Welcome to Crispwork the website for creative reading and writing courses in Sheffield. This began out-of-hours in a space in Blackwell’s book shop in 2015. The courses, each one with a different theme, have continued to flourish and we now meet in a bigger space in The Showroom Cinema Workstation in Sheffield. The venture reflects my passion to provide opportunities for the study of literature and creative writing which challenge and inspire. Please follow the menu for more information and contact details.
Who am I?
I am Sandra Courtman, Director of Crispwork and a freelance creative writer, editor and researcher. Crispwork came about because degree level courses in literature and creative writing are hard to find outside of full time university provision. There are many book groups and creative writing groups, but for those people who want to learn, these often don’t provide enough of a structure. As Programme Director for Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Sheffield, I saw the closure their part time degree level evening courses, I decided that I wanted to find a way of providing opportunities for people to continue studying literature and creative writing in the city of Sheffield outside of the university fee structure. My courses are designed to provide intellectually stimulating and creative learning opportunities at affordable fees and at a convenient time for people with work or caring responsibilities.
Until 2015, I worked in universities as an academic and lecturer, most recently at the University of Sheffield and at the University of Birmingham and Staffordshire University. I was external examiner for the BA in Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. I have worked with students and writers in colleges, prisons and universities. I was a Curriculum Director at HMP Sudbury and co-wrote two original dramas which were performed in the prison and outside. I am a qualified teacher with a first class honours degree in English Literature and Language, A Masters degree in Literary and Cultural Studies and a PhD in Literary and Cultural History. Teaching is still the source of enormous pleasure (and creative challenge) for me.
In my academic career, I research Caribbean and Black British literature and culture. I published a collection of essays in Caribbean Studies with Ian Randle Publishers of Jamaica.
I am still adding to my portfolio of academic publications on the social/cultural history of writing. Recent work includes two essays for The British Library’s ‘Windrush’ website (September 2018). I have a chapter on postcolonial child trauma in Abi Ward’s Postcolonial Traumas. I work on lost women writers, for example see ‘Windrush Women and the Fiction of Beryl Gilroy and Andrea Levy,’ in a Special Issue on Andrea Levy of ENTERTEXT ed. Wendy Knepper: an interdisciplinary humanities e-journal, issue 9, 2012: 84-105.
Link to the article
I am particularly interested in the sociology of literature and the conditions which encourage or suppress writing. In 2018, I contributed a chapter to volume nine of The History of British Women‘s Writing. My essay, ”The Transcultural Tryst in Migration, Exile and Diaspora‘ is part of a huge body of work in a ten volume series to chart the development of women’s contribution to the world of letters within Great Britain from medieval times to the present. My work has often involved a degree of literary detective work. As in the case of the recovery of this rare Jamaican autobiography.
I have always had an interest in Life Writing and Brown Face Big Master by Joyce Gladwell is a rare Jamaican autobiography originally published in 1969. It was controversial, sold many copies but was never reprinted. In a trail worthy of any thriller, I traced the author to Canada and worked to get her memoir reprinted as a Macmillan Caribbean Classic. I edited and wrote the introduction to the new edition. As my PhD thesis was focused on recovering lost West Indian women’s writing, bringing a book back to life in this way was a particularly pleasing and concrete outcome.
I have edited papers, poetry, short stories, journals, a novel, and autobiography. As an example, see ENTERTEXT: Special issue on Caribbean Literature and Culture: “Opening Out the Way (s) to the Future,” I was guest editor with Wendy Knepper, Issue 10, 2013. Journal.
I have a special interest in the short story. I love writing short stories and using this form as a teaching tool, as a way of learning about life, relationships, history and culture. Most writers find the short story form a creative and aesthetic challenge. I have taught courses on writing short fiction and a specialist module on Caribbean short stories. I published a chapter in this collection on The Caribbean Short Story.
I have done a lot of editing but never expected to have to edit my partner’s first historical novel. Editing requires you to be objective and honest about the work and to act in the author’s and the reader’s best interests. It is difficult to find a good editor with the courage to be kind and slightly brutal when needed. In Zadie Smith’s words, you need an editor to be ‘a smart stranger’ and this was especially difficult given our close relationship. However, seeing the novel through from rejection letters to publication was illuminating and rewarding.
When I left academia in July 2015 to go freelance, it meant I more time to write creatively. I am adding to an ongoing collection of short stories entitled ‘Netflix and Chill.’ In 2017, I published my first children’s story with original illustrations. This proved to be a much bigger challenge than I anticipated. I should have known that producing good stories for children should never be underestimated.
I publish a blog with my partner on the adventures of our narrowboat ‘Princess Lucy’ and I keep journals. I love writing and have learned so much from the process of editing and from helping writers to find inspiration.
I am grateful to Gareth Parry of Blackwell Academic Bookshop, Sheffield, for initially collaborating with me to get this venture off the ground and for his unrelenting enthusiasm for books, people and writing. His desire to create a sense of community round the bookshop chimed with my ambition to provide open access courses. Gareth has now moved on to greater things in Cardiff but we miss his creative work, his insights and his coffee.