“Part of the Architecture”

The sound of an organ woken from slumber
trickles out into the cold October night.
“Come on in, hear my tales,” it whispers,
as the streetlights catch on the Poor men’s Bible,
and the pitter patter of impatient feet echoes through the empty aisle.

The tales are of sneakers that blink with every step
and dress shoes that carry the weight of embraces that will never be.
Candle wax and sacred dust,
the footsteps of the faithful,
bake sale pies and sleepovers in the altar ring.

As life moves in circles,
as the village lives and dies;
as teeth fall out and love notes are hidden under the pews
we all come to learn that
God may not be resting in these walls,
but all of our stories are.

-Andrea

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Here’s to the future, to all we are and to all we’ll come to be – UoW Graduation 2018

Goals are a funny thing. Sometimes you set goals because you know you should, sometimes you set goals because it would be fun to try, and sometimes you set goals you’re not all that sure about.

Graduating didn’t really feel like a goal as I went into my first year of a BA in creative writing at the University of Winchester. It was too far away, not really relevant yet, the focus was on getting through day to day. When first-year came around, there were too many forms to fill out, too many notebooks to organise, too many hot chocolates to drink and assignments to write, to even think about the finish line; the handshake at the end of three years. September 12th 2015 saw too many nooks and crannies in the library, too many secret passageways in the main building, too many streets I had yet to wander down, to even have space for the hats and the gowns we would all don to celebrate these achievements of ours.
Then days became weeks, and semesters came and went.
I started to know Winchester as my city. Walking around its streets felt right, and just like that, with the challenges and the experiences uni life brought with it, graduating started to feel like a goal; one I knew I’d work hard to reach.

On Friday the 19th of October 2018, Winchester Cathedral was filled with the sound of high heels clacking against old stone floors, suit sleeves crinkled by nervous palms and grad gowns that kept falling down jittery shoulders. On Friday 19th of October, I graduated. The cathedral was bursting with excited graduands and uni staff in fancy clothing, with music, speeches and flowers, everything to celebrate three years of hard work. It was wonderful. I reached my goal, I finished my BA.

I have been trying to sit down and properly put into words what I’ve been feeling since then, but I’m struggling with finding the right ones (hence, one of the reasons why this blog has been very quiet for a while).
So for now, I figured I’d show you some pictures – just of us throwing our hats in the air and all in all looking rather fancy in our (too large) gowns. The words need a little more time, the enormity of the fact that my time at uni in Winchester has now officially come to an end hasn’t really hit me yet.
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What a day and what a ceremony.
Here’s to the future, to all we are and to all we’ll come to be. We are all just getting started.

Hope you have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

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” again and “Intimacy in the age of social media”

Two posts in one day, I know, I’m sorry.
You see, in my last post I was talking about these two pieces I’ve handed in and gotten back, and I just wanted to share them with you!

This is the creative piece I had to edit so much, called “I Think I’m Dreaming”.
Like I said, it’s a sci-fi, speculative type thingy, and I had a lot of fun writing it.
You can find it by clicking here!

The picture will hopefully make a little more sense after reading the piece.

The second piece, which I don’t think I’ve talked as much about before, is a reflective essay. The main essay title we got as part of the assessment was “How We Live Now”, and then we had to make our own under-title. I ended up writing an essay about how social media has changed our way of being intimate, pros and cons of being able to stay connected with anyone anywhere in the world, and asked the question; Has social media made us incapable of forming and maintaining intimate connections?
It was a really interesting essay to work on, and I’d love it if you’d check it out!
You can do that here!

Okay, that’s all for today, I promise!
Thanks for taking the time to read these posts and maybe also the pieces.

Have a great 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.

Andrea Wold Johansen Writing Nook Swanage

‘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

“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 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”
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