A project encouraging critical writing and creative thinking

This project’s resources were originally developed by poet and academic, Paula Morris, for a Stage III undergraduate paper in English, Drama and Writing Studies, English 344: Writing Creative Prose.

These resources might be useful to: teachers of creative writing, digital writing, performative writing, and writing across the media.

The project was supported by the SEED Fund grants for 2017.

For similar projects, see: Liquid Writing and Narrative Medicine and critical reflection through poetry and art.

The lamps are lit and shining. Image from T3L website

Project background

Image taken from T3L website

Paula Morris explains: “My SEED funding went towards designing and building an online literary journal called The Three Lamps (T3L), launched in November – www.thethreelamps.com. The first issue features work by three established authors – University of Auckland Masters of Creative Writing graduates: Gina Cole and John Adam, and retired professor Witi Ihimaera – as well as work by eight current undergrads, one recent grad, and three current or former MCW students.”

This site is an ongoing showcase for the creative work (fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction) of University of Auckland students. It also affords an opportunity for students who’ve taken English 344 (Writing Creative Prose) at this university to serve as editors, translating the skills they’ve learned in our writing workshops into a real-world public output.

The editorial team was comprised of ten students who formed three sub-teams, each responsible for a genre:

  • T3Stories,
  • T3Essays and
  • T3Poets.

Each of these small teams had a leader, and – through sharing documents on Google Drive – each team made decisions about content to publish. Each student within a team took responsibility for editing one piece, and working with its author to get approvals, as well as sourcing suitable visuals.

One student, Sophie Van Waardenberg, served as my deputy editor, and contacted publishers and published authors for permissions, visual material and book excerpts for the T3Books section. She also wrote bios for all published authors, and helped me edit the T3Shorts section, featuring short pieces about the city.

In an initial meeting, I showed the team the commissioning brief presented to the web developers, Gravitate, so they’d understand the site’s kaupapa (or purpose) look and feel. When the site was in design stage, a number of the editorial team members gave feedback and suggested amendments. Four of the team attended the Sir James Wallace Award event on November 10th to demo the site – on iPads – to guests. Sophie was the liaison with Gravitate, going to its office to oversee site amendments.

The site has been built to accommodate two additional sections to be launched in March 2018: T3Cities, featuring work by published writers overseas, and T3Schools, featuring short pieces by local students. From April the site will include Talanoa, a lit-life blog that offers students the chance to interview, preview and report on visiting writers and festival events. New content in the existing sections will be published in June. I needed to secure additional funding, as my SEED grant was not enough for the site’s scope.

Project reflection

While the editorial process was smooth, building the site was not. My contact at the web developer left mid-project, which meant big delays; it also meant that some key aspects of the brief – the preferred layout of text, the need for a macron-friendly typeface to support Maori language or te reo – got lost in the handover. A packed reading event at The Open Book on Ponsonby Road, designed to promote the launch, ended up taking place almost a month before the site was ready. The site went live halfway through the Sir James Wallace event, and only after a day of panic and desperate phone calls on my part. There were still many small flaws to be resolved, from bylines to photo credits, and Sophie ensured all necessary changes and fixes were made.

This initiative showed me how the talent of our best students extend beyond their written work: I was delighted (and relieved) that the editorial team stepped up to the challenge in such an impressive, responsible and professional way. Two of the team have been approached to work on a print literary journal, because they demonstrated such good judgment and editing skill.

Every aspect of creating T3L involved teamwork and transferable skills beyond writing: from circulating calls for submission to selecting and editing content to supporting the site’s promotion at The Open Book and the Sir James Wallace event. The next step, now in progress, is promoting the site through social media and other contacts.

Now that the web-development ordeal is – mostly – over, I look forward to working with these editors and new recruits from the 2018 class to continue publishing T3L, and showing off the best of our students’ creative work to the world.

For more information on Paula Morris, see here.

For more about the launch of Three Lamps, T3L see here.

For more writing by Sophie Van Waardenberg, see here.

Project resources

You can visit The Three Lamps (T3L) online literary journal here.

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