A New Project for Me!

It was a few years ago that I first talked to the Royal Literary Fund about their Fellowship scheme.

As a concept, it takes some beating, I think. Going to university is a difficult time for many students: they have a whole new lifestyle to get used to, without parents and friends. A whole new world of responsibility, study and hard work (in most cases!), and one aspect is the writing of grown-up essays.

Most universities do all they can to make the experience as non-threatening as possible, but it still creates a lot of tension and alarm.

Students arrive and are given a reading list. The first thing many of them will do is, buy all the books and try to read them all. Then, they learn the hideous truth, that academic books are all but unreadable. And they believe that this is a writing style which they must emulate.

It’s enough to make any sane person want to throw their books in the nearest river and leave to become a full-time road-sweeper.

And it was for this that the Fellowship was started some years ago.

RLF Fellows go and work for a couple of days a week in various universities up and down the country. They offer themselves to the students just to help them with their writing. Not the content, incidentally, but just the writing itself.

Students who are petrified with terror at the thought of writing a piece on a given subject, need all the help they can get. And sometimes a tutor or lecturer is not the person in whom they feel comfortable in confiding. That is why the RLF Fellows are instructed to maintain absolute confidentiality in all their discussions and work with students.

Well, I am delighted to have heard that the RLF and Exeter University have accepted my application to work with them later this year.

No, it doesn’t mean I won’t be writing. I still have my contracts to work to, and I will be fulfilling them. But for me to be able to get out of the house a couple of times a week, to meet with new people, and to have a chance of learning a little more about how young people speak and think.

For more information on the Royal Literary Fund and the Fellowship scheme, please go to http://www.rlf.org.uk/index.cfm and use the tabs at the top of the page.

8 Responses to “A New Project for Me!”
  1. Jack Eason says:

    Good for you Michael. If nothing else, the experience will make them aware of your own novels and style. Well done. :D


  2. Sound like a wonderful initiative and Exeter University is a lovely place. I was down there last year interviewing students and academics. They are also fast becoming one of the leading centres for Creative Writing teaching. I hope you enjoy your time there.


  3. Chris Prillwitz says:

    Michael, sounds like a good program to me and I’m glad you are taking part in it. Personally, I think all college students should be required to take a course in creative writing. I took so many that I almost had a second minor in English, would have if I would have taken the required English minor courses. Back when I was doing professional archaeology, which hopefully this summer I’ll be returning to part time, people commented about how easy to read and how understandable the site forms were when I did them and how they never needed to be revised. The papers I presented at a couple of archaeological conferences were very well received due to how easy they were to understand even when I introduced totally new, or at least new when it came to being put into words concepts such as occassinal water sources as a factor in site locations on the Great Plains. When I was working as a survey tech for the City of Aurora’s survey section, the crew chiefs always had me do any writing for them since I could take their notes and put them into a clear readable form, plus I was the only person in the office that knew proper grammar, could spell for the most part without using spell check, and didn’t have to hunt and peck when typing. Acadamics need to realize that to spread ideas, they have to be able to put them in a form that can be read by most people, not just by other acadamics.


  4. Congratulations Michael. I am sure you will provide an excellent resource and source of advice for the students. They are fortunate to have you!


  5. knotrune says:

    Great plan. I totally agree about the unreadability issues of academic writing, the trouble is, once you get to PhD level, it’s not just that you think you ought to emulate this style, you are told you have to! And it’s not acceptable to protest against being forced to ‘ruin’ a good readable style by pandering to this elitism. One of several reasons why my PhD is on hold at the moment…


    • Mike says:

      Hmm. That itself is alarming, Knotrune. I have to go on training later in the year so that I’m up to date on the work, but that is something I will ask about, I think. I know that Exeter seems very keen on lucidity rather than PhD-speak! Perhaps it’s a university thing. To an extent it must be partly up to the department head as to how they mark the students’ papers, presumably.


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