A few days ago we had the launch party for our MA anthology, Bedford Square 5. The anthology is a showcase of the work produced by two years’ of Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA, and includes a mix of prose and poetry. It contains the first chapter of my novel.
The launch was a lot of fun. It was great to see lots of my MA group there, and also to meet a number of other students I hadn’t previously had the chance to meet. The event was organised by Susanna Jones, one of the tutors on the course and whose latest novel, When Nights Were Cold, has just been published. Adele Ward, the publisher of the anthology, was there, too, as was Andrew Motion, the MA director. I spoke briefly to him about Angela Carter, as she is one of my literary heros and he knew her before she sadly died, and about the poety taught in schools. There was at least one literary agent that I spoke to, but as I had expected from such an event, she was only interested in literary fiction.
I see the publication of such an anthology as less of an ego stroke, and more of a momento of the course. As I’ve said before, an anthology of extracts is not the kind of publication that will fly off the shelves, but it provides an example of the MA’s work for prospective students and for potential agents and publishers. For me, the launch party was more of a chance to see my fellow writing buddies again, and to imerse myself in the creative buzz of such a crowd – something that’s always energising to me.
But it’s also nice to know that part of my novel is already ‘out there’, waiting for the rest of it to join it one day…
Well, it’s been a couple of weeks. I promised to keep everyone updated on the MA and share the experience, and I feel a little guilty that I’ve had so much to say and no time to say it! (Seems like a reoccurring theme in my life…)
I’ll start at the beginning.
On Thursday 23rd September, I had my Induction. For this, I had to travel to the Royal Holloway University campus, which is in Egham. Quite far from my house. I was rather apprehensive about having to get there for 9am.
To make matters infinitely worse, despite having not been ill for the whole of 2010, the day before my induction I came down with a truly rotten, stinking cold. I could go into details – but I’ll try to keep a dignified silence.
So, my face swollen to the point that my teeth hurt in my jaw, and the apprehension of knowing I had to get up at 5am and navigate my way through unknown train lines, I barely slept a wink.
I was so close to not going. But I forced myself up at 4.45am (I was awake before my alarm, since I barely slept at all), and pumped myself full of medicine and phoned the taxi. No going back.
Too tired and too ill to eat, I waited for my taxi in the dark. It was late. I just about caught my train. I had a bitch of a journey. The university was a 20 min walk away from Egham station (according to Google maps), but they hadn’t accounted for the campus being up a huge hill, the fact that I was coughing up my own lung, and I hadn’t had any food. And that it was raining.
So I barely made it to the introductory lecture – which started 20 mins late anyway!
Turned out, the lecture really had nothing to do with Creative Writing. Waste of time.
With four hours to kill before the Creative Writing meeting, it then became apparent that I was meant to register. Where and how, no-one seemed to know!
After being sent on several circular journeys, and realising that I (as well as many of the other Creative Writing students) hadn’t been sent any information about registration and therefore didn’t have the right documents with me, I finally got it all sorted, but not before seriously considering yelling ‘Screw your damn MA!’ and going home.
I’m a grumpy, impatient (and at that moment, self-pityingly ill) person. I can’t help it.
BUT, the Creative Writing talk reignited my faith. It sounded good, it sounded fun. Everyone on the course seemed really nice. There was a ‘welcome party’ in one of the conference rooms with wine and nibbles, where I chatted to some people in my group. It was all good, apart from the fact I was losing my voice and sounded rather like a teenage boy whose voice was breaking. Good first impressions, I think.
We then had a (pretty pointless) computer session. I was invited out for coffee afterwards, which I would have gladly gone to, but by that point I could barely whisper, and had a 3-hour journey home ahead of me, and was ready to fall to the floor, so I made my way hurriedly home.
The following Monday, we had our first seminar. Of course, I got lost on the way to the central London-based building, but got there in the end. The building is rather shabby (the campus was much, much nicer!), but one of my classmates commented on how typical it was for a University of London building…! Fair enough!
We have two seminars each Monday. My tutor is Susanna Jones (author of The Earthquake Bird among other novels), for both the workshop and the Supplementary Discourse modules. There was some confusion about which group was getting what tutor for what module due to conflicting paperwork, but the tutors seemed oblivious to this! Susanna seems like a great tutor. I’m happy.
My group is 8-strong, though we have been 1 short for the past few weeks. A good size, I think.
The first Monday was quite introductory, but we had our first ‘real’ seminars this week. But I’ll leave that for another post…
Things are hectic as usual, and there are some big changes happening. Recently, I was accepted onto the Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway, University of London. (Woo hoo! – Looks like Hogwarts, don’t it?). Last week, I handed in my notice at work.
Many, many people think I have a screw loose. Leaving paid employment at a big publishing house, in a national economical crisis, to go back to being a broke student, and to study such a flopsy subject like ‘creative writing’?
Yes, I can see how that sounds crazy.
But it is something I have been considering for a long time. It is my dream to be a published author, and if I don’t try to achieve that dream, I’ll regret it. I would rather fail knowing that I’ve tried than not try at all.
But an MA won’t make you into a published author, I hear you cry. Indeed. I know that. I know the pros and cons, and I know the risk. (And boy do I know the financial risk!) But the way I see it, I’m investing in time to write, and legitimacy to write (somehow I don’t think my mum would approve if I just quit my job to write – at least at the end of this I will have another qualification). And hopefully, I’m also investing in a creative, supportive environment. I felt I got a lot out of my BA, so I’m hoping I will suit being in the MA environment.
Now is the right time for me. Firstly, I want to get in quick before the fees go up. Secondly, I squared it with my lovely mother so that I could live at home for another year (paying a bit of rent), which means my living costs will be minimal. I shall commute into London. Thirdly, I have a good year’s publishing experience under my belt now, which will hopefully help me get another job after I complete the MA. Fourthly, I have a few contacts now, who I believe I can draw on for some freelance work so that I can keep a bit of cash coming in.
So fingers crossed that I’ll get what I’m looking for out of this.
Funnily enough, I have published an article in the second issue of Inkspill Magazine called ‘Creative Writing Courses: What are they good for?’ by Charles Christian, which has some less up-beat views about creative writing courses than my hopeful post here.
The PDF eVersion of Inkspill Magazine is available now. As some of you may know, I have been experiencing some trouble getting the printed copies of this issue, but thankfully that is nearly sorted and they should be on their way soon. Issue 1 is on sale at the moment to compensate the delay of issue 2! Please buy it. I am soon to be a very broke student!