TALES OF TWO CITIES
I have never been one to miss an opportunity to take up a challenge whenever it has been placed in my path. So when I got an invitation for a guided tour round Portsmouth University Library by one of my creative writing students, a plan began to form in my head. At every turn I saw how the students had outstanding facilities, whilst our creative writing class in the Central Library had only the basic pen and paper.
Here was an institution that provided a wide range of gizmos and electronic aids which had me drooling with envy, but after the green-eyed monster had lifted from my eyes I started planning what good could come of my guided tour. Some teenage university students perceive people, places and things through the eyes of the young and privileged; by contrast some mature students approach creative writing with a sophistication achieved through life’s experience. They are valid viewpoints, but they rarely meet - my students are either working at the day job or retired and enjoying the experience of a further education they never received in their youth.
I wanted to capture all of their thoughts on paper. Not to judge or examine, purely to experience their thought processes of being either a resident in Portsmouth or a university student.
The next step was to get together with Alison Habens, a senior lecturer at Portsmouth University in the department of creative writing to see if we could get their gang to produce something that was neither on their syllabus nor part of their remit for marking, and work with our gang to produce a collection of short stories.
In other cities they have violent bun fights between town and gown. Here in Portsmouth we hope to have developed a more civilized and cultured meeting. The academic world and us, a small but determined group of writers on the city side, have together produced this small volume of stories loosely based on the city.