John Beresford is one our authors published in I You He She It – a collection of short stories and poems developed out of the Grist project. As part of #OAWeek we asked him to discuss his writing processes and and how he approached the challenge of a short story.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

Dealing with ‘writer’s block’

My Grist anthology piece is part of a “100 Day Writing Challenge” I set myself during a period of writerly inactivity following the publication of my first novel in 2012. I had several ideas for a second novel but while I was trying to decide on a direction, I hadn’t been doing any actual writing. A conversation with my daughter about how important it is to keep your hand in with artistic endeavour, flex the creative muscles, and not worry too much about the quality of the output (at least initially) but instead concentrate on getting it done and trying new things, uncovered obvious parallels between the painting challenge she was working on at the time, and my writing.

Writing as a challenge

Working from a list of 100 themes my challenge was to write for thirty minutes without editing or revision of any kind on whatever the theme suggested to me. There are many examples of such “theme lists” online. The one I used can be found here. Feel free to reuse it if the idea of the challenge piques your interest.

I didn’t intend to restrict myself to narrative fiction. If the theme evoked poetry then I was happy to rhyme for the period instead – I think there’s one example of this; an amusing bit of doggerel (what do you expect in 30 minutes?) entitled Never Again – or if it triggered a personal memory the writing took the form of a blog entry, but the majority of the 100 entries are fictional.

At the outset I expected there to be a large number of unfinished pieces, but it didn’t turn out that way. With some kind of innate writer’s clock I very quickly developed a feel for how much text could be contained in half an hour, and with the exception of three or four early attempts I was able to bring each entry to a satisfactory conclusion in the time allowed. I also hoped to come out of the challenge with a few gems – maybe a scene or two I could use in that novel I was heading towards, or the germ of an idea for a short story. In the end I did use adapted versions of several entries in Gatekeeper, and also began to develop an idea for a collection of short stories with a narrative link.

What I didn’t expect was empirical proof that writing becomes easier the more you engage in it. During the course of the Challenge my average word count for each piece rose from 550 to almost 900. At nine hundred words a day, in only thirty minutes a day, you could have the first draft of a decent length novel in the time I took to complete this challenge.

An absence of editing

I submitted ‘Stirring of the Wind’ to Grist exactly as it stood: still unedited. Looking at it now, to me it’s an object lesson in first drafting. I’d clearly been able to silence my inner editor for those thirty minutes. The piece flows quite well and, if you’ll forgive the self-critique, has some nice descriptive passages. The idea of Neil’s reflection turning into mourning for his lost first love only occurred to me during the writing, and I think brings added poignancy to what was already a subdued piece, with its parallel between the autumn of the year and of Neil’s life. With critical hindsight, it suffers from the lack of editing in what for me is a common slip – the reuse of similar words or phrases in close proximity. ‘Shook – or shaking – loose’ appears twice in the early part of the second (non-dialogue) paragraph. ‘Handfuls’ is not a word you would want to use more than once in a piece of this length, and even ‘leaves’, with some judicious journeying through thesaurus and dictionary, could have been spared its current exhaustion.

But that’s the point of first drafts. As Shannon Hale says: ‘I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.’ And the point of the 100 Day Challenge exercise is to let loose your creativity and try new things, where a degree of discomfort with the theme is probably a Good Thing.

With those few scenes in the bag, I completed Gatekeeper and it was published in 2015. I’m currently working on a sequel, which is proving to be several orders of magnitude more challenging than writing a novel in the first place, but that’s probably a story for another time.

You can read the Grist collection online, open access here.

The Press joins OASPA just in time for #OAWeek

The Press joins OASPA just in time for #OAWeek

After a lot of hard work on our application and submission process, we are delighted to announce that we are now official members of OASPA – the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

An international organisation with members including the Open Library of Humanities, Ubiquity, Portland Press, BMJ and Springer (to name just a few), OASPA is at the heart of the open access publishing community:

Editing an open access student research journal

Editing an open access student research journal

Paul Ward is Professor of Modern British History and Head of the Department of History, English, Languages and Media at the University of Huddersfield. He is also the current Editor of Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past – our postgraduate research journal based in the History department. As part of #OAWeek we invited Paul to talk to us about his experiences of publishing a student-focused open access journal.

Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past is a journal run from the research-intensive history department at the University of Huddersfield. With about 10 staff, 20 PhD students and 20 MA by research students, we are quite a large research community. Staff publish their research in a number of journals and we wanted a way to introduce our research students to the world of academic publishing. Each year we have a postgraduate conference, including many speakers from other universities. To develop the academic employability of speakers we decided to encourage them to submit their revised conference papers to the journal, which is then normally published once a year.

Many people have horror stories about the academic peer process – anonymous comments from academics to whom the editor of the journal send a submitted article. Some peer reviews are simply unacceptable, but many others are emotionally bruising and undermine confidence – and worse, since mental health issues are increasingly common in academia ruled by league tables and precarious employment.

A supportive publishing process

We wanted our journal to be different. Essays in PPP are published after a supportive peer review process, in which an established academic and a PhD student each comment on the submissions, returning them to the authors for revisions as appropriate. They then go for a second round of peer review, to academics at universities across the UK, in order to guide the authors through the stages of the journal publication process. At each step, the editorial team encouraged positivity alongside rigour to ensure that the essays are of high quality and suggestions for change are made with the feelings of the authors in mind.

There seems to me to be nothing unusual about this way of working, yet it was picked up by Times Higher Education as a (brief) story, who thought keeping authors’ feelings in mind was newsworthy.

For a long time, academia believed in the invisibility of the author as corollary to the belief in ‘objectivity’. In fact, it often led to exclusivity and, in anonymous peer review, to a lack of sensitivity to the humanity of the author. A more supportive approach fits with the mood of the digital doctoral age. Social media and digital technologies connect PhD students in ways that were unimaginable to previous generations. It enables them to publish the results of their research easily and readily, but it also provides support networks so that what they publish is often well developed, well thought out, and results from collaborative effort.

Dealing with rejection

We have faced some problems, one of which is that the encouragement to publish has led to some authors submitting articles too early on in their learning and researching. The advantage of peer review is that it provides quality assurance against under-researched and under-analysed ideas and interpretations. Like all difficult tasks, writing for an academic journal is challenging. We have rejected a couple of articles, even after the peer review process. And some authors have not made the revisions that peer reviewers have suggested, possibly because the scale of the task has seemed to great alongside completing a Masters by research or PhD thesis.

Nonetheless, publishing PPP has been very valuable. We have had an enormous range of articles, covering medieval jousting, female combatants in contemporary Colombia, army reform in Edwardian Britain, terraced housing, psychiatry in imperial India and witchcraft in early modern England. It enables potential authors to dip their toes in the water of academic publishing and, hopefully, also encourages them to be supportive of other academics as they progress in their future careers.

Read all issues of Postgraduate Perspectives on the Past online, open access.

Taking the Models back to Music Practice: Evaluating Generative Transcription Models built using Deep Learning

One of our latest JCMS authors, Bob Sturm, explores his research into transcription models – interesting stuff!

High Noon GMT

Our journal article has now appeared: Sturm and Ben-Tal, “Taking the Models back to Music Practice: Evaluating Generative Transcription Models built using Deep Learning”, Journal of Creative Music Systems 2(1), 2017.

My one-line precis: Here are five ways to evaluate a music generation model that are far more meaningful and insightful than the daft “Turing test”.

The contents of this article formed my introduction at the panel, “Issues in the Evaluation of Creative Music Systems”, at the 2nd Conference on the Simulation of Music Creativity. The panel was organised by Róisín Loughran, who also has an article about evaluation in the same journal volume. So, I include below an adaptation of my panel notes.

The topic of evaluation seems to be mentioned quite frequently in music generation as an extremely difficult thing to do, and I wonder why. There is a number of different ways to go…

View original post 1,420 more words

New issue of the Journal of Creative Music Systems

New issue of the Journal of Creative Music Systems

We are excited to announce the second Volume of the Journal of Creative Music Systems is now out to read online.

There are some great articles in this issue covering a range of exciting research including dance-driven music, models using deep learning and creative computer systems. All the articles are open access so can be read for free online.

JCMS Volume 2 Issue 1

Peer Review Week 2017

Peer Review Week 2017

This week is Peer Review Week, and the theme is Transparency in Review:

This year’s theme is Transparency in Review, exploring what the concept means to various
stakeholders participating in review activity – in publishing, grant review, conference
submissions, promotion and tenure, and more.

Peer Review Week website 2017

There are lots of activities, both in person and online, going on throughout the week, and you can have a look at these on the Peer Review week schedule.

We will be sharing some interesting discussion pieces throughout the week on Twitter, so have a look at those, and don’t forget to enter IOP’s competition to win some Amazon vouchers.

Northern Collaboration Conference 2017

Northern Collaboration Conference 2017

Last week the University of Huddersfield Press (represented by Megan Taylor and Kathrine Jensen) went along to the Northern Collaboration Conference 2017 at York University. The theme for the conference was Digital Transformation, and it was a great way to get us thinking about how our publishing practices are informed by digital technology, and particularity to look at how new platforms, technologies and opportunities can be used to enable open access publishing.

Our paper focused on four key questions:

• What does Open Access mean?
• How and why is the University of Huddersfield Press involved?
• What part does digital transformation play?
• How does all this impact on the scholarly community?

You can see the presentation slides here, but do feel free to get in touch with Megan Taylor ( if you have any questions.

The day was a great opportunity to talk to other university press colleagues, and we look forward to getting involved next year too. Watch this space for a published article to come soon from the themes in our presentation.