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Professor Derek Neale

Profile summary

Professional biography

A novelist and short story writer with a practical and research interest in drama and film, script and life writing, I have recorded many interviews with novelists, playwrights, autobiographers and biographers about their approach to writing. I taught fiction and dramatic writing at UEA over a number of years, and have also facilitated writing activities in a prison. I gained my Creative Writing MA and PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from UEA, and joined the OU in 2003, helping to design and write the materials for a whole new generation of Open University writing courses.

Research interests

My research is focused on writing practice – the production of original work, predominantly fiction, but also script and memoir. I am also interested in the creative process, the relationship between writing and memory, and generic crossovers and interactions between fiction, dramatic and life writing. See sample author interviews on  Creative Writing (tracks 1-10) on OpenLearn.

I convene seminars for the Contemporary Cultures of Writing research group, chairing three seminars on life writing and the borderland between fact and fiction.

I currently supervise several PhD students focused on creative writing. Applications in the field are welcome. Please see our advice pages about creative writing PhD study.




A Creative Writing HandbookWriting Fiction a workbook with readings


A Creative Writing Handbook: developing dramatic technique, individual style and voice (A&C Black/Open University, 2009) – editor and principal author, contributing chapters on writing fiction and writing for stage, radio and film. 
‘Sets a strong benchmark for the study and practice of creative writing in higher education’ – Professor David Morley, Warwick University

Writing Fiction (Routledge, 2009) – co-authored with Linda Anderson

Life Writing (Routledge, 2009) – co-authored with Sara Haslam

‘Reading film: An Angel at My Table’ a film adaptation case study – in The Handbook to Literary Research, 2nd edition (eds. Delia Da Sousa Correa and W.R.Owens Routledge/OU 2009) 

Creative Writing: a workbook with readings (ed. Linda Anderson, Routledge/Open University, 2006) 
Major contributing author - chapters on the creative process, fiction and life writing. 

Start Writing Essays – co-authored (Open University online - 2003)



The Book of GuardiansMafia!Life Writing


Six new stories on ‘Cutalongstory’ – new short story site: forthcoming

The Book of Guardians (Salt) (2012)

‘The Barber’s Victim’ in Raconteur (vol 6, 1996) 
‘Land of Their Fathers’ in Debatable Lands (Panurge, 1994) 
‘Violin Lessons’ in Mafia (1993, UEA)


A Creative Writing Handbook: developing dramatic technique, individual style and voice (A&C Black/Open University, 2009)

Writing for stage and film (DVD – Pier Productions/OU, 2008)

Start Writing Plays (Open University online, 2004)

‘Prose from Cons’ (1994) and ‘The Write Mode’ (1996) - both in-house collections of prison writing from HMP Wayland

Mafia - co-edited (UEA and Eastern Arts, 1993)


‘Short stories in the academy: mimesis, diegesis and the role of drama and film’. In Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, 2(1-2) (2012)

‘Being in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts: negative capability and the place of the imagination in the academy today.’  In Writing in Education (56) (2012)

‘Writing and dreaming primary and primal scenes.’  In New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 10(1) (2012)

‘Writing and remembering: paradoxes of memory, imagination and fiction in stories about lives.’  In Literature Compass, 8(12) (2011)

‘Adaptation and Montage.’ In Writing in Education (53) (2011)

‘Tributes and Testimonies.’ In Writing in Education (53) (2011)

‘Writing a Wicked Commentary’ in Writing in Education (41) (2007)


Academic adviser on the BBC World Service International Radio Playwriting Competition – broadcasts forthcoming (2014)

Roundtable discussion about creativity (2012)

Interview with author: in conversation with Iain Banks at the Cheltenham Literature Festival (2011)

Interviewed by publisher (about A Creative Writing Handbook) and the relationship between drama and fiction. (2009)

Academic adviser on the Radio 3 series ‘Ian McMillan’s Writing Lab’ (2008-9)

Interviewer and academic editor for CDs –

Writing Plays (Pier Productions/OU 2008) 
Radio, Film and Fiction (Pier Productions/OU 2008) 
Start Writing Plays: Interviews with Playwrights (BBC/OU 2004)

Contributing Interviewer/ editor for CDs –

Fiction Writing: Interviews with Novelists (Pier Productions/OU 2006) 
Life Writing: Interviews with life writers (Pier Productions/OU 2006) 
Start Writing Fiction: Interviews with Novelists (BBC/OU 2004)


Teaching interests

Contributing to the Start Writing suite of courses (A174-6), I also wrote on fiction, life writing and the writing process for Creative Writing (A215). I am Chair of Advanced Creative Writing (A363), and contributed teaching chapters and interviews on fiction, film, stage and radio writing. I also contributed to the English MA and was the OU’s Director of Teaching for English, 2010-13.

Presently developing a creative writing MOOC (mass online open course) and writing materials for a module on Creativity and English Language, some of my OU teaching materials are available on OpenLearn, including: from A215, Writing what you know and audio tracks from Start Writing.

Impact and engagement

I regularly engage in discussions and give readings from my own work, for instance, in relation to The Book of Guardians ­at Norwich Millennium Library, Kingston University and Chichester University. I also engage in public discussion about writing, see for instance an extended interview - in conversation with Iain Banks - from the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I have also appeared as guest blogger on The Writers' and Artists' Yearbookwebsite, posting writing exercises on Making a sceneFinding a voice, and Splicing the strands. These have been combined and expanded into an article on Developing Your Style.

Recent engagements:

2013 Nov
National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) York 
Launch of short story website – reading and NAWE HE networking event.

2013 May
Bath Spa University
HEA Creative Writing early career seminar – presented on Creative Writing and Research

2013 March
Boston, US Association of Writers and Writing Programmes (AWP)
‘Emergences: Ambiguity, uncertainty, entropy and creativity – chasing an image’, speaking on a NAWE (UK) panel.

2012 Nov
Norwich Millennium Library
In association with Norfolk County Council, Waterstones and Salt Publishing – public reading from The Book of Guardians.

2012 Nov
Chichester University
The Book of Guardians, a reading and discussion – public and postgraduate research and writing seminar.

2012 Aut
Institute of English Studies, UCL, London.
Chaired seminar series at the Institute for English Studies, UCL on Life writing: borderlands between fact and fiction, including the following writers and scholars: Adam Foulds, Prof. Robert Fraser, Rachel Cusk, Dr Nigel Warburton, Blake Morrison, Dr Charles Fernyhough.

2011 Nov
‘Under the Page: Bringing the personal into the Critical’, panel presentation at the NAWE annual conference.

2011 Nov
Kingston University
Centre for Life Narratives research and reading series, invited speaker – ‘Guardian of memory: the novelist as life writer’, reading and discussion ofThe Book of Guardians.

2011 April
Université d’Angiers, France 
‘Short Stories in the Academy: Mimesis, Diegesis and the Role of Drama’; conference presentation  – ‘The Figure of the Author in Short Stories in English’

2011 Feb
Washington DC, AWP
‘Being in Uncertainties, Mysteries and Doubts: Negative Capability and the Role of the Imagination in the Academy Today’, speaking on a NAWE (UK) panel.

2010 Nov
NAWE, Cheltenham
2 presentations - ‘Writing from experience, writing from history: approaches in practice, learning and teaching’ and Adaptation, storytelling and the poetry of montage’.

2010 May
International Auto/Biography Association (IABA), University of Sussex
‘Writing and Remembering: paradoxes of memory and fiction in stories about lives.’ – conference presentation