who say this. I need to read more to better understand the world of finance and economy. The papers I read provided a useful trigger and food-for-thought into an area, I am not sure I would have explored otherwise.

I am glad I didn’t skip it as I do feel that I learned a little something that will help me in my critical reading and creative writing. I am sure it will. It definitely raised my awareness and showed me that I can confront my fears and actually surprise myself relate it to my own experiences in my own little micro cosmos.

I have continued thinking about the first assignment and thought I was getting somewhere, when I was told that looking at thee theories is too much. Is my thinking far too complicated? I can see how capitalist realism, cruel optimism and the quest for happiness somehow fit together and are present in contemporary picture books. I got some books out of the library about happiness and inclusion (Ahmed) and suspect that this is the direction of travel for this first assignment as I do see that a positive future is often presented in picture books. I have been re-reading some of them and bought a few more and will over this weekend select which ones I will use. Then writing begins.

Essay idea: How is the quest for happiness (Ahmed) experienced in contemporary picture books.

References

Ferguson, N. (2009) The Ascent of Money: A financial history of the World, London: Penguin

 

Week 3 Fresh visions for alternative futures wanted #creativewriting

Our third session and I did sit next to the ladies I felt I knew a little bit. Don’t think this is a bad thing but also liked the suggestion to reach out to other people. I mix my students up all the time and it is a good thing to open up to new people and their ideas. And the class seems to be now more diverse than in week 1. It is interesting that the back row, this is were I am sitting as well, is participating a lot. Usually, but not always, you have the naughty students hiding at the back. Maybe naughty in this case is more outspoken? A little bit? I am sure things will change as the weeks progress. I sat there as I wanted to blend into the background but this seat also gives me a good view of the whole classroom. Sitting at the font does not appeal to me as I would have my back turned to my peers in the current furniture arrangement. It doesn’t feel right. Could we sit in a circle? The rows don’t encourage movement and more dynamic classroom interaction. I feel.

We discussed Capitalist realism (Fisher, 2009) and Cruel optimism (Berlant, 2011) and I would definitely not be able to participate without having done the readings, even if my head did hurt at the time. I was fascinated by the discussions we had in class and the questions asked by Caroline really helped us think deeper and see connections between ideas and concepts but also our everyday realities. One of my peers made a statement saying that capitalist realism seems to be more a reality than a theory. This was an interesting angle to consider. I guess it may be a sign when theory becomes fully integrated into practice and is lived. The implications of capitalism realism for the individual and society appear to explain a series of mental health problems, the raise of instability, insecurity and anxiety. We are angry. And the outlook is grim. For the many.

Individualism and competitiveness seem to thrive in expense of collaboration and community and the collective. Everybody is in there for themselves and media, mass and social, feed that hunger to stand out, be seen and admired for a polished self and a synthetic or fabricated lifestyle that comes with it. The ‘me me me’ culture seems to be turning into an epidemic. Many examples were mentioned in class that erode not just our economy, politics (Brexit was of course also mentioned), our society but also our everyday human relationships.

While Mark Fisher explains in detail the negative effects of capitalist realism and makes a case evidencing that culture, literature and education have been subsumed by it, I am not sure that he offers an alternative, a viable alternative. To what extend did he have an alternative in mind when he wrote this book? The imperative need for an alternative is there but concrete ideas seem to be absent. Maybe there are none. Maybe this is the reason why people cling with nostalgia to the old, a distorted reality that lives in their dusty memories, a mushy salad of experiences and fantasies.

But do we want to dismantle the status quo? And who is “we”? I don’t think it is everybody, all… all of us…I think it is still very much us and them, or them and us. And the distance between us is widening and deepening as we speak…

What role does/can literature and culture more generally play to (re-)imagine new realities and provide not just a glimmer of hope, which is soaked in passivity, but can grow into collective empowerment, participatory revolution? For me, one of the problems is that we see politics and economics completely detached from culture. And the chasm is growing. We allow it to grow. It seems to be convenient for some… for those especially who try and shower us with nostalgia of the glorious past that never was while harvesting their capitalist fruits from all of us. And we don’t even realise that this is happening or we allow it to happen as such practices have been normalised.

I still felt sad about Mark Fisher, his depression and how in the end he took his own life. Capitalist realism appears to have been his lived reality and perhaps he experienced a form of cruel optimism and the idea of “good life” crumbled in front of his eyes and he no longer could see an alternative, not even in his fantasies…

While we had these open discussions I kept thinking about children’s literature and specifically picture books and if or to what extend these present spaces to dream up new realities. I started searching for signs of capitalist realism (Fisher, 2009) in stories, picture book stories. The Bear and the piano by David Litchfield came to mind… I feel that the story also has elements of cruel optimism and the “good life” (Berlant, 2011). How does the bear save himself from falling apart? From crumbling? If the bear in the book can do it, what stops us?

While the discussions were really insightful, I kept coming back to the essay I have to write…

Assessment 1: Essay

For the first assignment, you should offer specific literary or cultural examples that you have approved with the module tutor who covered the topic  that you are interested in.

Specific questions have been provided and included in last week’s post.

I know now that my secondary sources can children’s books, even picture books. The plan is to start putting some of them together and then carefully identify which ones I could use. Vicky, my children’s literature buddy from the course, says that she does that first before tackling an essay and it does seem like a wise strategy.

Possible secondary sources so far…
Andros, C. (2018) The dress and the girl. Abrams.
Litchfield, D. (2015) The bear and the piano.

Need to check the VLE now and do some reading for next week.

Update over the weekend?
I started reading for next week, before the weekend began… I had a question mark as I wasn’t sure what to write. How to write it. The reading for week 4 is very heavy, but in a different way from what I have read the previous weeks. It focuses on financial forms in literature after the financial crash. The book, Scandals and Abstraction by Leigh Claire La Berge is the one I am reading online at the moment. I think it doesn’t help that I am reading it online. I feel that I am getting closer to the text when I actually hold a printout or the real book in my hands. I struggle to connect with this one exclusively online. I have used snippet to get some bits of the pages I have read so far, so that I can print them out and make some notes on these. This will help a little bit. I suspect the week 4 post will be short. I am already looking forward to week 5 (emotions and happiness through the work of Sara Ahmed) and suspect that this will provide food-for-thought for the first assignment. Could I also link to cruel optimism and capitalist realism? I see hopeful visions articulated in contemporary picture books that contrast with capitalist realism and cruel optimism and would like to explore this further. Are fresh alternative visions  present in contemporary picture books? I need to articulate this question a bit better and share with Caroline. See what she says and then make a start with my first assignment.  I am re-reading some of my picture books (well, we had bought most of them for the boys when they were younger) and identify the themes that emerge from these.

picturebooks

Sunday picture book readings…

References

Berlant, L. (2011) Cruel optimism. London: Duke University Press.

Fisher, M. (2009) Capitalist realism. Is there no alternative? Ropley, Hants: John Hunt Publishing.

The following made me think…

Week 2 critique as an appreciation to understand and expand horizons #creativewriting

Our first proper session. The room was full. We were about 20. Definitely more than last week. I saw some of my peers again. Instantly I felt less lonely. Next to me (yes, in the last row) sat a lady I hadn’t seen before. She is also interested in children’s literature, I quickly found out. What a lovely surprise. We discovered that we had a few more things in common. Many of my peers have done an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing or Literature. This will have given them good foundations for their current degree. I haven’t. I need to learn to swim fast and this reminded me actually of how I did learn swimming as a child. It wasn’t a pleasant experience… I had to jump in the deep end of a pool. I still remember how scared I was and kept moving to the back of the queue hoping that I didn’t have to do it, until there was nobody else in front of me.

What was particularly interesting in the session was what Dr Caroline Magennis, the module leader, said about unlearning. Unlearning some of the theory and sticking to the rules. Unlearning what some of my peers learnt during their undergraduate studies in creative writing/literature, would be important. Her argument was that, that knowledge about literary theories might be constraining for creative writing. It could act as a barrier. So sticking to the rules is not a useful strategy for creative writing. Very interesting observation which echos an extract I found in a book recently about the importance of freeing oneself when writing creatively and added to my week 1 post (Smith, 2005). So, will creative writing work for me as I don’t feel entangled in literary theories? Less is more, in this case? It seems to be. This, of course destroys Bloom’s taxonomy, completely and the revision by Krathwohl as well! This linear construct usually shown as a pyramid that captures higher order thinking and is regularly used to define learning outcomes moving upwards from more simple to more complex. I knew it and am saying it all the time. Learning is messy, learning is not a linear process. Who says we can’t be creative without knowing the rules, the theories etc.? I am pleased I signed up for this course! And that we are encouraged actually to be creative by ignoring the rules… and that obviously is easier when you don’t know the rules…

As my literary theory foundations are very wobbly or not existent, I probably feel exactly like our PgCert students at the moment who are highly qualified often with a doctoral qualification but have to jump into a Masters level course in higher education, theory and practice, without having studied anything or very little in this area before. While I did a few modules around literature and language in my undergraduate degree in translation, many years ago, I really can’t remember anything about literary theories. So, am I a blank canvas? Scary. I confessed this to the lady next to me. I have a lot of catching up to do… and better start reading and engaging critically and creatively with what I read.

I am here to learn. A module overview was provided (what is that “uncanny” seems to be mentioned a lot? There is a lot of new terminology. Thinking as a translator makes me want to create a glossary, but I haven’t started any yet…).

In the session we got some information about the assessment. It was useful so that I can get organised and make a start with my assignments. Essays. Looking back now at my educational life… I actually can’t remember ever have written an essay or having asked my own students to write one. Now I have to write potentially two in the same module. One of them can be a hybrid. But what does this exactly mean? What could it be?

Seeing the essay questions, all 13 of them for the first time on the screen in class, made me freeze. I couldn’t relate to any of them… now what? When I arrived home, I downloaded them and read them again carefully. I have narrowed them down to four, but am still unclear how to work with them. And if I could use two of them for the two essays or how I would work with them. I guess in a way the given questions seem to be like research questions I am expected to respond by doing secondary research. Is this how it works? That seems to help me a little bit. Now also thinking about thought paper… is this what an essay really is?

For week 1, I printed everything I found on the VLE and read the articles. They were not easy to digest. I made notes on the printouts and articulated questions. We went through one of them together in class. The one about Literary criticism with a focus on being postcritical and what that means. First we briefly discussed our understanding of  theory more generally. What is it? I think we agreed that a theory is a lense used to explore something, in our case literary work. For me theory is something that can be a conceptual or empirical construct, or the combination of the two, that helps us make sense of something. In literary theory a lot seems to be about politics, society and culture, I noticed. The intersection of theories and the blending and overlaps of theories is now acknowledged more and recognised in the 21st century, I heard Caroline saying. That is encouraging as our world is not black or white, through my eyes anyway…

Going together through the post-critical article was useful and really helped me better understand what it was all about and what is changing. I really liked the fact that we will explore theory and practice through time and link to our time. It makes the discussions fresh and current and helps us relate to the theories and our own experiences, practices and realities.

In the evening, I was still thinking about post-critical literary criticism. I reached out to Wikipedia… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-critical while some references were missing there, I could still make sense of some of it. I had read the article about it we were given and the class discussion we had earlier today also helped. I was worried earlier that it would all turn into mash but it actually makes sense now. Well, it starts making sense. Not all of it did in the morning when I first immersed myself in the article on my train journey to work. The questions that were asked in class about the article were really useful and helped me understand what this is all about. I started getting under the skin of the sentences. For me post-critical as I understand it currently is a lense of exploring literature, a lense of evaluating literature and perhaps human activity and behaviour more general based on appreciation, empathy and do I dare to say compassion? Compassion to understand, to be open to alternative perspectives and to learn from these in order to extend and expand our current understanding about something in particular, as one of my peers said. In a way, as the article says, it is about moving away from suspicion, finding what is wrong and policing literary work and perhaps also reducing the gap between the person who criticises and the person who writes? The concept of post-critical reminded me of appreciative inquiry often used in pedagogical research to explore experiences. We also use appreciation and appreciative approaches as academic developers when working with our colleagues to acknowledge and celebrate what they bring to teaching and supporting students and building on these instead of seeking faults and accusations. We know that this approach does not lead us anywhere. Wondering now, are academic developers who operate in the post-critical domain more effective and what does this exactly mean? What are the implications for university leaders and managers? What would entering a post-critical phase mean for all of us learning, living and working in the academy? A few things to think about.

Caroline asked us also about the pleasure  of reading. What about also the pleasure of writing? Can this all be spoiled easily by literary criticism? And in academic development, the pleasure of teaching, my academic criticism? Also in research? And peer review there? I can see so many connections…

Back to my readings now for next week. I was told that it is very short… I started reading Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism but find it very heavy and it feels much longer than it is.  I am reading this very slowly… It does have loads of gems and I am picking up “soundbites” that speak to me at the moment as I can relate to these politically, socially and culturally. It feels however, very messy and disorganised reading this book and I am really unsure how I would use this text for a possible essay…

I can relate to the below but refuse to agree that there is no alternative! There must be an alternative! There must be multiple alternatives, hope and futures. What role does literature play?

“Capitalist realism’: a widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” (Fisher, 2009, 2)

“Action is pointless; only senseless hope makes sense.” (Fisher, 2009, 3)

“The focus shifts from the Next Big Thing to the last big thing – how long ago did it happen and just how big was it?” (Fisher, 2009, 3)

“Over the past thirty years, capitalist realism has successfully installed a ‘business ontology’ in which it is simply obvious that everything in society, including healthcare and education, should be run as a business.” (Fisher, 2009, 17)

I also need to revisit the possible essay questions and get in touch with one of the lecturers to share my initial ideas. First, however, I need to construct them for myself. Could I draw a visual map? Struggling at the moment…

The essay questions that have started tickling my interest, a little bit, are the ones below. Still very unsure…

1.      ‘From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly everything is possible again.’ (Mark Fisher) Can literature and culture imagine alternatives to capitalism?

3.      ‘To share what deviates from happiness is to open up possibility, to be alive to possibility’ (Ahmed). To what extent does literature showcase Sara Ahmed’s politics of feeling?

8.      ‘A novelist who takes himself as the principal subject of his novel is asking for it’ (Smiley). Critically assess the risks and rewards of auto/fictional practices, drawing on relevant critical and creative material, including at least one auto/fictional text of your own choosing.

9.      ‘We are suffering, in academic life, from a surfeit of words. […]The challenge, then, is to find a different way of writing’ (Ingold 8). How might genre queer texts respond to this challenge? Illustrate your answer with specific examples.

Weekend update:

Capitalist realism: I have now read the whole book by Mark Fisher. My brain hurts. As I was reading it page by page I became entangled in his ideas and stories and tried to jump with him through these. It was not always possible. His writing reminded me of a patchwork and a deeply reflective piece. I could relate more closely to his writings that seemed to echo my own experiences and life story. I needed help understanding and making sense of it.

So I started googling and quickly discovered some of his lectures. I had no idea he is no longer with us. I was shocked when I read that his life had ended just over a year ago. I watched parts of the clips and his passion and pain, I would say were evident in these. I felt sad watching him and at some point I wished I had met him. He emphasised on the power of the collective but how our capitalist reality, the reality we live in, according to him, is polarised and obsessed with the individual, and how damaging this is for human relationships, all of us and the world we live in. Is there a way out of this? It seems that Mark was in search for an answer which he positioned in the power of the collective. But were was the collective, were were we, when Mark needed us the most?

I have ordered the book and will read it again. It will not be the same…

Assignment 1: I have been thinking about the assignment I have to write, the first one for now. I had an idea but then I quickly abandoned it…. I now have another idea with which I am happier with at the moment as it would give me the opportunity to stitch together my current readings and my life as an academic developer. This bridge would be really valuable for me. The essay questions provided invite is to explore one article of the theories we explore in this module.

Looking at them again, and the ones I selected initially (see above), I can’t see any of them relating to “cruel optimism” (Berlant, 2011), which may be the one I would like to use.

This theory is presented in week 3 (I found a Cruel Optimism book here) and while I almost don’t know anything about it, I can relate to it somehow. I see “cruel optimism” in picture books but I also see it in academic development, my current professional reality. After also, reading an LSE blog post linked to “cruel optimism” of PhD graduates, a paper about the deficit doctorate and a recent Guardian article on bullying in higher education, I feel this may be something I would like to explore in my professional context based on my own experiences as an academic developer and experiences and realities of academic developers more widely. Can I do this?

My draft question: How can academic developers’ cruel optimism about the ‘good life’ (Berlant, 2011) in the academy be explained and to what extent could it shape the identity of academic developers?  

References

Berlant, L. (2011) Cruel optimism. London: Duke University Press.

Fisher, M. (2009) Capitalist realism. Is there no alternative? Ropley, Hants: John Hunt Publishing.

Smith, H. (2005) The writing experiment. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin. Available from http://www.academia.edu/9485157/THE_WRITING_EXPERIMENT_Strategies_for_innovative_creative_writing

Week 1 freedom and playfulness

I am, and always have been a mature student. This doesn’t mean I was always that old, of course… When I started my undergraduate studies, I was almost 24. Today, I was again one of the very few mature students in my new class. This time, the age gap was much larger, my peers could be my own children.

Being among young(er) people is always a privilege, to find out about their hopes and dreams, what moves them, what scares them. I think that is one reason why I love working at university… and because I love learning and helping others learn, of course. I think politicians should spent time with our young people, regularly. So that they can discover what really matter and how they can help create a future for the next generation.  

While I did feel like an outsider and a bit lonely in that class, I knew why I was there and that I would have the opportunity to connect with at least some of my peers as the weeks will progress. It was lovely seeing everybody and talk to the two girl who were sitting next to me for a tiny bit at the end. At some point I looked around and was surprised that I seemed to be the only person taking notes… A book was introduced that will be used it seems a lot in the creative writing workshops. Have you heard of The Writing Experiment? That is the one.

I loved that experimentation was mentioned throughout and that we will be encouraged to actively experiment with our own writing. Who knows what I will create! We seem all to have very different writing interests and when we were asked to introduce ourselves by stating our name and a word that comes to mind when we think about creative writing, the first one that popped into my head was freedom, but then also playfulness. So I mentioned both. I think they are interlinked and definitely connect me at least to my writing intention, the writing process. If this is also reflected in the actual writing product, the output itself, I don’t know.

Maybe when I arrive home, my two books, the ones I ordered the other day have arrived (they were there indeed and I will start reading them on the way to work tomorrow). I am curious to dive into the theory now, can’t believe it myself, and experiment with some of the texts that I have written but also write new stuff. I think the re-assurance the lecturer gave made a difference. I liked the idea of seeing the theories as a “guided tour” and that we could self-select where we would stop for a little bit longer.

Speaking about new stuff…The other day, I had a new idea… while being in a tiny space we have in our house. A tiny space that helps me escape into other worlds when I am in there. I feel it’s expansive dimension now. Suddenly. Could this space become the next creative trigger of a new series of stories?

I am looking forward later in the course to uncreative writing, the essay clinic next week, I think. I loved the invitation to unpick tensions, ambiguity, contradictions and be critical and creative of course, which are two options of the same coin, I think. Makes no sense to me to separate them, like the left and right brain theory… doesn’t work.

Freedom and playfulness, that is what I seek.

Let’s see where my children’s stories will take me/us.

ps. I found the Writing Experiment online and started reading it… the following I found interesting…

There are no rules and regulations for creative writing, and no blueprints for a good piece of writing. Anyone who is looking for a formula for exciting work will not find it, and writers who rely on formulae usually produce dull results” (Smith, 2005, ix).

“… language creates the world rather than the other way round.” (Smith, 2005, 3)

Language-based strategies sharpen your sensitivity to language and help you to be discriminating,imaginative and unconventional in the way  you use it.” (Smith, 2005, 4)

References

Smith, H. (2005) The writing experiment. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin. Available from http://www.academia.edu/9485157/THE_WRITING_EXPERIMENT_Strategies_for_innovative_creative_writing

(I) found (a) poem #flmakeapoem

futurelearncompleted
I recently immersed myself into the open course Making poetry, offered by the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University via Futurelearn. And as the above picture shows, I completed it too. In under three weeks but I keep going back now to read some of the newer contributions and comments.
In the past, I had started other Futurelearn courses but did not complete any of them. But is completion important? My own research shows this all depends on what we want to get out of any course and that our priorities may change as a course progresses. This is perhaps amplified especially when we do a course for free. Learning relationships can be a valuable motivator to stay on and persist but also make the learning experience more interesting, supported and supportive.
Other courses that were sort of MOOCs I completed in the past were offered under the MOOC label (Futurelearn seems to have dropped this characterisation for a while now), are the Creativity and Multicultural Communication course (CMC11) over several weeks designed and offered by Carol Yeager and the MOOCMOOC over a single week. Where I got the most interactions and deep conversations among peers and the facilitator over a longer period of time that led to professional relationships was CMC11. I also remember well the MOOCMOOC and the facilitators engaging during that one week of intensive activities and fun. There was definitely a buzz and I could stop myself from being part of the happenings. I remember a clip I created with my boys, well actually two, for one of the tasks. One of them is super silly…
(… oh dear… that is now 6 years ago… how tiny my boys looked back then)
That was great fun and helped me to experience learning that was drawing you in naturally. I remember that week well and am looking forward later this month to see Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel.
So if I didn’t complete any other Futurelearn course before, what was different with this particular one? I don’t think it has anything to do with Futurelearn. I think the difference was that I was genuinely really really interested and committed and that it was important for me to fully engage with every aspect of the course.i was and am interested in learning more about creative writing. I have always enjoyed being playful with language and this course was an opportunity too good to miss. I was an immersive learner and really used the time as an opportunity to learn something that would be useful for my own development and my creative writing activities and little projects. I suspect that it will be informing my academic writing as well.
Everything was useful, even the more challenging bits, especially the more challenging bits, as through these I identified specific gaps in my understanding. The course also helped me to make use of a wider range of tools for creative writing more generally, in my stories, as well as discover and uncover some of the techniques I could be using or refine in my own little writing projects, not necessarily or exclusively in poetry. The found poems, the free verse poems and the acceptance of experimenting with shape and form. I also love the idea of visual poetry and collaborative and open poetry which I started thinking more about based on my own interests and explorations. I enjoyed the focus on the process and the output of making, in this case the poem itself, and how this can help to discuss, critique and improve it, instead of focusing on the creator or maker. It did remind me a lot of LEGO(R) SERIOUS PLAY(R), where the individual creates a model and through this and based on this the story is communicated and shared. So the focus there again is on the creation not the creator and I have seen that this helps to question, discuss, debate and deepen our individual and collective understanding linked to a particular idea, concept, process or product.
My motivation came from within and was coupled with my desire to engage again more with creative writing and my intention to submit an application for the MA in Creative Writing. I have been, in one of my previous lives, a translator of mainly literary works. Many of my translations are out there as published books. At that time I also started writing my own stories and was teaching translation of children’s literature when I was at a German university during a research stay. I would like to deepen my understanding in the area of creative writing through further guidance, practice and inquiry within a writers community. My application for the MA course is ready to be submitted and I will do this in the next few days. Fingers crossed!
Thank you to all colleagues in the Manchester Writing School for putting this very useful course together and especially Dr Helen Mort and Prof. Michael Symmons Roberts and Dr Martin Kratz who commented on some of my contributions and all my peers.
On demand?
Focus. Focus. Focus.
On what?
No idea.
Words. Words. Words.
What do they mean?
Nothing.
Pictures. Pictures. Pictures.
What am I looking for?
A hook.
fish-hook
Open peer feedback I received on the above (here fully anonymised):
“I enjoyed the poem as it is light, cheery and simple. It conveys simplicity and to me, that’s a good recipe to express one’s thoughts.”
“It is very concise, clever and compact, and stands out the crowd with its simple, repeated language, almost like a nursery rhyme. I don’t think, however, that it communicates anything very profound. “
Chrissi
Ps. If anybody from the course team, would like my feedback on the open course itself and particularly the pedagogical design, very happy to do this. I have to admit that it was hard for me to stop thinking about the course design because of my work as an academic developer