The Everyman and Playhouse: The Playwrights Programme 2016 – Applications open

By the Everyman and Playhouse.

Our Playwrights’ Programme is a completely free course for writers and theatre makers in the Liverpool City Region, who wish to develop their playwriting craft.


Up to ten writers will be invited to join the programme, working closely with us to hone playwriting skills and knowledge with a view to writing a full length stage play.

Applicants must be aged 18+ and have some experience of writing for the stage (not necessarily a full production). Talent, full commitment and passion, however, are more important than experience. We’re looking for innovative, original and exciting new writers from Liverpool who are committed to playwriting and making theatre which will delight, engage and challenge audiences.

Application deadline: Fri 5 Aug
Interviews: w/c Mon 29 Aug
Programme starts: Thu 15 Sep

To apply click here

If you have any queries, please contact us via email at



WOWFEST 2016 & Continuing Education present Writing the World


When I saw that the theme for this year’s WOWFEST was Science Fiction, I knew I had to get involved. There are a lot of fascinating events and workshops on this May (I’m particularly looking forward to A History of SF in Ten Objects, The Changing Face of Girls’ Comics and Afrofuturism), and I’m excited to be part of Continuing Education’s first collaboration with WOWFEST, Writing the World. WOWFEST’s programme provides the perfect opportunity to showcase the work of CE students, and to prompt us all to create some fantastic new writing.

Another world waits behind the pages of any book, but science fiction shows us a world with unexpected rules, with its own assumptions and taboos, its own geography and biology and society, just different enough from ours to show us something new about ourselves, or to set the familiar in a new light. What I want to add to WOWFEST is a day for writers to think about how the best SF writers build their worlds, the processes that go into those careful constructions, and a chance to experiment with those processes and see what emerges.

My own writing centres on collaborations and interactions online, using social media to turn readers into co-writers, influencing and adding to my fictional worlds. I want to bring that process into the classroom, and create a collaborative science fiction world together, from the ground up, in one day of readings, discussions and workshop exercises. Then comes the really fun part: just how stable will our world be? Will we all see it the same way? What will happen when we begin to set stories on it, to take little pieces of it for ourselves and develop them in our own directions? After the Writing the World CE Saturday, the details of the world we’ve created will go online, onto a website that will showcase the stories we set there, each adding new facets, settings and characters.

This won’t be quite like my other classes for Continuing Education. There will still be reading and discussion and workshops, but I don’t know what the conclusions or outcomes will be. I don’t know what the world we create will be like, who will inhabit it or what kind of stories will take place there. It will be as much of a surprise for me as for you. I’m looking forward to exploring our planet’s landscapes, meeting the people who live there, discovering how they live and what they call their home. I hope you’ll help me find out.

Writing the World will be held at 126 Mount Pleasant on 23rd April from 10am to 4pm. Lunch is included in the £15 fee. To book your place click here

During May, there will be two free follow-up sessions to revisit the world, to see how the stories have changed and developed it, and to decide where to take it next.

Emma Segar teaches CE courses in Writing Novels and Short Stories and Writing for Children. She has recently completed a PhD in Blog Fiction.

What can you get out of a Creative Writing Class?

What can you get out of a Creative Writing class?

By Emma Segar


There has been some scepticism in the press recently on the value of creative writing courses. If Horace Engdahl, Hanif Kureishi and Will Self are to be believed, fiction writing is not a skill that can be taught but some hallowed mystery that emerges from divinely ordained writers with an “innate” talent. All it takes to nurture this is a collection of gruelling life experiences (Self suggests taking on “menial” work, as if this were a fascinating diversion rather than an everyday necessity for most writers) and perhaps the luck to fall into the vicinity of an already successful writer’s aura, whose talents will presumably be absorbed by mystical osmosis.

This is, of course, ridiculous. Any creative endeavour requires a degree of natural aptitude, but nobody suggests this as a reason not to teach painting, drawing, sculpture, music, dance, acting, cookery, fashion design or architecture. Writing is just the same as these: an art and a craft, requiring both imagination and technical proficiency. You can’t teach somebody how to be imaginative, but you can teach them how to use the materials and tools of their craft. For a writer, these are words, syntax, punctuation, narrative structures, poetic forms. Guidance in these makes the difference between raw talent and polished skill. There are exercises that practice technique, hone skills and develop not only knowledge of writing but the application of self-critical judgement. Inventing these exercises (and making them enjoyable) is the art of the teacher.

These exercises do not, as critics fear, cause graduates to churn out standardised work to a narrow set of formulae. Any good creative writing teacher will use a broad range of source material to examine a variety of styles and genres, look at the techniques and conventions behind each and teach students not to simply imitate them but to understand the mechanics of them, to combine them in unique ways and develop their own voices. Learning the ways in which short sentences can create a crisp, terse sense of tension will not turn every writing student into Hemingway, any more than visual arts students will start turning out copies of Seurat paintings if they try pointillism. The most successful and original experiments in all art forms come out of a sound grounding in basic technical skills. Picasso could not have subverted traditional uses of colour and perspective if he hadn’t thoroughly understood them. Creative Writing courses teach narrative structure and poetic meter not so that students can follow the rules slavishly, but so that they can break them well.

This grounding in technique isn’t the only thing a creative writing course provides. Time set aside for writing, and for talking about writing with other writers, is invaluable for motivation. Giving and receiving feedback is rewarding in itself, and essential for anybody serious about improving their work. Most creative writing teachers are practising writers themselves, and can give practical advice on how to go about publishing. Often, so can other students. Evening classes and short courses tend to attract writers of a wide variety of ages, backgrounds and levels of experience, each with their own particular interests and expertise. Writing students benefit from each other’s experience and form productive collaborations. This isn’t just a case of benefiting from others’ talents, either. The most accomplished can get a great deal out of working with beginners, as well as the other way around. Group exercises with people who think and write in unfamiliar ways can be an inspirational jolt for even the most experienced writers.

It’s true that there are some exceptionally good writers who work alone, never plan, hardly edit and rarely think about how their choices of style and technique reflect their structure and theme, but these people are rare. Most successful writers have had to put some conscious effort into developing their skills, and this is much easier with guidance. Those who haven’t taken courses have invariably benefitted from friends and mentors giving honest criticisms of their work, from editors suggesting ways to improve it and from writing circles broadening their horizons and developing their critical skills. A creative writing course combines all of these advantages, as well as being a sociable and enjoyable way of kick-starting the creative process and working regular time for writing into your routine.

Emma Segar teaches evening classes on Writing for Children (enrol by clicking here) beginning on Tuesday 20 January at the Continuing Education department at the University of Liverpool. She is currently studying for a PhD in Blog Fiction at Edge Hill University.



Liverpool International Gothic Festival with Continuing Education

Liverpool International Gothic Festival & Continuing Education

Haunting - MR James

The Liverpool International Gothic Festival (LIGF) aims to explore the gothic genre through art, film, literature and performance and we are delighted to be working with them in 2014 by providing a number of exciting activities that are available to everyone. Our contribution to the festival is detailed below. All events are priced £9.

Writing the Gothic,Saturday 29 November, 2.30-4.30pm With Eleanor Rees

Join poet Eleanor Rees to explore your affective responses to atmospheric, Gothic spaces. Beginning in a suitably spooky location you will be asked to respond to the environment as a text reading it’s meanings via your knowledge but also responding to how the place makes you feel. Drawing on this stimulus we will gather these sensations into associations and further language to create the content for a concluding writing task back in the warm.  We will think about our use of verbs and adjectives and how they can carry our bodily reactions over and onto the page. We will write the Gothic aslant and cross over to the other side!

We will be outside for part of this workshop so warm clothing is advised. Please bring a hardback notebook and pen. For more information on Eleanor’s work visit

The Irish Gothic, Thursday 27 November, 7-9pm With Dr. Niall Carson

This is a one off lecture on the genre of Irish Gothic Fiction and the historical context for its development. We will look at writers such as Bram Stoker, Sheridan Le Fanu, and Oscar Wilde to discuss the contribution of Ireland to Gothic fiction.

Film Screening: ‘Saint-Ange/ House of Voices’, Pascal Laugier (2004), Thursday 20 November, 6-9pm With Alison Smith

1960. A young woman arrives as cleaner for a deserted orphanage in the remote Alps. She finds one remaining resident, and unsettling murmurs and whispers as if the house retained traces of children departed. Pascal Laugier’s first feature is a subtler affair than his subsequent ‘Martyrs’, resting on the uncanniness of place and the fears which come when the past touches us too closely.

This screening features a brief introductory talk by Dr Alison Smith. Alison is Subject Lead for Film Studies at the University of Liverpool and a specialist in post-war French cinema. 

If you would like to know more about the LIGF and would like information about other activities available please visit their website or click here Liverpool International Gothic Festival website.

Taking the first steps to becoming a writer by Alice Bennett

Taking the first steps to becoming a writer by Alice Bennett

Teaching creative writing is a wonderful thing. I don’t just love the subject and the opportunity to endlessly explore how words work together ~ but it is the writers who turn up week after week. They are inspiring and what surprises me most of all is that they all have a talent they are almost unaware of. I sit there in awe when they tentatively read their work. I love hearing a new voice and they turn up year after year. It stuns me when I see how hard people are prepared to work on their writing and this is the key to success. As Hemingway said, “(…) all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” The only guaranteed way to create a good piece of fiction is to just write every day and be a good critic of what you produce by reading writers who are respected, not just popular.

My first lesson with new writers is about learning how they observe the world, which leads to an understanding of their writing styles. This is useful because it saves time trying to emulate who they think they want to write like. My aim is for inexperienced writers to develop their style organically, so that it becomes natural and therefore enjoyable. Throughout the course, I use educational theory to back up some of the exercises that we do such as Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Writers leave the first lesson with a few ideas because it is packed with little exercises about looking at things differently and being able to create ideas from everyday items and existing works.

Observation and critiquing students work are the key themes of the first course A Short Introduction to Creative Writing. I also set homework (a small amount) that writers tend to engage with because it is not time-consuming and is helpful to developing observational skills.

Fundamental to the course is that the writers learn something new each week and enjoy the sessions.

Alice is a Continuing Education lecturer and, her first course A Short Introduction to Creative Writing willbegin on the 7th of October, and, from the 20th of January Getting Better at Creative Writing. To see all of the Creative Writing programme click here



Exploring Creative Writing with Eleanor Rees

This autumn term sees the return of the popular Exploring Writing course with Eleanor Rees, we asked Eleanor to tell us a little bit more about her course – and the creative writing process.

I’d say the course runs very much like a writers’ group, offering a supportive creative space in which to develop new projects or complete on-going work. I’ve devised the course based on the kind of experience I was looking for when I was developing my first book, and wanting to focus on that project whilst also developing my technique. As a poet form and content are, for me, interwoven so writing new work and sharing it with an appreciative and supportive group was important in understanding how different rhetoric mean different things. This is not an abstract process, but experiential and needs to be learnt through doing. This is what a writing workshop offers the emerging writer. It is also a process all writers engage in points in their writing life when developing new work. I will adapt the exercises, as much as possible, to the interests and needs of the group, also the reading we undertake. Creativity and extending imaginative range are, however, the real focus as both of these qualities are essential to developing exciting new writing. There is no magic formula for creating art. Learning to make good judgements on the writing needs of your project is, though, a key skill. I draw this conclusion based on my experience as a poet with two collections of work under my belt and also from my on-going PhD research into ‘Re-imagining the Local Poet’ with the University of Exeter which explores how context informs poetic practice. But I’d say artistic judgement and creative energy are relevant to writing in all genres and, ambitiously, I think they can be developed and honed in a similar, if different, manner to critical thought.

Creative Play: Stimulus and Support for Your Writing Project with Eleanor begins on Thursday 25 September, 7-9pm for 10 weeks – if you would like to book on this course, the details are here

For more about Eleanor visit her website


Imagination Unchanged


Imagination Unchanged by John Sayle 

Ask people what their strongest memory of science fiction is and you’ll get a variety of replies. Rutger Hauer sitting on a rooftop telling Harrison Ford I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-Beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. The zero-gravity ballet of astronauts in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL warning the Captain I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Dave. Colonel Kassad’s firefight in the Valley of the Time Tombs, or Father-Captain De Soya’s assault on an orbital forest in Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos. Deckard learning to program certain moods in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; I finally found a setting for despair… so I put it on my schedule for twice a month; I think that’s a reasonable amount of time to feel hopeless about everything…
It has been said that the scientist may predict the car, but it takes a science fiction writer to
predict the traffic jam. Richard Morgan’s novel Altered Carbon features technology that digitises human consciousness and can then ‘re-sleeve’ it in a new body. This shapes the setting – for example, Catholics consider re-sleeving as attempting to circumvent divine judgement and refuse it, so the courts try compelling murdered Catholics to testify at their murderer’s trials – but it also develops character and plot; Takeshi Kovacks is a former soldier whose mind was edited to make him a better killer. After cops shoot him, he is sprung from prison by a man who recently died – the police say it was suicide, but he claims he was murdered and wants Kovacks to investigate…
The development of these ideas is at the heart of all speculative fiction. If vampires existed, might they have engineered the Renaissance and the triumph of reason over superstition to protect themselves? What if the Roman invasion of Britain had been foiled by the magic of the druids, or the world’s electronics were destroyed by a solar flare? What if we could manipulate wormholes, outpacing light to visit distant stars? What if we couldn’t? According to Einstein, travelling close to the speed of light slows down time. Joe Haldeman’s Forever War considered the effects of relativistic travel on soldiers fighting an interstellar war. After every mission, they would return to find the Earth centuries older, leaving them alienated from society. As a Vietnam vet, Haldeman was writing of his own experiences of estrangement from American society. This is another speciality of speculative fiction; it is subversive. Unpalatable ideas are more acceptable when cloaked in the guise of sci-fi or fantasy; we consider them from a new perspective. In Battlestar Galactica, when Cylons invade New Caprica the humans form an insurgency – the ones strapping suicide vests on and blowing themselves up are the good guys! Where else in America in 2006 would this have been not only acceptable fiction, but popular and thought-provoking? Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Alternate History, all the varied facets of speculative fiction free us to consider different perspectives, diverse circumstances and their implications. Create new worlds, characters and stories. Entertain and provoke thought. Fascinate, and move hearts. Is there a better genre to let your imagination run wild?

This semester John will be teaching Worlds of Wonder: Writing Sci-Fi Fantasy and Speculative Fiction from Tuesday 7 October, 7-9pm for Continuing Education for details click here