MA Creative Writing

It had always been something that I had planned to do someday, September always came around and I managed to find some excuse for not doing it, usually that I was too busy in work or that I couldn’t afford it. This year I have put all excuses to one side and I have finally signed up for a creative writing MA.

So why this year? One of the catalysts, was the Pulp Idol Competition back in May where everyone who did well in the competition seemingly had done or was doing an MA in Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores. This was an option as a place to apply to and I spoke to one of the lecturers about their course and he sold it to me perfectly well.

Having weighed up my options, I decided that there was only one place that I wanted to do it at and that was MMU in Manchester; given its good reputation and where it’s situated. Also what dissuaded me from doing it Liverpool JMU was that I had already previously studied there for my degree and masters. Though I enjoyed my time there, I wanted to experience studying in a different academic establishment.

The route that I am taking is part-time over three years, two years in class and one year writing up the novel that forms part of the final project.

For now the first module, of the first term is Contemporary Novels, where there will not much writing to do, but we have been presented with a reading list of 10 books that we have to read in as many weeks.

Im genuinely pleased that from the list I have not ready any of these particular books – I have read a couple of the author’s other works (Nabokov and Burgess), but this list will be a real journey of discovery.

First up is Patricia Highsmith‘s, The Talented Mr Ripley followed by Anthony Burgess, Time for a Tiger. Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin. VS Naipaul, Miguel Street.Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker.Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries. Beryl Bainbridge, Master Georgie, and finally JM. Coetzee’s, Disgrace.

Pulp Idol 2013

The judges and participants of my heat from this year’s Pulp Idol. (Picture:

Liverpool is again staging its annual Writing on the Wall Festival and as usual it has an array of interesting talks and events. There is also a writing competition as part of the festival called Pulp Idol, which is now in its fourth year.

For years I have been meaning to enter this competition and this year was no different. The competition sees writers submitting the first chapter of their novel and then read out the chapter in front of an assembled panel of judges at a designated heat.  

The finalists work is then compiled into a compendium of work called Firsts, I read a couple of these in preparation for my submission, to see what styles had been successful in previous years. I decided to enter with a newer chapter of an idea I had on the back burner, and not the one that I was working on for Nanowrimo last year.

Having written up my chapter entitled An Eighteen Year Winter, I entered the competition and I was thankfully shortlisted for the heats which took place in The Kumaba Imani Centre in Liverpool.

Though I made it to the heats, I wasn’t successful in reaching the final stages. Although it was disappointing not to proceed to the next stage (I could see why when reading my work again and from seeing the level of work produced by the other writers). The experience was worthwhile for the feedback received by the judges. I think this has been a worthwhile experience and one that will spur me on to go further with my writing. 

Nanowrimo 2012


Well thirty days have passed and despite the last week being laid up in bed with the norovirus, I have stumbled over the line and completed Nanowrimo. It was a good job I was ahead of the word count before the bug hit, otherwise I would be writing about another Nanowrimo failure. I didn’t post anything at the outset as I was in two minds whether I would it again this year. I also didn’t want to herald another failure. At the last minute I decided to do it. Thankfully I did as I have now a draft completed.

At this moment I have a feeling of elation, tiredness, and weakness (as a result of the illness). The first draft stands at 50, 067 words, though a quick scan of the finished draft suggests that some of that will be cut from the final version.

The story arc is complete but I now need to give it a thorough edit. Given that it has been written at speed, my pages are awash with green and red squiggles that Word kindly uses to indicate the error of your ways.

This is a long way from being publishable which I am under no illusions at this part of the process. I see this as the something to edit stage. This is more than I had at the start of the month. Which I suppose is the point of the exercise with Nanowrimo.

Here’s to the editing process. Which I am assured is just as painful as sitting down to writing a novel.






No no Nanowrimo

A recent blog post mentioned Nanowrimo and how I had set myself the task of writing 50,000 words in the month of November.

Today is the halfway point and I should now be bragging about my achievements so far…Well the dog ate it, I left it on the bus… blah blah blah! excuses ad infinitum.

This year, like last year, I was probably a little presumptuous that the work situation would have calmed down by November. That has not been the case, if anything it has become increasingly busier. So with great reluctance I have decided to wave the white flag and give up. The novel that everyone supposedly has in them (so the cliché goes) will sadly have to wait for another year.

Though I have written 5,000 words for an academic paper in the last few days – though I doubt that will be able to count towards to the Nano word count.

Nanowrimo 2010

Today is the first day of Nanowrimo and like last year I have tentatively signed up to it. For those that don’t know Nanowrimo is a novel writing challenge that sees you write a 50,000 novel in 30-days. Easier said than done? Well last year for me it was, as I struggled to make it over the 25,000 barrier. This year after much delaying and dithering, I have signed up to it again.

Tonight, if I was on course I should be signing off with a daily total of 1667 – so far I have done everything else other than what I was supposed to be doing. Already my idea, one that I have figuratively blown the dust off for this year, is looking like it may be discarded for something else!

It’s still not too late to join in the fun, you will no doubt catch up with my not be revealed paltry total so far. I can be found here on their site (I need to update this too).

If you are still undecided here’s an interesting article on why it is a good idea

A Brand New Start

I have been tinkering around with this site over the summer and finally after much procrastination and a busy couple of months at work posted something.

This is a new venture after a period over at I have decided to set-up-shop here on WordPress – so far I am enjoying the experience. I can not recommend using it highly enough, after a few false starts it’s really easy to use. I had toyed with moving the contents of my old blog over here, but I have decided that can remain in stasis as something of a timepiece of something that I used to do, a hotchpotch of rants, old match reports from a now defunct website and other sundry bits of nonsense that I have put my name to.

That particular blog was one where I hid behind the name of Crystal Days, a rather obvious name given my love of all things Echo and the Bunnymen. The name alone, certainly not the content was probably the reason for some of the hits that it received. That blog, which on occasions, I stopped, started again, deleted and then finally re-uploaded, is no more. With this new blog I have also invested in a domain name – sadly most of the ones that I wanted have already been taken. Oh, for a less popular name

This site is very much a case of practising what I preach. One of the first lectures I put together this year for my students was about how they should be branding themselves as future journalists. The decline of local journalism has been a hot topic over the last few years and this is troubling for potential journalists, as this was considered to be the first destination for graduates and new entrants into the profession. Though that is not always the case, as my career could be considered suitably journalistic without having worked on a local newspaper.

I have spent the summer trying to put my portfolio together, with the realisation that my digital footmark is not what it should be – my portfolio is very much of the blow-the-dust-off-it variety, stored in hard-backed folders that contain content that is slowly becoming sepia coloured with each passing day.

Given that I have moved into lecturing the main issue that I have these days is the fact that I no longer see myself as a practising journalist. There is also guilt on my part too; the places where I should be looking to freelance are probably places that my students would be looking to work for. This is partly the reason why I have been involving myself more and more in creative writing and attending workshops trying to get that published instead. Who knows that may be where this website develops in the future – well it will be if I did not hoard completed work in files on my computer and desk at home – another area of my life where I prone to procrastinate.

In the coming months I’m hope to rectify these issues. For now this domain/blog will still be work in progress.