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!

 

Journal #5

During my time at uni, I’ve made a lot of blogs for different modules. The point is always to market yourself, to showcase your writing, to find a way to build an online portfolio. Most of them don’t exist anymore, but one I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about (and also the one I liked the most), is called InstantColouring, and it was for a first year “publishing” module. It has long since been abandoned now, but on it I posted a polaroid picture and about 100 words every day of March 2016.

I know I just said it was the blog I liked the most, but it also makes me cringe. I feel like that’s the case with most old writing; you progress, you learn new things, and suddenly what you used to be happy with feels a bit awkwardly worded, a bit unnecessarily flowery. However, this blog did capture snapshots of my everyday, during a month of my first year of uni, and now that that’s coming to an end, I’ve decided to put some of the posts here, in the Journal Series. I won’t edit them or try to make them better, they’ll just be a small reminder (mostly to myself) of how things have or haven’t changed. Sounds like a plan?

 

SPRING-CLEANING
02/29/2016

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“When asked about my favourite season, I wouldn’t say summer, even though I adore the lazy nights of July when the sun never sets and shoes are no longer a necessity. I wouldn’t say autumn either, even though I love the feeling of burying my face in the biggest scarf from this season’s new collection and how the colours change from green to auburn. I also wouldn’t say winter, even though it makes me indescribably happy when snow starts to fall from the clouds like dizzy ballerinas and the Christmas lights are being lit all over the world. No, I will always say spring, because of the soft light that’s reserved for April only, that gently knocks on your window and reminds you that it’s never too late for new beginnings.”

-Andrea

Writer’s Log 3

WRITER’S LOG 3
09/05-2018

Mission Log
A bit of an evening session. The weather here in Winchester (and the rest of England and Europe if we are to believe the weather forecast and my granddad on the phone) is so wonderfully warm and sunny now, which, of course, is nothing to complain about, but it does make it difficult to get any actual work done. The goal for tonight is to reach a 1000 words, though!

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19:26 I’ve got my water, got my tea, got my extension for this assignment, let’s go!

20:06 I actually really like the world I’ve created for this story! It’s a creative piece exploring how the world could end up looking like beyond 2050, so I’m writing a story set in England in 2087, after a huge economic crash has changed the entire structure of the world as we know it. Companies have pumped resources into very unethical experiments and scientists have eventually managed to change human DNA and make it so our bodies don’t actually produce melatonin anymore. This means that in (this hypothetical and highly fictional) 2087 we’ll have a world where no one is even able to sleep; only be awake, to create and be productive 24/7. Terrifying, but interesting to explore.

20:30 There are now 578 words of a prologue written, kind of like an introduction to how the world came to be the way it is. I do believe that’s a bit much and that I’ll have to cut it, but for now it’s a nice part of the process. It’s always nice, when you’re writing new worlds, to be able to create all aspects of it, to really get into how it’s working. It’s one of my favourite parts at least. Now on to introducing some characters! Stories do kind of need those too, yeah?

20:46 Character update:
Harper – leading lady, interested in dreams (which are only a vague, and slightly unbelievable, myth in this world).
Lydia – leading lady’s best friend, not so great at accepting her friend’s obsession with said dreams that no one’s had for 36 years and no one can really prove are true. We already have conflict.

21:08 A bit stuck on character motivation now, but have actually managed to get the prologue and first “scene” down in about an hour and a half. Heading to the fiction section now, for just a little bit of inspiration and a teeny tiny break.

21:39 Okay, that break turned out a little bit longer than planned, but I started writing an “I’m back!” blog post, and got a bit stuck in it. Lots of pictures of the past couple of weeks to make up for the radio silence. Back to Harper and Lydia now, though!

22:04 Making up fictional technology for an England set 69 years into the future is actually a lot of fun! I’m trying to base it on the technology we have today and then looking at where that technology may go, but also going a bit crazy and maybe stretching a lot of things too far. But I feel like if there is one assignment where you’re allowed to go a bit far, it’s the one called “Life Beyond 2050”.

22:30 Remember the article I talked about a couple of months ago, about my favourite places in Winchester? It’s been published now and they sent me a couple of copies! My mum just called to tell that the magazine was sent to my house back home in Norway, which means that I don’t have an actual copy with me right now, but I’m so excited to read it when I go home later in May! It looks so good, and I can’t wait to show you pictures of it, and tell you about the work I’ve been able to do with some of the people at one of the marketing teams here at the uni. So happy!
(Also, if you want to read some of this other, earlier work mentioned one sentence ago, click here!)

23:12 Okay, I’ve got my prologue, introduction scene and first conflict; time to pack it up for tonight. Tomorrow’s another day, and I’ve set it all aside for more writing! I’m trying out a new strategy a lecturer talked about, that is leaving the story before you feel “done” writing, so you know you’ll exactly where to start again tomorrow.
Very excited about that!

Recap of the session: This is a very world building heavy story

Mistake of the day: I always write “in between” in one word, and today was no exception. I’ve learnt to correct myself now, though, which means that not everyone work shopping my pieces have to, and I call that progress.

Word count of the day: Goal reached, 1166 out of 2500

Writing location: Library, top floor, computer 53, wonderfully quiet in here tonight.

Phone breaks: One quite long FaceTime break and a couple of messages, but no actual “hanging out” on social media or anything. Getting there.

Beverage of choice: Strawberries and Cream by Dorset Tea (I’m going to sneakily link you to their webpage because this tea is seriously my favourite tea ever and I stock up on it every chance I get).

Mood before writing: “I really like my idea and the world I’ve created for this assignment but I’m not entirely sure where I want the plot to go.”
Mood during writing: What kind of technology can I make for this world, and what kind of phones will we have in 2087? Still not entirely sure about the plot further down the line.
Mood after writing: I’m really enjoying this piece! Need to rework the plot and shorten down the prologue a bit, but having a good time with it so far!

Question of the day: How do you think our technology will develop in 2087?

Also, have a picture of some really good crepes we treated ourselves to today (I went a bit overboard with mine, but Bex had some chocolate covered strawberries on the side with hers too, so it’s okay).

Andrea Wold Johansen Crepes

-Andrea

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.

Andrea Wold Johansen, Vortex 1Andrea Wold Johansen, Vortex 3Andrea Wold Johansen, Vortex 2

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

“The Bellerophon”

The best part of doing a Creative Writing degree, is that you get to play with so many different genres that you may never have explored on your own. One module I’ve really enjoyed this semester has been one about writing Historical Fiction, a type of fiction I’ve never had any proper experience with. It took a while to get into it, to see all the possibilities and understand the amount of research that’s necessary to write good historical fiction, but I got there in the end, and it ended up being one of my favourite modules out of all three years at uni. I think what I’ve come to really enjoy about Historical fiction in general, is that it just shows how people have always been people; we’ve fallen in love, we’ve been angry, we’ve been awkward and hopeful, for as long as we’ve been around.

I started off the semester by thinking I wanted to write my piece about Jeanne de Clisson, the Lioness of Brittany, a badass lady who basically became a pirate out of revenge, in 1340’s France. However, research makes you fall down weird rabbit holes, and somehow I ended up reading about the British prison hulks on the Thames, in the late 1700s-early 1800s. I also got into reading about the Battle of Trafalgar (something we learnt very little about in History in Norwegian schools), and I found out that a lot of the prison hulks were “retired” battle ships. Imagine serving out a jail sentence on a ship you once fought for your country on, was a thought that just couldn’t leave me, and I started spinning this story about a man who was sentenced to jail for desertion, and ended up serving his sentence on the same ship which he had tried to desert from. It became a short story I really enjoyed writing, and it was fun to be able to try out a bit more “pretentious”, old-fashioned language. Hopefully not too pretentious or old-fashioned though, I feel like there is a fine line between creating a feeling of “old”, and just boring your readers, when it comes to Historical Fiction.

However, if you want to read the piece, I’ve put it here under the “Read More” bar.

Thank you!

Question of the Day: Do you like historical fiction? If so, why?

-Andrea

“The Bellerophon”
Read More

(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

Poetry Platform @ the Railway Inn

Before I came to uni, poetry was one of those things I enjoyed reading and listening to, but never did myself. Even though I read the works – and listened to the words – of all these wonderful poets I found online and in the library, writing poetry still seemed like something angsty teenagers did alone in their rooms. Then I got to Winchester, and I attended my first ever Poetry Platform. The Poetry Platform is a great open mic night, where poets from all over Hampshire can come together for a monthly night of wordery (this is a word now). I loved it from the beginning. The vibe of “everything’s okay here”, the little stage that welcomed everyone, how there was always room for one more person.
The entirety of first year was spent watching everyone else perform, while I was trying to build up a portfolio of half-decent poems in the creative writing course’s mandatory poetry lessons. I started loving those lessons too. Seeing poetry so alive,  and workshopping other students’ lines, sentences I could only dream of writing one day, made me fall in love with poetry as a medium. It’s a love affair I hope will last a lifetime.

I don’t call myself a poet. There are way more talented people, those who can express everything they feel so elegantly, who’ve just got words flowing out of their brains in poetic sentences every minute of every day. However, I do love putting together simple, uncomplicated poems, poems that ponder on how we all more or less fumble through life. My poems are rarely very deep, they don’t often tackle very heavy subjects, but after a performance the other day, someone told me they thought my writing felt like “a hug in poem form”, something they felt they could relate to, and I loved that. That’s exactly what I want my “art” to be. Something to make people feel nice and warm and good.

Here’s a video of a poem I did on this month’s Poetry Platform. I’m still working on the title, but it felt like a fitting poem to do on my (most likely) last performance at the Railway.


(The song is “Har du Fyr” – Hekla Stålstrenga, a beautiful song about your home always being there waiting for you, no matter how far off you venture.)

It’s all a bit soppy, but my three-year England adventure is coming to an end, so I feel like I’m allowed to be.

(For more poetry, both page and stage, check out my Published Pieces and Performances page!)

-Andrea

“Yellow Flowers on the Kitchen Table”

We met in 1952, and I remember her dress from the first day of college. It was red and I asked her out a week after I saw her for the first time. She declined. We still talked though, and I still noticed her. Noticed how no matter how hard she tried to pin her hair away, it would always fall into her face, and how her eyes always wondered why to everything. Then, a year later, after we’d had a bit more time, almost set fire to our homeroom together and passed all the exams we’d studied for, her red pen next to my black, she asked me out. We danced a slow dance by a jukebox, listening to Nat King Cole.

     It’s very clear our love is here to stay, not for a year, but forever and a day. Read More