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What is a typical day at work for you?

One of the great things about this job is that no day is ever quite the same, although there is never quite enough time to cram in all the things I want to do. I usually set my alarm for 5am, creep downstairs and while still half-asleep write down any images I may remember from my dreams, or any images or thoughts that come to mind. I write for around fifteen minutes. The writing may be scrappy and not make much sense, but at that time of the morning, I am still under the illusion that what is in my head is actually of some importance, and it gives me material to work from later. Once or twice a week, I will find the time to sit down at my keyboard and try to turn what I have written into something more coherent, in the form of a story or poem, but without losing that initial sense of uncanny discovery.

On the train to Chester, I usually read – for example an extract from a novel or book of poetry in final preparation for any seminars that I am teaching. Or I tinker with my own writing. It is essential, of course, that as a teacher of Creative Writing, I practise the art and craft of writing myself.

My first seminar on a Monday morning is for Poetry: Other Voices, Other Forms. I often begin the seminar with a writing stimulus exercise, to try and ‘trick' my students into being creative before they go into more critical mode later when we come to discuss texts. These kinds of exercise give the students some raw material they can work from later in their own time, and serve as a useful way to slide into our discussion of a set text, for example contemporary poetry written in a particular form or genre. The second half of the session is usually dedicated to ‘workshopping’ – a process whereby students share their own poem drafts for tutor and peer feedback. In this way, students develop their ability to redraft and refine their creative work while at the same time honing their own critical capacities. After Poetry: Other Voices, Other Forms I have a seminar and workshop with my students on the MA in Writing and Publishing Fiction.

Monday is also a day when I have a set ‘tutorial’ hour when students can come to talk to me on an individual basis, for example about a piece of creative writing or essay they are working on, or if for example they are struggling with a particular aspect of their studies. In the latter case, I can listen and give advice as a PAT (Personal Academic Tutor).  

One Monday evening a term is dedicated to the ‘open-mic night’, where students and tutors can get together, relax and read out their creative work over a glass of wine in a warm convivial atmosphere.

What is your favourite part of your job?

It’s difficult to pick out one ‘favourite’, but perhaps what I find most rewarding is seeing the way in which students can develop and thrive over the three years they spend with us, not only in terms of creative writing – and I am continually amazed by just how good some of my students’ work has become by the time they reach their third year – but also as individuals in their own right. Sometimes, years afterwards, I receive emails from former students telling me what a difference I made to their lives as their tutor.

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

This year I am on 0.5 Research Leave, which means I have more time to dedicate to my own writing and research. I work best when I have several projects going on at the same time. That way, if I get blocked with one, I can go to another one.  At the moment: a further book of interconnected narrative short prose poems, which follows on from my trilogy, New York Hotel, Identity Papers, and Makers of Empty Dreams; a book of poetry based on collage techniques; translations from the French of Max Jacob and the Italian of Gëzim Hajdari; a series of personal essays, the first of which, ‘Discovery and Rediscovery: A Personal Reflection of Writing the Prose Poem’ is published in The Fortnightly Review; and a reflective travelogue, which is part memoir, part fiction.

I am also excited to be promoting my latest book, New York Hotel, which was selected as a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year by poet and critic Mark Ford, who commented in his review: ‘I greatly enjoyed the latest collection of Ian Seed’s beautifully-crafted prose poems, New York Hotel. Seed’s micro-narratives and oblique parables are at once droll and haunting, as unpredictable as quicksand, and as elegant as the work of those masters of the prose poem, Max Jacob and Pierre Reverdy.’

The book promotion includes readings in London, Chester and Lancaster, an interview on BBC Radio Merseyside, and a reading and panel discussion in Rome, following on from the translation into Italian of my book Makers of Empty Dreams.

What is the best thing about Creative Writing?

Learning how you can say what you want to say in the best possible way, discovering what it is you have to say in the first place, and creating a story or script or poem which will delight or move the person who reads it, can be very rewarding. Often with Creative Writing, it can be a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’, but recrafting your work and simply ‘playing with’ language can be great fun, and give you the confidence to be usefully self-critical when it comes to your own work. It’s great of course, when you write something that is good enough to be published, as many of our students do, starting with our online magazine Pandora’s Inbox and its sister print magazine Pandora’s Box, which is edited each year by two student editors under the general editorship of a tutor.

From a careers standpoint, Creative Writing also teaches some very useful skills which are transferable to a number of professions, such as teaching, journalism and marketing. These skills include communication, persuasion, presentation, listening, working independently, and time management.

What would be your motto as a creative writer?

Being creative also means being confident enough to have a faith in the creative process even when things get stuck (what shall I write on this blank page? where does this story go next? why doesn’t the last line of this poem work?)  or a bit messy (which of these drafts is the best? how do I put the different parts of this story together? how can I shape this blob into a poetic form?) – as they inevitably do. So my motto as a creative writer comes from the words of the great author Samuel Beckett: ‘Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’



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