Ymlaen!: Onwards and upwards (Ymlaen Week 24)

This is my final Ymlaen blog post. I could go on about how much it’s meant to me for years, but I’m going to take this opportunity to thank the humans, to thank everyone who has helped make the placement an unforgettable experience. Big shout out to the following:

 

Dan Spain

Dan has been indispensable. I will state the obvious: There would be no placement without him! But from the moment I met him for my Ymlaen interview, he’s been so supportive and thoughtful. I can’t even attempt to pin down everything he’s done, but I can say I’m wholeheartedly grateful for the opportunity he helped see into being. Lucent Dreaming wouldn’t be what it is without him, and I wouldn’t have met all the wonderful people I’ve met without all the wonderful things he’s put in place.

 

Amy Pay

Amy has been my Rabble mentor and has pushed Lucent Dreaming to be more than I ever dared imagine. From suggesting I make a sample issue, to suggesting I hold a launch event, she’s helped make Lucent Dreaming real! Not to mention she knows exactly what to say and how to help me reframe my worries when it comes to the emotional/mental strain of running a new business.

 

Kayleigh Mcleod and Sara Pepper (Creative Cardiff)

Sara and Kayleigh are magic. I don’t know how they manage to do all the things they do and still have time to look out for me and support my creative business, but they do. Kayleigh especially has been such a blessing. She’s been invaluable with the launch, helping it be the best it can be and immortalising it on the Creative Cardiff website. But way before that, with everything from social media to short story contest hosting, she’s been available to chat and offer advice when I really needed it.

 

Claire Parry-Witchell and Sean Hoare (Cardiff University Enterprise and Start-Up)

Claire and Sean have not only helped put me in touch with other business advice services like Mark Adams from Big Ideas Wales, but have given me wonderful opportunities. The seed funding I received from them got Lucent Dreaming to print and they also gave me the opportunity to talk at a Start-up Accelerator event, something I would never have anticipated a year ago.

 

Mike Palmer

Lucent Dreaming wouldn’t look so polished were it not for Mike! And it probably wouldn’t have got up the stairs to Rabble either. 100 copies of Lucent Dreaming are pretty heavy. I’m also super grateful for all the tea he made me pretty much every day for four months leading up to the launch (until he left!)

 

Sarah Millman

Sarah inspires me. She taught me what to look out for when it comes to printers, which helped immensely for my print run, but she is so creative, talented and focused. I aspire to do the kind of stuff she does. She brings joy to people with her art!

 

Marc Thomas

Marc has encouraged me to think about doing business differently, to be radical with business models, to think outside of the box with things like advertising, and to carve out my brand identity more than spend energy competing with others.

 

Ffion Williams

Ffion is wonderful. She’d only recently joined Rabble around the time I was gearing up for my launch, but she still gave me a card to wish me luck and I still look at it today because it makes me smile. I appreciate her wisdom and encouragement when it comes to being part of the creative industries, not knowing what’s coming next when dabbling in several creative things.

 

Alex Crowley

This is very straightforward. I want to thank Alex for being the hand model for my notebook. He helped make one of my childhood dreams come true!

 

Matt Sullivan

Matt Sullivan has done the important job of indirectly encouraging me to focus on my side project: writing a novel. He also critiqued my Lucent Dreaming business cards (although I didn’t follow his advice about including contact info and that was probably a mistake), but more importantly than the above, he joined me when I was craving Wagamamas!

 

Chris Jenkins

Chris once helped me fix the scrollbars and transparency on my website. He’s also mentioned trying to teach me Spanish, but what I’m most grateful for is that his sense of humour is as dark as mine so I always have someone at Rabble to talk to about the kind of skin present in hand-finished cakes.

 

Helia Phoenix

Helia has been super supportive and so lovely. She’s helped me understand my own vision for my life and encouraged me to make the most of the skills I have. To have the perspective of someone who has a similar attitude to working life was so valuable. It’s reassuring to hear that it’s actually good to spend time doing what I want to do and that it might lead to doing the kind of work I want to be paid for.

 

I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch of people on this list, but I’m truly grateful for all of you reading. The Ymlaen placement has given me direction, made me understand my skills and truly changed my life, if only in terms of all the wonderful people I’ve met along the way. I’m especially grateful to everyone at Rabble Studio. You are all awesome and I’d be poorer without you.

 

Thank you to everyone who brought the Ymlaen placement into existence. I hope it continues beyond its pilot year! It’s been an honour being its first recipient. If you want to know about my full placement at Rabble Studio, click for more information!

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2018 Goals

We are hours away from 2018 and the feeling of newness and hope is electric to me in ways it hasn’t been for a long time. The past few years I’ve been gunged in university deadlines and the gunge was quite distracting. I felt I had no time to pause and consider what I want aside from the very potent desire for the deadlines to be gone. This December I’m freer. I have (for the large part) only my own deadlines to consider, my own wants, ambitions and goals. But I have to remember something I didn’t know in 2014 (the last time I made real goals). I have to remember that many great things happen by accident. Everything I want to achieve isn’t necessarily what I need to achieve. And, even more than that, I cannot be overwhelmed by inevitable disappointments whatever happens. Almost everything is temporary.

 

My friend suggested I break my goals down into daily, weekly and monthly goals but this post is a general and abridged list of what I want to be, to do and to accomplish. The specifics will come later when I stop abandoning my laptop to consume books.

 

Abridged goals for 2018

 

  1. Write a draft of a novel
  2. Write a collection of poetry
  3. Write and submit a PhD application
  4. Be unafraid (of continuing to be frank and of trying things)
  5. Read 20 new books
  6. Launch first issue of Lucent Dreaming
  7. Establish Lucent Dreaming as a business
  8. Visit new places
  9. Only buy things you actually *love*
  10. Give everything you don’t actually use/love/require to charity

 

I think these are plenty to start with. I’ll go into detail about sections of my goals as they become relevant. My general plan is to write a poem every day, about 3 pages or 1000 words of any sort of prose a day, to read for half an hour on the train and/or before bed, and to spend about 3 hours every weekday on promoting and creating promotional content for Lucent Dreaming (and learning how to use photoshop and suchlike).

 

Although I wanted to say something insightful about goal-making and resolutions, everyone feels their own way about things like this. For some people, new year’s day is just another day and the new year is just another year, but I think ignoring markers of change and milestones gives little time for reflection. It’s only from reflection you can assess change and as much as I hate change, it’s valuable (and none of the above are particularly dramatic). This is all growth, growth I’ve keenly awaited. I hope I continue to find these goals meaningful, and if not, that they are replaced with things that will benefit the world as much as they might benefit me. (To love and to look after things are probably amongst the most meaningful things you can do.)

Our New Creative Writing Magazine is Open for Submissions — Lucent Dreaming

Many moons ago, before the summer slung itself haphazard over the shoulders of Britons, and as easily fell away, my friends and I dreamt up a new creative writing magazine. The journey to launch has been an interesting one. Frankly, of course, we have no idea what we’re doing. And I imagine that will be the case for several months. Writing my dissertation interspersed (or swallowed up) the summer, so all the back-to-school feelings I’m deprived of this year have been channelled into this: Lucent Dreaming. It’s still under construction, but we’re open for submissions.

I’m seeing it as an opportunity to test our creativity, more than anything. We’re living, and have both the skills and enough knowledge to create something like this. Why did we not before? And for our prospective writers (who I dearly hope exist), it’s an opportunity to enter the market and publish stories that might thematically not have a foothold elsewhere. Unfortunately, we don’t have the funds to pay anyone yet, except maybe in Amazon gift cards, but we’re looking into things. I just hope it goes well, if not great. I’d like to put forward entertaining and interesting writing in a beautiful way.

And! if you have read this far, please do share this post with your creative writer friends. We’d really like to get the word out far. It’s NaNoWriMo and so many writers come out of the woodwork to give a stab at novel-writing that there are surely just as many who write, tell or enjoy short stories.

 

We are now open for fiction submissions! Non-fiction and art submission dates TBC.

via Lucent Dreaming is Open for Submissions — Lucent Dreaming

Getting an MA in English Literature

After what seems like several months of confusion and doubt, I submitted and eventually received my result for my MA dissertation. Bunch that together with my essays, and I have a full MA degree in English Literature. OH MY GOODNESS. I did it. I accomplished the thing I so excitedly set out to do.

But there is one thing I should regret and am subsequently going to rectify: I wrote no kind of acknowledgement in my dissertation. I didn’t want to attach any names to the piece of writing I hadn’t any pride in, so I avoided the attempt. Weeks later, and the fact remains the same. I don’t take much pride in the content, but the effort and the energy warrants my elation, and I buckled and included a few names anyway.

So, here it is:

Acknowledgements

I could not have got so far, so unobstructed and so inspired, without my friends who believed and my family who encouraged. Thank you Isobel and Isobel’s mum Liz for your love and books, Emmalees for pushing me to be my best and Caitlin for telling me I am more. Thank you to my unofficial J Club who know me best, make me laugh and listen to me complain, even now.

Thank you to Cardiff University for giving me a scholarship, without which I wouldn’t have been able to study. I reserve the rest of my undying gratitude for Cardiff University’s Open Access team who let me write during working hours, to my teachers who kept me dreaming, and to my lecturers and my supervisor for their unwavering understanding and support. Thank you.

What now? Well, after spending a year writing about 36k words for the MA, I’m going to try writing a novel (double the amount of words) in one year. Let’s see how that goes. I’m also recovering from a cold I got the day I had my dissertation result. So, a party all round. I’m also spending the year reading *some* of the things I’ve kept on the reading list for the past 4 years and not had time to enjoy! And there are some other exciting things to be announced, so look out. 😀

Chick Lit and Cosy Crime: The Problem of Genre in Eighteenth-Century and Contemporary Fiction

After my earlier exploration of historical romance fiction (see my previous post at https://crecs.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/the-men-of-regency-romance/ ), I decided to venture into the history of more broader genres, namely crime and romantic fiction, to determine their importance in twenty-first century culture.

CRECS//

This blog post is from Jannat Ahmed (@PemberleyParade), a Masters student in English Literature at Cardiff University. Her research interests include the authorship and readership of the eighteenth-century novel, the popular novel of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, fanfiction culture, and postcolonial and feminist theory. She hopes to pursue a doctorate investigating the relationship between the girl reader, the woman writer and the male critic in British literature.

The journalist Caitlin Moran believes that culture precedes politics in motivating change in society, and I agree. Yet it seems to me that the importance of ‘low’ culture, particularly in terms of genre fiction, is often overlooked. Despite its prevalence, critics and reviewers sometimes engage in an unfortunately token relationship with genres such as romance and crime fiction. Rightfully so, perhaps, one might say, when much of these fictions are reproduced, predictable texts that follow a traditional plot-line. However, much as critics…

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Book Review: ‘Les Liaisons dangereuses’ by Pierre-Ambroise-François Choderlos de Laclos, translated by Douglas Parmée

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This book was a recommendation from years ago. Now having finally read it, I find I was thrown into an intense exploration of social manipulation. First published in 1782, the novel is written in the epistolary style, but unlike Samuel Richardson’s Pamela that focuses on the letters of one protagonist, the number of protagonists and antagonists are doubled or even quadrupled in Les Liaisons. I am still feeling the aftershocks of reading this novel which is surprising because I was not expecting much in the way of ‘realism’ or ‘believability’. However, I was intrigued by the volume of characters and how they may all be relevant. I will also note my reading of the novel was made far easier by its translation in 1995.

Fortunately, the volume of characters is not superfluous, and after the first eyebrow-raise (I was not sure whether the Marquise de Merteuil was actually the Madame de Merteuil, but she was addressed under both names), I was struck more by the actions of antagonists rather than the protagonists. Reading the novel was a study of cause and effect, and more than anything else: dramatic irony. Of course, there are parts I find unbelievable, such as the feelings of Madame de Tourvel, but Madame de Tourvel, Cécile Volanges and everyone but the antagonists play the role of balls in a game of pinball. It is the interaction between the antagonists that escalates the drama. The Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont are instead both flippers flinging whomever they wish into the air and bruising their victims on pins along the way.

There is much I would like to discuss about the novel, particularly the use of other novels within its letters. At one point Clarissa, another novel by Samuel Richardson, is sought out as guidance for one character (p. 239) in order, I imagine, to prevent succumbing to pressure. At the same time, the Victome, who is exercising this pressure, also discusses the same novel, writing that ‘It wouldn’t be difficult to slip into her house […] and turn her into another Clarissa’ (p. 245) and just before this, explains how he is formulating his plans by ‘vainly going over every known way, in novels’ to take advantage of the woman he is chasing. The protagonist seeks guidance and warning in novels, but the antagonist seeks formulation in the very same. In showing this duality, Choderlos de Laclos gives novels a dual purpose.

Much like we might see the crime novels and crime shows of today as a way of unintentionally teaching a criminal how better to avoid the law, the ‘romance’ or rather novels of sensibility or Gothic novels in the 18th century show the way in which one might succeed in using people. Moreover, there is a moment where the Marquise likens her own management of multiple affairs as a crossover of the roles of writer and actor. These two roles are flagged as subversive. (What do English Literature students appreciate better than the subversive?). It is up to the weight of the ending of the novel to determine whether these roles are reconciled. *Spoiler alert* The writer puts the antagonists in their place. *End of spoiler*

I am aware this review has become rather dense, so I am cutting it short to get down to the real question: Would I recommend this book? If you feel inclined to reach into history and find humanity at its worst—that is, self-centred, selfish, self-serving and self-satisfied at the cost of other people’s peace of mind—then I recommend this book. I recommend it as an unusual self-reflexive analysis of novels, fiction and people, as both a guidance and as a realisation of its subversive application. This novel does more than examine dangerous liaisons between humans. Ultimately, the novel critiques the dangerous relationship between exploitative humans and their limited knowledge.

Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre-Ambroise-François Choderlos de Laclos, translated by Douglas Parmée, published by Oxford University Press. £7.99 at Waterstones