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Students can book to receive writing support

Novel approach to writing advice for students

Author Katherine Roberts, is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow on our Penryn campus, offering support to any student seeking writing advice. The work of the Royal Literary Fund Fellow is entirely cross-discipline and represents a wide range of genres. Katherine is on campus two days a week (Tuesday & Wednesday) and students are encouraged to make the most of this opportunity.  

Here she explains more about her role…

1.       How did this role come about?

The Royal Literary Fund Fellowship scheme places writers of different genres into universities to help students (and staff) with their academic writing. It has been operating in most parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland, but until this year there were no RLF Fellows in Cornwall... so I'm the first to venture this side of the Tamar!

2.       What sort of areas are students asking for help with?

It can be anything - every writer is different! In my previous post as a Fellow, I found most people needed help with structure and organising their material. Critical thinking can be a bit of a minefield, also writing in an appropriate academic style. I've only been here a couple of months so far, but it seems the same sort of issues are coming up at Penryn. As a writer myself, I understand how brave it is to share your work. The main thing is not to be embarrassed about asking for help, however small your problem seems. My sessions are confidential and nothing will get back to your lecturers.

3.       As a fiction writer, how can you help students - who are chiefly writing non-fiction, academic work?

Having written both fiction and non-fiction, I think the writing process is essentially the same. You start with a blank page or screen, do your research, organise your material, add your own thoughts (imagination for fiction), and hopefully write something that other people will enjoy reading. If it's non-fiction, your readers will be looking to learn something. If it's fiction, they mostly want to be entertained. Between these two forms of writing, the boundary is blurred - essays can be entertaining as well as academic; fiction can inform as well as entertain. That's why writers who specialize in one form can bring a fresh approach to the other. And, of course, everyone has to proof read their work for grammar and spelling... that's the same for all writing!     

4.       If you could share one piece of advice, what would that be?

Print your work - at least once! It's much easier to see the shape of an essay on paper. It's also easier to spot typos and grammatical errors. So many people in these days of e-submissions are tempted to write straight on to a screen, edit on screen, then submit online. Also, having a paper copy is insurance against the day the computer decides to eat your work half an hour before your deadline...

5.       What do you feel you are gaining from this experience as a writer?

Being exposed to different subjects is always interesting for a writer. Some draft essays I've seen have inspired me to seek out further information on the topic, which might one day turn up in one of my novels... probably with a magical twist! For example, my interest in ancient history has already found its way into a book told by Alexander the Great's horse (I am the Great Horse), which is part novel and part historical biography.

6.       Anything you’d like to add?

I'll leave this one to a master of the art...

"Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word." (Stephen King, On Writing).

** Katherine is on campus Tuesdays and Wednesdays, offering confidential one-to-one sessions of up to an hour in A158 Peter Lanyon. You can book a tutorial with her to support your academic writing using the online booking app

Date: 11 December 2017

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