Thursday, 21 November 2013

University of Chester Creative Writing Society

The Creative Writing Society meets at 7.00pm every Monday during term-time, in CVC101 (upstairs in the English Department). The meetings are a great opportunity for students from any department (but mainly English...) to share their creative work, get helpful feedback, take part in writing activities, exchange information about writing competitions and publishing opportunities, and chat with like-minded aspiring authors.

To find out more about the Society, visit its Facebook group page:

Best wishes,
The Creative Writing Society Committee

The English Department

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

New Poem By Lecturer Ian Seed

Dr Ian Seed’s prose poem ‘Sale’ has just been published in issue 3 of the online creative writing magazine The Harlequin.

To read the poem, click here:

At Chester, Ian teaches the BA Creative Writing modules ‘Understanding Poetry’, ‘Poetry: Other Voices, Other Forms’, ‘Writing Poetry for Publication’ and ‘Writing the Past’.

His poetry publications include Anonymous Intruder (2011), Shifting Registers (2011), Sleeping with the Ice Cream Vendor (2012) and Threadbare Fables (prose poetry and flash fiction; 2012).

Ian is the founder and editor of Shadowtrain:

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

New Novel By Lecturer Ashley Chantler

Dr Ashley Chantler’s novel He Is the Fire is available now through Amazon in paperback and as a Kindle edition.

The novel is a fast-paced year in the life of thirty-two-year-old protagonist Sam: part-time gardener, reserve lollipop man, writer of saccharine doggerel for greetings cards, boozer. Set on the Wirral in the not-too-distant past, this initially humorous story is about our ability to mess things up: relationships, jobs, eggs, underpants…

Monday, 23 September 2013

‘In Praise of Paving’

Kelly Mercer, a former student of Chester’s English Department, has just informed us that she’s done a recording for her friend’s SoundCloud site of Dr Ashley Chantler’s short poem ‘In Praise of Paving’, from his collection of the same name. To hear Kelly reading the poem:

Treading the Boards at Chester


As a first-year Creative Writing and Drama student, I was immediately on the alert, on starting at Chester University, for any drama productions that I could get involved with. It was amazing to find that, within the very first term, there would be auditions for Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Myself and two friends, who also studied in the English and Drama departments, put our names down right away, as we each shared an interest in Shakespeare. We then convinced a fellow English student to audition as well. We never looked back. All four of us were successful in securing the roles we wanted, and every rehearsal was a welcome break from academic study. We met some excellent people, not only from our own year but from those above us. I was also involved in a separate production with the University of Chester Drama Society, and often had to juggle my studies with two lots of rehearsals. It was tough, though ultimately rewarding!

When we heard that the director, English lecturer Dr Graham Atkin (whom we all came to love), was going to be putting on another Shakespeare play in the next academic year, myself and the two aforementioned friends signed up to be part of it once again. Romeo and Juliet was an equally enjoyable experience, and we met even more brilliant people who became very close friends. In my second year, I was also chosen for the role of Vice President of the Drama Society, so I found that not only did I have my academic commitments but those of co-running a society, and rehearsing for R&J. Stressful though it became, I wouldn’t change a thing: it was all worth it in the end, and I’m proud of everyone who was involved.

Billy Woolrich

BA (Hons) Creative Writing and Drama, University of Chester (2010–2013)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Writing and Publishing Flash Fiction

Dr Peter Blair’s article on flash fiction has recently been published in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2014 (Bloomsbury, 2013). A regular bestseller, the Yearbook is an indispensable guide to the publishing and media industries for writers of fiction and non-fiction, poets, playwrights, journalists, and commercial artists. Peter’s article includes advice on writing flashes, guidance on where and how to get them published, and recommendations for further reading.

Peter teaches the BA Creative Writing module ‘An Introduction to Publishing and Editing’ and is co-editor, with Dr Ashley Chanter, of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. For information about the BA Creative Writing, click the link on the right. For information about Flash, visit:

To find out more about the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2014, go to


Monday, 16 September 2013


Stories of exactly 100 words are known as ‘drabbles’:

Dr Ashley Chantler recently had his drabble ‘A Day in the Life of Steve’ published by 100 Word Story. You can read it at:

Ashley teaches drabbles on his BA Creative Writing module ‘Flash Fiction’. For information about the BA, click the link on the right.

Guest Speakers at the University of Chester

The BA Creative Writing website has a new page that lists the guest speakers who have visited the Department of English in previous years: novelists, poets, short-story and children’s authors, playwrights, script writers, biographers, travel writers, and editors. Go to:

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Book and film deals for lecturer Francesca Haig

The first novel by Dr Francesca Haig, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, will be published around the world after a series of hotly-contested auctions between publishers. The Fire Sermon, a post-apocalyptic novel with elements of fantasy and science fiction, is being published in the UK by HarperVoyager in spring 2015, with two sequels to follow. The film rights to the novel have been purchased by DreamWorks Studio, and Simon & Schuster will be publishing the series in the US and Canada. Translation rights to the series have also been sold in many countries, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Brazil, Israel, Turkey, Taiwan, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Russia, Bulgaria, and Slovakia.

Writing a novel was a departure for Francesca, who has previously published mainly poetry (her first collection of poetry, Bodies of Water, was published in Australia in 2006). Francesca said: ‘It’s particularly exciting now to look forward to the novel reaching readers, after having worked on it for years with no idea whether it would ever amount to anything.’

All the lecturers on the Creative Writing programme are published authors, and are able to advise students not only on the craft of writing, but also on the practical aspects of getting their work published. Francesca’s agent, Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group, will be coming to the department this year to speak to Creative Writing students about how to secure an agent and publish their work. Francesca said: ‘Juliet is brilliant, and played an essential role in securing the publication of The Fire Sermon. I can’t wait to introduce her to our students, and I know how much they value these industry contacts and practical insights into the process of getting their creative work out there.’

You can read more about Francesca’s UK book deal here:

And about the film deal here:


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

National Flash Fiction Youth Competition

The University of Chester’s English Department and Flash: The International Short-Short Story magazine have launched the National Flash Fiction Youth Competition.

Entries are welcome for stories of no more than 360 words (including the title) by UK A-level students aged 16-19.

For further information, go the competition’s website:

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Flash, 6.1 (April 2013)

The tenth issue of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine is now available.

It features stories from around the world, including flashes by eminent Austrian author Josef Winkler (translated by Adrian West), Argentina’s celebrated Ana María Shua (translated by Steven J. Stewart), Britain’s brilliant David Gaffney, America’s emerging talent Robert Scotellaro, and one of South Africa’s finest poets, Kobus Moolman.

The issue’s ‘Flash Presents’ section is devoted to collections for children, featuring four stories from books in Oxford University Press’s ‘Short’ series: Maggie Pearson’s Short and Shocking! (2002), and Louise Cooper’s Short and Scary! (2002) and Short and Spooky! (2005).

Flash Reviews’ contains an unprecedented eight reviews of a wide range of works. Books considered include The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, Ewan Morrison’s genre-melding/bending Tales from the Mall, and Khaled Alkhamissi’s Taxi, which was first published in Egypt in 2006 and has been translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright.

To order a copy, or to subscribe to the magazine, visit the website:

Monday, 1 July 2013

English Department hosts the Cheshire Inter-School Performance Poetry Competition

On 12th June the department was delighted to host the final of the inaugural Cheshire Inter-School Performance Poetry contest, held on the Chester campus of the University. Finalists from five local schools competed in this exciting new competition, judged by Dr Francesca Haig (Senior Lecturer, and Programme Leader for the BA Creative Writing). More than fifteen finalists competed, each of them having qualified through a competitive process within their own school.

The standard was very high, with polished and engaging performances from all the finalists. In the first stage of the final, each student performed a poem of their choosing. These poems ranged from the comical (‘The Day that the Telly Broke Down’ by Lindsay McCrae) to the more serious (‘The Highwayman’, by Alfred Noyes). All students performed from memory, and the event showcased an impressive mastery of both voice and action. All the performances were warmly received by an enthusiastic audience of friends, teachers and parents.

For the second stage of the final, the strongest five students from the first stage were given an unseen poem, and fifteen minutes to prepare. The poem was Roger McGough’s 'The Sound Collector', and all five finalists performed the poem with aplomb. It was fascinating to see how the students came up with different interpretations of the same material.

The competition was very close, with the uniformly high standards making it difficult to decide on winners. However, First, Second and Third prizes were awarded (with the first prize including an e-reader, to foster a continued passion for literature). The judge, Francesca Haig, noted: ‘It’s inspiring to see young students displaying such passion for poetry. Not only did the audience enjoy the performances, but the performers too were evidently enjoying the poems, and engaging thoughtfully and enthusiastically with the material.’

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Double Launch of Magazine and Poetry Collection

Students and staff enjoyed a special literary event on Wednesday 8th May, with a double launch of the Pandora’s Box magazine and poetry collection by William Stephenson.

First up was William Stephenson, Reader in English Literature, for the launch of his short poetry collection Source Code. This collection was the winner of the 2012 Ravenglass Poetry Prize (judged by Don Paterson) and is William’s second poetry pamphlet to be published this year. (For more about William’s impressive year of prizes and publications, see this post.)

William read several poems from the collection. His writing is characterised by its divergence from the confessional, lyrical style that still dominates so much contemporary poetry; instead, William’s writing draws on a mind-boggling range of real and imagined scenarios, from the mundane (an eye examination in an optician’s office) to the fantastical (an imagined future in which recreational drugs are named after the authors whose writing they evoke). His writing is politically engaged, and often sharply funny.
Next came the launch of Pandora’s Box, the university’s annual Creative Writing magazine, which publishes the best writing from students and staff at the university. Edited by students in the final year of their studies in the English Department, the magazine showcases the talents of student writers, including many studying Creative Writing. General Editor Dr Francesca Haig, who works with the student editing team, explained that this year had been the most successful in the magazine’s history, with nearly 200 submissions. This year’s magazine included an exciting range of pieces, from a comical haiku to a short story that reimagines the myth of Theseus from a striking new perspective. Many of the published authors read their work, to an appreciative audience.
The well-attended launch was a great opportunity to hear some inspiring writing, and to celebrate the end of the academic year with a relaxed social event.
Copies of Pandora’s Box are available from the English Department office for £1.50.
William Stephenson reads from his latest collection
Grace Woodger reads her published poem
The student editing team celebrates the publication of Pandora's Box


Monday, 29 April 2013

MA Creative Writing Graduate Shortlisted

Congratulations to Caroline Jones, a former student on the MA Creative Writing, who was shortlisted for The Ravenglass Poetry Press Competition 2012.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Short Cuts

Robert Altman’s prize-winning film Short Cuts (1993) was based on nine short stories and a poem by one of America’s finest fiction writers, Raymond Carver (1938-1988): ‘Neighbors’, ‘They’re Not Your Husband’, ‘Vitamins’,Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?’, So Much Water So Close to Home’, ‘A Small, Good Thing’, ‘Jerry and Molly and Sam’,Collectors’, Tell the Women We’re Going’ and the poem Lemonade’.

The film stars (among many others) Robert Downey Jr., Andie MacDowell, Matthew Modine, Julianne Moore, and Tim Robbins.

The stories can be found in Collected Stories (Library of America, 2009). ‘Lemonade’ is reprinted in All of Us: The Collected Poems (Harvill Press, 1997).

For an interview with Carver, go to:

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Visit by John Dobai, Holocaust Survivor

Holocaust survivor shares his experience with students

Students recently had the great privilege of hearing Holocaust survivor John Dobai talk about his experiences. In the Creative Writing module EN6105 Writing the Past, which focuses on historical fiction, students study the literature of the Holocaust. As part of the module, Mr Dobai came to speak to the students about his experiences of persecution as a young Jewish boy in Budapest during WWII. He also answered questions from students, and discussed how crucial it is to continue to fight prejudice today.

Students and staff from across the university were invited to attend the session, with more than 150 people coming to hear John’s inspiring talk. Mr Dobai’s visit was arranged by Dr Francesca Haig, with the help of the Holocaust Education Trust. Francesca said: ‘It was wonderful to see such a big turn-out for John’s speech. The students were moved and inspired, as was I. We’re very grateful to John for visiting the university to share his experience.’

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Poetry Prizes and Publications for Lecturer William Stephenson


Dr William Stephenson (Reader in English Literature) is about to celebrate the launch of his second short poetry collection, after winning two poetry competitions in 2012. He was a winner of the Iota Shots Awards 2012, which led to the pamphlet of 16 poems, Rain Dancers in the Data Cloud (out now on Templar Poetry, and available in the campus bookshop) and the Ravenglass Poetry Prize 2012 (judged by Don Paterson), which led to the short collection of 24 poems Source Code (available in March / April from Ravenglass Poetry Press via Amazon).  William notes: ‘I guess collections are like the proverbial London buses; you wait for years and then two come along at once…’

William began writing in the mid-1980s, and as an undergraduate at Cambridge he joined 'Virtue Without Terror' a workshop group that included some future bestselling writers; Joseph O'Neill (who would go on to write Netherland), Edmund de Waal (author of the The Hare with The Amber Eyes) and Joel Lane (who has published novels, and three collections of poetry with Arc).  While still a student, he published poetry in some magazines, including Iron and one of the earliest issues of The Rialto

After years of focusing on academic publications, in 2007 Will decided to throw himself back into poetry, and has shared some of the details of his writing and publishing process:

I set up a strict training regime of reading the poetry of X then writing in their style, having already decided that a novel - at this stage - was too big a gamble with my time. 

I managed to start publishing in magazines from 2009, when I got my first acceptance from Envoi, after a string of the usual rejections; since then I've been fortunate enough to get into Anon, Iota, The North, The Rialto and other magazines  In about 2011 I thought I was ready to enter competitions, and decided to aim for those where books, rather than money, were the prizes (on the theory that competitions with big cash prizes would attract established poets who already had several books out, but these same established figures perhaps wouldn't necessarily enter competitions to publish more books).

I was lucky enough to win the first two such competitions I entered. 

William mainly teaches English Literature, but his recent success has led him to get more involved in the Creative Writing programme, and he has taken several sessions with final year poetry students to discuss his writing and publication experiences.

Fans of William’s poetry have more to look forward to: ‘I'm currently working on a full length collection, but this is going to take a long time.’

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The ninth issue of Flash

The ninth issue of Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine is now available. It contains over 40 short-shorts, a 'flash' essay, and reviews of recent flash-fiction anthologies and collections.
For more information and to order a copy, go to:

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Year of Publications and Projects for Former Students

2012 has seen more success and publications for Creative Writing graduate Jake Campbell, including the publication of his first book.

Jake studied Creative Writing with English at Chester, and after graduating in 2009 went on to do our Creative Writing MA. Since then, Jake has achieved a great deal of success with his poetry.

In 2011 he was awarded the £1,000 Andrew Waterhouse Award for his poetry by New Writing North. He was also invited to take part in a professional development course for poets led by the writer Clare Pollard.

His writing has been published in a number of literary journals, and 2012 saw the publication of Jake’s first book, the poetry pamphlet Definitions of Distance (Red Squirrel Press). Jake is also one of the founders of a new poetry journal, Butcher’s Dog.

Jake has just embarked on an exciting new placement. Working with Changemakers, a national youth leadership charity, and New Writing North, Jake will be developing a new, youth-led creative writing project which seeks to document the opinions, concerns and frustrations of various young people in Tyneside and Northumberland. This is particularly relevant to Jake, whose writing has always been heavily influenced by a sense of place, and by his North Eastern roots. In a glowing review of Jake’s book on the National Association of Writers in Education website, Nathan Ouriach writes: ‘Jake Campbell tracks the geographic and psychic space that has surrounded him his entire life and seeks to articulate all of its endearing intricacies. Campbell candidly poeticizes his Northeast and suffuses the minor moments of life with acute thematic depth.’

Jake says: "The groundwork for all of these achievements was laid when I was studying at Chester. I learned invaluable skills for writing striking, contemporary prose and poetry; how the greats have done it, and how I might continue those traditions in the 21st century. I continued to hone my skills during my MA year, in which the support of my colleagues and tutors gave me the information I needed, as well as the enthusiasm, to begin writing seriously. In short, studying at Chester was a vital catalyst for my own work; one which I will carry with me well into the future."

Major Prize Success for One of our Current Students!

Hannah Riordan, currently in the second year of her Creative Writing and English degree, has just been announced as one of the four prizewinners in the 2012 Cheshire Prize for Literature.

Hannah was awarded Highly Commended in this prestigious competition. The High Sherriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature, with prize money of almost £3,000, is one of the region’s major literary events. At the prizegiving ceremony on Tuesday 4th December, Hannah was awarded with her prize by guest speaker Lloyd Grossman, and William Lees-Jones, the High Sheriff of Cheshire.

Hannah says her studies at Chester have played a huge part in the development of her writing: "Studying Creative Writing at University has helped my writing beyond measure; not only from a technical perspective, but my confidence in my skills too. Getting a Highly Commended from the Cheshire Prize this year has been utterly unbelievable, especially since this time last year I wouldn't even have dreamed of entering!"

Student Editors Select Work for Publication

A group of student editors is beginning the difficult task of selecting work for Pandora's Box, the University's creative writing magazine. Pandora’s Box publishes the best poetry and prose by students and staff at the University. The latest batch of submissions for the magazine has just come in, and the editorial team is hard at work selecting the most striking pieces for publication.

Pandora’s Box publishes the best poetry and prose by students and staff at the University. The latest batch of submissions for the magazine has just come in, and the editorial team is hard at work selecting the most striking pieces for publication.

The magazine Pandora’s Box has been published annually since 2003, and in 2010 the website, Pandora’s Inbox, was established allowing even more student work to be published.

Each year a small group of final-year students works with the General Editor, Dr Francesca Haig, to run the magazine, website and open-mic nights. This year’s student editors are Joanne Durber, Ally Little, Richard Rintoul and Nancy Sandlands. The team chooses the pieces for publication, a job that often leads to spirited debate at editorial meetings!

As well as providing students with the opportunity to see their work published, Pandora’s Box also provides invaluable experience for the student editorial team. Jenny Gray, one of last year’s student editors, notes how much she gained from her involvement:

I learned so much from the experience of co-editing Pandora's Box. […] Working on the Pandora's Box team made me feel I had an active role in the Department of English and it was an incredibly fulfilling role. Certainly my own poetry has improved from the experience and I have made many lasting friendships."

Former editors have maintained their passion for publishing and editing. For example, Ruth Fielder (editor in 2010-11) went on to do an MA in Publishing and Editing, and now works full-time at Oxford University Press.