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Reflecting on Suffolk Reflections

To see my words and my name in print is such a surreal experience and it feels quite fulfilling

to have a team at University of Suffolk dedicated to helping writers begin their careers.

Initially I had two completely different ideas for my reflective piece, one focused on Crazy Mary’s Gap in Pakefield and the other, the Lost City of Dunwich. These two bodies of water were already being covered by other writers which resulted in me being back at square one. However, my lecturer, Lindsey Scott, reached out and asked whether I would be interested in writing about the river Alde, but more specifically the ‘devil lights’ that plagued the water centuries ago. Lindsey was aware that ghost stories were something that I had a great interest in, something we had spoken about during my undergraduate degree.

During my research, I accessed the few files on Saint Botolph at the Suffolk Archives in The Hold, Ipswich. Once I had begun researching, I became enamoured with the story of Saint Botolph and the tale of his mighty battle against the devil and the ‘devil phantoms’ that rose from the riverbed at Icanho (now named Iken). I knew that I wanted to write something that was reminiscent of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, to blend the line between reality and superstition but this proved increasingly difficult.

As a writer that is also interested in editing, working with the team to produce a finalised concept has given me insight into these two aspects of writing which I believe will benefit my future projects. There were many drafts prior to the final outcome, many that focused on the narrator remaining third-person omniscient, but after a discussion with Amanda Hodgkinson, we agreed that it would be more evocative if the narrator was Saint Botolph himself. I believe this made it easier to blend that line between reality and superstition, as the haunting had felt real to Botolph and there was no doubt in his mind that he was banishing the devil from Icanho. Many researchers believe that the devil phantoms were in fact marsh gases that disappeared due to Botolph draining the land, but this was an element of reality I did not wish to include. As the story progressed and I reflected on the comments given to me by the editors of the anthology, I became more confident in my ability as a writer and felt that I was creating something I would like to read.

Holding a copy of Suffolk Reflections and seeing my story in print feels like the beginning of something that I had been working on for years, to be a writer and create stories that I am proud of. This opportunity is just one of many positive opportunities afforded to the MA English students at University of Suffolk, and I would strongly urge anybody interested in studying a Master’s to apply here because the members of the English and Creative writing team are completely invested in their students.

Charlie Brodie

Charlie Brodie is currently writing a queer adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. They are also partnering with The Hold in Ipswich to curate and showcase an art and literature exhibition that highlights Suffolk Queer Voices through the theme of Metamorphosis. They are also the main editor for an upcoming queer anthology, Suffolk Pride: We Are the One in Five.


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