Laptop with colourful display in darkness

Ideas. It’s a funny old business!

Last week I attended my first course as part of our new training scheme and I’ve just realised it made more of an impact on me than I thought…

This year we were each granted a training budget to help further our development which is something we’ve all been really excited to get the ball rolling on. Although I wasn’t actively on the hunt for a training course at the time, when I came across the Business of Ideas course during an afternoon mooch around the D&AD website, something inside me said ‘Yep, that’s the one!’. This caught me by surprise if I’m honest, I didn’t really expect a training course to sound so exciting. Does that make me a geek? Probably.

‘Right from the start you'll be learning how to conceive creative commercial ideas the hard way, by coming up with them yourself.’

Perfect! This was exactly the kind of guidance I’d been looking for. As a Content Producer, creative thinking is part and parcel of my job, but successfully applying that to a business model or client brief is a different ball game.

Eurgh, did I actually just say ‘creative thinking’? What does that mean? Creativity is so subjective, how can you distinguish between normal ideas and ‘creative’ ones? I needed someone to cut the crap and get down to business. Turns out that Patrick Collister - former Executive Creative Director at Ogilvy and Google’s current Head of Design, was just the man.

Patrick’s introduction to the workshop went something along the lines of, “I have two aims today. One: To send you all away with new techniques for coming up with creative ideas. Two: To get you bastards to smile!”

I knew I was going to love him.

Creativity = Problem Solving

The first key learning that really stood out for me is that creativity means problem solving.

I think a lot of people in the digital marketing industry turn their nose up at creative thinking in favour of more tangible, measurable data and statistics. But in such a rapidly developing sector, monitoring ROI and campaign success is not as black and white as it perhaps once was. Well-executed creative deliverables are a success in themselves because they are more than just an idea.

In order to tie our ideas back to their campaigns, creativity in marketing requires:

  • First; an understanding of who your brand is (the single thing that differentiates you from your competitors),
  • Second; what you want to say to your audience (your strategy),
  • And most importantly, how (the creative idea - the final result).

The Heirarchy of Ideas

It’s these touch points, or as Patrick calls them, ‘The Hierarchy of Ideas’ that should be the foundation of idea generation, at the forefront of addressing the problem or aim creatively. This is because it aligns business, marketing and communication plans. And if they’re not working in unison, we’re wasting our time.

As Patrick summarises, ‘it’s bringing left-brain thinking to right-brained thinkers.’

A few of my favourite examples of brands successfully aligning their ideas include Carlton Draught’s Big Ad, Old Spice’s ‘Smell like a man, man’ campaign, Heineken’s Worlds Apart (a timely alternative to Pepsi’s not-so-successful attempt at combining beverages and politics), and finally one of my all-time favourites - Honda’s multi-award winning 2003 Cog advertisement. The full version of which aired just a handful of times on UK television and yet made an impact on the advertising industry that still resonates over ten years later.

The key factor with each of these brands is that they know and understand their audience to a tee. If you don’t know who you’re talking to, you’re stabbing in the dark and you will get it wrong, as Pepsi proved so well. When you’re clear on your brand’s values (the ‘who’) and your audience (the ‘what’) and marry the two together, your final creative concept (the ‘how’) will communicate this.

As Honda said themselves, ‘it just works.’

The Creative Toolbox

To answer the who, what and how in the Hierarchy of Ideas, Patrick equipped us all with what he calls a ‘Creative Toolbox’ - something I’m very excited to have in my proverbial possession!

I think one of the hardest parts of conceptualising new creative ideas is doing just that. It’s often difficult to get the cogs in motion, especially as part of a group where you’re all in completely different mind-sets.

To help with this, the toolbox included strategies to help place our brand in different environments. I found that pushing the brand outside of its comfort zone encouraged me to look at it from the outside, and thus in a new, fresh and inherently creative light.

One of the methods we tried was ‘challenging assumptions.’ It’s very easy to get caught up in the behind-the-scenes workings of a brand and forget about how it actually looks from the other side. Simply writing a list of some of the assumptions people might make and working out how you’d counter them is a great way to conceptualise ideas that can surprise and grab your audience’s attention by going against what they’d expect.

As we’ve already established, it’s easy to make assumptions about a brand based on their product offering. For example, if you were asked to name the largest distributor of toys in the world, brands such as Lego, Mattel or Hasbro would probably come to mind. Anything but McDonald’s, who thanks to the Happy Meal, hit the top spot by a long stretch.

This leads on to the next tool that worked well for me: ‘parallel worlds.’ We thought about brands in parallel scenarios. What would my brand do if it were a different one? What would Greenpeace do if they were Cartier? What if Barclays were Innocent? If Burger King were Waitrose?

This highlighted for me that anything is possible. Just because your brand may fit into a specific sector, doesn’t mean they can’t step into the shoes of a different one in the ideation stage.

It’s just a way to think differently.

Keep it simple

It might seem obvious, but it was refreshing to hear Patrick’s emphasis on simplicity. He stated that there are four points of conflict in the generation of ideas, one of which is ‘the way we’re wired’. Other people in the room can’t see inside your brain. Words, images, even colours have different connotations for everyone - yes the basic definition doesn’t change, but we all use our language differently. It’s subjective.

If you think you’re onto something, as easy as it is to blurt it out in a stream of consciousness, it serves to benefit you in the long run to stop, pause and simplify your idea down to the core. How can I communicate this in the most universal way possible? If you can’t do that for your colleagues, can you do it for your audience?

This really rang true for me, as I’m a bit notorious for speaking too quickly. I need to let my ideas cook and reduce down before I serve them up. This also brings me back to the campaigns I mentioned earlier - yes some of them are witty, clever, even eye-opening, but when it comes down to it, the actual ideas that form them are stupidly simple:

‘Let’s get some people to have a chat over a pint’ , ‘let’s build something that just works’ , ‘let’s take the piss out of ourselves’.

Being able to segment the creative process into three stages brings structure, purpose and guidance to what can be a headache-inducing whirlwind. It’s not that easy for creative thinkers to get the balance right between left and right sided cognition, but Patrick has certainly shown me that it’s possible, and it works.

But did he get this bastard to smile?

Most definitely!  

If you’d like to know more about Patrick Collister (which you should), take a look at his website - Creative Matters, or even read his book - How To Use Innovation and Creativity in the Workplace.


Thinking Outside the Box: What, Why, How?

It’s a term we come across regularly in the content marketing industry, in fact across multiple professions equally. But what does ‘Thinking Outside the Box’ actually mean? And why should we all be doing it?
When it comes to writing, it’s easy to fall into a regular pattern of style, tone, and format, but there will always be implications from this. Have you created a piece that is a cut above the rest? More often than not, the answer is no. This is where the proverbial ‘box’ comes into play. Your creative processes are trapped deep within it, and it’s high time you let them out. You just need to find the key.

Whether approaching a topic from scratch, or revisiting a subject you’ve covered before, nothing illustrates the daunting prospect of writing more than the ominous pulse of the cursor against a blinding white screen. The easy solution is obvious (that’s why it’s easy) – start writing and see what happens. We’ve all been there, and yes, sometimes we pull it off. But frequently we don’t.

Thinking outside the box means doing it differently, and doing it better.

Research the competition

There is little point in creating a piece of content that already exists. Modern readers and digital users are savvy, and they know how to search the internet to find the answer to their need – whether that’s educational, entertaining, inspiring, or something else entirely. Before you decide on your topic, or if your topic has been decided, before you start writing, ask yourself:

  • Have other writers covered the same topic?
  • How have they approached it?
  • What would you change?
  • What didn’t they cover?
  • Did the format or style leave a lot to be desired?
  • Was the delivery suitable for all devices (e.g. mobile, tablet, desktop)

It’s highly likely that at one point or another you’re going to write content with a very similar aim to a piece that’s already out there. This isn’t uncommon, nor is it a bad thing. If your approach is different and well considered, then you’ve created something completely new and original, no matter the subject.

Own your style

Once you’ve honed your tone of voice and the style of your writing, own it and deliver it with confidence – this alone will make your content unique. Stand out and be bold, no writer is the same. Whether you’re going for short and snappy pieces, a fun approachable angle, or if you’re aiming to be the next internet sensation, know your style, deliver it with pride and most importantly, keep it consistent across all of your content. Your reader should know exactly what to expect, and have a good idea of who you are and what you stand for.

The same applies when writing for brands. A company’s tone of voice guidelines are your bible – every word you write should resonate with the brand’s ethos, style and target market. It’s just as vital as knowing your own personal voice, if you don’t understand the brand you’re writing for inside-out, your content will be a square peg you’re desperately jamming into a round hole.

think_outside_the_box_light_2

Play to your strengths

As much as we’d all love to travel to far-flung destinations and gaze out at the ‘top 10 views you must see before you die’, a lack of resource, time, or budget often results in research being executed via online fact-finding, rather than in person.

This is an unavoidable blight of the job, but when you do have freedom on the brief it’s always better to write about somewhere you’ve been to, or something you’ve done/eaten/tried/played. Try to think of different ways to get your experiences into your content. Expert opinion really does make a difference.

Work with other people

Whether you’re a veteran content writer, or a new kid on the linguistic block, there’s nothing to say you have to go it alone.

There are people all around you that can offer input – content pros or not. Whether it be a colleague, a friend, or a family member, collaborating different ideas, utilising different skill sets, and gathering a varied range of feedback gives you the advantage of seeing your work through different eyes. No two people think the same, so throw your work out there and ask for the opinion of someone you wouldn’t normally ask. This will serve to make your content stronger, and if you can get feedback from those who fall within your target audience – even better!

think_outside_the_box_light

Go visual

There are no two ways about it, sometimes your subject may not be the most engaging topic in the world. So, do you resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to publish something that will most likely see little to no engagement? No! You make< it interesting.

For people within the content industry, setting fire to the myth that content is just about words is a daily occurrence. The beauty of content is that it’s a multi-layered platform, offering multiple channels to approach a subject. So use them.

From video streams and image-led posts, to infographics; content is no longer just long-form text – and you shouldn’t think about your topic in that way either.

Some questions to consider:

  • How do you visualise your topic?
  • If you could project your thoughts onto a blank canvas, how would it look?
  • Can they be reshuffled and structured into a more digestible format?
  • What comparisons can you make between your topic and another?
  • What devices are most likely to be used to view your content?
  • At what time of day is your content likely to be read? (on the morning commute, on a lunch break, during a leisurely evening on the sofa?)

Thinking outside the box is not a singular skill that you either master or you don’t. It’s being done all the time, but not enough. Don’t let your idea turn stale; keep it alive, throw it around the room, shake it up a bit and see what comes out. You might just surprise yourself.

Tips from the addfolio team:

Alice:‘I’ve stopped taking endless pages of notes when I’m in meetings. It’s retro, but I’ve adopted the brainstorm. I take one-word notes with linking arrows, which in turn allows me to focus on what’s being said, and my thoughts to flow freely. For such a little change, I’ve seen my creativity rise dramatically.’


Emily:
‘When I’m researching for a piece, I find it equally useful to plunge myself into the visual side of my topic as the textual. For example, when producing a blog article about a specific destination or event, I scroll through Google Images, check out visitor photos on review sites and transport myself right into the heart of it with Google Street View. This helps me gain a 360-degree perspective, allowing me to write sensory, immersive content as opposed to churning out similar material to other websites.


Elliot:
‘It’s hardly an innovative approach, but thinking outside the box sometimes means really exploring who your users are, and what they’ll find useful. For example: If you’re selling whisky what content do you produce? Maybe a blog about the “best x whiskies in y”

If you delve deeper you could notice that cheaper whiskies are your most popular sellers, so you can assume that a high proportion of your users are cost-sensitive whisky drinkers. From this, you’d create a blog which explains the best whiskies under £25. Or you go further and notice that these popular whiskies are usually bought by people who have just created an account. From this you could assume that they’re looking for an ‘intro’ whisky to get into the spirit (!)

By looking at easily accessible information, you’ve pinned down a deeper idea of your customer and how you can engage them.


Rochelle:
Working in content for almost a decade, thinking outside the box almost becomes a prerequisite to maintaining your sanity. Nowadays, anyone can ‘be a blogger’ – it’s great to see so much passion for digital content, but it’s also resulted in a tsunami of words which users are drowning in.

So I’ve become an advocate for ‘less is more’. I always consider the user experience when digesting content to help understand what constitutes for ‘less’. Are they in a queue on their mobile? Lounging on a sofa using a tablet? Could my content be better understood or more entertaining if delivered in a video format, or perhaps a graph or bullet points? Rethinking your content structure can often result in a completely unique approach.’


Apostro-fears

Worrying words and ghastly grammar

We at addmustard know that every word counts, which is why it’s so imperative we get it right every time. That said, even the most confident writer can second guess themselves at times, especially with outdated rules, homophones, and variant spellings bounding around.

Our grammar guide offers clear navigation through the worrying world of words, allowing you to triumph gallantly with your grammar. After all, practise makes perfect… or should that be practice?*

*It’s the former. Practice is the noun, as in doctor’s practice and practise is the verb, as in to practise the piano).

Headache-inducing homophones

Homophones are one of the main reasons English can be such a difficult language to learn, and let’s face it, the vast majority of native English writers still struggle with these from one time to another. Our knowledge of homophones usually begins at primary school, yet the grammar rule of ‘it sounds the same but has a different spelling and meaning’ doesn’t always help retention of this knowledge. Whether it is there, their, or they’re; bear or bare; or you’re and your; homophones have a habit of causing headaches.

Really the only solution is to get with the program…programme? Practise really does make perfect, and a pretty sure-fire solution to this dilemma is simply to learn them. A good strategy is to consider the meaning of the words, for example, when asking someone to bear with you, you certainly wouldn’t want to use bare as you may end up in a rather awkward (and naked) situation. Similarly, it can be handy to think ‘I know it isn’t mine, therefore it must be theirs’ when trying to remember the I in their. Similarly, they’re is a contraction of they are, so simply consider whether ‘they are’ fits in the sentence.

 Exhausting apostrophes

Most of us learn fairly early on that apostrophes signify possession, such as the case of Jennifer’s or Mark’s. Simple right? Wrong! The confusion lies in the fact that apostrophes can also indicate a contraction of two words such as they’re (they are) or you’re (you are). The trick to apostrophes is actually quite straightforward. All you have to do is imagine your sentence without the contraction, ‘You are lovely’ becomes ‘You’re lovely,’ rather than ‘your lovely’ (my lovely what?!).

The same issue can be found with its and it’s. This is a common grammar hiccup, as many follow the rule of an apostrophe showing possession and then incorrectly use it’s. ‘Its’ signifies possession but has no apostrophe. As with any contraction vs possession, the only way to solve it is to remove the contraction and see if the sentence makes sense, e.g. ‘it’s landscape stretches to the sea’ would become ‘it is landscape stretches to the sea’. See? Let’s (let us) move on.

Which word?

One of the most common ‘which word?’ struggles we face tends to be that of affect or effect. They sound the same. They are almost identical in spelling. So does it really matter which we use? In short, yes it does. The affect is the cause and the effect is the outcome. So the affect causes the effect. For example, ‘The fire really affected us. The damage had a lasting effect.’

If this is still too much then just think alphabetically, the affect comes before the effect.

Who vs. whom is another grammar hurdle. The fact is the majority of us don’t use whom because a) we’re unsure when it applies and b) it sounds overly formal. However, formality should never be an excuse to avoid proper grammar, after all we all need to be formal at times, and even if you rarely use it, it is always worth knowing the difference.

Although you needn’t become an expert on this, there is a handy rule to learn. The rule states: if you can answer the question with her, him or them, then it is whom, such as in the example ‘to whom does this belong? It belongs to him’. This is also known as the ‘M rule’, as in if it can be answered with him or them then it is whom. Of course, this is weakened slightly by the possibility of the answer being her….

Who is used when the answer can be he, she or they, e.g. ‘Who said I was crying over my grammar? They did’.

Ever-evolving syntax

No matter how many ‘emojis’ are entered into the dictionary, and if no one else ever uses the royal ‘we’ other than the queen, there are some grammar tricks that will never change.

For example, there are few people who can claim they didn’t learn how to spell beautiful thanks to Jim Carey in ‘Bruce Almighty’ (B-E-A-utiful). Plus, those who can say they didn’t learn the importance of commas from the phrase ‘let’s eat grandma*/let’s eat, grandma’. A personal favourite is conquering desert vs. dessert by remembering that ‘stressed’ is ‘desserts’ spelt backwards - after all, who doesn’t want desserts more than when stressed? And of course, we couldn’t possibly write a grammar article without mentioning the marvellous mnemonics at play in ‘Matilda,’ which taught us how to spell ‘difficulty’ (Mrs D, Mrs I… etc.).

Finally, if you ever find it necessary to use necessary, then just remember ‘one collar, two socks’ and all will be well.

*Please don’t eat your grandmother.


AN HONEST GUIDE TO TRAVEL COPYWRITING

‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs.’ – Stephen King

For most, the beauty of writing is its fluidity. Whatever you write on whatever topic, you can manoeuvre your vocabulary in an endless choice of directions. But when producing content for a brand, you’ll have strict brand guidelines to follow, and all of sudden your creative license can become somewhat restricted.

As a content agency, we’re used to adopting brand tones. We cover a variety of industries, from insurance to fitness and nutrition, all of which require entirely different styles of writing. However, having delivered a wealth of large-scale travel content projects over the years, we’re especially well-versed in the travel industry, and know travel and holiday lingo like the back of our sunglasses. But could this mean we’re in dangerous territory?

There could certainly be worse topics to ‘make’ interesting, but with such a descriptive genre as travel, it’s important to be vigilant not to fall into a pattern. It can be all too easy to turn to that trusty bank of adjectives and phrases – and yes, a well-placed adjective can have a truly wonderful, evocative, visual effect but too many will cause the reader to…oh, you’ve switched off? It was the adjectives, wasn’t it?

As we’re all about ‘doing it differently, and doing it better’, here are our honest learnings from over a decade of collective years producing travel content, including how to avoid the typical vocabulary traps.

Easy on the adjectives

Not everywhere is stunning and picturesque.

Ah, the go-to favourites. If you’re looking for an instant way to sell a location, these words tend to do the job, right? Wrong. The best travel writing is honest. Not everywhere is breathtakingly beautiful, and your reader knows that. Force your topic, or your content, to be something it’s not and you risk losing authenticity or expertise. Focus on the real selling points of the destination – Marrakech is wonderfully hectic and charmingly chaotic, Tenerife doesn’t just offer soft white sands. Describe the historical landmarks, specific cuisine, varied weather, as travel is about variation and unique experiences, not about what you think the reader wants to hear.

1

Appealing to the senses is a great way to develop your piece

If you find yourself writing typical sentences you’ve read countless times before, stop. Take a break. Mix your writing up and approach the subject from a different angle. Have you imagined or experienced this place with all of your senses? What can you smell in the market? What can you hear on the beach? What flavours can you taste in the restaurant? Describing these sorts of aspects using metaphors and similes is a great way to create a unique expression or to evoke a specific emotion about a destination. But be warned – too much of this will have your readers running for the hills – less is more.

If you haven’t been to the place, use Google maps to visualise

At this point you might be thinking, ‘how can I write about a place I’ve never even been to?!’ Enter Google Street View. This is a tip we’ve mentioned before, and we’re going to do it again. Although it’s not quite the same as actually being there (if only the budget allowed!), it does help to immerse yourself in a location. We think Google’s little yellow man is a bit of a life-saver, and this is a brilliant way to get a feel for a destination, and what it really looks like.

Don’t just use one website for attractions

There’s no denying that websites such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet are a fantastic source of travel information, but they’re not the be all and end all. Have a browse around and see where your search takes you. You may find a hidden gem of an attraction that makes your piece stand out and gives it that edge of expertise. But be warned, if you haven’t experienced it and there are a lack of reviews online, don’t go claiming it’s the destination’s ‘must-see’ attraction!

2

 


WOMEN’S EQUALITY DAY: 9 WOMEN WRITERS WHO KICK LITERATURE’S BUTT!

On this day almost 100 years ago, women were momentously granted the right to vote in America, standing not only as a testament to the people who fought for women’s civil rights in the U.S, but to women across the globe. Today, a century on, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day around the world.

Within the literary sphere, from Austen to Angelou, female authors from all walks of life, generations and ethnicities have without question, left a significant and lasting imprint on the movement towards women’s equality with their words. Here are some of our favourites…

maya_angelou

Maya Angelou

Memoirist. Poet. Civil Rights Activist. Maya Angelou’s talents and passions spanned many platforms. Most notably, her autobiographical writing depicting her journey through life as an African-American woman has given a voice to many black women across multiple generations, making Angelou one of the most influential female authors and public figures of our time.

Must read: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – The first volume of Angelou’s seven part autobiography.

Killer quote: ‘You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lines. You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise.’ Still I Rise, 1978

zadie_smith

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith’s realistic exploration of class, sex and race in modern day Britain in her novels and essays provide a refreshing and somewhat eye-opening perspective into themes of identity and self. Having won several awards including the Man Booker Prize for fiction, the Guardian First Book award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Smith is now widely regarded as a pioneer of contemporary literature in the 21st century.

Must read: White Teeth

Killer quote: “The ideal reader cannot sleep when holding the writer he was meant to be with.” Introduction to The Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2003

virginia_woolf

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf’s experimentation with stream of consciousness techniques and alternative structures typical of many early 20th century authors, placed her as the female face of Modernist writing. Themes of mental illness and women’s position in society can be seen running through many of Woolf’s novels and short stories, making her one of the most studied and discussed female authors of the past century.

Must read: Mrs Dalloway

Killer quote: ‘Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.’ Orlando, 1928.

jk_rowling

JK Rowling

It’s more than likely that you will have crossed paths with Harry Potter at some point or another, whether for a fleeting second or as a pivotal moment in your experience of children’s literature. Not only has JK Rowling introduced multi-faceted characters into our world, but she has given us a whole new world in which to place them. Her writing is not just a fantasy nor a brief fling with fiction, it’s an adventure that reaches into corners of our imagination we never knew existed. And that’s where the magic lies.

Must read: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – the first in the series.

Killer quote: “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”  Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination, 2015

mary_shelley

Mary Shelley

Having published her first novel, Frankenstein at just eighteen, Mary Shelley is acknowledged as a key contributor to the Gothic fiction genre. Her exploration into the world of existence, creation and self prompted years of adaptations of her work in the form of film, playscript and television series. Placing Frankenstein at the forefront of classic horror writing from the Romantic period.

Must read: Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus

Killer quote: “With how many things are we on the brink of becoming acquainted, if cowardice or carelessness did not restrain our inquiries.” Frankenstein, 1918

magaret_atwood

Margaret Atwood

If you enjoy dystopian literature and you haven’t heard of Margaret Atwood, you’ve been browsing the wrong bookshelves. From the disturbing story of the concubine in The Handmaid’s Tale to the trilogy that begins with Oryx and Crake and ends with MaddAddam, Atwood’s novels are colourful, chilling and without fail fantastic. Tackling the oppression of women and post-apocalyptic landscapes, Atwood’s speculative fiction is day by day becoming ever more tangible.

Atwood’s novels are that clever sort of novel within which you are so completely absorbed, you become a part of the story. You journey the long and difficult roads alongside the characters, and although terrified, cannot tear yourself away. Finish an Atwood novel and you could cry with relief you’re back home, while feeling sick with hurt that it had to end so soon.

Must read: Any of her novels, but start with The Handmaid’s Tale (a classic) or Oryx and Crake.

Killer quote: ‘We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.’ The Advertiser, 2004.

alice_munro

Alice Munro

Alice Munro’s career is one that is successful as it is prolific, having won a laundry list of awards from the Booker Prize to the Nobel Prize for Literature across some 17 short story collections. However, the real testament to her ability comes from her unofficial title of ‘our Chekov’, that is to say an English language Chekov. Her ability to craft human complexity with uncomplicated prose doesn’t just mark her as the most important and vital short story writer we have, but also as one of the most essential influences on the format.

Must read: The Love of a Good Woman

Killer quote: “I want the reader to feel something is astonishing. Not the ‘what happens,’ but the way everything happens. These long short story fictions do that best, for me.” Dear Life, 2012

jane_austen

Jane Austen

Brush aside Austen’s novels as romance stories to one of her fans, and you’ll be on the receiving end of a deeply withering look. Written at a time when female authors were disregarded as mere fancy-writers or hysterical trouble makers, Austen’s novels explore human nature, while her commentary on society and the literary genre is mature and wittily transparent, all under the guise of romance fiction.

The best thing about Austen’s novels? They remain current today, distributing insight and amusement on human sentiment, while also providing a glimpse into the social landscape of a bygone era (and pampering the nostalgia in many a modern reader).

Must read: Northanger Abbey.

Killer quote: ‘We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.’Mansfield Park, 1814

bronte_sisters

The Brontës

With Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall all falling under the infamous Brontë name, Charlotte, Emily and Anne certainly shared a great deal of literary talent between them. Having originally published their work under their male pen names, Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell respectively, the Brontës received widespread acclaim.

Their exploration of inner emotion, imagination and character development was, for its time, unique and revelatory in the Romantic period. Each of their works are now regarded as classic masterpieces and regularly appear on many a reading bucket list.

Must read: Jane Eyre

Killer quote: “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” – Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, 184


National Poetry Day

From the romantic verses of William Wordsworth to the striking stanzas of Kate Tempest, poetry has arguably played as important a role as the novel in our understanding of literature from as far back as the 18th century BC all the way through to present day. Often labelled a dying art, we at addfolio welcome days like today – National Poetry Day – so that we can remind ourselves of all that is great about the poetic form. Whether it be a sonnet, limerick, spoken word, or even a haiku, we think poetry ought to be celebrated in all of its glory!

Take a look at some of the team’s all-time favourites…

Emily

Sonnet XVII – Pablo Neruda (1959)

‘I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;’

As an English Literature graduate, it’s pretty tough for me to choose just one, but this poem by Pablo Neruda has been up there for as long as I can remember. I first discovered it when I saw the film Patch Adams where Robin Williams reads it to his love interest in such a way that it makes my hairs stand up every time. (I also cry every time!).

It’s one of those poems I can read over and over again, and see it differently on each occasion. To choose just a small snippet to include in this post was slightly painful, but I love the two lines above purely for their simplicity.

national_poetry_day_ship

Alice

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1798)

‘Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide, wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.’

I too am an English Lit graduate, but somehow, to my shame, I always struggled with poetry. From being forced to study Plath before I was old enough to empathise, to feeling awkward while my uni classmates tearfully waxed lyrical over sonnets – I just never got it.

One of the few poems to resonate with me is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This poem has everything you could want from a poem (except, perhaps, brevity). The language is beautiful, it’s easy to understand, it presents a moral lesson, and it whisks you into its story. Like a childhood favourite Kenny Rogers song, it’s a guilty pleasure, and perhaps a tad cliche as a favourite, but I love it, and that’s that.

 

Rochelle

Share The Road Campaign – TFL (2014)

I hold my hands up, I never really got into the bygone poetry thing. Yes, I can appreciate the sound play, the rhyme, the rhythm. I acknowledge Shakespeare was groundbreaking, that Wordsworth didn’t just have a strangely appropriate surname. But it doesn’t pull on me.

However, modern variations of poetry – in song, in short film adaptations, in advertising – those, to me, have a draw. I’m a strong advocate for visual pairings with intelligent and evocative word choices. TFL delivered this for me in 2014 with their Share The Road campaign. Driven by a non-commercial objective obviously helped, but their coupling of spoken word and striking video drove home (get it?) the concept of road awareness and the consideration that all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are just humans, too.

national_poetry_day_map

Rich

Favourite Words – Hayley Francis (2015)

“His favourite word is nostalgia,
her favourite word is map.
She always longs to run away,
Whilst he longs to go back…”

Okay so this is supposed to be a list of favourites, but at the time of writing, I have already spent far too much time trying to pick a definitive favourite of Hayley Francis’s back catalogue of smart, silly and at times heartbreakingpoetry… So I just decided to go with one that has ‘favourite’ in the title. A good friend and an even better poet, more people need to know about her as I feel there’s something there for everyone. The poem chosen also resonated with me as I’m sure it would with many others – having experienced a past relationship where two people simply wanted different things… and it only takes four lines to get that feeling across.

Elliot

In a Station of the Metro – Ezra Pound (1884)

‘The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.’

Ezra Pound’s imagist poem has an economy and precision of words that I can appreciate.
I’ve always loved it because of how it distills a moment down into basic images, and ultimately a feeling.
Apparently the original poem was over 30 lines, and Ezra Pound cut it down to just fourteen words. You’ll also notice that there are no verbs.
It’s a poem that perfectly captures a moment and a feeling as succinctly as possible. I never did get epic poetry, why read a long poem when you can read a book? But this poem, I get.

national_poetry_day_trees

Claudia

Perhaps – Vera Brittain (1934)

‘Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
Although You are not there’

Although I hated studying poetry at school, and the book from which this poem came from was the object of hatred amongst my classmates, (wartime poetry is not very cool when you’re 14), Brittain’s sensitive words have stayed with me at times of mourning. The poem is written for Brittain’s fiancé, killed just four months after their engagement by a sniper, and speaks of her trying to comprehend a world without him in. She speaks of all the joys of life and hopes that she will once again be able to relish them, and despite her beloved one being missing, seasons will still change and life will go on. I think the sentiment is sadly recognisable to anyone who has lost a loved one – we know the world is still spinning, despite our great loss.