The archetypal writer is a mysterious creature. Are they brooding outsiders? Unassuming wallflowers silently storing up material? Or else do we envisage the Hemingway-esque figure setting up shop in Parisian cafés, drinking and name-dropping to excess?
Inklight, St Andrews’ creative writing society, has disproved these stereotypes time and again this semester, providing St Andrews with an unpretentious, supportive and talented community of student writers.
Inklight plays an integral and active role in the St Andrews’ arts and culture scene. So far this semester, Inklight has put on nearly an event a week, an impressive feat that has provided opportunities for students to share their work, appreciate literature and to learn and be inspired by each other.
President of Inklight, Alexandra Julienne, was first introduced to the society in her first year by her academic mother. Soon she became actively involved with Inklight through their poetry slams, where she found other students who shared her interest in spoken word. The slams, she explains, offer great variety and an inclusive atmosphere as “with the slams we try not to limit people. Every kind of performance poetry, not just the stuff which you would hear on YouTube, the button poetry. But if you are into sonnets you can do sonnets, or if you like an epic ballad, we’re cool with that too.”
A personal highlight from the semester for Ms Julienne is the Open Mic events “because we get to see most of our members,” she says. These popular events are intentionally kept “really casual” so that anyone and everyone can bring along their poems, stories or raps and take part. Those who would prefer to sit and watch the performances are more than welcome and can soak in the friendly atmosphere at Aikmans, a must for any St Andrean.
Students looking to improve their craft without taking to the stage might be interested in the regular postgraduate workshops offered by Inklight. These sessions are a great way to find out more about a wide range of writing genres or meet people with similarly literary interests. For instance, this semester there have been workshops on what creative writers can learn from print journalism, on the art world building for aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers and on the art of mastering metre. There are many more planned for next semester.
Inklight also enjoys close links with other societies in St Andrews,which have led to events on an even larger scale. This year, it worked with Student Minds as part of Mental Health Awareness Week to host a poignant Open Mic night focused on mental health. Inklight also frequently collaborates with other art societies, such as in September for their biannual creative lock-in at the Barron Theatre with Mermaids. Most recently, earlier this month Inklight joined up with the Feminist Society for a Feminist Poetry Night, which proved so popular that the societies are hoping to organise a similar event next semester.
Inklight’s primary aim is to bring together student writers so that they can ultimately improve each other’s writing. Independently, it can often be difficult to find time to write during our hectic schedules.
Although we might like to believe that great writing flows effortlessly from the writer’s pen, Ms Julienne encourages us to reconsider: “I think that it’s about 10 per cent imagination, that stroke of imagination, but 90 per cent of it is really working,” she says. “I think a lot of people see it on the page and they think, ‘Oh this is wonderful, this has probably sort of spawned out of nowhere,’ and that’s the illusion of writing. There is a lot of work that goes into good writing…You have to learn to love the grind even though it kind of bites you in the ass sometimes.”
Yet even the most dedicated writers will sometimes reach a standstill. Ms Julienne advises: “I think the best thing to do if you feel that you’re stagnant and you’re kind of stuck is to go to one of the many events on offer: Toppings runs tonnes of readings, we do postgraduate workshops in the school of English throughout each semester, we have open mics at least every month. Getting to those can help you get into the rhythm of writing, and really it is just about making time.”
Each writer will tackle time management differently but Ms Julienne says: “If you’re one of those people who is heavily scheduled just take maybe 15-20 minutes a day. Insert it into your schedule, maybe after breakfast, and you’ll find that it will start to add up after a while into a lot of work.”
If you are wondering what to do with all this work you have now accumulated, why not submit it to Inklight? Each year, Inklight showcases the work of St Andrews students in its own independent journal of creative work. Journals from previous years, which are available for purchase at all Inklight events, are treasure troves of the very best of student writing.
Alexandra Rego, this year’s journal editor, has championed a new theme-focussed approach. This year’s theme, Adhesion, defined as “the force of attraction between unlike molecules, or the attraction between the surfaces of contacting bodies,” offers plenty of scope to play with ideas about contrast and just what it is that brings things that are unlike together.
Given the volume of submissions that Inklight receives, Ms Julienne provides some helpful advice about how to stand out: “Usually a lot of the time with university writing you start to see a lot of similar things because we’re all in this town. There are a lot of poems about St Andrews, there are a lot of poems about relationships in St Andrews, romantic relationships, break ups in St Andrews, and those are all great. But really I guess what we are looking for is something that sets itself apart, even within a shared experience that we all have here… [Submissions that do] something stylistically daring or [talk] about something that we haven’t see a whole lot of yet.”
Another difference in this year’s journal is that it looks set to feature more prose than in previous years. Up until this year, the journal has predominately featured poems. But the editorial team chose to increase the submission word limit to 5,000 words for both fiction and non-fiction, a change that they hope will help correct this ratio. The guidelines also greatly encourage visual artwork submissions that can be digitalised or scanned for even more variety of content. The society is officially dedicated to creative writing, but Inklight encourages creative production in all its forms.
Although the first semester deadline has recently passed, there will be another opportunity to submit entries on the same theme next semester. The second deadline will be in March, about halfway through the second semester, giving those interested the winter break to perfect their submissions. The 2015-2016 journal itself will be available from April, hopefully around Week 11, and copies will be sold outside the library.
Writing can often seem like a solitary pursuit, making it especially important for societies like Inklight to bring writers together. By cultivating these relaxed and supportive environments through their events, Inklight allows students to push each other to greater heights. Perhaps even more importantly, Inklight allows us to share and appreciate the huge wealth of talent here in St Andrews. To see this talent on display, be sure to mark their final event of the semester, a poetry slam on 2 December, in your diary.