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May 2013

Twenty Top Tips for Academic Writing

Academic writing scares many people who have lots of good things and ideas to put forward. Others have been told they should write better without being helped to understand how. But it's not magic and it's not rocket science; it's a set of skills, and you can learn them. I spent two years as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Goldsmiths, and I'm now about to start a year at the Royal College of Music. And all along I've been shaking out and clarifying my ideas of how academic writing does and should work, with a little - or rather,... Read more →


Plain and perfect, rich and rare: what is "lyrical" writing?

A writer friend says that her MA tutor described her writing as "lyrical", and she asked what he meant. He said "something about lyrical writing remaking the world & making the world appear anew", but what does that mean in practice? At the basic level, "lyrical" means that it shares something with poetry: a certain intensity, perhaps, though it might be interior, emotional intensity, or an outward-looking evocation of time and place. It needn't necessarily be about beautiful things: as Sebastian Salgado's photographs of miners show, it's possible to make beautiful art out of ugly things, or out of frightening... Read more →


This Happy Fellow: my year at Goldsmiths

The Royal Literary Fund Fellow's job is simple, on paper. We are professional authors who are paid by the RLF to spend two days a week, in term time, for a year, supporting academic writing across the whole of an academic institution. Most are universities, but conservatoires and art schools also have RLF Fellows, and the students who come range from first years who've never written an essay to postgrads in the very middle of the PhD muddle, and staff struggling with a presentation. Their problems can be anything from "What does "critically analyse' mean?" to "I need a Distinction... Read more →


Tomorrow to fresh finds and problems new

The other day, something I was reading tossed a tasty short-story idea into my lap: two people in a particular situation with dramatic possibilities. If you think of craft as a process of problem-finding, as Richard Sennet puts it, then the problem I had found was how those possibilities might be realised. And I worked out how quite quickly - how the problem could be solved - how it could be written. I knew what the voice would be, how the structure would work, and that it would end up as a decent short story that quite a few readers... Read more →


The 500th Postiversary Competition: win a writer's retreat and other prizes

I can't quite believe that This Itch of Writing has being going for 500 posts - and five and a half years, come to that - but it's true. To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to have a competition, and some of my favourite writerly places have kindly offered prizes. TO ENTER: Please write a blog post, 500 words at most, which is helpful, interesting or illuminating for other writers. Of course yours will stem from your own experience of writing, but the focus of This Itch of Writing is outwards, towards other writers, not inwards towards yourself.... Read more →