Eulogy

Avuncular eyes wearing smart suit and ties
A smokey ash groomed moustache
Flat cap laugh in a sharp wit scarf
Poppy, Schubert, King Lear with punctuation you can hear
Red pens, walking maps against flowers and paragraphs
Hair silver, heart gold, the best way to grow old
Light tapping feet dancing in the street
Those same feet crossing the stage
That literature lover through the age
From Trinity to Sherwood Forest, a Robin Hood of knowledge
With bestowing hands, knowing lands
Rollwright stones and little bones
Privileged peers, beyond the years
Wiping tears, wiping fears
Thank you for making me unafraid
I just wish you could have stayed

By Kimberly Jamison

For Art’s Sake

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are mine as the writer and do not reflect the views of the short sighted, close minded fuckwits at the university who decided to close a successful, profitable, oversubscribed course.

I walked into the meeting feeling optimistic that we would finally get a concrete reason as to why the University of Nottingham is closing the BA Creative and Professional Writing degree. Clearly this was naive.

The very first thing that happened was we were told that the school of Education was aware of our Facebook group and didn’t seem to particularly like it. Apparently “our reality” is “different to their reality.” Also apparently the information that we had gathered about the course closure had been misconstrued because the “information was cut and pasted in the way creative writers do.” Quite frankly, I find that insulting, and I found it worrying that they said they were “more guarded because things keep being posted on Facebook.” This made me think immediately WHAT ARE YOU HIDING. I DO NOT TRUST YOU.

Then we were given a wishy washy history of why Creative Writing was in the school of education, something we have all heard before and Mr Noyes seemed to think that this was an acceptable reason as to why they were closing the course. It was met with a dumb silence. He then proceeded to tell us that he regretted the timing of the decision as it was unfortunate. Getting a letter that my course is closing a day before Christmas is unfortunate, yes. He blamed the Christmas break for the reason of bad timing however, the decision was made at the start of December, so they should have told us immediately.

He continued to tell us that they had had a hard decision of whether they wanted to replace Nicola Valentine as course leader, leave things as they were or close the course. Again, he scapegoated Nicola, as she had been scapegoated in the letter to UCAS applicants.

“The school has made this difficult decision after the departure of the course leader this academic year and finds that we are unable to support the ongoing development of the course as it is a specialist area that cannot easily be supported from within the existing structures and staffing of the school.”

The school had so much time to replace her and she left the course thriving and strong so implying it is her fault to potential students (and potential members of our writing community who may one day work with other members of the community) and that is disrespectful, unfair and wholly a wrong thing to do to someone who has invested so much time into the course and students.

He proceeded to then tell us “nothing would change,” there will be “no immediate effect,” and we should get “additional activities in an enrichment program.”

We then opened up a Q&A.

Notice that we were not given any concrete reason what so ever. We were called to this meeting to hear the reasons for the closure and we were not told it.

Many similar questions were asked about the future validity of our degree, the support and the ongoing future until it ends. We were told that they were “committed” to us, but they “don’t know what to say to convince us.” Funny, you don’t know what to say to the question WHY IS THE COURSE CLOSING?

First years questioned whether their module choice would decrease and were told that they were “streamlining and consolidating modules,” however we know they will decrease because currently you can do modules in different years but when the first years are in second year they wont be able to go and do a first year module because there will no longer be a first year, and so on. So again, he skirted around the question. They were told to just “wait till you see the timetables,” but that doesn’t help if you want to know what is available because you are considering leaving the course because of ALL THIS FAFF. We were then reassured “everyone will leave with their award, no one will be left high and dry.” Thanks for that.

A first year then pointed out that Mr Noyes still hadn’t given us a definitive reason for the closure and to just tell us. He responded with “I’ve already told you this,” to a mumble of “no you have not,” and after lots of to and fro told us that we could know “some of the reasons.” SOME.

Why are we not entitled to ALL of the reasons, sir?

Finally after more probing he said the one vague phrase “the course does not have a strong fit to the school.” That, my friends is all I think we are going to get from him. That and his request to “take us on our word.”

I do not think so.

You are closing a successful, profitable, oversubscribed course and not telling us a reason and scapegoating and victimizing an amazing woman. The whole thing is shady, seedy and feels very political. We have rights and you have let us down. You are letting Nottingham down. Nottingham has put a bid in to be a UNESCO city of literature and you are closing down one of the amazing things about the city, one of the things it had to boast about. Bad timing indeed.

And as for sharing things on Facebook, this is Nottingham. You have heard of Nottingham’s rebel writers, so WHAT DID YOU EXPECT? Freedom of speech. Public information. Expect backlash, you made the wrong choice.

 

 

Great teacher, great friend

Monday was our course leader’s last day. Niki is going off to another university and it is a great move for her and her career however, I still say this with a tiny amount of bitterness because she will be greatly missed at Nottingham.

I can, without doubt, say she was the best teacher I have had. She not only taught me about writing and language and publishing, everything you would expect off a creative writing course, but she taught me to be even more passionate about what I do, to completely believe in myself and my work and gave me the confidence to actually do things with it.

Letting me be one of the people to run the anthology was probably the biggest impact on my career and it was down to her. It completely gave me a passion for other people’s work, not just my own. It made me see the book as a living thing to be molded, shaped and created. The people’s work inside it was to be treasured and I had to make it the best it could be, not just for myself but for them. Because of the anthology experience, I now want to go into publishing so I can create these finished products that writer’s can be proud of. At the launch I was proud of every single writer who had contributed, I felt like a mother and it is an experience I want again, hence my attempt to get into the publishing world.

Without Niki I would probably be too scared to even think about doing this, I would definitely try and stay in Nottingham where I feel comfortable and not move to London where I really need to be to get the jobs I want. However, throughout the last few years, she has taught me to try new things and believe I can do it, I already have proof I can. Because she has believed in all of us unconditionally, I am not afraid of failure anymore. If it goes wrong, I’ll try something new. If anything, all the work shopping and reviewing of our writing course has at least taught me that. If it goes wrong, doesn’t work just try again.

Niki was the sort of teacher who was always willing to talk to anyone who talked to her as well. I am always shocked that some of my friends do not have the close relationship we have with our tutors with theirs. Niki joined us on our launch event after party knees up, she talks to us on Facebook, she gives us life advice when we need it. She is basically always there for us. So much so, that she actually has turned from a tutor, to a mentor, to a friend.

I can still remember being interviewed by her in her office to try and get a place on the course so it seems fitting that I was one of the people to help her move her books out of her office for the final time.  I know I am really going to miss Niki, not just as a talented writer and lovely tutor, but as a friendly face on our course. I know the course will miss her as well, it will continue and continue to strive but it will not be the same. I will miss her around but I know she will always be there for us, still talk to us, still see us, come see us graduate, be at NWS so it isn’t like this is a complete goodbye, just a goodbye for the moment so all I can do is wish her the sincerest, and most lovely of best wishes. I hope her new job is brilliant and the new students of hers appreciate her for the inspiring, friendly, talented person she is. If they don’t, they’ll be getting a visit from me very, very quickly.

And, as for you readers, I hope you have all have that one teacher who has changed your life, because it is a very good thing indeed.

Kimberly

You were loved. You still are loved.

Recently, I have had two friend’s take their own lives. It is a shocking and bewildering thing to find out. The second of the two friends happened to be an extremely good friend of mine who I had known for a very long time. I was left absolutely heartbroken. As far as I was aware he was a lovely funny and happy young man. None of us were aware that he had been battling depression for seven years. That is the majority of the time I had known him.

This made me so sad. I had so many questions for him and all I want to do now is give him a hug and say it is okay. But I can’t. I am urging anyone who feels so sad they want to end things to talk to someone. The help is out there. You are indeed loved.

My friend was loved. So loved. The sheer amount of people at the funeral proved this. Everyone who shared their memories of him proved this. And it is just tragic that someone so loved felt like they couldn’t talk to us.

We will miss him every single day, but after a few hard days, I know now I do have to keep on keeping on. I am allowed to feel sad, and God knows I am feeling sad. I have accepted that I am going to feel bad for a while now,and for some reason that has given me comfort. I am not fighting the grief. I know I will slowly feel better and that voice that keeps asking all those horrible questions will slowly get quieter.

My friend loved us all so much, we all know he would want us to be happy. And we all will be happy again one day. Until then, I will comfort myself with the amazing memories I have of an amazing friend.

xxxxx

7 reasons I write

1) Therapy: I find writing therapeutic. I like getting my feelings down in some format that I can go back to and think about. Sometimes it is hard to detangle our emotions and experiences and writing it all down can give clarity.

2) Overactive imagination: I am one of those daydreamers. I’m one of those kids in the back of the class who is sitting in a world of their own. If I don’t write then I never seem to enter the real world. I need to get it out of my system.

3) Wish fulfilment: With writing you can live a thousand lives and visit other worlds. You can incite riot and rebellion and fight battles and marry kings. You can live any dream.

4) Words: I love words. I love the sounds they make and the images they create. I love their history and how etymology influences us.

5) Communication: I have a lot of things to say. That’s not to say that those things are worth reading by anyone or my opinion is important but I believe in the freedom of speech and I will say what’s in my head.

6) Reading: I write stories because I love them but also because I passionately believe that children should read more. I want them to get excited about words and stories and characters so I will produce work for some to read. If I inspire one child to read more then my job is done.

7) Compulsion: I write because I have to. It is ingrained into my very being to put words down on a page. Writing by hand, typing on a laptop or even a typewriter. I got a tattoo of a typewriter to even symbolise this. Some people have the compulsion to run, to draw, to cook or to sing. Mine is writing.

By Kimberly Jamison

Today I faced prejudice and I have something to say…

I apologise.

I apologise to every single person I have ever prejudged. I am sorry for thinking you were less intelligent, or less friendly before getting to know you. I am sorry for not believing in you. I apologise for crossing the road to get away from you. I apologise for not understanding how you feel about your sexuality or your gender. I apologise for not understanding your customs, or your traditions. I apologise for brushing off any hurt I have caused with careless comments or tactless words. I apologise for using the wrong pronoun, or derogatory term, or using a mean tone of voice.

I apologise for living in ignorance.

I apologise for the fact I will probably still prejudge some people,

but I will try my hardest not to.

Call me out. Tell me I’m wrong. Help me better myself.

We all do it. We are all ignorant to some extent. Ignorance is defined as the lack of knowledge or information and maybe I just haven’t experienced enough yet. I am young. However my intent is good. I will try to change and better myself.

However I think it is intent that is the crux of the matter. I didn’t intend any harm, to the best of my knowledge. The person today did.

To show this, if you call me out I promise I will listen. I promise I will work hard to make amends. I truly don’t mean harm, and I want to learn about everything and everyone. I didn’t like how I was treated today and it opened my eyes to the suffering I may have inflicted involuntarily.

Everyday, I will just get a little bit better, and a little more wise.

And until the day I am not ignorant in the slightest, I promise I will compensate with kindness.

KJ