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From Lord Mayor to MA Creative Writing student

Jim CampbellBefore enrolling as a part-time student on the MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, Jim Campbell enjoyed a varied career; teaching English and History to high-school students in many countries, finally at the European School just outside Culham. He then chaired the leadership & public policy programmes at the University of Oxford, working predominantly with international students. However, you may recognise Jim due to his 20 years as a local councillor and a year as Lord Mayor of Oxford.

Jim’s previous writing experience stemmed from his time writing poetry as a student at Oxford University, culminating with his book ‘First Time Lightly’ being published by London’s Fortune Press. After a gap of many years Jim decided that he’d like to get published again, having spent most of his time writing reports for schools and the city council. The idea to come back to studying came from the decision to do something with his new-found spare time after stepping down from his roles as programme chair and in education mediation, and the Oxford Brookes’ MA in Creative Writing was recommended to him by a good friend.

‘I wanted to see if I could still write creatively. I didn’t particularly know if I wanted to carry on with poetry or to try other forms of writing – academic or not. I’d once tried a novel many years ago and I got nowhere. So I thought I might do other styles of writing, and luckily the first semester was quite open. The last few months I’ve been focussed on poetry again, and I’ve had two tutors who are very good published poets: Hannah Lowe and Emma Jones. That was hugely important for me, knowing that I was working with really good poets – and they got me writing. I think I’ve learnt a lot from them, and of course from my fellow students. There’s a group of us who meet maybe every 6 weeks and have some cake, coffee, and submit work beforehand and comment on it. The result is that yes, I would like to be published – and that’s what I have been working towards. In the last couple of months of my course I have had poems published in the Oxford Magazine and The Spectator. I also had a poem “highly commended” by the Poetry Book Society and included in their 2015 student anthology.

The input of the visiting fellows, all of them published writers, is hugely valuable. We had to read their books and they gave us assignments to do in class.I had to write suddenly in class for 15 minutes and then read it out – I wasn’t sure how I’d cope with that, and I actually liked it and I miss it when semesters are over! That was very useful for me, to get me thinking sideways and up and downwards and inside-outwards. For our major project we have to choose two of the visiting fellows to work with, and I’ve chosen two poets: Kate Clanchy and Patience Agbabi. We also hear from publishers and agents and other published writers, who give us information and advice about getting published.

The enthusiasm of the course lead, James Hawes, is great – and whatever Morag Joss, associate lecturer, says, is always worth listening to. Overall I’m very pleased with the programme. The sessions are two and a half hours where you’re never sure what’s going to happen, and you nearly always learn something new. I would absolutely recommend this programme. I’ve kept a group of friends and fellow writers for these last two years, which is a very valuable part of the course.’  

 

Read Jim Campbell’s student profile in full to find out more about his experience as a postgraduate student at Oxford Brookes University. 

Find out more about alumni publication successes, the creative writing fellows, and the MA Creative Writing course here.

Rachel Crowther news piece

MA Creative Writing alumna’s next two novels to be published in 2016 and 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre

Congratulations to Rachel Crowther, whose second novel, ‘Things You Do For Love’, will be published in August this year – with her third novel (as yet untitled) scheduled for publication in August 2017.

Rachel studied for the Creative Writing MA at Oxford Brookes part-time between 2009 and 2011, whilst working as a Consultant in Public Health Medicine for the NHS. While she was completing her MA, Rachel successfully entered her first novel, ‘The Partridge and the Pelican’ for the Hookline novel competition, seeing it published in April 2011. Some passages in that novel grew out of exercises undertaken for seminars within the MA

By then, Rachel was already working on her next novel. Initially conceived as a pair, her idea was that one novel would be from the point of view of Flora, the retired surgeon protagonist, and the other from the point of view of her daughters. Rachel submitted extracts from the novel with a commentary along these lines for her final assignment of the MA under the title ‘Binocular Fiction’ – the term she chose to capture the advantages of developing two slightly different, equally weighted perspectives on a story.

In the end, Rachel successfully combined the two narratives into one novel, resulting in the soon to be published ‘The Things You Do For Love’. The novel looks back over forty years of Flora’s career and marriage, and her daughters’ childhoods, examining their choices, sacrifices, secrets, disappointments and hopes.

Rachel Crowther

On her experience of writing her novel whilst studying for her MA, Rachel writes that:

‘During the MA course I workshopped several extracts from the novel, some with the course staff but also with Kate Clanchy, and a couple of scenes grew out of exercises we did in class (especially in Jim’s Novel module). That experience was helpful in that it gave me a chance to test-drive some passages in a challenging environment, and helped me answer some questions about my characters and how I was telling the story. Another hugely valuable element of the course for me was the ‘Rewriting Fiction’ module I did with Rob Pope, who went on to supervise my final piece, because those sessions really stretched us all and brought out some wonderfully innovative, creative, even mad ideas from all of us in the small group lucky enough to be taught by Rob’.

On completion of her MA in Creative Writing, Rachel spent three busy years moving house, jobs and schools, whilst taking the manuscript apart and putting it back together again several times over, with various different characters and plot lines removed, rejigged or reinstated at each stage – a process that she feels yielded a much stronger novel than she started out with.

Rachel’s manuscript was taken on by Patrick Walsh at Conville and Walsh in December 2014, and sold to Bonnier Zaffre in July 2015 as part of a two book deal.

‘The Things You Do For Love’ is coming out in August this year, and the next novel (final title to be agreed) is currently in the editing phase and provisionally scheduled for publication in August 2017.
The following is an extract provided by Rachel which she remembers workshopping during the course. Flora’s daughter Kitty is a composer, just setting out on her career and not yet sure that she believes in herself as a musician, and this passage describes the moment when she first sees what she is capable of.

The opening notes lifted from the piano as slowly and carefully as if they were being thought of for the first time. Lifted and then lingered in the air, languorous but persuasive, perfectly placed. Kitty opened her eyes again, and her mouth opened too, as though she needed to see and breathe and taste the sound as well as hear it. It felt as though the song needed her complete attention to will it on – although the extraordinary truth was that Andrej and Daniel were making the sounds she could hear, evoking so precisely the music in her head. This must be like giving birth, seeing what was inside you take shape in the world.

        The rest of the audience had vanished now. There was only Kitty and the performers and the space above them in which the sound waves hovered and spread. Not even Kitty, perhaps; all that mattered of her was in the music. Andrej’s voice held a long G, closed it on a careful, not quite English diphthong, then slid gracefully onto a high E and unfurled the plaintive phrase that signified to Kitty something more than the words of the setting: something that Andrej’s impeccable breath control seemed to yield up between the notes. Kitty’s heartbeat accelerated with them, drawing out a pure thread of emotion from the interplay of words and melody. This was something she had never known before, a surge of feeling she couldn’t explain or control, bringing recognition beyond rational meaning: something that felt very much like love.

Triple Pupillage success from the School of Law

GDL students

Pictured: Jonathan Goddard, Will Mitchell and James Fennemore, GDL students 2016

Three Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) students (Jonathan Goddard, James Fennemore and Will Mitchell) have successfully secured pupillage contracts from some of the country’s most prestigious barristers’ chambers.

A pupillage is a compulsory year of vocational training, similar to an apprenticeship, which all aspiring barristers must undertake before they can start practice. Competition to receive pupillage is fierce, with most chambers allocating only two or sometimes three contracts a year. Chambers look for excellent academic records, experience of the legal profession, and a demonstrated commitment to a career as a barrister.

Jonathan, James and Will were all finalists in this year’s Oxford Brookes GDL mooting competition, and have represented Oxford Brookes in the ESU/Essex Court National Mooting Competition and the Inner Temple Inter-Varsity Mooting Competition – both of which were won last year by Oxford Brookes University.

Will Mitchell, who will join Quadrant Chambers, a top commercial chambers specialising in shipping and aviation, said:

“The fantastic mooting opportunities provided during the GDL… were instrumental in allowing me to approach the interview as a credible and confident candidate.”

Jonathan Goddard will join 4 Pump Court, a top ranked Chambers specialising in commercial law and James Fennemore will join XXIV Old Buildings, a leading commercial chancery set, from October 2017.

Marc Howe, Principal Lecturer Oxford Brookes University, and a tutor to all three students said:

“We are very proud of the success of Jonathan, James and Will in obtaining pupillage in such prestigious barristers’ chambers. All three have been outstanding in university and national mooting competitions, in which they have showcased the advocacy skills which will make them excellent barristers, and they wholly deserve their success in obtaining pupillage.”

More information about studying at Law at Oxford Brookes University can be found on the School of Law webpages.