Posts Tagged ‘writing’


One experience I remember vividly from Holme Middle is taken an English test comprising of spelling, grammar and a story and getting over 90% on grammar and the story and failing miserably at spelling. I still achieved over 200 marks out of 300 despite getting no more than 10 marks for spelling and my English teacher praised me for my imaginative and well written story and said had I achieved a similar mark on my spelling as I did on the other 2 papers I would have achieved the highest mark ever. At Tong I wrote a story about a racing car that had a 6th gear, at the time a 5 speed gearbox was only just coming onto the market, and how it won the race because of this 6th gear. This story got me moved up into the top class for English and maths. It was evident from an early age I had a natural talent for English and for story telling but in the 70s going to school on a rough council estate there was no opportunities to take this further and see how far I could go with it. Nobody was there to offer to mentor me or advise me what I could do with my talent to see where I could go. Maybe my life would have turned out very differently, a best selling novelist and playwright perhaps, or maybe it would have been no different to how it has turned out. I’ll never know but it would have been interesting to have known. For me this was the first of many missed opportunities to do something I enjoy doing and had a natural gift for. Don’t waste any opportunities that come your way, they don’t come along very often.


This is a link to an article I have had published in my local paper the Halifax Courier about how taking up writing has changed my life for the better. Hope you enjoy it:

http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/news/calderdale/writing-gave-andrew-anew-lease-of-life-1-7200603


The latest from John Foggin

The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb

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Contrary to the truth universally acknowledged that British children aren’t taught standard English and the conventions of writing it down, here’s the actual truth.. What they HAVE to be taught has been there in black and white in the Framework for the Literacy Hour for years. Politicians don’t trouble themselves with this kind of detail. Maybe they should. So spare a thought for the teachers of 4-7 year olds who have to make sure that young children know how to use a full stop correctly. And, as a corollary,that they have grasped the concept of a sentence sufficiently for them to recognise one when they’ve written it. Think for a moment about that. You know a sentence when you see one. You just read some. Now tell yourself what a sentence is, or what it has to do to be a sentence. Maybe you say it has to have a…

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A very interesting blog from Anthony Wilson about writing and illness.

Anthony Wilson

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Reading Arthur W. Frank’s astonishing At the Will of the Body  recently has given me pause to reflect on the relationship between illness and writing. One of the chief delights of reading Frank’s account of his heart attack and cancer is his beautifully modulated prose style. As I only half-joked, it seems to be written entirely in quotes, each page both measured and solid as a dresser made of teak.

Not having been at my best of late -rest assured: this is not a coded reference to relapsing- it occurred to me that Frank’s book achieves the mastery it does after the event as it were. The past tense is a wonderful thing. It brought to mind another joke, of the friend who told me he read my memoir of cancer Love for Now in double-quick time, to see if I lived.

They are different beasts. Love for Now

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The latest blog from Roy Marshall

Roy Marshall

Copies of the new print run of my book arrived on my doorstep today. If you would like to buy a copy please click the link on ‘The Sun Bathers’ page above.

In other news, I’m pleased to have been invited to read with Liz Berry, Geraldine Monk and Les Malheureux at the John Rylands Library in Manchester next month. If you read my review of Liz’s ‘Black Country ‘ on here a while back you’ll know high highly I rate her work and the venue  is lovely so I’m looking forward to it. You can find details on the Poets and Players website.

Like a lot of people, I’m not at my best at this time of year, so it was  good to hear that my short story ‘Late’ has been highly commended in the Bare Fiction  short story competition.  Bare Fiction is a relatively new and very well produced print magazine that has already established…

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Here’s the third of my blogs as Writer in Residence for Kirklees. Hope you enjoy reading it.


During January 2015 I have the privilege of being the Writer in Residence for Kirklees. For those of you who don’t know Kirklees is a borough in the county of West Yorkshire, England. For my residency I will be writing four articles. The first one is about my journey into the world of words and can be found by following this link: http://readkirklees.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/my-journey-into-the-world-of-worlds-writer-in-residence-for-january-andrew-smith/. I hope you enjoy reading it and if you have any comments or questions please post them on the article. Thank you 🙂


The first blog of the year from the wonderful John Foggin. A very thoughtful and reflective blog about the writing process and a great poem from Gaia Holmes to boot!

The Great Fogginzo's Cobweb

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I’ve always been attracted by the notion of embracing irresponsiblity and eccentricity, but fight shy of their corollaries of physical and emotional and spiritual risk. But in last week’s post I think I was nailing my colours to the mast of those who take those kinds of risks in poetry, of declaring a preference for poems and poets that are courageous and unflinching.

For various reasons, I’m advised against eating processed meats, so sausages are out, and I’ve never been keen on wearing purple or rattling sticks along railings. Extravert behaviour has always come fairly easily, but  real risk-taking is something I’ve basically tried to keep at arms’ length, and without that, I see no way towards achieving the edge that I respond to so readily in other people’s poems.

I’m going to see if I can articulate better what I was trying to get at this time last week…

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A great blog that sums up the emotional rollercoaster we all go through as writers and poets very well.

Roy Marshall

Some of the time you feel that your obvious talent is being ignored. Your ego pounds the table and shouts ‘not fair’ as you watch other (obviously less talented people) parading their successes. But your monstrous ego won’t always win out. You will feel genuinely pleased for other people too. The poet you met at a reading and had a good chat with, the poet who you went on a course with, the poet whose work you love, whose kindness and humility you remember. You will seek feedback.
'And do we want to know why a haiku is like a thong?'

Some of the feedback will annoy or upset you. The poem will be fatally wounded. You will abandon it. You will seek more feedback. You will ignore it. You will learn to listen. The poem full of holes is patched up. It floats. It is magical. You float in it. You begin to recognise and accept good advice. You know what to reject and…

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The next area to examine is environment and the effect it can have on a person with AS. The environment a person with AS finds themselves in can and does have a very profound effect on their ability to function and perform at a reasonable level on a daily basis. This is because many if not all people on the autistic spectrum have issues with sensory sensitivity and the environment they find themselves in can and does have an effect on them to varying degrees (National Autistic Society, 2014). Whilst NT people have the ability to block out and ignore background noise, lights, movement, smells and tastes, to name a small selection, people on the autistic spectrum have tremendous difficulty in blocking out and ignoring these sensations.

An example of this and one of the reasons I chose the University of Huddersfield over the University of Bradford or the University of Leeds is the location and size of the town.

The University of Leeds would have been the most obvious choice to go to because of its size, location and reputation. Yet for me, it was the size and location that I found off-putting and perceived it as causing me the most distress. The size of Leeds was, I found, very overwhelming and I could not fit it into my mind. It was simply too big for me to comprehend and this was extremely off putting for me. Because of its size I visualised that I would find it difficult to navigate and that there would be many moments of sensory overload for me because of this. Travelling to Leeds would cause me similar problems because of the distance from my house to the university and if I was running late this would increase my stress and anxiety levels and leaves me close to breakdown.

The University of Bradford seemed too close and too familiar, although on reflection if I had thought about it more logically rather than believing that I need to challenge myself constantly in order to improve, it might have been the more logical choice based on proximity and familiarity of location.

The University of Huddersfield was from the point of view of physical environment view ideal for me as a university to study at. Huddersfield is close enough for me to travel to, and the town centre is a perfect size and shape for me to get around. This reduces my chances of being subjected to sensory overload and in turn reduces my chances of my levels of stress and anxiety getting too high for me to cope with. The same applies to the campus. Again this is quite small for a university and this makes it easier for me to cope with because I do not get overwhelmed by it. I can visualise both the town centre and the university campus in my mind and this makes it a lot easier for me to cope with.

When I go to a classroom or a lecture theatre I try and visualise what they will look like in advance so that I am prepared for the environment I am entering, even if I have never been in that environment before. This is to help me to mentally prepare for the lesson or lecture and reduce the time I have to spend getting familiar with my environment. Then rather than spending time looking around taking in my environment I can concentrate on the lesson or lecture. The visualisation is based on both personal experience and from watching television programmes and building up a database in my mind of the kind of environment that I can expect when I enter a classroom. For the most part this is quite accurate.

On occasion I have been thrown when the environment was not what I expected, but I have learnt to be more flexible in my thinking and anticipate different shapes and sizes of classroom and lecture theatre. One of the problems I have encountered at university is noisy lecture theatres. Some lecturers are not quite as good as controlling a lecture theatre and maintaining order. In these cases the noise levels have become overwhelmingly unbearable and this has resulted in my having to make other arrangements in order to continue studying. During these episodes students are just talking loudly whilst I am trying to work. This overloads my sensory sensitivity and I go into meltdown because I cannot cope with all the noise and trying to study as well.

Another environment which can cause difficulty for people on the autistic spectrum is where to study when doing revision or assignments. For me studying at home is not conducive to either task because of the distractions there such as television, housework, computer games and pub for example. Whilst on the surface this may sound normal and just an excuse for myself and I suspect many others on the spectrum it is a very serious matter.

On the one hand there is the need and desire to get the work done. On the other hand there is the need for balance in order to avoid burnout. What frequently happens is work is started and then I have a break. When I go back I cannot get started again and this leads to feelings of guilt, lack of confidence, frustration and anger amongst others at not being able to do the task in hand. The main issue here is that these other emotions take over and once again my system is overloaded and I cannot cope and function as I want to do. The end result is that nothing gets done and this merely exacerbates the problem even more. Because the concept of the home as a place of relaxation has been in my mind for so many years, it is now a very difficult concept to change.

However I have found some solace in a scheme called The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL). This scheme allows a student or other member of a university to use the library facilities of another university. For myself I use the library facilities at Bradford University to study in. This is a revelation for me. I have an environment in which to study which is close to home, quiet, spacious, safe and has all the books and materials I need to study effectively.

I have had only two issues here. One was where I studied and there was a lot of noise. This was my fault because I had not read the floor plan correctly and had gone to an area where talking was allowed. The other was where I went in one day and my usual spot was taken. At first it did throw me but I have now told myself that at certain times during the year I cannot expect certain spots to be empty and I will have to sit wherever I can. This is an environment where I can visualise myself learning and studying and my grades have shown a marked improvement since I started using this facility in February 2014.

Now I have an environment I can go to where you are expected to study. I can concentrate on my work and my senses do not get overwhelmed. I can also get out of the house which can get lonely and depressing from time to time and be in a different environment surrounded by people. Over the summer break I intend to make the most of the library facilities by catching up on my subjects and using the time to plan my dissertation and subject modules. What the issue is here is that the university should make students more aware of this facility because it can make such an immense difference to how a student performs and the grades that they achieve.

Copyright © Andrew Smith 2014