The Youth Word Up 2019 with Vanessa Kisuule

Working in partnership with Off the Shelf Festival of Words
Performance: Young people and poet Vanessa Kisuule
Events: 24th Oct 2019 | 7.30 – 9.30pm -The Hubs, Sheffield
Free event. Register via Eventbrite here

It’s that time of year again for the Youth Word Up – working with young people’s services in Sheffield & South Yorkshire. Local young people will perform pieces written during workshops with Vicky Morris from Hive, sharing their experiences and hopes. Many have never done anything like this before and have written brave and beautiful work about everything that can happen in young lives. Sharing the stage with the young performers are young writers from Hive and headline poet and slam champion, Vanessa Kisuule. Her poetry collections are Joyriding the Storm and A Recipe for Sorcery and she is currently Bristol City Poet.

Suitable for ages 13+, parental guidance applies
Free anthology from the project available at the event

About the Youth Word Up

As part of his guest curation of Off the Shelf in 2012, poet, novelist and activist, Benjamin Zephaniah, created The Youth Word Up – a project designed to give young people a chance to have their voices heard alongside an established poet.

Now in its 8th year, the Youth Word Up is an ongoing success with young people writing poetry and performing it alongside top poets at yearly events during the Festival. In 2013, a Youth Word Up, audio-visual installation of young people’s spoken poetry was showcased in Sheffield’s Winter Gardens. And since 2012 a publication of work by young people was produced from the project.

The Youth Word Up is an Off the Shelf Festival of Words Project funded by Arts Council – Grants for the Arts
Supported by Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Community Youth Teams, Sheffield Youth Justice Service, Chilypep, Healthwatch, Doncaster Foyer, Care team, Hive South Yorkshire, Vicky Morris and Arts Council England.

My Lumb Bank Arvon Week


I arrived by taxi down the single file road that lead to the Arvon, Lumb Bank writers residence. It was beautiful and remote and I felt so lucky; I never thought that I would be able to go on an Arvon course, but thanks to the amazing people at Hive I was there, and I was determined to make the most of it. The staff who greeted me were friendly and welcoming as they showed me to my room. It was compact but comfortable; crisp white bed linens, two plump cushions and a comfy blue blanket on a single bed, a space heater and of course, a desk. The view from the door of my room was breathtaking; the Lumb Bank gardens against the backdrop of a wall of trees. It felt as if that view had gone unchanged for centuries, as if Ted Hughes had once looked out of that door and seen the very same plush stillness.

Eager to get started, I unpacked quickly and I made my way to the library. The two people who had arrived before me, who I would come to know were Elizabeth and Hadi, were sat quietly discussing life and books. Elizabeth was a journalist from London, Hadi a filmmaker from Singapore. I started to wonder if I was in over my head, thinking a stay-at-home mum from Barnsley surely has no place sharing work with ones so creatively employed.

Elizabeth was a journalist from London, Hadi a filmmaker from Singapore. I started to wonder if I was in over my head, thinking a stay-at-home mum from Barnsley surely has no place sharing work with ones so creatively employed.

Slowly the rest of us filed in, and before long we all found ourselves elbow to elbow in the living room, all trying in vain to remember the sixteen names of our family for the next week. The staff gave us housekeeping info- what we should do in case of a fire, where to leave books we had lent from the library, how to sign up for cooking duty and tutorials, and exciting information on the week to come. It was amazing to hear how far some people had traveled; Hadi was still the winner in terms of miles and hours flown, but he had some strong contenders- Jenna from Los Angeles, Shelia from New York and Victoria from Uzbekistan chief among them.

We ate our first meal together; quiche and sides lovingly prepared by the center staff. I found myself seated next to one of the tutors, Diane, the New York Times Bestselling author of Thirteenth Tale. I was quite starstruck, and I joked to her that it felt like I was seated next to JK Rowling.

We met the tutors; Russ Litten and Diane Setterfield, properly later that evening as we entered the Barn for the first time. A creative space of sofas and soft lighting that would be the setting for our evening talks and readings, and where we would share our own work later in the week.

Diane asked us about the novels that most inspired our writing. My ‘to read’ list tripled that night, as the notebook on my lap filled with the books that had so peaked my peers enthusiasm. Russ asked us what our favourite word was, as a way to remember us all, and mine was ‘hyperbole’.

That night I was inspired, and I wrote a few hundred words before bed.


Tuesday began with a walk; Lindsay, a solicitor from London, and I stomping through the moss and rocks of the magical surrounding woodlands. We were lost, having thought the sign that read ‘public footpath’ but seemed to point straight up in the air must have surely been an error. But we enjoyed it, and made our way back before the start of the first workshop.

Russ and Diane are very talented and accomplished teachers; clear and informative, both founts of knowledge and experience. I felt privileged to be there, and very excited. We learned about the six elements of story, and about what fuels a narrative. We found out what kind of reader we are; what books we avoid, what we were prepared to forgive in novels, and how this information could make us better writers. We chose words at random from the dictionary and used them to create a headline, and used that headline to create a story.

This was our first glimpse into each other’s talents, and I wondered how Rebecca, a teacher from London, had managed to come up with a narrative so vivid and complete in such a small amount of time. Diane told us that we should think of our first drafts as clay, and all subsequent drafts as the shaping and the kilning and the gloss.

Diane told us that we should think of our first drafts as clay, and all subsequent drafts as the shaping and the kilning and the gloss.

With that advice in mind; that afternoon I sat with Lindsay in the barn, on opposite sofas with our laptops in our laps. Inspired by the setting of our morning walk, I rattled out three thousand words of clay I hoped could become a fairy story. The rain fell outside the windows as we typed, and I commented that it was a sound people download apps for.

That evening, we filed into The Barn for the literary VIP experience that was hearing the tutors read from their own works. Russ, a writer and musician from Hull, read first from his novel Kingdom- a book about a ghost in a prison. Diane read next, from her latest novel Once Upon a River- a book about a girl who defies death. We were captivated, spellbound.

Afterwards, they generously shared their knowledge with us in a Q and A.


The Wednesday lectures were about character; their function in a novel, and what it was about characters that compelled readers. Diane shared something she herself had done for her main character in Once Upon a River; writing a hundred questions about said character, and explained how this exercise would lead us to information we would never have had about them otherwise. Victoria (who we had learned on the first day was Diane’s biggest fan) and I, spoke excitedly about how special it was to get a glimpse at Diane’s own notes.

After another delicious lunch, I had my first tutorial. Russ Litten sharing his comments and critique on the writing samples I had given the tutors on Monday. He was so encouraging and repaired my wavering confidence. His notes and edits were all spot on, and he had written ‘ace!’ next to one of my sentences.

Russ Litten sharing his comments and critique on the writing samples I had given the tutors on Monday. He was so encouraging and repaired my wavering confidence. His notes and edits were all spot on, and he had written ‘ace!’ next to one of my sentences.

That afternoon I put his edits in place, and wrote a scene in my novel I thought might be good enough to share at the Friday readings.

Libby Page, that night’s guest speaker, arrived before tea as a few of us sat around the living room chatting. She was lovely; generous and modest. After tea we listened to her read from her novel The Lido, and she spoke about her journey to being an author. She gave us valuable advice about publishing, and about not giving up too easily.


The week was going fast. It felt like only hours had passed since I had stepped out of my taxi. The people whose names I had struggled to remember already felt like old friends.

Russ spoke to us about dialogue, that each line a character speaks should either move the story along or tell us something about that character. We transcribed a recording of a bigoted circus ringmaster from my hometown, and worked in groups to record each other and learn about how people speak. We wrote a piece using only dialogue, and I shared mine. I didn’t think it was that great, but people laughed and I was reassured. We spoke about adverbs, and unpacking the emotions in a sentence so that a reader experiences them, rather than watched the character experience them.

I was on cooking crew that day. Me and Hadi teamed with Su and Emily, a delightful mother-daughter duo from London. I made a cinnamon and apple crumble for dessert, as Su elevated the carrots with parsley. Emily mashed a fields worth of potatoes, while Hadi interspersed his efforts with taking photographs and videos to send back home. The food went down well, and I joked with Diane that one day my claim to fame story would be that I had once fed her sausage and mash.

Emily mashed a fields worth of potatoes, while Hadi interspersed his efforts with taking photographs and videos to send back home. The food went down well, and I joked with Diane that one day my claim to fame story would be that I had once fed her sausage and mash.

That evening I spent at the kitchen table. Russ Litten and a retinue of my fellow writers sharing wine and stories. It was an amazing evening, I have never felt funnier; Russ and the others laughing encouragingly at my stories of call centre work and family life. The feelings of insecurity I had had in those first days long forgotten.


I could not believe it was the final full day. I had fallen into a routine as one of the early risers; sipping coffee in the morning with Mark, a Scientist from Scotland and Sabiha, a teacher from Leicester.

Friday we spoke about fuel. About that feeling of inspiration and clarity a person gets when they hear their muse. Russ had us try and put a word to that feeling, and find three times when we had felt it. We then fictionalised those examples to make a story. My word was ‘nostalgia’, and I shared a piece about my family discussing a box designed for repelling mice.

Diane had us find the piece we would be sharing that evening, and we broke into groups and timed each other, giving feedback and encouragement. I formed a group with Kat, a teacher from London, Mark, and Elizabeth; who throughout the week had become fast friends with the cat in residence- Ted. We decided what we would say as an introduction to our work, and timed each other to make sure we wouldn’t go over the five minute time limit. I was nervous, having stared at my piece so much that I wasn’t sure if it was any good anymore. I asked Russ to read it later that day, as we sat in the library with Jared, a recruiter from Sheffield, listening to a song Russ’ band had written for the Jeremy Corbyn campaign. I’m glad I did, as it turned out I had a pair of disembodied legs flying around my first paragraph.

As we filed into the barn for the last time, we were nervous. Shaking hands clutching the papers that held our final drafts of the pieces we were going to read. I was fifth, and though I fumbled a few lines, the reception was good, and everyone was supportive. It was an amazing night of amazing work; people we knew all week would be amazing, and dark horses who had been quiet in the classes who now had everyone hanging on their every word. Jenna, who had not shared much in class, had everyone in stitches with the delivery of her piece: a modern take on the roles of childishness.

It was an amazing night of amazing work; people we knew all week would be amazing, and dark horses who had been quiet in the classes who now had everyone hanging on their every word.


I packed quickly, wanting as much time as possible to say goodbye. Each compliment had me closer to weeping, and Diane pushed me over the edge with her lovely words. I stood, moist-eyed amidst the suitcases and photo-taking as we all left taxi-full by taxi-full. The elbow-to-elbow meeting of Monday feeling like a distant memory as we promised to stay in touch.

Arvon Lumb Bank was an astounding week. I feel like a writer now, because of it. The confidence I have gained and the things I have learned will stay with me forever. As, I hope, will the friends I have made.

Thank you to Arvon & Hive South Yorkshire for bursary support to make my Arvon dream possible!

My Week at The Hurst Arvon

My Week at The Hurst – Arvon Poetry Writing Course

My Arvon experience started with a breath-taking drive through Shropshire countryside among towering rhododendrons – a fitting start to a trip that just kept getting better.

Writing bliss

On arrival, I was shown to a comfortable room with a great writing desk. Only the promise of cake down in the kitchen could pull me from that view! These things (cake and the gardens) were the only real distraction as I was set to embrace Arvon’s off-grid approach for the week. This had an enormous impact on my focus. It is important to take yourself away from that constant stimulation and sense of obligation. This week allowed me to place writing as my priority. Meeting my fellow writing companions, and hearing the number of returnees, I learned that Arvon courses are clearly additive (and should come with a warning…)

After dinner on Monday, we gathered in the lounge to discuss significant moments in our relationships with poetry and writing. It was moving to hear different stories and pathways which had brought people here, and this made me even more excited for the workshops. I found it hard to pinpoint my ‘significant moment’ but I suggested something between learning to recite poems at university, and last December when I started driving a car without a radio, which prompted me to memorise poetry again and to practice whilst driving (safely!)

I made a note of this memory because later, one of my peers approached me with a poem. He had been motivated to write a piece himself, combining an American road-trip with my broken radio. This excited me, partly because I felt I had been transported, and partly as it resounded with something of the magic that happens when you gather creative people in one place (again, should there be a kind of service warning? Note: highly flammable creativity in large numbers can spark writing frenzy)

Through the week I woke early to try and make the most of every kind of Arvon morning:  yoga with a view in the dewy grass, a delicious cooked breakfast, a run around the huge garden, or the enormous cafetiere of coffee back in bed with books – bliss! Of course, I raided the poetry library and had a pile I was determined to eat up (Louise G Cole, Michael Schmidt, Kei Miller, Rebecca Goss…)

one of Arvon’s fine spreads!

The workshops were wonderful. We alternated between George Szirtes and Clare Shaw and each was so generous with their tips and time. George covered a range of formal techniques, from haiku and cinquain to prose-poem and sonnet. George may even have cured a group member of a phobia of sonnets! Clare challenged us to turn the pen on ourselves and question identity and how we hide ourselves in our own work. I wrote three poems I particularly liked in Clare’s first workshop by keying into the “concentrated excitement”[1] that comes when we think as a poet (I never knew I wanted to write about my best friend’s fish, but apparently it was really just waiting under the surface…)

Lunch followed workshops and then time to write and reflect, as well as tutor 1-2-1s. Their careful and considered feedback is something that will stay with me, and has changed my practice for the better. Both were extremely encouraging and gave me the push to keep going, trust my voice, and hone my formal choices. Before the week, I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing from my poems but now feel I have more of a handle on how to make them shine.

The evenings were all different but always full of conversation. Tuesday night was Sophie Collins’s guest reading. I had read Who Is Mary Sue when it was a PBS choice and was extremely giddy to hear her read. The conversation opened up after and I got a wonderful feeling of being part of the world of writing and poetry. We stayed up late taking in every moment we could.

George and Clare read the following evening. I went to the room armed with Bad Machine and Flood ready to gush (excuse the pun) over favourite poems. They were amazing, both reading from a couple of different collections. Everyone in the group was eager to comment on their delivery and our engagement as an audience. They really were inspirational, and again, so generous with their time, holding us all in conversation after, discussing their relationships with writing, form, performance, and other poetry.

On Thursday and Friday night the focus shifted to us, giving us a sense of completion and realisation as writers. We shared some favourite poems and our own from the week, respectively. It was a beautiful, supportive environment, and a pleasure to share and see what the retreat had done for each of us. Some of us read work developed from the workshops, others shared poems brought and edited in the week. I also had the pleasure of reading a voice in a radio play written by another poet in the group – it felt very special to share the piece on that highly involved level as well, and again made me feel part of a community of poets.

Me among the rhoddies

Saturday morning was emotional. We exchanged emails and suggested favourite poets on a hastily photocopied reading list. Although I am looking back sad it’s over, I have definitely gained a renewed sense of focus, motivation, and confidence in my writing which I know will stay with me. And not least, a lot more techniques and skills to add to my own creative toolbox and as an emerging teacher of poetry building my skills. For this, the peace and space, and the renewed sense of enjoyment and excitement as a young writer, I will always be grateful.

Thanks to bursary support from Arvon & Hive South Yorkshire

[1] Ted Hughes, from Poetry in the Making (1967) Faber and Faber

Congrats to Ciah White & Lauren Hollingsworth Smith: Northern Writers Award 2019

We are delighted that Ciah White of Doncaster Young Writers has won the prestigious Young Northern Writers Award 2019, and Lauren Hollingsworth-Smith, who attends Rotherham Young Writers, has been highly commended.

Ciah: “Winning the Young Northern Writers Award 2019 is a dream come true!”
Lauren: This award has given me so much confidence as a writer and it’s made my dream of writing professionally seem much more realistic. Thank you so much for this opportunity.”

The Northern Writers Awards Scheme is a talent development programme recognising unpublished, work-in-progress by new and established writers from across the North of England. The scheme worth around £40,00 and now in its 20th year, is run by New Writing North with funding from Arts Council England and support from Northumbria University.

Congratulations to all Northern Writer Award winners 2019.

More about the Northern Writers Award

The Northern Writers’ Awards is an innovative and progressive talent development programme, which supports writers to achieve their creative ambitions at all stages of their careers. This year the awards attracted over 1,200 entries. The awards recognise unpublished work-in-progress by new and established writers in the North of England.
The Northern Writers’ Awards are produced by New Writing North with funding from Arts Council England and support from Northumbria University, Channel 4 and North East Chamber of Commerce.

New Writing North is the reading and writing development agency for the north of England, and is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. It works in partnership with regional and national partners to produce a range of literary and performance activities including flagship projects such as the Northern Writers’ Awards, Read Regional, Cuckoo Young Writers, the Gordon Burn Prize, the David Cohen Prize for Literature and Durham Book Festival.

About Northumbria University
Northumbria University, Newcastle is a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. Complementing its work with New Writing North and Channel 4, the University works with a range of high profile cultural partners, including BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Live Theatre, Great North Run Culture and Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums providing students with industry exposure and live project opportunities.  We were awarded the Times Higher Education Award for Excellence and Innovation in the Arts in 2012, as well as the Journal’s Culture Award for Best Arts and Business Partnership in 2013. Northumbria University’s Art and Design courses were ranked Top 10 in the UK for Research Power following the Research Excellence Framework 2014 and the University was ranked Top 50 in the UK – its highest ever league table position – in the Guardian University League Table 2017.

timehop summer sessions – Barnsley

Calling young creatives aged 14-19 in the Barnsley area…
Like creative writing or photography?
Interested in people or fashion?
Want to work with professional writers & artists?
Barnsley FREE August 2019 | At Library at the Lightbox (Barnsley town Centre)

If the answer is yes to any of these questions… come and check out the timehop summer sessions at the new Library at the Lightbox central library in Barnsley town centre.

You’ll take inspiration from the brilliant touring exhibition at the Civic – Visible Girls – looking at everything from changing fashions to identity, how youth cultures have changes and what are the expectations you deal with today as young people. We’ll look at all this, and you’ll ever take your own portraits (if you want to of course!)

No experience necessary and you don’t have to think you’re a great writer to come along. All you need is an interest in being creative and trying something new.

From the workshops, you can put your work through to be considered for a publication, or to record for a podcast. You’ll also hear about the new Civic Young Creatives Scheme, involving young people in projects through the Civic, have a tour of the new library (which promises to have a wide range of exciting community opportunities in the near future for all ages), and find out more about what’s going on in the region for young creatives.

What you waiting for? Get in touch at and put your name down!
Placed limited | Free, friendly & relaxed.

Come and be creative this summer!

Dates/times (these might change slightly so get in touch soon!)
Monday 19th August 4.30pm-7pm
Wednesday 21st August 4.30pm-7pm
(Last session/s time/day to be decided by group)
Where: At Library at the Lightbox (Barnsley town Centre) 

In partnership with Barnsley Libraries, Hive South Yorkshire & Barnsley Civic Theatre
Photos from Visible Girls by Anita Corbin

About Visible Girls
The original photographic series, Visible Girls by Anita Corbin portrayed the search for identity; the street-level self that was part of a tribe bonded by music, fashion and politics.36 years later, Corbin’s Visible Girls: Revisited has called those original Girls back together, viewing those changed women through a modern lens. | At the Civic 

Anita Corbin – Visible Girls from Tal Amiran on Vimeo.

Mixing Roots Project

Calling girls & young women aged 14-30
Are you interested in exploring your heritage or celebrating the richness of having more than one culture?

Mixing Roots is a summer project bringing together girls & young women from different backgrounds & cultures in a supportive space to talk, share & write about everything from the roots we come from & what has been passed down to us, to who we are today.

The project is led by award-winning writer & teacher Warda Yassin who’ll offer fun ways to share & write. It will end with a celebration & publication launch at Off the Shelf Festival of Words in the autumn.

Mixing Roots is aimed at those new to a writing group, no experience is needed & all levels are welcome. We’re particularly keen to encourage women of colour from any or no faith, and those who might not feel very confident but want to try something new & creative.

(Younger: aged 14-19 Older: aged 20-30)
Tues or Wed 6.30-8.30pm (from 9th July)
At Israac Somali Community & Cultural Centre (& possibly Saturday Burngreave Library if interest)
Israac Centre: 54 Cemetery Rd, Sheffield (near bottom of The Moor)
FREE | Refreshments provided | Supportive & relaxed | All welcome
Interested? Get in touch!

Supported by Off the Shelf Festival of Words

An interview with Dan Powell

After working with short story writer, Dan Powell, when he came to Hive Young Writers’ Festival in 2018, I decided he would be the perfect person to interview for my Arts Award. Dan was great to work with and gave me loads of ideas and fresh ways to look at things. Here he talks to me about all things writing including writers’ block, making mistakes and his short story collection Looking out of Broken Windows. Erik Rüder

When did you start to consider writing professionally?
Since I was six or seven, I have written stories. I started by cutting up my comics and reassembling the pictures into new stories. The fact that I am now engaged in a PhD in Creative Writing that involves wrestling with the structure and closural staging of short stories is interesting.

At fifteen, I remember going to my careers advice interview at school and being asked what I wanted to do for a living. I said I wanted to be a writer. The careers advisor paused for a moment and then suggested that I look at working in a bookshop or library. I can see where he was going with that, but I think some advice about college and university courses would have been more help to fifteen-year-old me. I ending up training for a PGCE and teaching English in schools and only really threw myself into writing for publication in my late-thirties.

I had been writing for all that time but my first step toward writing and publishing came when I signed up for an Open University course in Creative Writing. The feedback I got from tutors and the subsequent publication of some of my stories told me that I was doing something right and should keep going.

Do you experience writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
I don’t really suffer from writer’s block as such, I tend to always have an idea of what I want to write, where my story should go next. I suffer instead from what you might call ‘writing block’ which is doing other things to avoid writing. I can always find something else to do, particularly when I know that the thing I need to write is going to be challenging in some way.

I suffer instead from what you might call ‘writing block’ which is doing other things to avoid writing.

The best way to avoid this, I have found, is to set myself a time limit. I put some washing in the washing machine or set an alarm for an hour from now and tell myself that I only need be at my desk for a set period of time. I then sit and write and, hopefully, usually, by the time the washing machine beeps or my alarm sounds, I am deep in the flow of writing and don’t want to stop. Dorothy Parker is quoted as saying “I hate writing, I love having written.” While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hate writing, sometimes I don’t want to write, but, after working anyway, I always love having written.

What of your own works has been your favourite? Why?
Probably Half-mown Lawn. This was a story that was rejected by many editors and journals and prizes. So many I lost count. But I knew the story was good and kept sending it out there. I had faith that it would find a home. Which it did. First it won the Yeovil Literary Prize for Short Fiction. Then it was published in Salt’s Best British Short Stories. But more than that, this story still resonates with me deeply. The character of Annie in the story felt so present to me when I wrote it and still does today. She had a life before the story and one after. And there is a whole other story embedded under the surface narrative of her dealing with her grief that I might one day return to.

Hard to pick a favourite though. I could easily have chosen The Ideal Husband Exhibition. Or Adopt the Brace Position. Or Storm in a Teacup. Or Rip Rap. Or Dancing to the Shipping Forecast. Or my novel. If we are doing it properly, we grow to care about these characters we write about, we grow to care about their stories. It is because we care about these made up people that readers will too. So, yes, picking a favourite story is hard.

It is because we care about these made up people that readers will too.

Are there any potential mistakes a new writer could make? In terms of the practice itself, and the networking and competition side also.
I think the biggest mistake fiction writers can make is being too eager to publish/enter prizes. This leads to sending out work before it is really ready. Patience really is a virtue for the writer of fiction. It is always best to take time with your stories, to figure out how to make them the best they can be. If you can, put your stories away for a while and go back to them with fresh eyes. In doing so you will see your errors before you hit send or the submit button, which is always better than the alternative.

Conversely, don’t go too far the other way and be too nervous about sending things out when they are ready. Once you know you have done the best work you can, send your story out into the world. It will find its place eventually.

Would you ever consider branching out into different types of writing, like novels or poetry? Does the short story form hold any significance for you?
I have recently completed a novel and am currently working with my agent to edit the manuscript prior to submission to publishers. It is a different discipline and one I enjoy tackling. As for poetry, I dabble with it, writing poetry alongside my First Story workshop groups when I ask them to tackle the form. But I find poetry much more difficult than prose fiction and have only published one poem.

Looking out of Broken Windows makes for a quite unusual study of parenthood and the nature of relationship. What inspired it? How personal of a story would you consider it to be?
The central situation of that story was entirely imagined. I began simply with the image of a house with broken windows and someone coming down the drive and seeing the fractures for the first time. Not sure where that idea came from, but I began writing, following my usual process of letting the character and setting emerge and develop during the first draft, feeling my way toward the story and its eventual end. For me, that is what the writing process is, a slow movement, feeling my way forwards, toward an end that I can’t see but that I know when it arrives.

Though the story, characters and setting are entirely imagined, the central emotional core of the story, probably finds its origins in my own experiences, somewhere deep down, when I was a similar age to the narrator of that story. There is always some emotional truth tucked away inside a story, however imagined its surface is.

Though the story, characters and setting are entirely imagined, the central emotional core of the story, probably finds its origins in my own experiences, somewhere deep down, when I was a similar age to the narrator of that story. There is always some emotional truth tucked away inside a story, however imagined its surface is.

LooBW, as with much of your work, features a fairly significant element of magical realism. Do you have any thoughts on the use of that device- how it might be done appropriately, or misused?
I think you get a sense early on in the writing if the magical realist element of a story doesn’t work or if it is being misused. I have a handful of stories sitting in the depths of my laptop hard drive that misfired in some way, the magical element of the story somehow disconnected or disjointed from the narrative itself. You can’t always say exactly why it isn’t working but you just know it isn’t. Which is why those stories remain hidden away, because I know they is some sort of disconnect occurring in them, but I can’t see how to fix it. This kind of thing is something that is best seen after you have put the work aside for a bit. Coming back to the work with fresh eyes will at least tell you that it isn’t quite right. If you are lucky you will also see how to fix it.

Especially with regards to the somewhat recent International Congress on the Short Story, how do you balance your perspectives on fiction as a reader, academic and author? Does this present a problem? How much would you say they overlap?
I would say they overlap greatly. First of all, in order to write in a particular form, you need to read widely within that form. My writing of short fiction has always been informed by reading short fiction, both consciously and unconsciously. My academic study into preclosure in the short story is an attempt to make some of the unconscious processes at work when I write short fiction into conscious processes. In terms of balance, I have to make sure I don’t get too bogged down with theory as this can stifle creativity.

That said, I am finding the theoretical and methodological restrictions I am putting on myself have forced me to be more creative. I have found ways to both adhere to the writing frames I have constructed while also being creative in my application of the various structural and linguistic elements. If I had not embarked on this PhD journey I would not have been able to write these particular tales, so in that sense, perhaps the one that really matters, the three sides of myself, reader, academic and author are perfectly balanced.

Just generally, do you have any major ambitions for your future career? Are there any interesting projects you are currently working on?

My main ambitions currently are to find a publisher for my novel and to complete my PhD studies. I am looking forward to completing the drafts of my PhD stories and moving on to edit them. Once I do, I can start writing novel number two, the idea for which is burning a hole in my creative pocket at the moment.

Thanks again for taking the time to answer some questions Dan.
You are most welcome Erik. Some fascinating questions here. I hope you own writing continues to go well.

Louise Rennison Funny Award 2020

Do you enjoy reading funny books? Maybe acting funny stuff out?

Come and chat with the organisers of the Louise Rennison National Funny Award 2020 for young writers and get inspired!

Louise Rennison was the best-selling author of many laugh-out-loud books including Angus Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging and Dancing In My Nuddy Pants. You’ll hear more about her writing, writing comedy fiction in general, and hear about the launch of an award for young people who are interested in writing comedy.

As a winner, your writing could give you the chance of working with a
stand-up comic, a comedy radio producer and a well-known publishing house.

Sheffield Central Library (Carpenter Room)
Saturday 6th July 11am-12pm
Turn up or secure a place on Eventbrite:

FREE | Event open to ages 13+
(The award will be open to young writers aged 13-17)

Sheaf Poetry Festival Hivelights :)

We just want to say a big thank you to Sheaf Poetry Festival for a great festival this year and so many great opportunities for young poets. We had Foyle and Cuckoo winner, 16-year-old Georgie Woodhead from Sheffield Young Writers as Young Poet in Residence for the festival alongside established Poet in Residence, Mark Pajak. Warda Yassin, a long term member of the network who attends Hive’s Saturday Poetry group, read from her winning Poetry Business pamphlet with fellow New Poet 2018 winners selected by Kayo Chingonyi.

And on Sunday, there was a Hive showcase of talented young and emerging poets from Sheffield, Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham in the Performance Lab at Sheffield Hallam University. And as luck would have it, we recorded the 1-hour Hive showcase just for you! Enjoy poets: Sile Sibanda, Sundus Yassi, L Worthy, Lauren Green, Lauren Hollingsworth Smith, Louisa Rhodes, Georgie Woodhead & Danae Wellington.

All details at

Ear to the City Podcast Project

Ear to the City: A poetry & micro fiction podcast project
with Arji Manuelpillai & Vicky Morris

“I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It’s more important to confirm the least sincere. The clouds get enough attention as it is…” ― Frank O’Hara

The city offers the poet a feast of sights and sounds, of passing lives and often overlooked details. What do we encounter when we’re not rushing from A to B, when we loiter or chat to a strange? Everywhere we look there are interactions, conversations, transactions, life loudly and quietly happening, birds pecking at the world.

Join poets Arji Manuelpillai and Vicky Morris for writing and recording a soundscape podcast ode to city life. Expect some great writing prompts, thinking (and writing!) on your feet, and to be recording some of your words towards the end!

This project comes in two parts… It’s not necessary to do both (an evening session and the following day) but taking part in both will mean you’ve more time to develop ideas and to edit and record a contribution for the podcast.

Evening workshop: Tuesday 30th July 7 to 9/9.30pm
Day workshop: Wednesday 31st July 10.45 to 3.30pm

This project is for young & emerging writers (aged 15 to 30) of any experience and there is one pressure to produce something for the podcast.
Places limited | Refreshments provided
Cost: £5 for the whole project, £3 if you’re just coming to one session.
Hive is particularly keen to encourage young people who wouldn’t normally access this type of opportunity, and there are always discounts available for a number of tickets to support individuals who may be unable to pay in full, or to support travel costs within the region. Get in touch ASAP before places fill up if that sounds like you.

Booking: To book a place
Where: The Institute of Education, Charles Street Sheffield. This is just off Arundel Gate and Arundel Street, 5 minutes from Sheffield train & bus stations.
Charles Street Building info here
Google map info here: 133 Charles Street, Sheffield S1 2ND

Supported by Sheffield Hallam University Faculty of Development & Society

Arji Manuelpillai is a poet, rapper, performer and creative facilitator based in London. For over 15 years Arji has worked with community arts projects nationally and internationally. He is co-founder of children’s theatre company A Line Art and is an advocate for arts as a tool for change. Recently, his poetry has been published by magazines including ProleCannon’s MouthStrixRialto and The Lighthouse Journal. He has also been shortlisted for the BAME Burning Eye pamphlet prize 2018, The Robert Graves Prize 2018 and The Live Canon Prize 2017. Arji is a member of Wayne Holloway-Smith’s poetry group, Malika’s Poetry Kitchen and London Stanza.

Vicky Morris is a poet, occasional short story writer, educator and creative practitioner based in Sheffield. She has been published in places like Butcher’s Dog, The Interpreter’s House, Brittle Star, and Verse Matters anthology (Valley Press). She won first place in the Prole Laureate Competition 2019 and was highly commended in the Carers UK Poetry Competition 2017. Vicky won a Northern Writers Award in 2014, and in 2019 The Sarah Nutly Award for Creativity for her impact in Sheffield and beyond. 

Arji & Vicky are both part of the Arvon/Jerwood mentorship programme 2019/20.