The Winchester Bucket List

Are you going to uni next year, and wondering how life will be as a student? Are you worried about working part time alongside your studies? Even better, are you going to uni in Winchester, UK, and are curious about new places to go, small nooks to discover and explore? For questions like these, the University of Winchester has created a student life magazine that focuses on simply living life as a student, no matter what course or degree you’re on.

Remember I told you about this article I was writing a while ago? The magazine it’s in has been available at the uni for a couple of months, and it’s been handed out to students at the open days for a while, but now I’ve finally got my hands on a copy of my own, and can show you guys!

My article is called “The Winchester Bucket List”, is featured on the front page, and I’m listed on the contents page as a “student contributor”, which I’m really happy and a little bit proud about!
Talking about the article; this one was a lot of fun to write for a lot of reasons:
Firstly, I was contacted and asked to write something for this! After emailing back and forth with the management and content team, we figured out that a “tour” of Winchester would be a fun thing to put in there.
Secondly, I got to pick out my favourite places in Winchester and write about them, and now I’ve basically got the perfect memento of the town I’ve loved living and studying in.
Thirdly, for the first time ever I did both the article and the pictures! The photos in this piece are all by me (except for the St Catherine’s one), and taking “proper” pictures that would look good in an article like this was an interesting challenge I’d never taken on before.

I sent this piece off with pride when I was done with it. Then I was told that it would be given three full pages, something I was not expecting but really, really appreciated! And, drumroll please, here is the finished piece:

Look how cool it looks!! I had no idea how the design would look, but I’m really proud of how it turned out. The whole magazine is available for free at the University of Winchester, and it’s filled with tips and tricks on how to survive life as a student, created and written by current students and recent graduates.

Question of the day: am I the only one who finds it really difficult to take pictures of grassy hills (i.e St Catherine’s hill)? Everything just turned out very green for me… Also, does anyone know how to put separate pictures together into a pdf file? Help and suggestions are very welcome!

Hope you have a wonderful day!
-Andrea

“I Think I’m Dreaming”, cutting two thousand words and wrapping up uni with a bang

“Compelling from start to finish, the writing really takes us into your imagined world of the future, which although futuristic, finds authenticity in current fears about surveillance, work-life balance and control.”

Remember this, the story that never ended? The creative piece I struggled so much with finishing that I started doubting everything I’ve ever done, all throughout my BA?
Yep. Got it back yesterday, and almost started crying when I saw that my lecturer liked it, and gave it a neat little 74. 74! On the piece I had to cut 2000 words off to make it fit in the word count! So happy!

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Okay, let’s recap the last 15 hours of working on this piece, the hours that didn’t make it into the writer’s log, just because of the sheer despair and dread (dramatic, I know) I was feeling at the time.

On the 22nd of May, I sat down in the early hours of the morning and finished the draft of the creative piece. The reason I found it so difficult to actually write the piece, was because the idea was just too big for the given word count and I didn’t know what to focus on. So, I figured I’d just write everything I wanted, and then cut it down to the correct amount of words later.

Big mistake. 

The finished draft was well over 5000 words long, meaning that I had to cut another assignment’s equivalent of words out of it, to get down to my correct 2500 words.

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‘Lemme tell you, there were so many cups of tea involved in this, and the entire day was spent in pyjamas to stay somewhat comfortable. And I pulled out all of the tips from my Tricking Motivation series, to get through the day.

I printed out the full 5000-word draft multiple times, to work with pen on paper and physically strike big red lines through sentences and words that needed to go. To make my job easier I also made a little check list of things that normally clog my wordcounts, which will appear in it’s own post tomorrow. Was just thinking maybe this list could be helpful for others too!

However, I wasn’t alone on this last leg of the journey, I brought Harvey into this with me too; he edited, read and re-read, and really helped me cut out words and sometimes entire paragraphs. All credit to him and his patience for dealing with me. Finally, after a bit over 15 hours of work, the piece reached 2748 words, and knowing that I was finally within the correct word count was such a relief!

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I mean, I would’ve absolutely loved this process to look like this, but it most definitely did not.

Anyway, the reason why I’m telling you all this, is because I’m going to post the finished piece in a minute, I just wanted to let you know what happened after the writer’s logs, haha.

Like I said, it’s a sci-if-sequel, speculative piece set in England, a long time in the future. I’ve never really written neither sci-if nor speculative fiction before, but it was a lot of fun! And the essay that went along with this assignment (in which I debated whether or not the age of social media has made us incapable of forming and maintaining intimate relationships with others) got a 71, so I feel like I’ve really ended this degree with a bang, with two shiny As to leave with. Happy!

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day!

-Andrea

17th of May

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Not really a writing or book related post, but yesterday was the 17th of May, Norway’s Constitution Day. I celebrated the day in London, my first time ever not celebrating it at home with my family, and it felt weird not being enveloped in old traditions and places that stay the same. It turned out to be such a great day, though, Cathy came along, and it was so much fun being able to “show” off the traditions I’ve grown up with, if on a smaller scale. Beautiful bunads, marching band songs, flower crowns and Norwegian flags as far as the eye could see.

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There was a parade, speeches, lots of music, waffles, ice cream and food. All the things you need to really make the 17th of May the day it is.

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There is something I really like about the fact that on one day every year, the entire population of Norway, both at home and abroad, put on their nicest clothes and meet their family, only to eat ice cream and play games all day.

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The focus of the day and what many of the speeches were about, was belonging. How we as people always belong somewhere, how hopefully everyone feel at home in a group, be it their nationality, their faith, a community. What really hit me, though, was when the Minister of Culture said that “Belonging somewhere doesn’t mean that that has to be the only place you ever feel at home; we can all belong in multiple societies, we can all belong in different home countries.” Right now, as I’m kind of in the process of coming to terms with leaving England after these three years, that felt oddly comforting. I keep saying I’m leaving England behind, but I’m not really, am I. England’s still gonna be here, the friends I made along the way will still be here, it will just have to be the sowing grounds for new memories, new experiences, new challenges and victories.
Aha, didn’t think a day all about eating ice cream could get so deep, did you!

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Celebrating with Cathy was also so much fun; she waved her new Norwegian flag higher than anyone, and marched in the parade with newfound vigour. I showed her Norwegian waffles (Sjømannskirkens Vafler) and we had Solo, the Norwegian equivalent of Fanta. I’m well aware of my Solo-bias, but it’s actually a lot better than Fanta, haha.
Then we had some 17th of May Fish and Chips, which is one hundred percent not traditional 17th of May Food, but they put a little Norwegian flag on it and we ate while listening to happy people chatter, watching bunads walk past, and seeing all the kids play games; sack races, potato racing and quoits.

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A day I felt a bit anxious about going into, because of the weight of the traditions I’m used to and not being able to be a part of them, turned into an absolute fairytale and a memory I’ll take with me forever.

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(Have a Cathy marching towards the Winchester-bound train, post ice cream and festivities)

Gratulerer med gårsdagen, alle sammen, and Happy Birthday, Norway.

-Andrea

“Are we all Creative Writers?” or The first time I ever tried my hands on teaching

There is an age-old saying that goes “those who can’t, teach”. However, whenever my mum (brilliant nurse-gone-teacher) encounters this saying she’ll just say “you’ve got to know something really well to be able to teach it”. I like that better.

The University of Winchester hosts these Taster Session Days, as part of an initiative called Widening Participation. The goal is to make attending university feel more accessible for currently under-represented student groups and to break down barriers future students might have about going into Higher education. On these days, the uni is open for Year 8 pupils from schools in the wider area, and they all get a taste of life at the uni, with campus tours and taster sessions where they get to try out different courses.

I’ve been lucky enough to be part of two of three days of Creative Writing sessions, and this has been both such a challenge and so much fun. Years ago I lead two children’s theatre courses and I’ve done five years of volunteering with leading youth groups, but I’ve never actually taught something like Creative Writing, and it feels new and exciting to be in a position where you can call yourself a “tutor”.

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-Calm before the storm; waiting for the students to appear. Beth (in the picture) also held a really great session about modernist poetry!

I had so much fun, though! My session was called “Are You Already a Creative Writer?” and I wanted to challenge the Year 8s (12/13-year olds) to think about all the different kinds of writing they’re doing in their everyday lives. A lot of the students participating thought about Creative Writing as something fancy and difficult to do, but I wanted them to think of themselves as writers because, in a way, we all already are. We also talked a lot about how you might benefit from a university degree, and they challenged me back, with asking about why they should get a Creative Writing degree, if they were already creative writers?*

What made the session interesting from the start, was that the students in the groups all had very different experiences with writing. Some of them had already written lots of stories (one girl even showed me a digital copy of her 60k first draft of a novel!), and some of them didn’t think they could write at all. Some of them didn’t like it and some didn’t even want to try. To get them started, though, I had them all choose a picture of a person. I found the pictures on the Humans of New York website, and made sure to tell the kids where they were from, and that they were already telling a story. “Now, however,” I said, “we’re going to give them new stories.”

 

 

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-To have the students move around a bit, I put all the pictures on the sofas in the back of the classroom, so they had up get up from their seats and pick them up.

 

The first writing exercise I gave them, was to write about the person in the picture like they were introducing them as the main character of a novel. I gave them some questions to prompt their imaginations a bit, and then walked around and chatted with them about their ideas as they were writing. So many good stories came out of this! From intergalactic romances between alien princesses and human London-buskers to Einstein’s time-travelling, evil twin brother. Some of the students worked together and linked their characters, some worked on their own, some didn’t really want to work at all. The great thing, however, was that even the students who didn’t want to take the class seriously ended up doing exactly what I wanted them to do. Being 13 is a weird age, and when someone who doesn’t technically look like an adult (read: me) tells them to do something, it’s quite natural that some of them didn’t want to. Still, this meant that they were trying to create the craziest, furthest-out-there stories, to show me that they didn’t care, but this was how some of the most fun stories came to be, and they were definitely being creative with their pictures and characters.

After they wrote their character introductions, we agreed that novels, short stories and poetry are the things most people think about when they hear creative writing. However, we also talked about all the other types of writing there are, and how we don’t even think about many of them as creative at all. To make the students try this out, I asked them to write about their character in a different way. A blog post written from their point of view, an article about something they’d done, a diary entry, or, if they were particularly brave (which a lot of them were), some song lyrics.

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-A slide from the PowerPoint talking about different types of creative writing

Then, after two writing exercises, a couple of discussions, lots of talking and an actual workshop, we linked all the things we’d done to what the Creative Writing Course is about. Creative problem solving; I gave them a problem, the picture, and they presented me with a solution, the story. They wrote to prompts and followed guidelines like “professional writers” have to do, and we spent about an hour being creative together.

These days doing teaching has been fun, challenging and very educational, hopefully also for the students, but more than anything, for me. Planning lessons and talking about how to engage a room full of students is something very different from actually doing it, but I’m so glad I challenged myself to do this, to try. To quote Lucie Fink, “let’s make trying the new doing.” And the same can absolutely be said for a lot of the Year 8s that day, they tried something they’d never done before, and their attempts became fantastic stories and interesting characters. A couple of very successful writing sessions, this is definitely something I would love to do again.

-Andrea
*The answer to “why do a degree in Creative Writing”, btw, is that anyone can sit on their own and write, but a CW degree betters your time management skills, your creative thinking and problem solving, gives you the focus and the discipline of a degree but in a creative atmosphere, and also teaches you the professional sides of the business, like writing to word counts and briefs. It’s also a very good time. Challenging, but great.
If you want any more reasons to do a creative writing degree, I’ve actually written a blog post about that too, on the UoW’s student blog! Check it out here if you think a CW degree might be something for you, or if you’re just curious!

 

The last couple of weeks…

… in pictures.

 

This blog’s been very quiet for the past few weeks, and I just wanted to let you know why. I made this website back in February, as part of a uni module. The assignment was to create a platform for self promotion on the internet, and while the markers were marking it, I couldn’t update or post anything on here. But it’s all done now, and I got an A on it! 76 points, who’d’ve thought! Very happy and proud of that.

However, the last few months have been great, as you can see from the pictures. Ups and downs, of course, but I’ve made some food, been on some walks, seen lots of lovely flowers (and found lilacs on campus, which are my favourite flowers so that made me very happy) and I also went home for a week, completely unplanned but very much needed. I also got a B on my dissertation(68 points). You know, just throwing that out there, as I’m really proud of that one too.

So it’s been a bit quiet here, but I’m already working on lots of new posts! Stay tuned for more writing, another writer’s log, updates about the general living situation (getting dangerously close to the end of uni now, there are some decisions to be made and some coincidences to hope for) and more pictures.

Thanks for sticking around!

-Andrea

“Mina”

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Yesterday, alumni and current students of the UoW’s Creative Writing programme gathered to celebrate the programme’s 10 year anniversary as an independent single-honours degree. It was a wonderful night, with speeches, music, quizzes about the lecturers, a “memory fireplace” (a fancy fireplace we stuck memories written down on post-it notes on) and lots and lots of readings. Stick about 50 writers together in a room, and you won’t believe how many great, weird, thought-provoking and heartbreaking pieces you can find. There was everything from poetry to short stories to song lyrics, and the red thread that wove itself through the night was just to celebrate this course and how much it gives its students, how much it shapes us as people. A feel-good night with wine and beautiful dresses, chill formal, with lots of applause and a warm atmosphere.

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At the same time, we also ” celebrated” the launch of the 2018 edition of Vortex. Vortex is the uni’s literary magazine, open to submissions from everyone (not just students). This year’s edition is a bit special, however, as it is the first issue that has been created by students, with third-year Creative and Professional Writing students forming the editorial board, marketing- and design team. I’ve wanted to submit work to Vortex since receiving a copy in the “welcome to uni”-pack in first-year, but it wasn’t until the end of second-year I managed to gather up the courage to actually send anything in. Now I’m so glad I did. The 2018 edition is an absolutely beautiful magazine, illustrated by Kat Beatson, and filled to the brim with great poems and short stories. It doesn’t have a specific theme, but to quote someone from the launch yesterday, it’s got a quiet vulnerability to it, at the same time as it’s fierce and weird. If you’re in Winchester, it’s definitely something to check out.

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I was also fortunate enough to be able to read the piece I submitted to the magazine at the launch, and if you want to read it, you can find it here!
It’s a piece I wrote in second-year, based on research done on children’s fiction as a platform to talk to children about difficult subjects. It’s also what started my dissertation, and it was weird to revisit and read it, now that it’s almost a year old.
I do like it and am quite proud of it, though.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 16.19.04The proper pictures in this post are by Ben Coleman, you can find his work here.

And if you want to listen to it while reading, here’s a video!

(And sorry for all the links here, but if you wanna check out some of the short stories I’ve been lucky enough to get published or any poetry performances I’ve been a part of, then just click here or go to the “Pieces and Performances” page in the header bar!)

-Andrea

(A very Little Piece of) Winchester

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The Winchester Book Shop; Three floors of second-hand books to get lost in.
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You can’t not follow that sign, can you.

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“Halls” to get lost in, behind the Winchester Cathedral.

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The sun set on the Winchester Cathedral, an evening in early spring, is something everyone should experience at some point.
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St Giles Hill; where you go to escape the city.

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Where walkways, trees and winding ivy go hand in hand.
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The Itchen Way, that can take you all the way to Southampton (if you’ve got good shoes and a packed lunch).

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The Hospital of St Cross; a quiet place tucked in by the Winchester Water Meadows

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The last functioning Alms House in England, St Cross still stands.
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With old hallways, halls, kitchens and wonderful gardens, and a great view of St Catherine’s Hill.
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Cream tea at Cafe Winchester. The best one there is.

 

-Andrea

The Sound of Winchester

 Everything we humans create start with an idea, a desire to make something, to change something.

This year, a group of second and third year students at the uni wanted to create a student-led magazine, to capture the “sound of Winchester”, the vibe of the students and what they’re up to. It became this wonderful magazine that comes out every second month (at the moment), and it features student fiction, poetry, articles, information about societies and things happening on and around campus, plus a great section called “Humans of Winchester”, inspired by the photo blog Humans of New York.
Their second issue is out today, and it’s so cool to see all the pieces come together.

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Look how pretty this issue is!
The first picture is borrowed from their Facebook page, which you can find here.

And I’ve been so lucky as to have a short story featured in this month’s issue, along with some wonderful poems, stories and articles by other students. Really worth a read! Especially since you can get it in the SU shop for a pound.

-Andrea

Written “By a Lady”

Andrea Wold Johansen JA 001When I was younger I remember my sister reading Pride and Prejudice again and again, every time falling deeper in love with the world, the characters and the language. As the younger of us, I always wanted to be like her, and so I repeatedly tried to get into Jane Austen’s novels, but I could never get past the first ten pages. I could never understand why I was struggling so much with these novels, but now I’m starting to see why I couldn’t get properly in to Austen at the age of sixteen. I think I was just too young. I didn’t really recognise how cool Lizzie Bennet was or how groundbreaking her witty remarks were for herr time, didn’t realise the urgency of why Mrs Bennet wanted to see her daughters married so badly, and I didn’t get how insulting and petty Mister Darcy’s comments about the women of Longbourne were and thus, how interesting the shift in his character when he falls for Lizzie actually is. Now, however, it’s been five years since I tried my hand at Pride and Prejudice for the first time, and finally, I’ve gotten through almost the entire book in just a couple of days. Goodness me, what a story it is.

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One of the things that spurred this change of heart and nudged me into suddenly wanting to try my hand at Jane Austen novels again, was a trip I went on a couple of Saturdays ago with some friends of mine.

“Let’s go to the Jane Austen House Museum,” fellow Norwegian Creative Writing student Marianne said, and the following weekend, Christine, Eirunn, Marianne and I found ourselves on the bus to Chawton.

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What an experience.
As we explored the houses that come together to make the museum, we got to try writing with quill and ink, make small pouches filled with lavender and try on period specific costumes. Let me tell you, I’ve never felt fancier than waltzing around in a Mr Darcy coat and a top hat. The floral 1800s dresses were also a hit, with their long skirts and slim upper body fits, and to be fair, I just really want to bring bonnets back into fashion again, Or capes. Capes are cool, too.

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The true magic, however, came from wandering through the narrow hallways of the Austen family’s house. The museum is laid out as similar as possible to how the house would have looked like at Jane’s time, and the feeling of walking on creaky floorboards and looking out at the view from her writing nook, felt like a privilege, something to be appreciated. To top everything off, as we made our way down a winding staircase I’m sure both Jane and Cassandra Austen has run down many times, to the dining room and furthermore into the drawing room, we were met with a piano playing cheerful tunes, a melody we soon recognised as the score from the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film adaption. We followed the sound, as one would do, and found that the pianist was one of the ladies working at the museum. She even asked us if we wanted to play, but we politely declined, opting to just listen as we looked around, feeling truly transported back to the early 1800s. Cliche, I know, but it was great.

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On the way home we stopped by the gift shop, as you do, and I ended up getting a boxset of all of Austen’s novels. February 3rd was the perfect day to make myself a goal for 2018; before the year is done, I will have read all of them. Wish me luck.

Even though I had to turn 21 before I actually (almost) finished a Jane Austen book, I’ve found her to be a very inspiring and interesting woman for a long time. The fact that she originally published her first novel anonymously, but had the title page point out that it was written “by a woman”, speaks volumes of what kind of person she was, way back in 1811. I also enjoyed hearing about her works before reading any of them, and from what I gathered from film adaptions, museum exhibits and my sister’s amazed rambles, she wrote women as characters with personalities and agencies, in a time where a lot of said characters were just seen as passive observers. As I’m reading Pride and Prejudice now, I can absolutely confirm this.

I would highly recommend stopping by Jane Austen’s Chawton home if you’re ever in the area, whether you’re an avid Austen fan, or just interested in exploring the “world” that helped form English fiction like we know it today.

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I had a wonderful time, and I’m sure you will too!

-Andrea