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PhD in Creative Writing

School of Arts

University of Leicester

Thesis Title: Shaping Storyness: developing a preclosural approach to the process of writing short fiction

Thesis Description:

Short stories are all about endings; my research-led creative project will explore the ways in which the experience of reading and writing short fiction, more than any other form, is tied more directly to closure than to any other element or effect. My initial reading study of ‘preclosure‘ (those points in a narrative where readers feel the story could end) in the British short story tradition will explore how 'staging of closure‘ has evolved since the genre’s beginnings. The data from this study will then be used to formulate cognitive preclosural methodologies for the writing of short fiction.

The creative component of my thesis will be a collection of twelve short stories written using the cognitive, preclosural methodologies identified in the initial reading study. The collection will be comprised of four groups of three stories and each group of three will be crafted following the distinct and specific structural, linguistic and cognitive frameworks and trends identified within the reading study’s four periods of focus. Once completed, the finished stories, whose writing process will feature a conscious crafting of preclosure where such crafting is usually intuitive and unconscious, will be the subject of a closing critical study to ascertain the benefits of such methodologies and possible applications to pedagogy of the short form.

The initial reading study, the practical element, and the closing critical analysis of the writing process developed and the stories produced will combine to provide new insight into the utility of this approach for both author-practitioners and teachers of short fiction writing. Closural sentences are key constructors of meaning and this research drives to the heart of how that meaning is controlled by both reader and writer.

My research will ask:

  • Does the British short story tradition demonstrate use of ‘closural sentences’ with distinct structural and linguistic features which change over time?
  • Can identified structures and patterns of closural staging in British short fiction inform the development of cognitive methodologies for writing in the form? Can the linguistic trends identified through analysis of closural sentences in British short fiction inform the development of cognitive methodologies for writing in the form?
  • Is there a benefit for author-practitioners in writing stories using these methodologies? Is it useful to make this creative process, usually intuitive and unconscious, part of conscious practice?
  • How might such a cognitive approach to writing short fiction inform the pedagogy of writing in the form?


Supervisors and Institutions:

  • Dr Jonathan Taylor (University of Leicester)

  • Thomas Legendre (University of Nottingham)

  • Professor Michael Toolan (University of Birmingham)


Short fiction collections:

  • Looking Out of Broken Windows (Salt, 2014)

Individual stories included in anthologies/literary journals:

  • 'Adopt the Brace Position' - doppelgänger 1 (April 2018)
  • 'The Ideal Husband Exhibition' - The London Magazine (August/September 2017, pg. 22-30) -
  •  'All the TVs in Town' - The End : Fifteen Endings to Fifteen Paintings (Unthank Books, 2016, pg. 209-224)
  • 'A Father’s Arms' - Being Dad : Short Stories About Fatherhood (Tangent Books, 2016, pg. 11-36)
  • 'Dancing to the Shipping Forecast' - Bath Short Story Award Anthology 2015 (Brown Dog Books, 2015, pg. 9-15)
  • 'The Old Fashioned Hat' - The Lonely Crowd issue 2 (2015)
  • 'Free Hardcore' - Unthology 7 (Unthanks Books, 2015, pg. 71-76)
  • 'Rip Rap' - New Short Stories 8 (Pretend Genius Press, 2014, pg. 111-132)
  • 'Storm in a Teacup' - The Salt Anthology of Short Stories 2013 (Salt, 2013, pg. 120-138)
  • 'Suspended Sentence' - Structo 9 (Structo, Winter/Spring 2013, pg. 23-27)
  • 'Half-mown Lawn' - The Best British Short Stories 2012 (Salt, 2012, pg. 61-66)
  • 'The John School' - Dirty Bristow 2 (Dirty Bristow, 2011, pg. 60-64)
  • 'Connecting' - The View From Here 35 (TVFH, 2011)
  • 'Third Party Fire & Theft' - Neon Literary Magazine 25 (Neon, 2010, pg.16-22)
  • 'Breaking Distance' - The View From Here 25 (TVFH, 2010)

Peer-reviewed academic journal articles:

Powell, D. (2019), 'Writing a short story, the preclosural way', JAWS: Journal of Arts Writing by Students, 5:2, pp. 211-223., doi:10.1386/jaws_00009_1

Critical essays and reviews:

Conference papers:


  • 'Shaping stories: how preclosure theory can support and influence writing and its pedagogy - National Association of Writers in Education Annual Conference 2019, York, 8-10 November 2019
  • The shape of the British short story in the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century: developing a preclosural methodology for writing short fiction' - European Network for Short Fiction Research International Conference 2019, Montpellier, 17-19 October 2019


  • 'The shape of the British short story in the mid-C20th: developing a preclosural methodology for writing short fiction' - Poetics and Linguistics Association Conference 2019, Liverpool, 10-14 July 2019


  • ‘Shaping Contemporary Storyness: developing a preclosural methodology for writing contemporary short fiction’ –  15th International Conference on the Short Story in English, Lisbon, 26-30 June 2018
  • 'A real imagined coastline: setting, the creative process, and how the real becomes imagined becomes real' - Orientations: A Conference of Narrative and Place, 30-31 May 2018  

Public Engagement:


  • The Brilliant Club - Oasis Academy Wintringham, Grimsby
  • First Story writer-in-residence, Judgemeadow Community College, Leicester


  • Writing workshops at British School Belgium Book Week 2018
  • First Story writer-in-residence, Judgemeadow Community College, Leicester


  • First Story writer-in-residence, Judgemeadow Community College, Leicester
  • Panel and writing workshop at Hive Young Writers Festival 2018, Rotherham
  • Writing workshops targeting GCSE exam writing component at Newark Academy
  • ‘Bridging the Gap – Short Stories to Novel’ workshop, Writing School East Midlands
  • Participant in 2017 CapeUK/First Story research project into writing workshop pedagogical strategies


  • First Story Writer-in-Residence, Skegness Academy, Lincolnshire
  • ‘Setting’ workshop at Wolds Words 2016
  • Arvon Tutor, First Story Creative Writing Residential, Totleigh Barton
  • Teaching Creative Writing CPD workshop at Teach First Summer Institute
  • Readings at PowWow Festival
  • Arvon Tutor, First Story Creative Writing Residential, Lumb Bank
  • participant in 2017 CapeUK/First Story research project into writing workshop pedagogical strategies 


  • Writing and Character workshop, Wolds Words Literary Festival
  • Writer/Tutor, First Story Summer Residential
  • ‘Engaging the Disengaged through Writing’ CPD workshops, NATE National Conference
  • First Story Writer-in-Residence at Banovallum School, Lincolnshire


  • ‘Writing Short Stories’ workshop at Wolds Words Literary Festival
  •  Readings at Lincoln Inspired Festival
  • ‘The Weird and Wonderful World of Short Stories’ panel, The London Short Story Festival
  • ‘Flash Fiction’ workshop,Oxted Literary Festival
  • ‘Writing Short Fiction’ panel, Oxted Literary Festival
  • ‘Descriptive Writing’ and ‘Narrative Writing’ workshops with Year 11 students, John Spendluffe Technology College, Alford, Lincolnshire


  • ‘Writing Short Stories’, week long series of workshops with Year 9 students, Kings School, British Forces Germany

Prizes and awards:

  • The London Magazine Short Story Prize 2017 (3rd)
  • Thresholds Essay Prize 2016 (shortlisted)
  • Bath Short Story Award 2015 (2nd)
  • Thresholds Essay Prize 2015 (runner-up)
  • Edge Hill Prize 2015 (longlist)
  • Thresholds Essay Prize 2014 (runner-up)
  • The Willesden Herald Short Story Prize 2014 (shortlisted)
  • Carve Esoteric Award 2013
  • Thresholds Essay Prize 2013 (runner-up)
  • The Scott Prize 2013 (shortlisted)
  • The Salt Short Story Prize 2013 (runner-up)
  • The Yeovil Prize for Short Fiction 2010 (1st)
  • Winchester Writers Conference Short Story Award 2009 (2nd)

Other Research Interests:

  • Creative Writing pedagogy
  • Creative Writing and well being
  • Collaborative Creative Writing partnerships with other academic disciplines
  • Writing Residencies
  • Experimental Fiction


University email address:




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