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Alex Smith: Social Secretary Of The Writers’ Society

1. First things first: tell us a little bit about you!

I’m a second year student studying English Literature and Creative Writing, I’m in Lonsdale College, and as you might have already guessed I’m the social secretary for the Writers’ Society. I was born in St Helens, which is sort of halfway between Liverpool and Manchester, and prior to coming to Lancaster I lived my entire life in the village of Rainhill. I’m a big fan of reading, writing, and pretty much any form of fiction – if it isn’t books then it’s films, TV, video games, or any other medium that can tell you a story. I’m currently 19 years old.

2. What would a typical Writers’ Society meeting involve?

The society meets twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at 6pm in County Main SR1, and meetings generally take the form of writing workshops; basically, people can bring in something they’ve written (whether it’s a short story, a poem, an extract from a longer work, or pretty much anything else) and read it out to the group. Then everybody provides feedback and critique to help that person improve their work. It’s similar to the creative writing seminars in a lot of ways, just much more informal. We normally spend about an hour in the workshop before we head over to County bar to relax and talk nonsense for the rest of the night.

3. Who is your favourite author and why?

That’s a tricky one. There are a couple of different authors who’ve had a pretty significant impact on me over the years; Harry Potter was what got me into reading initially, so I could say J.K. Rowling, and it was Chris Wooding’s books that made me want to be a writer. I think Neil Gaiman and China Miéville are probably my favourite authors though (am I allowed to have two?!) – they both have a knack for exploring really interesting, really important ideas that have a lot of relevance to the real world from within the confines of these fascinating, ridiculous fantasy landscapes they’ve created. 

4. So what happens at a Writers’ Soc social Mr Social Sec?

It can be difficult sometimes because we’ve got members with a huge variety of interests – you’ve got people who want socials to be going on a night out every week alongside people who want socials to be watching DVDs and eating ice cream in somebody’s flat for the night. So we tend to do all sorts of things, from bar crawls to games’ nights to open mic evenings. A personal favourite of mine is when we get everybody to bring in something they wrote when they were 14 or 15, and spend an evening reading them out to each other over drinks. Nothing says fun like terribly-written angsty teenage love poetry.

5. Which hero or villain are you most similar to?

Erm. I’m not sure if I’d be a hero or a villain, really. I’m far too lazy to do anything either especially virtuous or particularly evil. Maybe Hamlet, because he spends the entire play being too indecisive to do anything properly, and then dies. I think that sums up my uni career so far fairly accurately.

6. Now something a little more serious: what would you like to be when you’re older and have you done any related work experience?

I’m still not certain what I want to do with myself after uni, but I know I want to get involved with telling stories in some capacity. Whether that’s trying to get a job in script editing at the BBC, or being one of those stereotypical English students in sitcoms who spend ten years waiting tables trying to get their novel published, I’m not entirely sure.

As for work experience, the closest I’ve come to working in writing was a week I spent at WHSmith. I almost got an internship at a local newspaper a while back but they pulled out of taking anyone on at the last minute. I think if you want to go into creative writing professionally, it’s a lot like wanting to be a musician or an athlete – it’s not so much about getting experience in the field as it is about practising and perfecting your work. 

7. What would you say is the best thing about being part of this society?

As helpful as I think the meetings can be – and they really can help you improve your writing a great deal – the best thing about the Writers’ Society is the people in it. Is that what everybody says? I bet that’s what everybody says. It’s true, though. Before I joined the society I always got really nervous when it came to even showing my writing to anybody; I think surrounded by all of these people who love what you love, and who think the way you think, and who are always helpful and supportive, you grow as a person, not just as a writer. Sorry for the super sappy answer! I’m very mushy.

8. Lastly, what genre/ book/ author is your guilty pleasure?

Well, I would argue that if you really honestly enjoy a genre/author/book, then that makes it a good genre/author/book, so there’s nothing guilty about it. Is that a boring answer? I was going to say Fifty Shades of Gray as a joke but I couldn’t do it. I really couldn’t.

Thanks for your time and witty answers, Alex!

English Language and Linguistics student at Lancaster University, with a passion for all things magazine- be it beauty, fashion, lifestyle, career, reviews! Co-Editor for HerCampus Lancaster. Check out my instagram: conniemaitland  
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