Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow Q&A

“The opportunity to have a professional writer review my work was incredibly helpful. The advice helped me achieve the highest cluster of marks I’ve received during my time at university; I wished I’d known about it sooner!”

 

1. What is a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow? Tell me a little about your role. 

A Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow is a professional writer who, through individual coaching, works with Higher Education students to improve their writing. Occasionally we work with staff too, and we can cover many different types of writing, not just academic essays – but essentially my role is to help students on a one-to-one basis with their written submissions. As well as making practical suggestions, try to share some general tips or approaches that the students themselves can adopt in the future. It’s not proofreading but an attempt to work through the particular writing issues faced by an individual student. 

There are four Fellows at Bristol and I started in October, working two days a week (the rest of the time I’m writing!). I’m really enjoying it and though mtime as a Fellow concludes in May, will be back at the start of the next academic year – by which point, I’m hoping the world might look a little more normal… 

You can see an RLF Writing Fellow by going to bristol.ac.uk/bristol-futures/royal-literary-fellows/ and sending one of us an email. We’ll then reply with a link that allows you to book your first session at a time when it’s convenient for you. 

2. Why were these roles created? 

I think there was a feeling that students might sometimes value additional help with their written work, and that the one thing professional writers know a bit about is writing! The idea was that authors could be placed on campuses throughout the UK to provide some additional one-on-one tuition. They’re independent of the host university, and not all Writing Fellows are academics – I happen to have a Masters and have lectured at another university, but I very rarely have specialised insight into my students’ subject areas. However, I’ve been writing professionally for almost thirty years, so I hope I know a little about planning, structure and, most importantly, the nitty-gritty of clear written English. 

3. How do you work with students? What sort of issues can they seek help on? 

Sometimes a student will come to me who’s been seeing the same criticism repeated in their essay feedback and we’ll talk about how they might be able to improve in that area. Sometimes they’re already doing well but they want to see if they can find a way of nudging their marks up a little. Or perhaps they feel they’re struggling quite badly – what is an essay anyway, and what is academic writing?!? I hope I’m sympathetic on that point: I was never formally taught to write essays at school or polytechnic (perhaps I should explain: a long time ago, there were things called polytechnics that functioned alongside universities…). 

The Study Skills department is the first port of call if a student’s major issue revolves around dyslexia or English as a Second Language. But generally, if someone has a concern with their writing while at university, or thinks they’re capable of better marks and that somehow their written work is letting them down, then hopefully that’s where myself or one of the other Fellows can help. It’s free, it’s confidential and, as Bob Hoskins used to say in adverts for BT, it’s good to talk.

4. Do you have to be an English Literature student/undergraduate etc? Who can access the service? 

We’re here for everyone! I’ve actually spoken to very few English Literature students so far, but I have seen people studying Criminology, Anthropology, Public Health, Psychology, Economics, History, you name it. I’ve even seen someone studying Medicine which, because my wife is a GP, was great fun. I’ve spoken to almost as many people who are working towards their Masters or PhDs as I have undergraduates, so I think the scheme casts the net pretty wide. In fact, the only work we’re not allowed to take a look at is Creative Writing, which I completely understand, but does feel a bit odd, as that’s what I used to lecture in.

5. Can students still access this support virtually? 

AbsolutelyIn pre-pandemic times, students would see us in person, but for obvious reasons, everything is done online at the momentIt’s a shame I’m not on campus – I was due to be based at Beacon House – and I’m sure I’m as tired of video technology as anyone, but the students I’ve met have been very understanding. 

We use platform called Whereby, which is a bit like Zoom, but it’s more secure and (I think) easier to use. And I’ve had very few technical issues so far. It can never fully replace meeting students in person, but I suppose it can have its advantages, especially as we get more and more used to doing these things from the comfort of our homes. I don’t live in Bristol, so at least it means my commute to work is short 

6. Whats your top writing tip for students? 

Writing is editing. It really is as simple as that. Of course, research is vital, and of course you have to get the first draft done. But that’s the start of the process, not the end. I’ve tried to take this view when I’ve written novels or soap opera scripts, and it’s advice I followed when I worked on my Masters. I’m not saying all writing problems disappear if you give yourself enough time to revise and polish your work, but it’ll certainly help. 

7. Whats your favourite part of the writing process? 

Finishing! Partly because I know how important editing is, as I just said, and partly because I do find writing that first draft quite difficult. That’s not to say I dislike writing – it’s the only ‘job’ I’ve ever wanted  and of course there are occasional moments of sublime bliss when the words just seem to fall out of you. But I like having written. It’s as if you’ve been carving a block of marble and finally you see the shape you used only to have in your mind. It’s not finished, but at least you have something that looks a bit like a person, or a horse, or a hedgehog. It’s where the real fun starts, I think. 

8. Tell us something your students might be surprised to learn about you (e.g. a fun/unusual fact if you have one 🙂 ) 

It might not be a big surprise, as it’s part of my full RLF bio, but I have a black belt in kickboxing. I’ve been attending classes twice a week for over a decade. Outside of the ring, and possibly even in it, I’m about as threatening as a rice pudding, but I like messing around with the archetype of the middle-aged glasses-wearing nerd who hates sport! Also, you meet a bunch of fascinating people who generally don’t waste time worrying about split infinitives and possessive apostrophes… 

Help with homesickness

We asked our Instagram followers whether they had found themselves feeling homesick or lonely over the past few months; unfortunately a large number of you said you had felt this way.

When asked what you missed the most answers ranged from the expected i.e. parents, friends, significant others, pets, travelling etc. Some of you missed more specific home comforts such as visiting theatres in Budapest, Scottish water and Melomakarona (Greek Christmas honey cookies).

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A Mental Marathon

This post was written by the Founder and Director of PROJECT:TALK CIC, George Cole. George is also a fourth year medical student at University of Bristol. 

Right, stop what you’re doing. Now, get up and run. No, don’t complain, just do it! You haven’t got a choice. Keep running until you’re told to stop.

Oh, and whilst you’re running, make sure you don’t let anything slip, ok? What do you mean you can’t carry on doing your day job as effectively as usual! Find a way! Pathetic.

If this seems a bit of an obscure and unpleasant situation to you, then you’re not alone. You could think of the COVID-19 pandemic a little like this – being plunged into uncertainty, no choice in the matter, completely unprepared and unfamiliar. A mental marathon.

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Dealing with grief, life-threatening illnesses, and everything and anything in-between… (now more important than ever)

This post was written for the University community by one of our students

Dear staff members and students,

These past months have been a challenge for us all – everything grounding to a halt during ‘lockdown’, disruptions to university teach, working and studying from home, and new difficulties such as quarantine. A lot of staff members and students will have had to deal with isolation from loved ones, illness in the family, and bereavement.

Facing grief and illness, or the anxiety of the possibility, has perhaps never been more widespread. Covid-19 has brought home hard truths and moved to centre stage the possibility of losing someone or getting ill. Dealing with illness and grief can be life-changing and the current restrictions add additional difficulties.

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Get ahead of worries this World Mental Health Day

Written by Dr Dominique Thompson

Starting university is always a big moment in life, but in 2020 it’s going to be a historic moment too. Living in a new institution, perhaps a new city, in a global pandemic certainly adds an edge to the whole process.  

So if you are feeling a little stressed (which would be entirely normal) help is at hand and you may find the new, free, online course that I helped to create, ‘Being Well Living Well’, very useful indeed.  

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How our community are being kind during lockdown

Every May we in the United Kingdom celebrate and observe Mental Health Awareness Week. It is a chance to raise awareness of mental health problems and the importance of taking care of ourselves. It is an opportunity to inspire action, share experiences, and end the stigma that still surrounds mental health.

This year’s theme is kindness. Being kind to ourselves, being kind to others and being kind to our communities and planet.

 

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Mental health in lockdown

The world feels very strange at the moment, and undoubtedly the uncertainty about the length of the lockdown, our health and that of our loved ones, access to pasta and toilet paper etc., is cause for anxiety. 

Here are some tips and tricks that may ease or help you manage your worries during this time.   

Meditate

Mediation may bring forth images of incense sticks, swaths of tie-dye and people chanting. This is sometimes the case. But meditation, in essence, is simply a practise where through mindfulness or focusing on a particular thought, to achieve a calm and stable mindset. 

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Student Volunteering Week 2020 and the 5 Ways to Wellbeing

Student Volunteering Week is a national event, with Higher and Further Education Institutions across the country using the week to celebrate existing student volunteers, and to encourage more students to start volunteering. Student Volunteering Week 2020 takes place from Monday 10 to Friday 14 February.

This year Bristol SU, Bristol Hub and the Engagement Opportunities team are working together to theme the week around the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, a concept developed and promoted by Mind. We’ve chosen this theme as volunteering is proven to improve mental health (Time well spent survey, 2019).

But you don’t have to take our word for it. We’ve asked Bristol SU Volunteering President Jude d’Alesio about how volunteering has helped enhance his wellbeing, education and employability.

He’s chosen three of the Ways to Wellbeing to focus upon:

Connect

In my final two years of secondary school I volunteered weekly at my local care home, listening to the experiences of residents completely different to mine. In Clifton there are four care homes, all in need of volunteers, and I would encourage anyone with an hour to spare to visit these places as the communication, leadership and empathy skills you develop will be useful in whichever field you decide to work in. From my volunteering experiences there is truly no feeling comparable to the satisfaction gained from helping others.

Give

Giving can take many forms, but in a volunteering sense, I see giving as participating in social and community life. Since arriving at Bristol, I have served on the governing body of a local school, advising the headteacher on ways to improve teaching standards, the curriculum and child safeguarding. This is a highly rewarding volunteering project and given that only 1% of school governors are under 25, many schools are eager for a fresh and youthful contribution.

Be active

I cannot stress the importance of keeping physically fit; it really is true that a healthy body helps make a healthy mind. Exercise stimulates the brain to release endorphins which create a sense of enjoyment and improve mental wellbeing. There is a plethora of physical activities available through the university, simply look at the sporting societies on the SU website for inspiration.

In addition, a considerable proportion of volunteering in the community involves getting outdoors and using your body, especially as spring approaches. These opportunities are an excellent chance to discover the city’s beautiful open spaces, meet people who help to maintain them and take a healthy break from your studies. For something more regular, Roots Community Gardening are a student-led project that meet weekly in locations around Bristol to preserve these precious and often overlooked areas.

To find out more about Student Volunteering Week and the events and opportunities available, visit the Student Volunteering Week webpage. You can also find lots of great volunteering opportunities to get involved with through the Bristol SU, Bristol Hub and by searching for opportunities on myopportunities.

 

For more information about volunteering please visit: www.bristol.ac.uk/student-volunteering

 

 

Graduation and the Global Lounge

Staying in Bristol after I graduated certainly wasn’t part of my plan. I had the dream of a post-university gap yah – travelling around Australia and New Zealand for 6 months and generally just taking some time to catch my breath. After coming straight from school into university, I wanted that break. I needed that break.

With a brain freshly fried from my 10,000-word dissertation, you bet I was excited to pack those last boxes into my Mum’s car and drive home for the summer.

A month and a half later, I was back.

So, what went wrong? Or maybe, what went right?

I guess it’s important to know that while I was studying, I worked as an International Student Ambassador. The perfect job for any student – it mostly required me to give the occasional tour and welcome new international students throughout the months of September and January. In the end, it was this role that helped me get my current job as Global Lounge Assistant in the International Office. That, and the Temporary Staffing Service (TSS). One application form, an online test, and an interview later, here we are. Wearing my multi-coloured lanyard around the campus has never felt so cool.

“But Fran,” I hear you say, “what happened to the gap yah?”

Well as much as I would like to just jet off to Vietnam for the foreseeable future, I unfortunately need the money to do so. Oh reality, you are truly a cruel master!

It’s not all bad news, turns out I’m a dab hand at writing emails and copywriting. If you want to see my latest masterpiece, check out the Global Lounge website at www.bristol.ac.uk/global-lounge.

Plus, you can’t deny that it is pretty wholesome stuff watching new students make friends. I’m glad I can be part of a team that helps make a difference to student experience. As the Global Lounge grows and develops, I have no doubt that its events will foster community and create a sense of belonging for both home and international students alike. With projects like the Language Café – set to create spaces in which students can learn and practice new languages (including English) – there’s lots of exciting stuff on the horizon for us.

The role has been non-stop too. Three weeks of our Welcome Lounge, a launch event attended by Professor Hugh Brady himself, and hundreds of emails later, there’s no denying that I’ll have a lot to talk about in any future interview.

Because that too is a reality of working with the university on the Temporary Staffing Service (TSS) – the contract is temporary. And, as much as I worried about the impending sense of doom that this would bring, the truth is exactly the opposite. It is a position that gives graduates the opportunity to apply internally for permanent roles, or, in my case, get valuable work experience and save up some money in preparation for a gap yah. It was a risk that has paid off for me.

So then, what is my advice? Firstly, don’t panic about the end of university. It’s okay to not have a plan, or for your plan to go out the window.

Secondly, as an obligatory plug, keep an eye on the Global Lounge web page for some of our upcoming events! There will be plenty of fun activities to fill your term, including the new Language Café and celebrations from Day of the Dead to Diwali.

Finally, and most importantly, enjoy the time you have here. However many more weeks, months, or years you call this city your home, take the chance to make some lasting memories. You never know what (or who) is waiting for you!

 

Written by Fran Carroll, Global Lounge Assistant

 

Find Your Balance. Part 2.

Bristol is going to be your home for at least the next three years, and we may be pretty biased, but we think it’s one of the greatest places to be a student. There is so much on offer from both the University and the city as whole.

Live it up in the Living Room 

Located on the fourth floor of Senate House, the SU Living Room is a space to relax and unwind. Look out for the Welcome Week events in the Living Room such as café crawls, meet-ups and gaming tournaments.

Give it a Go and get a wristband

From Monday 30 September – Sunday 13 October the SU will be running Give it a Go! – giving you the chance to try out different clubs, societies, networks and volunteering projects.

For those of you who enjoy nights out, nightclubs and neon – the SU has you covered! With purchase of your Welcome Week wristband you are guaranteed entry to three massive club nights as well as discounts in the Balloon Bar throughout Welcome Week and the whole of October.

International Welcome Lounge

Come and meet students from all around the world at our International Welcome Lounge. Check out our programme for the week.

The Welcome Lounge is also offering a Language Café taster session on 24 September where you’ll be able to help others practise your language (including English), and can also immerse yourself in another culture by learning a different language with native speakers

Volunteering

Want to give back to the community, meet new people and visit new places? Try volunteering! It’s a great way to learn new skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership, as well as giving you the chance to try something that you may not have done before.

Explore

Bristol has all the perks of city life with wide open green spaces only a short distance away. The entire city is bursting with culture, flavours, music and opportunities to get involved. From the alternative Stokes Croft to the bustling Shopping Quarter to the tranquillity and nature at Leigh Woods – you will never be short of something to do.

 

Next week: Find Your Potential

Top tips for getting the best out of your studies