With a lot of writing, publishing and producing experience between us, we’re a friendly bunch here in the department of Creative Writing, dedicated to helping our students become the best writers they can. Meet the team:
Dr Ben Wilkinson is the department’s resident poet and critic. He started writing and publishing his poems while he was supposed to be studying for a degree in English and Philosophy at the University of Sheffield, and it has, one would have to agree, pretty much all gone downhill from there. A combination of his disgusting precociousness and basically being an argumentative git led to him starting work as a critic for the Times Literary Supplement and eventually The Guardian at, as one esteemed poet once put it, “about the age of 12”. It is a habit he has found difficult to break. He wrote his Ph.D thesis on the poetry of the contemporary Scottish author Don Paterson, and will happily witter on about said poet’s work for as long as you’ll take pity on or indulge him. His own poetry has appeared in places like The Guardian, Poetry Review and The Spectator, further afield in the Official Liverpool FC Magazine (Ben is a long-suffering Reds fan), and in a couple of pamphlets: The Sparks (tall-lighthouse, 2008) and For Real (smith|doorstop, 2014). In 2018 he published his debut full collection of poems, Way More Than Luck, which was highly commended in the Forward Prizes and some other cool stuff. His second collection is due in 2022; he is also currently working on a academic study and a non-fiction book of essays, criticism and digressions. Ben spends a lot of his spare time running around: sometimes just for the hell of it, but also in races as an amateur long-distance runner for Sheffield Running Club. When he grows up he wants to write like the American poet William Matthews, who is basically the guv’nor. He has a website at www.benwilkinson.org and he tweets from @BenWilko85.
Dr Valerie O’Riordan is a short story writer and novelist-in-progress. After studying English Literature and Philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin, she threw her lot in with the media crew and did an MA in Film Production at the Dublin Institute of Technology: this qualified her for making coffee for better-paid folk at Dublin’s finest post-production facilities and trailing, unpaid and despondent, around film sets in the rain. It did all lead, however, to the BBC offering her a two-year traineeship, following which she worked for them for several years as a video editor before packing that in to study creative writing at the University of Manchester, where she got both her MA and PhD (on time, identity and the narrativisation of trauma – very cheerful indeed). Her fiction has been published in places like Tin House, Fugue, The Lonely Crowd, The Mechanics’ Institute Review, The Manchester Review, and LitMag, and she has been awarded development grants from the Arts Council of Ireland and Arts Council England. In 2019 she won an O. Henry Prize for her short story, ‘Bad Girl’. She co-edits the review site, Bookmunch, and is Senior Editor at The Forge Literary magazine. She likes riding her bike and dragging her kids to socialist demos, and she tweets from @somefiasco.
Dr Simon Holloway is a novelist, short story writer and still occasionally a poet. He likes capybara. This shouldn’t matter, but he’s almost obsessed with pointless details like this. After studying English and Creative Writing at The University of Wales, Bangor, he couldn’t find a reason to leave Wales: as a writer it’s sometimes hard to beat the peace of the countryside, the mountains and the sea. He stayed in Wales long enough to finish a PhD in Creative Writing, focussing on the Bakhtinian notion of the writer as a reader of their own texts, in process. (No, we don’t quite know what that means either, but if you ask him about it he’ll happily talk to you for hours.) He continues to research what it is that writers are actually doing during the composition of texts, and for the last eight years has co-ordinated Great Writing, the UK’s largest international Creative Writing conference (www.greatwriting.org.uk). He’s published under several names, including poetry in places such as Iota, Staple, The Frogmore Papers, Envoi, The North and The Rialto, short fiction in places such as The North American Review, Stand, New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, and TEXT and even had a short play performed at a festival. Oh, and he’s also written three novels, and is currently writing three more books at the same time, which is frankly just showing off. He blogs at http://sjholloway.wordpress.com/, or follow him on Twitter @SimonJHolloway
Ed Jones is the new kid on the block in the creative writing dept. He started his creative career as a circus performer but stopped when he got scared he was going to break something. This fear is a recognised sign you’re too old for that now. Before that it never occurred to him. Ed now juggles a writing career, teaching, studying for a PhD and child rearing. This is far more potentially injurious than circus because the children are two boys who share a love of violence. Ed was semi-illiterate at the age of eleven but eventually managed to educate himself, get to university and become a professional writer. He is now only one-tenth illiterate. He has published five novels, a children’s book, worked for several continuing TV dramas including Holby City and the now defunct Brookside and The Bill. He maintains that his having worked for these shows isn’t why they died. He has had several original plays broadcast on Radio 4 as well as short films broadcast on Channel 4 and BBC 2. Ed has recently turned to guerrilla film-making and if you ask nicely he’ll show you how to do it. His latest play is The Political History of Smack and Crack and this is the subject of his PhD. He misses the Soviet Union and loves Fidel Castro. He also loves making jam and writing about himself in the third person.