Dr Alison Habens
I’m the Course Leader for many of the undergraduate creative writing courses at the University: BA (Hons) Creative Writing; BA (Hons) English and Creative Writing; and BA (Hons) Film Studies and Creative Writing. I also teach on MA Creative Writing, and am the Academic Lead (Communication) alongside Journalism lecturer Ian Tapster.
I’m a well-published author and active researcher, and hold a PhD on the subject of ‘divine inspiration’ in literature. I’m known best for Dreamhouse (a 1990s cult novel based on Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland), Lifestory and Family Outing. You can see my array of works – print, short stories, articles, poems and plays – on my website, The True Picture and Pencilwood.
My teaching specialisms include fairy tales and philosophy; epic poetry and historical novels; playwriting; and contemporary literary fiction.
I’ve been a lecturer and published writer at the University since 1994, and in that time I’ve developed creative writing from a single unit to a suite of courses with postgraduate and PhD opportunities. My creative writing courses cover areas such as:
- science fiction
- erotic literature
- Inspiration to punctuation
I believe that ideas should be made accessible to everybody, which is why I share my work publicly on my website and other platforms. In my view, the beauty of creative writing is about who’s listening, who’s the reader, and what personal links can be made to one’s piece. Writing’s transferable, as everybody has a story to tell that can connect with others.
Another benefit of creative writing is being able to build one’s world and inhabit it for as long as desired. Through this, a writer can transform their difficult real-life experiences and show the solution, sending a message of hope to those sharing the same hardships.
My PhD explored where writers get their ideas from, researching the complete history of writers back to the routes of Greek mythology and the nine muses.
I believe that poetry and prose can have a powerful impact on civic wellbeing. Through my recent research, I’ve looked at how people who suffer dementia can remember lyrics, giving the writer an opportunity to use beats and rhythm creating ways to connect.
The rhythm of poems can stick in one’s mind and this creative form can also be used to translate vital messages to improve public health. From outreach work with schools and colleges, I’ve learnt that the same imaginative tasks I give undergraduates in class can also bring mental focus and calming structure to younger children. Communities can learn via negative memories, through the process of telling stories and ‘narrative therapy’, allowing a person to reflect on their experience and revealing how they survived.
I lead the Portsmouth Writers Hub, a new community interest company (CIC) that brings many University writers and writing groups together such as:
- Vincent Adams
- William Sutton
- Tom Sykes (Star & Crescent)
- Amanda Garrie (T’Articulation)
- Tongues and Grooves
- Havant Writers Circle
- Lovedean Writers
Work from the Hub aligns with the University’s democratic citizenship research theme, with members working on homeless, bereavement, addiction and environmental projects. We also have links with Bookfest and Darkfest plus local theatres and libraries too. My students are always invited to participate in community events, and have already contributed articles for Star & Crescent, Portsmouth’s independent news website.
With my passion for literature and connecting with others in a public-facing role, I’ve collaborated with local writers, colleagues, alumni, and environmental activists – Friends of the Earth, Plastic-Free Portsmouth and Extinction Rebellion – for Pens of the Earth, a project that aims to change people’s behaviour towards the environment. An example is the Streets for People initiative, rethinking the way our streets are used. With the support of partners, a street in Portsmouth closed for a day, allowing neighbours to connect in new ways and for children to play safely whilst air quality improves.
On my creative writing courses, students can explore everything that has ever been written – fairy tales to philosophy, advertising slogans to epic poems, short stories and ancient myths to postmodern fiction. Stemming from the Greek mythology angle of my doctoral research, I help students see their inspirations as muses, and that those muses could be their mother, friend or lover. The overall challenge is to help them take their hero or heroine on a life-altering journey. The student author has a quest to embark on, as they are challenged to tap into ancient myth and power, but transpose it into something unique and modern with their own voice.
Together with my Academic Co-Lead Ian Tapster, we've developed the new BA (Hons) Journalism and Creative Writing course. We've also joined forces with BA (Hons) Film Production colleagues to develop an exciting new BA (Hons) Screen Writing degree with vocational industry focus, bringing together different strands of storytelling units across the School of Film, Media and Communication.