week 3 diary > Escaping through food?

I started worrying more and not sleeping that well. Waking up really early. The numbers in the news hurt so much. So many people are loosing loved ones. What progress is there with medicines and a vaccine? Some related news from Oxford University

and the World Health Organization.

I am keeping busy. But then I am always busy. Doing a lot of cleaning, crafting and cooking with the boys. Beyond working, of course. Nassi discovered a yummy BBC recipe and we tried it, together. It was a dhal recipe. We will definitely do this again. Made another rhubarb cake and tsourekakia. I make the dough in the bread maker it it always seems to work. Is food taking over our lives? Is it the one thing we can still enjoy?
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We also did some gardening. Spinach and rocket. Haircut No 2 happened this week. It was Ody’s turn. Nassi and I did it together. I have to admit it was mostly me. I was far too instructive.
The boys are spending a lot of time in front of screens. Far too much… they have not talked about what is happening. They are quiet. I know that they are following the news. I am thinking about the situation a lot. Nassi is going to go to university and Ody to a new school in September? We don’t know yet what will happen. Nobody knows. Times of excitement and anticipation have been turned into silence, endless silence. And uncertainty. Fear also?
Talking with friends and family is comforting. It has been again this week. When will we see each other? When will we be able to travel again without fear? Technology helps and brings as closer together. At least we can see each other from a distance. Missing the human touch though. A smile and spending time together more frequently is now a substitute for everything else… it seems.
Easter Sunday. Our first one. Another Easter Sunday, next Sunday as it is Orthodox Easter then. A quiet day… Ody was unwell the day before and I panicked… Some rest, chamomile tea with manuka honey and toast made him well, after a few hours.
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Ody’s cup… he doesn’t like honey but loved the tea I made him… that had honey in it…

We had a barbecue… in the rain. But the food was yummy. The μπροζόλες reminded me of my childhood and the chicken souvlaki is something I started doing.
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But we had a good time together and the boys did our traditional Easter egg hunt. I always remember doing this as a child. I think my boys will remember this too.
easter

inspired by Marieanne Cavaciuti www.damsontreepottery.co.uk

Not much else to write. Thinking about the next excursion to the supermarket and how to clean the stuff Adam will bring back.This is occupying my mind.

No new story this week but some encouraging news about one I wrote already. More regarding this soon. Below some gems I found about our current situation that link to my picture book love. Hopefully, we will be able to contribute also. 

From my window, an R/GA story, access here

Coronavirus a book for children by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson and Nia Roberts illustrated by Axel Scheffler and published by nosy crow, access here

The book of hopes access here

Stay safe!

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Inspired by Hazel Terry at hazelterry.com and her fun craft activities

Week 2 Have I been home forever?

Usually we are away around Easter. Not this year…

Numbers and stats everywhere and all the time. The graphs make it all look like a race? Such a deadly one. Thousands of people are loosing the fight with the virus. Everywhere. So so sad. So much pain. Even the UK’s PM Boris ended up in intensive care on the 6th of April. I hope he and everybody else will make it and fully recover!!! Nobody should have to go through this.
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made more angels as we all need at least one, stay safe!!!

I struggle to watch the news. Struggle following developments on social media. And journalists seem to ask questions around how long we will be locked into our houses. Is this a useful question? And why is everybody keen to get out when there anyway when there is a real danger that “free movement” would make it all worse for all of us? Hard to say this when thinking about Brexit and what the EU stands for…  but the circumstances have changed and it has now become a matter of life or death. What if journalists would ask questions around the progress researchers are making, and UK’s involvement to find ways to treat individuals who are infected. Any vaccine? There must  be hope. Where is it?

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The house is getting cleaner by the day despite the fact that all four of us are here all the time. Outside work, I have been  crafting, (re-)potting, wrote one more picture book story (we are now at number 4) and spending some time with the boys mainly preparing meals and eating together. Ody changed his whole room just yesterday, moved all the furniture around and created a new space for himself. I made some face masks. We all have one now. Made out of layers of fabric, some from off cuts from our Fashion Institute. The one shown here is for my dear colleague and friend Haleh. 

With Nassi, we made Jamie’s cauliflower and cheese pizza without following the recipe too closely. It worked. Didn’t look as good as our normal colourful pizza but we ate it with an appetite and it was something different. We had to use 50-50 strong and normal flour. We have now officially ran out of strong flour. We got some yeast.

Rhubarb flat cake was also something we tried for the first time this week. We made it twice. I used my basic non-recipe for flat cake and we added the rhubarb at the top. It did sink into the mixture. We sprinkled sugar and cinnamon over the cake and put it in the oven. It was yummy as it quickly disappeared.

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Rhubarb will be the one fruit we will have for the whole year and don’t need to go out and buy. Later, much later we will hopefully have some apples and pears. The strawberry plants don’t look that good this year. Oh, yes, Adam’s tomato plants will go in the greenhouse when it gets a bit warmer and brighter. The little plans are doing really well so far.

Being resourceful is key and positivity is equally important in these difficult times. I found the related webinar this past week with our guests  Gerasimos and Haleh insightful and the experiences they shared will help others move forward in their practice and be there for their students in a meaningful way. The importance of the emotional presence and community definitely came out of our conversations.

EUq190AU8AA_ZQD

 

This week, I found the open course Let’s break the chain Covid-19 infection developed by MBRU including Prof. Nabil Zari whom I met in Thessaloniki at a conference some years ago. I found the course  very informative and clear but still have some questions around mask wearing. Is it suggested for the general population not to wear the surgical masks because there are not enough? And if this is the case, what about DIY face masks, which I have started making following some online instructions I found? After completing this informative course, I have become an #MBRUCommunityImmunity Ambassador. I am responsible to protect myself and my community from #COVID-19. I challenged 5 friends to take the course. https://learn.mbru.ac.ae/courses/covid19 > Please do the course and share it further.

I remembered the time I was a translator and the joy I got translating a book by a living author, despite the struggles to do the translation itself. The experience was always so much richer and the struggles more bearable. The final output was also better when I could make that personal connection between author and translator, to establish that bridge. I reached out to connect to better understand their work and share my joy and care for their work with them. For me it was important for them to know that. Often I asked questions, things I wasn’t sure about, things I wanted to understand better to do their work justice but also to celebrate. Peter Härtling (just saw that he died a few years ago, so sad that he is no longer with us) was the author I did this on multiple occasions, as I translated a number of his books, and then we even met one year at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Are such exchanges valuable in other situations too? I have also found this approach really useful in the context of scholarly activities around learning and teaching and see this as a form of collegiality and peer review that connects people and ideas. I have seen that other people do this too, as I am sometimes contacted by people who are using my work. It makes me smile and is lovely to hear that it is useful for others, furthers their thinking and takes my work into new directions. I also continue learning through this process and the discoveries others make. The discoveries we make. That is what it is all about.

My wellbeing, I feel has been boosted by staying in touch with dear friends and family. Care and compassion at the heart, being there for each other in any way we can. Aristotle said that humans are social animals. He was right, we feed from healthy relationships, grow, and are happy in our selves, for others and with others. The noise is disappearing. I can feel it. We also hear the difference in our streets. I hear the little birds singing again. Maybe they were there before and I just notice them now more? A dear friend recently said, we now spent more time talking to each other than before. This desire to connect helps us both. I feel lucky to have met some special people and they are part of my life, to share, celebrate, cry and pick each other up again. Thank you.

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Seeking hope and peace at the bottom of the garden

Stay safe and speak again next week

 

Lock down weekly diary > Week 1

The current need for a diary
I used to keep a monthly diary from the birth of my boys until they were one year old. Diaries can be useful spaces to reflect, make sense of situations and move forward. But also to preserve moments in time, experiences and emotions. At the end of week 1, I decided to keep a weekly diary while the UK is in lock down from the 25th of March 2020.
Week 1
This week was my first full week back to work after an operation and trying to fully recover. I guess when we get older everything takes longer. I just need to be (more) patient but I do need to acknowledge that I am making progress and hope to be fully fit again soon. Going back to work meant working from home due to the lock down of the whole country, well the whole planet almost. I have to admit that this situation despite the fact that it is so so worrying for all of us, made my return to work more manageable and flexible and I am able to cope better.
My boys are off school and Adam is working from home for over 10 years now. This has helped as hugely in the past with childcare when the boys are little but he also often mentions that he misses being in a physical place with people despite the fact he has daily meetings and interactions with his colleagues.
This week we have been hooked to our screens a lot. Well, the boys more than us, I think. Not really sure how they feel about the situation. The boys are off schools and their GCSE and A Level exams have been cancelled. There is a lot of uncertainty about the future and how it will all work out. I hope that the government and their advisors will move away from examinations in the future and explore more flexible options that empower teachers locally, their schools and students and enable them to work more closely with universities also. I decided to have a haircut on Sunday and Nassi who will be studying engineering from September, helped me. I call it our collabo20200329_180123rative haircut. We created a shared memory we will always remember. The boys have also been really good with washing dishes and clothes and other things around the house.
I have been getting back to the rhythm of working. Supporting our colleagues on the PgCert and the MA is always a pleasure and helping them in these difficult times is really important. I also enjoy the webinars I have started facilitating with a colleague to help colleagues teaching remotely in this emergency situation and supporting them in other ways as well. One thing I can clearly see is the care they put into their work with students and how resourceful they are. The AdvanceHE webinar with Kathy Wright, Gillian Judson and Jesse Stommel was another highlight of this week. Creativity does seem to feature more recently and I just hope that creative practitioners will be able to have a voice and be listened too more than in the past as they dare to think and do the impossible and make novel connections that have the potential to bring new light and hope to this world.
My lock down started even before the operation due to health issues so I am used to being at home but I do miss going to the supermarket and buying the stuff I want or need. We haven’t filled our house with toilet paper. We only have a few pasta packages and some tomato tins and feta cheese of course. Adam does the shopping and I worry each time he goes out and what he may bring back with him. Online delivery slots seem to disappear fast but it is something I need to look into more closely and systematically. We hope to be able to continue our family tradition to make pizza on Saturdays but flour is nowhere to be seen in Glossop. Well, Adam got some from a tiny bakery but we are now almost running out. Food shortages also means we need to be more resourceful with our recipes and Jamie’s programme on telly has been useful but also some related exchanges on social media. I have tried to prolong the life of my oat milk for example but adding 50% water… we have plenty of rhubarb in the garden and it have been making crumbles but now need to move on and try some other rhubarb creations.
20200330_102401When I was in a lot of physical pain, I reached out to craft as the painkillers didn’t really help me. I continue crafting and this week I knitted some headbands. I tried a new pattern and while it said easy on YouTube I struggled to follow the instructions and gave up. I went back to my wood cuttings I made many years ago and started painting them and then I have written three picture book stories this week, all inspired by our current situation.
I find these various creative outlets for my emotions valuable as they enable my mind to wonder and wander and create something that makes me feel good. The meditation app in the evening helps me fall asleep and forget my worries for a little while. The breathing exercises really seem to help. And while I do most of these activities on my own with everybody in the house, the conversations with dear friends this week have also been equally important and re-assuring. We are not alone in this.
Stay home! Stay safe wherever you are, whatever you do. 
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Angels to protect us all

 

Looking back

Looking back at the last 10 years while in bed in severe pain since before Christmas is hard… but maybe it is actually easier as we appreciate perhaps more the things that really matter.
My boys became teenagers and my eldest is preparing for university. I love them both so much and am really proud to be their mum. They are so sweet, caring and have such a warm brotherly relationship. I don’t know how life would have been without them and my dear husband who has been equally caring and selflessly supported us all and still does with great generosity.
Ten years ago we left Geordieland behind and moved to the North-West for a job at Salford Uni, I thought I wouldn’t get. I still miss my friends in the North-East and the old guys at the allotments, our chats, sharing seeds, plants, advice and produce. The job at Salford Uni was my first permanent job in academic development. The idea to become an academic developer was not mine. A teacher trainer at Gateshead College, where I was teaching Greek and Cookery at the time in the community and completed the PGCert in PCET with Sunderland University shared this vision with me. She had seen something in me that made me a suitable candidate, I guess. With my degree in translation, teaching German and Greek, an incomplete PhD in translating children’s literature, and two little boys, you can imagine, I had to work hard to upskill myself… but I was ready to make this commitment as it gave me a new focus, direction and hope.
In the last 10 years, I have worked with many colleagues and students and spread the bug that obsessed me, in a nice way, many years ago. Yes, the bug for open creativity, everyday creativity in learning and teaching and probably more widely. I have taken risks, experimented and played with ideas to make learning and teaching more stimulating, more empowering. For staff and students. On zero budget. Being resourceful and bringing people together to achieve something bigger that matters to all of us, has been my fuel. I still do and I love it. I have seen the power of genuine caring relationships and how they foster collaboration, individual and collective growth and a sense of togetherness, community. We often talk about community but do we really know how it feels like? In academia the focus is far too often on self, competition can be toxic and lead to nothing good. It can actually ruin everything. All my work has been with others as it has always given me joy to share and be with others who have similar values and beliefs.
I have been learning along the way and made many mistakes. This last decade has been no different in this respect. The more we do, the more mistakes we make. We (can) also cause turbulence. This is normal. I have tried to learn from my mistakes, personal and professional ones, grow a tiny bit and help others grow. I have used the last 10 years to study more, a lot more, and I am again or still a student. I always loved learning. I guess this helps me feeling young(er) too…
Looking back and remembering all the people who have inspired and helped me in the last decade, personally and professionally, also collaborators and friends and my three boys who have been there in good and bad times, I would like to say a big thank you to you all.
Just hope this pain will leave me for good…
Happy New Decade!
Let's try and understand each other a bit more! Our time here is limited.

Let’s try and understand each other a bit more! Our time here is limited.

#creativewriting module on experimental practice is coming to an end

Warning> Second draft

This module on the MA in Creativity Writing, I am doing at the University of Salford was fascinating. It was my last one. I managed to RPL one of the diploma stage modules that had a focus on professional practice. I love the fact that they are all 30 credits too as  you really feel that you are learning something deeply and that it is worth it. All modules have been really useful. I have learnt so much. They opened new pathways for exploration, theoretical and applied ones, not just as a creative writer but also academic writer and academic developer. I am already weaving some of what I have been taking away into my work. This course is really showing me the value of cross-disciplinary learning and working and how ideas from one professional area or discipline can travel to another one, become novel interventions and trigger new ideas. Fascinating!

This module introduced me to the concept of uncreative writing. Uncreative writing in a creative writing course? Very strange, I thought. I did not immediately see a point in this. The first task was to type a five page existing text… I thought this is strange and while I did not feel motivated to do this. I did and in the end I recognised by rebellious nature in how I worked on this but also the need to connect with a specific text to do anything with it. It was really important for me and I can see how often we feel disconnected with stuff we are given to read. Interest-driven learning is really powerful and a strong motivator to learn and engage more deeply. My struggle to understand uncreative writing, my readings and the little experiments we did, definitely all helped. I had a eureka moment when I was working on my first assignment after the initial “I have no idea what I am doing”. Actually after a very slow start, I speeded up when I had a more concrete idea what I was going to do. The path to get there was foggy but the sun came out. It was really useful, enjoyable and a rich learning experience. I often lost myself when I was working on it and then made progress much faster than anticipated.
The truth is that the more I read and experimented, the more I started enjoying finding out more about uncreative writing.  I have to say the term conceptual writing (used interchangeable with uncreative writing) did sound more appealing to me, at least at the beginning. The word concept in itself was really saying something about the way we engag in ready-made texts. Conceptually and then we make up rules. I liked that part a lot. Reading some of the work by Kenneth Goldsmith was fundamental in developing my understanding and ground my experiments. Kenneth acknowledges that we have so much text that we don’t really need anymore. Is he wrong? He also challenges our perception of plagiarism and he has been provocative with his own students in this area. Uncreative writing made me also think about open educational resources in a different way and I am writing about this a little article but I am also linking it to creative learning and teaching. Initially, I found it strange that whole thing about uncreative writing. But the idea was to provoke and help us consider alternative approaches to storymaking. To break free from conventions and give us the license to do the un-usual, the radical also and produce creative text in different shapes and forms. We were also reminded through this work that the seeds for our stories could come from anywhere, even from other stories. They often do anyway but we don’t acknowledge this.

The visualiality (is there such a word?) of the text, in poetry and prose, became more important. It is not just about adding nice pictures but more deeply engage with the text itself and more creative ways, even where we position it on the page, the size, typefont, what else we make visible or invisible. I will now critically and creatively, I hope, review some of the stories I have written to push the boundaries a little bit more. I suspect something like this, will be more demanding for the reader and my big question is, will they be ready for it?

I could relate to making the ordinary themes that became extraordinary in Lydia Davis‘ work. Her  condensed stories (not sure this was the term used, maybe synoptic? Also known as flash fiction) brought fresh writing air.

Lydia is very playful with language, I find, and what she explores often reminded me of the things I could consider as a writer for children. In a way I read her stories which I suspect were written for adults as triggers to  re-awakening the child in the reader. This is my personal interpretation with some of her work. She makes the ordinary appear extraordinary. Lifts the mundane and makes it shine. I have been writing picture book stories for a double audience, I think picture book writers/artists do. Despite the fact that we broadly know that picture books are for children, often children that can’t even read, they are really cross-generational creations and have layers and layers of opportunities to engage in diverse readership, if this is the desire of the author and illustrator. But also what stops us from creating picture book stories for adults? While I have only limited evidence brought together through personal explorations into the current bookmarked, I can see that increasingly picture books are more openly written for adult readers.

Perhaps the recent book by Charlie Mackesy The boy, the model, the fox and the horse, signalises a new direction for the picture book market or an additional direction perhaps? In this we are not just encouraged to wander and wonder but also to engage in creative reading (something we also started looking at in this module, see Ron Padgett’s book).

I find The Fate of Fausto by Oliver Jeffers similar.

Many are in horror and avoid writing into books but actually, from the years of working as a translator, I felt the need to add my own marks to the books I translated and read and this never left me. I just think this could be a way to engage more deeper with what we read and making sense of it but also start a dialogue and debate with the material, the story. Don’t know if anybody else feels like this.

Another similar example, is the picture book Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh. What a powerful story that is. This book was gifted to me by Paul Stacey, the Executive Director of Open Education Global at the recent Open Education Global conference in Milan in November. How did he know that this story would touch my heart? Paul didn’t even know that I was on a creative writing course and write picture book stories…

What this module also helped me to see, is that the stories that I wrote are more poems than prose. Maybe there are poetic stories. I definitely need to work more on them. To break free from tradition a little bit more, to make them exciting textually and visually as well, but beyond the classic or traditional text and illustration arrangements. Ali (2013, 4) says characteristically

“Writing is a way of thinking, the poem itself offers the best form of structure. It invents its own rules under the making: Neither line, nor form, nor diction or syntax is taken for granted by the writer. It is an anarchic piece of text that lives between boundaries.” (Ali, 2013, 4)

The story in a box I created for the first assignment, my interpretation of an existing  picture book as an act of uncreative writing is perhaps such an example, but also the board game I developed earlier in another module based on a picture book story. I had the opportunity to mix in crafting, which was an interesting addition and added a very different feel and dimension to the final output but also to the process of making the box and what was in it and the arrangement of the story and artefacts. A story does not need to be told or shared in a 2 dimensional artefact, the traditional book format.

During this module it was fascinating to see where we were all taking the materials we immersed ourselves. We experimented in very different ways. It was really insightful and refreshing.

Both assignments have been submitted (I think we are getting feedback for the first one next week). I  am waiting patiently for feedback and marks, while at the same time I will start thinking about a possible final project over the Christmas holidays. Just random thoughts in my head at the moment but something will emerge, I am sure. Something that will stretch me further. Something that will challenge me. Maybe a series of short poems or stories inspired by Lydia Davis but for children where the protagonists are neither humans nor animals… what could they be?

Thank you to both my tutors, Judy and Scott, on this module and the whole programme team as well as my peers for their valuable input and support.

References

Ali, K. (2013) Genre-Queer: Notes Against Generic Binaries. In: Singer, M. and Walker, N. (eds.) Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction. London: Bloomsbury Academic & Professional.

from learner driver to space engineer, an academic journey?

I have been thinking about how we could visualise the academic journey, what metaphors could work, to help colleagues make sense of it from a learning and teaching perspective and how we as academic developers could offer support and how this would look like. I have found somebody to further develop these ideas shared here, which will  hopefully, become a useful resource for academic developers supporting colleagues on such a path.

There are of course, different pathways and not everybody will or will want to follow the one I mention here that is a formal academic career pathway and becomes progressively more and more competitive…

A recent discussion made me think about this and specifically the role of the Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor. They potential activities around learning and teaching, their value, impact and reach but also their development needs. So I came up with the following:

Lecturer: learner driver

Development: re-active
Probably has to complete the PgCert in HE and will become an FHEA, participates in workshops and staff development activities centrally organised and/or in their faculty
Engagement with some of the learning and generic and discipline-specific learning and teaching literature. Discussion groups may be useful.

 

image source https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1550585Senior Lecturer: Confident driver

Development: active
May want to do our MA in HE
Engages in practice-based development, curriculum design and unit, programme leadership, starts mentoring and supporting colleagues therefore can also apply for SFHEA
Makes connections to communities and networks, often external disciplinary ones
Starts engaging in scholarly activities around learning and teaching and disseminates these internally and externally

We can create opportunities for colleagues to co-facilitate and lead staff development centrally, team-teach on our PgCert and MA, engage in peer observations, work on collaborative projects with them. Help colleagues to link to existing networks and communities, internally and externally. Highlight dissemination opportunities (conferences and publications) and do some academic matchmaking (buddy colleagues up with somebody else who has a similar interest, work on a similar learning and teaching issue).

Reader: Astronaut

Development: pro-active
Pushes the boundaries inside and/or outside the institution. Has influence and shapes practices in learning and teaching more widely, could be institution-wide, nationally and/or internationally.

Plays a key role in professional networks and communities. Practice is underpinned by scholarship which is shared regularly through conferences, publications. Supports, and mentors colleagues regularly internally and/or externally and their work is recognised nationally, at least. This could be through invitations to facilitate workshops, keynotes, participate in projects and collaborative research or other scholarly activities.

We can promote their work internally and externally through our networks and communities, create a platform for them. Identify further opportunities for growth also in collaboration with Research and Knowledge Exchange and other internal and external services. This could be related to book publications, special issues, sabbaticals, fellowships and larger-scale learning and teaching projects.

image source https://pixabay.com/photos/astronaut-space-universe-4463579/Professor: Space engineer

Development: hyper-active (?, is there a better term? there must be one!)
Breaks the boundaries and is a real leader in a specific area of learning and teaching. Has definitely wide reach and impact that stretches far beyond the institution and is known in the field as a leading expert.

We can support some of their activities through offering consultancy, we could also collaborate with Professors as partners in larger scale projects and carry out research jointly. TO CONTINUE HERE…

 

 

 

 

My uncreative writing experiment is coming to an end… a new beginning

the original and my uncreative interpretation

It has been a fascinating journey. What a challenge. I didn’t really think I would get so much out of “uncreative writing”. We have been experimenting with “ncreative” or conceptual writing, I can relate more to the second term… as part of the MA in Creative Writing and the experimental module I am doing this term. Looking back, I remind myself of my youngest, who when he was little used to say “I don’t like it? What is it?” or the other way around, I can’t remember now.

How can “uncreative” writing ever be a feature of creative writing? This did sound dodgy, but actually, my immersion into different forms of uncreative writing through authors who have done a lot of work in this area (especially Goldsmith but also others) and my peers on the course, progressively I started becoming less skeptical. It just didn’t make any sense at the beginning and often “uncreative” writing pieces looked random, random arrangements, random radical and unconventional representations that just didn’t make any sense. It seemed that yes, the new output was a new form but why? Well, there is a why and this is key, I think, in “uncreative” writing. A deep and critical and imaginative engagement with an existing text can produce a new form of creative output that stands well on its own. That has been detouched from the original. In a way, the process reminded me of translation, but it is something very different. But it is a translation or an interpretation perhaps. A focus on certain seeds we find in an original, that speak to us in a unique way and we, the “uncreative” writers, conduct a study or inquiry into these and what they could mean, or what they do mean to us. This study leads us to some findings, like any study does and it is really fascinating.

So basically by not being creative one can be really creative. It does sound strange, but I have experienced this myself…

I decided to study “uncreative” writing on the picture book Pandora (Turnbull, 2016). My final output is Pandora’s, an artifact in a box.  Both are shown above in the picture. I have reflected in detail on the creative or uncreative process, step-by-step, my dilemmas and ideas and how it all came together, as well as the features of the box and what is within it.

What I would like to do here is reflect on the whole experience, what I learnt from it and how such an approach could perhaps be used in practice… do I dare to say, my creative writing practice as well as my academic development practice.

What did I learn?
Well, uncreative writing really exists and it can be a really powerful vehicle for creative writing and I suspect development more widely. We almost never start with a blank canvas. Our ideas have their roots in other people’s work… many, often don’t want to admit this as they think it is a weakness… well, it isn’t. It is important where ideas come from. Making novel connection between ideas is being imaginative and resourceful that will drive creativity and innovation in whatever we do. This is no different in uncreative writing. I felt that my initial resistance had perhaps more to do with the perceived randomness of outputs, from my side. But, I didn’t step away from it. I was patient and open to strange ideas, ideas I wouldn’t really consider. And I think this is key. Especially when we are critical, especially when we are dismissive, we may miss valuable learning opportunities. I have seen this so often in the context of my work. As a playful and creative academic developer, I have experienced resentment when modelling more unusual approaches to learning and teaching. I know that we need to listen especially carefully when we disagree, when we dismiss, when we don’t understand something or somebody. I did stick with it and the conversations we had in class and the readings I have done, also helped,  but most of it the experiment itself. Doing it myself. Learning through making, literally. And writing through making. It could be that it came naturally to me to turn a flat 2 dimensional book into a 3 dimensional adventure. I often use objects and models in my teaching. I suspect I was influenced by this, but also I felt that the digital tools I was using did not help me connect with the same depth with the story and my study. So I soon distanced myself from these. It has been fascinating. Working with our hands, thinking with our hands is still, and will always be a powerful medium. To be critical, we also need to be creative at the same time and that requires a portion of experimentation and play. Play with ideas, play to make novel connections, play to get it wrong and start again, play to change direction, but also play as a creative pleasure. I feel that I did all this as part of the project. I actually think that my own playfulness was the driver of this study. Initially it didn’t lead anywhere, I felt lost and just couldn’t get it. But then something happened and I broke free from flat paper… that was truly liberating. Originally, I tried to stick far too close to the original idea, the original text and the images, but when I conceptualised my interpretation, I could start seeing the path I would take. My wings started growing. I had no idea from the outset where this would lead me, but I have also been flexible during the process and did not ignore my inner critical voices to make decision and have to acknowledge that some of my ideas were rubbish. But they did help me better understand what I didn’t want to do, so the experimental and playful part of giving them a go was extremely useful.
I also learnt that uncreative writing enabled deep engagement with a text. I suspect this could be any text. In my case it was a picture book. Turning the story into an(other) artifact using specific uncreative writing techniques, opened my eyes and my mind to new possibilities.

My (un)creation itself in the shoebox looks a bit rough and rustic, definitely messy!!! … handmade and it is. It also looks unfinished and not refined… and it is. I have no problem with this looking back now, while originally I felt this needs to look and be perfect, polished. It isn’t. It is messy and chaotic. And when I freed myself from perfection and tolerating imperfections and mistakes (even celebrating them?), it is when the study started growing.

Is it a re-connection with the ancient myth of Pandora’s box? I did find hope… like Pandora did in the ancient myth but also Turnbull’s (2016) Pandora. Now the box belongs to everybody.

So how could I use uncreative writing in my own practice?
I am on this course as I have a special love for picture books. Using and writing or better, creating picture books in an unconventional way is appealing to me. And  I think it would be for publishers too but most importantly for (young) minds who engage or we want to engage with picture (book) stories. Increasingly, it is recognised that picture books are not exclusively for children who often can’t even read… I have started exploring the use of picture book stories in academic development and my story about feedback that I also turned into a board game was perhaps a starting point for this. Using uncreative writing approaches when working conceptually with picture book stories that are relevant to my work, could be a way to engage academics more deeply and help them think and reflect and change? There is no point in reflecting just to reflect. It is the doing that matters, the change that reflection can bring.

Furthermore, I would love to work with children in primary schools and run workshops using uncreative writing approaches to put their imagination on fire and let them experience the power of reading and learning through making. Even to use “Pandora (Turnbull, 2016) and my (un)creation. How could this uncreative writing study be used in a workshop setting? What about all the broken items within it? What conversations and debates would it generate? There is definitely also scope for using such an approach  in secondary schools but also in higher education I feel, where often playfulness is not harnessed (enough)… and it is seen as childish… we are all about stats and metrics in higher education, (often) not by choice… very sad and disappointing, disheartening actually.

… I started by using “uncreative writing” but nearer the end it became uncreative writing… I felt it was wrong to correct this. It also shows the distance I traveled, from something that was out there, far away from me, to something I did and now can relate to, it is something that is becoming part of my writing process… it seems.

Thank you Scott, Judy and my peers.

References

Goldsmith, K. (2011) It’s not plagiarism. In the digital age, it’s ‘repurposing’, 16 Sep 2011, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 58, Issue 4, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Uncreative-Writing/128908

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

It does look and is messy… not sure the photo helps

… and then I found this…

… and this

… as we said almost no ideas are new ideas 😉

Uncreative writing is actually creative!

I had a eureka moment. I have to admit that I did struggle with the concept of “uncreative writing” or “conceptual writing”. Maybe the term conceptual writing is actually closer to what it really is and “uncreative writing” is a provocation but a confusing one as I felt that I need to suspend my creative juices (not easy…) and become just a copier to say this mildly. It also doesn’t feel right to copy somebody else’s work and not acknowledge where ideas come from. This has always been a no no for me and now I was challenged to actually do this, not even accidentally but deliberately.

During the week we went to a six-form colleague. There were some art students there. One of them was working on the following. A copy of a photograph to which she added layers. Was this “uncreative art”? Seeing it happening in front of my eyes, really helped me make the connection to “uncreative writing”. And while I struggle with this term, I seem to prefer it from “conceptual writing”… very strange.

For the current module, experimental practice, “uncreative writing” is at the heart of it all, to challenge us, to stretch us, to make us feel uncomfortable… all things that I am doing in another context of course… so now it is my turn to actually feel it in my body and my soul.

Being organised and strategic (yes, strategic), I wanted to start early working on my assignments. I also don’t have that much time! Another factor that is important to mention as it defines my engagement and using every minute that I have is important so that I get the maximum out of the course and learn something useful that will help me become a better writer. There is only limited time we all have… how can we stretch it so that it goes further?

For this module we have to do two assignments, both have a very open brief and this can be a good thing, as we know but also feel disorientating… I think I sort of know what I will be doing for the second one, a hybrid piece I decided, but the first one needs to be submitted at the end of November and the pressure is on. Not much time to be creative or uncreative? But that can be a good thing. We need to use the time we have. My original idea was linked to Brexit tweets (#brexit), to curate everyday two until the end of October (I even had a special hashtag #cn_uncreativewriting…) when we suppose to break up from the EU (avoiding to use break free, as I feel that this is an illusion, anyway). But it has been far too painful and soul destroying to even curate the tweets. So I gave up after Day 4, I think. Also there were some indications that it might not have been a useful project… The good thing is perhaps that I went in a circle and came back to picture books and after some initial experimentation that was very close to the little stuff we tried in class, I think my ideas are growing into a specific direction. The discussions in class were really fundamental to find that direction and feeling less lost and unsure what I could do. These discussions helped me realise that “uncreative writing” is not that uncreative. In the contrary. It is a deeply conceptual process, one that connects the author-curator, if you like with the original author in a very special way. When that link, hook, is not there, not sure if we can talk about “uncreative writing” or “conceptual writing”. But are we always aware of this link or hook? I don’t know.

I went back to one of my favourite picture books “Pandora” by Victoria Turnbull, which I also used in one of my earlier modules but in a very different way. What I now had in mind also reminded me of what I did in my last module where I used the same heart of the story in three different ways: 1. picture book (with images I created) 2. longer story, just text 3. board game I developed based on the story. Were these acts also “uncreative writing” activities? I am wondering now. When I did them, I sort of felt that I was self-plagiarising… but maybe I wasn’t.

Pandora goes back to the ancient myth of Pandora… we all have heard it and it is about hope. But also a box… the box or the idea of “Pandora’s box” gave me an idea about the book Pandora and what I could do. I will break free from the idea of a picture book as a something that is flat and predominantly two-dimensional… yes, I will be re-creating or (re-)conceptualising this book in a box… and specifically a shoebox… now just need a box to get started. Feeling that my “uncreative block” is disappearing and I feel eager to start working on this. I am very excited!!!

I am now on a hunt for a shoebox. The right shoebox. Got one on Saturday but I felt that it was too big (for shoes size 41!!!). Now looking for a kid’s shoe box…

Other good news>>> I was accepted on The Golden Egg Picture Book Programme to start in September 2020.

 

typing like mad… but don’t know why… creative writing course, year 2 starts

After successfully completing the Pgcert stage of the MA in Creative Writing I started last year at the University of Salford, I am now ready for year 2. Feeling very excited but also worried that I won’t have that much time as I would like to… so need to be really organised and use the time I will have available wisely. Started doing this and looked at the assessment already but still a bit in the dark exactly what I will have to do and the first assignment will be in at the end of November (a big conference then in Milan so need to be super organised!!!). Hopefully things will become clear(er) in my first class this week and I will be able to make a start with that assignment at least. I do sound very strategic…

We got a few tasks too to complete before this week’s class. BTW, I am doing the Experimental Practice module this term. I love the fact that the modules are 30 credits and not tiny ones. You actually feel that you do a good amount of work and get something for it.

I have to admit that I had to read the first task a few times to make sure I was doing the right thing… we have to type a text by anybody, any subject, that I guess interests us a little bit at least without changing any of the language, anything. I spend some time finding the right text. Was I too picky? We haven’t been given any more clues about what we will do with the text, so in the end I picked a few shorter articles from a recent magazine Adam bought be about knitting. I have been knitting since last winter but am still unable to make anything else beyond scarves…

I found it very boring to just copy the text and type it in a word document. Now imagining how it would be to type it on a typewriter… I didn’t think of changing anything but because I picked texts that were of interest to me, it did help me keep going. But as time progressed I became lazier and lazier… I have to admit. It worried less and less about any spelling mistakes.  And about half way through I did question if I need the text to be single spaced… I would need to type in so much text…  I needed a shortcut! So I decided to switch to 1.5 space and instantly I was almost done. Relief! Typing was over soon. I was amazed at the speed as I was copying and almost written completely blindly without looking. I sprinted towards the end and was typing faster and faster… Now thinking that it may be a (nice?) exercise to write blind folded. Don’t know why but this idea just popped into my head.

But I do prefer writing my own words instead of copying. There is natural flow and freedom. I felt restricted by this activity and like a robot who would just copy what was there already.

So the five pages are now ready and I can’t wait to see what we will do with them this week. Need to remember to print them but not double sided, I suspect. There are loads of things you could do with these texts and I guess, as this module is about experimental practice that is exactly what we will do. Will take a pair of scissors with me and some colour pencils. Just in case. Often inspiration for a story comes from an experience, something emotional we connect but maybe this will show us that inspiration can come from anywhere, even a text we have no connection to beyond a tiny interest perhaps in the topic.

Looking forward to seeing the new group. Most of the people I started last year, will have finished the full MA by now as they were doing it full-time. I am going slowly… I have no choice.

Already thinking of one of the assessments and as it is a creative piece, I have a picture book trilogy in mind I started writing and editing (no polishing yet!). I hope this will work so that I can progress this project and become more experimental in my creative writing approach.

Also need to watch the following http://www.ubu.com/film/goldsmith_sucking.html No idea what it is about yet. Watched it now, in advance of the session and it is fascinating. A valuable introduction into Kenneth Goldsmith’s work and perspectives on creative or uncreative writing and the claim that creative writing is far too conservative, still. Looking forward to the session today. Will also get his book about uncreative writing. Will be facinating reading.

#ILTA192 week 5 pizza day… our little secret

Our last week, our last session. Today. This morning. I wanted my colleagues who are also my students, to experience a student-led session, a session fully directed by them, as students. I felt that emptying the room even of furniture would help. Create an open space. An open space for thinking. For ideas. For exploration. Can’t wait to see everybody’s reaction. I did start writing this post in advance of the session…

There is always the temptation, as we get excited with what we teach, to orchestrate everything for the students. But learning to let go and not control the process is equally important, if not more important. I will only make some suggestions and then step back. Resources around assessment and feedback, the topics for our session, will be on Moodle and anything can be used what is there or elsewhere. I can’t wait to see what happens, how learning will happen in the first two hours. I do trust them all.

The no tables/desks approach seemed to work. I don’t know what my colleagues did expect from today but they were warned. I think the student-led approach used today really showed that freedom can be liberating but also disorientating. But we got there. Two groups were formed and leaders emerged organically that took others on a journey, an exploration. I did really enjoy listening into their conversations and could see that my colleagues were focused and on task. They shared experiences, practices and ideas across disciplines.

The microteach preparation part showed that my colleagues had concrete ideas for their sessions. I was hoping our Manchester city centre game helped them with this. And I think it really did help them. The questions they had today were mainly around the paperwork and the level of detail required in the forms. They were asking about examples of work too.

I wish I had gone with my original idea of paired microteach sessions. It would have been a completely different experience for all of us and so so useful. We would also have larger groups and safe time as well? Peer learning through team teaching can be invaluable. Thinking beyond observing teaching in somebody else’s classroom or being observed by somebody external to a unit or programme just opens up new possibilities. My recent experience of team teaching a postgraduate unit with a colleague in nutritional sciences as invaluable for both of us and I wanted to give others the opportunity to experience something like this…I hope it can happen one day…in the not so distant future.

My feeling is that the unit is too short. Relationships need time to develop, more time than we had. And trust. Trust develops and grows over time, it doesn’t happen over night and it is so so important in learning and teaching. When we trust, we become more open, more experimental, more tolerant of each other, of ideas and stuff that we would otherwise not consider. I hope in the next iteration of the programme, there will be more time to develop relationships and trust and grow pedagogic experimenters.

This is the end for now. I miss you all already. Keep questioning. Our curiosity drives us forward.

See at least some of you for the microteach sessions later this month.