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Genomics Forum · Creative Space

Pippa Goldschmidt


2009 - 2010

‘GM Fiction’, short story competition and book; Genomics Forum poetry competition

Pippa Goldschmidt, Residency Review 2009 - 2010

Pippa Goldschmidt reviews her period as Writer in Residence 2009 - 2010 

Being a writer in residence with Ken has been a fanastic experience - and its not over yet.

In 2009, I ran a Poetry Competition which attracted a huge range of different types of stories, inspired by different aspects of genetics. I also ran workshops for social scientists and medical practitioners to encourage them to use fiction to provide a new way of seeing their work. These two aspects of my activities summarise what I’m trying to do as a writer in residence - encourage academics who are used to writing in more formal ways to exercise their creative muscles, and encourage fiction writers to explore new subject matter.

As I hoped when I started work as a writer in residence here, I’ve found the subject of genetics inspirational for my own writing; some of my flash fictions can be found on the Human Genre Project.

In 2010, Ken and I gave a talk at the Science Communication Conference (organised by the BSA) about our work, based on the briefings we’ve written:

Using Creative Writing to Promote Discussion about Genomics

We launched a successful Poetry competition on the subject of ‘improving the human’ which attracted global interest, and organised an event at the Holyrood Festival of Politics (in August) on the governments’ use of immigrants’ and asylum seekers’ DNA to confirm their nationalities and familial relations.

Although no longer an a 'paid' writer in residence I am delighted that I am able to continung working alongside Forum colleagues.

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GM Fiction

GM Fiction This collection of new fiction writing celebrates the winning and shortlisted entries from a genomics short story competition run by the ESRC Genomics Forum in 2009.

Press release - UK’s first genomics short story competition winner named

The competition was inspired by Forum Writer in Residence Pippa Goldschmidt’s interest in how science is represented in fiction, and how fiction writers respond to the challenge of including scientific knowledge or fantasy in their narratives.

The Forum invited authors to let their imaginations lose on the weird and wonderful sounding Zipper, Mad/Max, Hip/Hop, Agnostic, Mindbomb, Tigger and Disheveled Zinc Finger genes and write a story inspired by genetics.  Entrants were also encouraged to consider how, and if, we understand the impact of genetic information on our everyday lives and whether our understanding of who we are is affected by the knowledge that we share so much of our genetic makeup with other animals as well as vegetables such as fruit flies, mice and even pumpkins.

First prize: The Test by Ben Smart (PDF, 228 kB?)

Second prize: Most Likely To... by Anna Faherty (PDF, 478 kB?)

Joint third prize: Phrenology, or the causes of crime by Jonathan Gibbs (PDF, 438 kB?)

Joint third prize:Original Mike’s Coffee Shop by Patrick Hudson (PDF, 655 kB?)

Runners up (in no order):

Unnatural Selection by Kate Tough (PDF, 541 kB?)

Killer Genes by Sarah Shaw (PDF, 604 kB?)

Living with Cally by Penny Feeny (PDF, 1,347 kB?)

The Problem Child by Neil James Hudson (PDF, 395 kB?)


Short story competition- Judges report (PDF, 11 kB)

The judging panel was: Lin Anderson (crime writer), Dr Joan Haran (social scientist at Cesagen, University of Cardiff), Dr Elizabeth Patton (Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit & University of Edinburgh) and Professor Simon van Heyningen (vice principal for teaching and learning, and biochemist, University of Edinburgh).?

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Poetry Competition Winners

Winners of the ESRC Genomics Forum Poetry Competition 2010, were announced during a reception held on Saturday 29 January 2011 at the Scottish Poetry Library.?

First Prize:        Sophie Cooke, Edinburgh - Forward Deck (PDF, 12 KB)

Second Prize:    Nina Boyd, Yorkshire - Digital (PDF, 9 KB)

Third Prize:  
    Russell Jones, Edinburgh - Chromosome Medley (PDF, 13 KB)

Photo of Sophie Cook and Steve Sturdy
Credit Chris Scott

Sophie Cook and Steve Sturdy. Photo credit Chris Scott Honourable mentions (in no order):

Scott Edward Anderson - Improving the Human: The Poet Gene (PDF, 12 KB)

Katie Gooch- Made (PDF, 15 KB)

Ron Howland - One of those (PDF, 11 KB)

Ami Roseingrave - Unchained melody of genes (PDF, 12 KB)

Tony Williams - Improvements(PDF, 11 KB)

Hosted in partnership with the Scottish Poetry Library, the competition received over 200 entries from across the globe including America, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Uganda and India.

Read Poetry Competition press release - Winning poem offers a new twist on `improving the human’

A competition report (PDF, 22 KB) was complied by the judging panel consisting of Pippa Goldschmidt (writer and Genomics Forum Writer in Residence) the inspiration behind the competition, Kona Macphee (poet), Professor Steve Yearley (Director ESRC Genomics Forum) and Peggy Hughes (Communications Officer, Scottish Poetry Library).

Read Poetry Competition launch press release - Improving the human? New poetry competition for 2010?

?Biographies of Prize Winners

Sophie Cooke is an Edinburgh-based poet, short story writer, and novelist. Her poetry has previously appeared in the magazines Product and Gutter. She performed at the recent Hidden Door festival in the Roxy Art House. Sophie's novels The Glass House and Under The Mountain have been published by Random House; The Glass  House being shortlisted for the Saltire First Book of the Year Award. Her short stories have been published in numerous anthologies and magazines, and have been broadcast on BBC Radio. This is the first time she has been shortlisted for a poetry prize. Sophie is originally from Callander, in Stirlingshire, and studied at the University of Edinburgh. She currently lives in Newington. Further details at www.myspace.com/sophiecooke

Nina Boyd lives in Huddersfield, where she is an active member of a thriving poetry community.  She was the overall winner of the 2009 Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Competition.  Her first collection, Dear Mr Asquith, was published by Smith/Doorstop Books in 2010.  For more information visit www.ninaboyd.com

Russell Jones is an Edinburgh-based writer and researcher. He is currently investigating the science fiction poetry of Edwin Morgan whilst tutoring in Scottish Literature at Edinburgh University. Russell's collection of science fiction poems, The Last Refuge, was published in 2009 (Forest Press) and his work has won recognition in a number of international competitions including the Eric Gregory Award (2007),The Bridport Prize (2007-2009) and the Writer’s Bureau Poetry Competition (2010). Russell's research interests are in contemporary poetry and poetic form and he has given talks across the UK on the interactions of science and literature. He currently co-moderates writersdock.org 's poetry department and writes articles on children's literature for therustykey.com . His ramblings can be followed on his blog: poetrusselljones.blogspot.com?

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Photo-poetry pilot

Photo-poetry pilot

What happens when two geneticists, two creative writers, a design artist and a photographer work together? We are about to find out as an exploratory art-science pilot project on photo-poetry begins.

Art-science is about bringing artists and scientists together to be creative about research. Together, the collaborators produce artworks that aim to challenge some common notions about scientific issues and their relation to society. Art-science hopes to create links between diverse knowledge, people, spaces, and techniques from the arts and the sciences.

Participants set out to develop artworks and to reflect on the processes of how their ideas developed and became pieces of art. Two social scientists record the challenges and opportunities of working at the interface of arts, genomic sciences, and social sciences.

Photo-poetry creates bricolages of visual and textual interpretations of an issue. It produces images that go beyond pictures. It uses metaphors and challenges common ones. It is a method that is yet to fully emerge. We invented the term to have a short-hand for a malleable method with which we work in this art-science project.

Our project aims to understand how cross-disciplinary collaboration might help participants reflect on their everyday research and work; to what extent the art-science interface can help to challenge some common perceptions about DNA, genes, chromosomes and genetic heritage; and the role of facilitation for art-science experiments.

The duration of the work is very short, consisting of several workshops and team meetings outside of these. The first workshop took place on 17 March 2012, at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle upon Tyne. Collaborators explored their views on arts, writing and genomic sciences, and how they might interact in developing ideas for art works. View the summary poster from the first event (PDF, 293 kB)

*Project Update post Orkney Science Festival - September 2012*

After three pilot project workshops and several individual meetings between March and August 2012 the three teams of artists and scientists participating in the project have each produced, together with a team of dedicated designers, an idea-poster:

These posters discuss their emergent thoughts and influences as well as some of the ways they have worked in developing their artworks. These posters represent a reflection on the invisible - and in art and science often non-disclosed - creative work in engaging with a complex subject matter. They are not artwork yet show artful engagement with the difficult task of opening up thinking processes between the reflection on a complex scientific field and the development of art-science works.

* Project Update – December 2012*

Matthias Wienroth and Pippa Goldschmidt held a workshop for Scottish Government researchers at Victoria Quay, Edinburgh, on 12 December 2012. At this event, Matthias and Pippa shared their experiences of observing, facilitating, and participating in, work that involves artists, scientists and social researchers (the Photo-poetry Pilot project). The aim of the workshop was to suggest ways of making such collaborative work between people with very different expertises more fruitful.

* Project Update – March 2013*

The picture below is one of the outputs from the team of Marianne Wilde (artist) and Volker Straub (clinical geneticist). Their team project, ‘Shadowlands’, uses MRI scans to explore the different perspectives viewers have of the same image. The trained eye of the scientist saw each muscle and bone whilst the artist perceived a kaleidoscopic pattern of light and shadows. Take a look at their earlier poster above under ‘Team 3: Shadowlands’.