Friday, 11 May 2018

Launch of Pandora's Box


With the summer sun streaming in through the window, Pandora's Box was launched on the evening of May 8.  Over a glass  or two of wine, students and tutors read out their poems, flash fiction, short stories, and scripts.  The packed event was brilliantly hosted by our two Pandora's Box student editors, Sarah Kissack and Joshua Cialis, who handed out a series of prizes at the end of the evening.

It was a great way to wind down and round off the academic year.

Pandora's Box features some of the best creative writing from the University of Chester's Department of English.

Post and Photography: Dr Ian Seed


Friday, 20 April 2018

Prize-Winning Poet Kim Moore Runs Seminar with University of Chester Creative Writing Students

On April 19th, students on the course Writing Poetry for Publication were treated to a seminar with poet and workshop leader Kim Moore.
Kim read from her collection, The Art of Falling (Seren, 2015), then went on to give the background to some of the poems, reveal some of her drafting processes, discuss techniques she uses to craft her writing, and tell the story of her own route to publication before taking a number of questions from students.

Kim also gave a number of top tips on writing and publishing poetry.
These included:

1. Be prepared to redraft and refine many times.  The middle section of The Art of Falling took years to complete.

2. Raw emotional material can be a good starting point, but it is not enough in itself to convey emotional truth, however honest it may be, or to make a poem. This is where drafting and work com into play.

3. However, sometimes you may get lucky, and a poem will just come to you, for example when you are half-asleep. Take advantage of moments like these.

4. Learn to enjoy the process of writing. Don't become obsessed with product. Be patient.

5. read lots of poetry, including poetry you don't like.

6. If you get writer's block, read some poems to get inspired, take a line from one of them and just start writing. If nothing else, just sit down with paper and pen and start free-writing.

7. Put in the time. Find the time. Learn to fit your writing into small slots of time. Be selfish, if you have to.

8. Use reading and performing your poetry in front of an audience to spot areas you still need to work on.

9. join a writers' group. Be supportive of other poets. That support will be returned.

10. Research your subject matter. Find out what other poets have done.

11. Get in touch with poets you admire. Poets like to know their work is being read and appreciated.

12. Get your work out there. Keep a spreadsheet of where it as been sent and what the result is. Do not be discouraged by rejections, however many you get. Start with some of the smaller magazines, where the competition is less fierce, and build from there.

Kim Moore was recently awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for her debut collection of poetry, The Art of Falling. Previous winners include Seamus Heaney and JM Coetzee. For more information, see this article in The Guardian
The visit was organised by Dr Ian Seed, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Chester. 

Photography: Jan Gibson.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

University Church Free School Flash Fiction Competition

To mark and celebrate the awarding of an Honorary Doctorate of Letters to Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall (also Countess of Chester) in recognition of her commitment to promoting literacy and celebrating literature, children in Year 6 at the University Church Free School (UCFS) in Chester each created a piece of flash fiction, a very short story of no more than 75 words.

The children met the Duchess after the graduation ceremony in Chester Cathedral on 16 March, where they presented her with a framed version of the winning flash and a bound copy of all the flashes.

The results of the competition were:

1st Place: ‘A Little Treasure’ by Lily Wehbeh.

2nd Place: ‘My Helicopter Hero’ by Lilly Pilling.

3rd Place: ‘First Day at School’ by Isaac Wood.

Highly Commended:
‘The Perfect Dress’ by Isobel Ayling.
‘The Golden Star’ by Ella Bargery.
‘Charlotte and the Perfect Flower’ by Ruby Burns-Buckland.
‘Love, the Perfect Present’ by Darcy Furlong-Hart.
‘The Perfect Dress for the Perfect Princess’ by Lili Homer.
‘The Balloon Stuck in a Tree’ by Eve Mackay.
‘Uncle Harry’s Wedding’ by Alexandra Modoi.


About the day and meeting the Duchess, the pupils said:
Lily Wehbeh
‘I felt so proud to present HRH with my winning story – I think she was really pleased that I had written it especially for her. She said she would enjoy reading our stories on her journey back to London.’

Ruby Burns-Buckland
‘It all happened so fast, she just appeared behind us and started chatting to us about our stories. I was so proud we had been chosen to meet her.’

Isaac Wood
‘She said she thought we all looked very smart. I felt very special being there.’

Isobel Ayling
‘She spoke to me about our stories – she was very pleased we had written them especially for her. Afterwards I was interviewed by a radio reporter about what she had said to me – it was very exciting.’

Lili Homer
‘I will always remember the day my class met and presented HRH the Duchess of Cornwall with stories we had written especially for her.’

Eve Mackay
‘I was a little bit nervous about what would happen when we met HRH but she was so kind to us and was really excited about our writing.’

Ella Bargery
‘She talked to me about the 500 word story competition she judges for Radio 2. I told her I had entered it before – she was very pleased about that.’

Darcy Furlong-Hart
‘I really really enjoyed meeting HRH – she was so kind, she asked us questions about our writing and she said she hoped we hadn’t got too cold standing waiting for her. We had lots of photographers take our pictures.’

Lilly Pilling
‘I was so proud to be the first person that HRH spoke to when I presented her with our class collection of Flash Fiction stories. She said that she would read them all when she got back to London.’

Alexandra Modoi
‘She was very smiley – I think she was really pleased to see us waiting for her to come out of the cathedral – she knew we had written her some stories because she said “Hello I believe you have some stories for me”.’

UCFS is part of the University of Chester Academies Trust.
The competition’s judges were Drs Peter Blair and Ashley Chantler, Department of English, University of Chester. They are directors of the International Flash Fiction Association and editors of Flash: The International Short-Story Magazine.


Thursday, 8 February 2018

Creative Writing students treated to a visit from historical novelist George Green

Third-year Creative Writing students on Writing the Past and Life Writing courses  were treated to a seminar with author of historical novels, George Green.

In an informal session, George offered a number of writing tips.

For historical fiction, these included:
1. Think of a three-line pitch for your story. What is your story really about?
2. Readers may not know much about the era you are writing about. Think about what information you will need to give them and how to integrate this seamlessly into the narrative.
3. The events you are writing about have already happened. Think about what you are going to add in terms of perspective. What is your story?
4. Have three pieces of paper in front of you: a three-line pitch, a half-page summary, a one-page synopsis. As you are writing, compare your story to these. If you are going too far off-track, consider whether the writing or the plan needs changing.
5. Don’t keep redrafting your first chapter. Better to continue with your novel to the end, and then you will have a clearer idea of how chapters need to be redrafted. This way you will save a lot of time.
6. Don’t grow too fond of your characters. Plenty of horrible things need to happen to them.
7. Don’t fall in love with the research. It is your story which is important. This is fiction, not history.
8. Keep the pressure going. Build and complicate your story.
9. Consider the advantages of using a minor character to tell the story.

For life writing, George’s tips included:

1. Think about the story you are going to tell. Your life in itself may not be that interesting.

2. Think about how you are going to shape that story, and keep the reader turning the pages.

3. Good life writers have been defined as ‘liars in search of the truth’. Consider the relationship between fact and fiction in your story.

4. Use humour.

5. Consider how you will use time. Your story does not have to be in chronological order.

6. Consider how you will balance the relationship between time, events, and characters. Where will your focus be at different points in the story?

7. Don’t forget the importance of ethical and legal issues.

George Green is the author of Hound and Hawk, and the co-author of Writing Novels for Dummies, as well as number of critical articles.

Blog post: Dr Ian Seed, Programme Leader for Creative Writing.

To find out more about Creative Writing at the University of Chester, go to:


Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Students and tutors enjoy a glass of wine (or two) at our latest open-mic night

Students and tutors read out their poems, flash fiction, short stories, and scripts at the latest open-mic night held on February, with plenty of wine to keep warm on a cold winter’s evening.
The event was brilliantly hosted by our two Pandora’s Box student editors, Sarah Kissack and Joshua Cialis (on left below), who handed out a series of prizes at the end of the evening.

Open-mic nights are held on a regular basis and offer students and tutors the chance to get together, share creative writing, and relax.

Photos:  Elizabeth Milne.
Blog post: Dr Ian Seed, Programme Leader for Creative Writing.

To find out more about Creative Writing at the University of Chester, go to:

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Former Creative Writing Students talk about their experiences at the University of Chester in an interview with current Creative Writing student, Isabelle Carey

Edward Little

 Elizabeth Milne
Key: EL – Edward Little

         LM- Liz Milne


I had the opportunity to ask some past Creative Writing Students from Chester about their experience at the university. Edward Little and Elizabeth Milne have both graduated and are still very much involved in creative writing inside and outside their careers. Here is what they have to say about the BA Combined Honours course and what they get up to now.


Can you, first of all, say a little bit about why you chose the University of Chester to study a Combined Honours Degree?

EL: I chose the University of Chester as I liked the idea of being a part of a small community, and I thought that doing a Combined Honours degree in English Literature with Creative Writing, in such a tight space, would give me the chance to make friends with similar interests, who would enjoy performing their creative work. My assumptions were very correct here. Also, I chose Chester so that I was close enough to Liverpool to visit home, but far away enough that getting drunk at open-mics was a valid excuse not to.  


LM: I chose University of Chester because it was the university closest to my home. With two children still at school, I wouldn't have been able to travel long distances or to stay away from home. I went with a Combined Honours degree as I wanted to take Creative Writing, but there is no single honours creative course.


Did the course meet your expectations? What did you find the most useful?

EL: I feel like the course met my expectations, as the course presented me with opportunities to not only write, but perform my work. One major example being the university’s magazine, Pandora’s Box. Seminars, a place where you could workshop, really helped with re-drafting creative work: especially when it came to Flash Fiction and Poetry. 
Every tutor I experienced at the university was enthusiastic about students’ work, which really helped with motivating me during my studies. It was not only the able tutors that pushed me through my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, but the English department in general. They were a great help, especially when I showed up stressed with questions, or simply to calm me down with a cheery greeting when I nervously picked up an assignment.


LM: Yes, absolutely. The opportunity to have my own writing critiqued by both tutors and other students – often, fresh eyes can pick up plot holes or narrative gaps that the writer misses.


What did you find most enjoyable? 

EL: The most enjoyable part for me was not only the creative community of the university, but the Chester community in general. Chester University’s Creative Writer’s Society and the magazine Pandora’s Box pushed me through my years at university, and I found that it was easy for me, as well as fellow students, to then take the work these platforms produced and perform it at open-mics dotted around the city. Being a part of a creative community outside of the university without a doubt helped me in my academic studies.  


LM: I loved the whole experience – even the exams! Probably the best experience was seeing my writing become tighter and punchier – seeing sloppy long paragraphs reduced to elegant, concise ones is a great feeling.


Now that you have finished your degree, are you still involved with Creative Writing?

EL: Since finishing my degree I have performed at various events in Liverpool, Chester, and Ormskirk, performing flash fiction and poetry. In November, myself and other writers were a part of ‘New Voices’ at Chester’s literature festival, reading the introduction to our upcoming novels. If it wasn’t for the support of the creative writing staff at the university, especially the support that I have been given since I have graduated, I wouldn’t be as motivated to write as I am now.  


LM: Yes, I still write fiction, although less than while taking my degree. I also write blog posts and internet articles for writing clients – less creative but it is still writing! I am also currently volunteering for someone who works for Storyhouse, trying to set up a community writing/ performing outlet for the wider Chester population. He has also put my name forward to represent Lapidus International (the 'Words for Welfare' people) in the North-west, so I am waiting to hear back about that. In October 2018 I will start the MA Creative Writing: Writing and Publishing Fiction at the University of Chester, after which I will see what jobs are available in the publishing/ editing world –so creative writing, in one form or another, is going to be a big part of my future!


Is it helping you in any way with your career?

EL: I believe both of my creative degrees are helping me with my career as I was able to learn not only about creative writing, but how it is published, where specific genres are published, and where my genre of writing would best stand a chance. Recently I have had flash fiction accepted in the magazines Reverb and RumbleFish , and I have finished my TEFL course, with which I am planning to teach English abroad. 
I plan to always write, possibly in new scenery, and it is because of my education as a Creative Writing student at Chester that I have such confidence in my general abilities. 


Finally, can I ask if you have any advice for current Creative Writing students at the University of Chester, or for potential students?

EL: By this point I’m sure it’s already predictable what I’m going to say, but for any creative writing student at the university, try and show your work off in any way you can from the beginning. This is definitely terrifying, but you will quickly realise that everyone has an opinion about your work, and that in this career path, you will continuously be criticised. The tutors are there to help you, not tear you down – even when you think the cliché you used is perfectly justified. 
Listening to the criticism from tutors and fellow students is all well and good, but the main priority when it comes to your creative assignments is to re-draft. Forget everything you learnt reading Charles Bukowski, because even if the meaning is there, the grammar isn’t going to be perfect on the second draft, never mind the first. Be meticulous when it comes to your assignments, because the fun comes later on: at open-mics, reading a page of prose to your mate over coffee, stumbling home after a successful launch night at Pandora’s Box. 
You get the idea. 
The hard work is worth what you can get out of Chester, even if you are not one for reading your work in public, as the Creative Writing tutors are more than willing to help any student who shows they are willing to put in the effort.  


LM: Yes, DO THE READING! At the very least, read through a couple of synopses and reviews (more than one, more opinions will give you a more balanced view of the work, but if at all possible, do the reading and then do a bit more reading – you cannot understand any text without reading it, not only once, but two, three or more times. If you want a good end result, it begins with making time to do the reading. And finally, enjoy it. Attend classes, plan assignments well in advance and speak to your tutors if you have any worries – university can be a challenge, but it can be fun with the right preparation.
Isabelle Carey
Interview conducted by Isabelle Carey,
Second Year Creative Writing student at the University of Chester