Term 1 Assignment: MA Creative Writing Summary

After spending the first eight weeks of the course working on the core skills and techniques, it was time for the assignment.

The assigment was in two parts; participation, which was related to how active you were on the forums, discussions and workshops, and also written work which was a body of your own creative writing (4000 words) and a personal creative writing ‘manifesto’ (2000).

I had planned to write a short story for the creative writing element but, at the last moment, took a risk to update the first chapter of my novel and use that – after all it would be marked by published authors and it gave me the chance to get some excellent feedback.

The manifesto itself, which can be found here, I found quite difficult simply because I felt I had to tell someone how writing should be and I don’t have any authority to do it.  The only way I could complete this was to convince myself that this manifesto was personal only to me.

All-in-all, I felt this first term was very successful for me. I learned a lot about the basics of writing and picked up some good knowledge on my own work (and others) via the use of the workspaces.  The writing exercises kept me busy and the reading material was, in the main, intersting and worthwhile.


Term 1, Week 8 : MA Creative Writing Summary

Week 8 was the culmination of the previous weeks whereby we worked on our Creative Manifesto.

Apart from the completion of the manifesto and the submission, there were some simple aims to cover the other aspects of study that we’d been doing. These included learning more about presenting manuscripts to a professional standard, continuing to provide feeback to our peers and working with our tutor to develop the final manifesto.

The writing exercise was just about polishing the manifesto and making sure it read correctly, and that there were no glaring errors in it.

In terms of reflection, I did enjoy this first term and it certainly opened my eyes up to aspects of writing that I hadn’t given a though to, especially the manifesto weeks.  I discovered new ways of just starting to write, via rituals, and I also enjoyed the work spent in gathering ideas though the different mediums.

I do have to admit that I found the manifesto work quite difficult.  I very much feel that creative writing is a personal action which means I find it difficult to tell people how they should do it.  That’s quite ironic seeing as I’m doing a creative writing course, but I see that as someone telling me where a destination is, but then letting me choose whichever route to that destination that I prefer.  Now, with a manifesto, I got the feeling that I was being asked to tell people what is wrong, and what isn’t.

Still, I did enjoy working on the manifesto and I’m glad that I completed it. I’ll get it added to a page at the top of the blog in next couple of days so people can read it and let me know what they think.

Next week, I’ll be posting the notes I made from term 2, Writing and the Self.


Term 1, Week 7: MA Creative Writing Summary

Week 7 was the final week of our work towards the end-of-term assignment; Creating a personal writing manifesto. This particular week leaned more toward discussions of other creative manifestos and had less content which allowed us to concentrate more on our own manifesto.

The weekly video was an interview with the senior curator at MIMA, the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, a chap called Miguel Amado. I felt this was a very awkward interview for a number of reasons. Firstly, Miguel stated that his favourite word was black, and that he has only ever worn black clothes since he was a teenager. Furthermore, he suggested that this was an extension of his personality – something I found very difficult to understand, especially as his work in modern art must introduce him to colour on a daily basis. Secondly, I thought the manifesto discussion was very much politically biased, discussing topics such as ‘Futurismo, the Communist manifesto by Marx and Engels, and the Cannibalist manifesto. I have to admit this was a very deep interview; I’m not very politically motivated and, whilst I do respect his views, they aren’t something that I can relate to.

There were no keywords for this week which I found comforting as my mind had been blown to bits by the weekly video by that point.

The writing exercise for this week was a group-based exercise where we all had to come together to form a group manifesto. As with all of the workspace tasks, there is no right or wrong answer, and there is a healthy amount of respect paid to all who post in it. Due to this, I felt that our own groups manifesto was quite poor, being little more than individual statements that we posted with no-one willing to argue, nor discuss, what anyone else had written. I think we missed a great opportunity with this being so close to our assignment work.

Supporting materials pointed us in the direction of the Imagist Poets, which was a group of poets brought together as a school of images. It seemed to be quite a brief movement as critics marked it from 1908 – 1917. The rest of the reading material were references to the manfiestos that Miguel mentioned during his interview and also a look at the ways that MIMA is using localism, useful art and arte util.

As the workshop this week was the group exercise, there were no individual critiques at all. So I’m still waiting for any comments.

Term 1, Week 6: MA Creative Writing Summary

Weeks 6 and 7 both work together to present us with the idea of a manifesto for our writing. I have to admit that I never really thought of a writing manifesto but as the week went on, I did begin to feel like it was something I could get to grips with.

The keywords for this week included manifest, beliefs, values and voice – all quite clear attributes for a manifesto-based introduction. They helped provide the thought process that we would need to go through when thinking about a manifesto.

The content for this week did seem to ramp up quite a bit. Firstly there was the weekly video presented by our tutor, Sophie Nicholls. This was really an introduction to the manifesto topic and an explanation about the various sources we could use to view other manifestos. Ironically, we saw a simple manifesto with regards to writing which was simply ‘let go’. Whilst I could relate to this, the idea of having to write a 2,000 word one for an assignment felt a bit daunting. There was also a further video present by guest tutor, Jim Poyner, who had introduced us to his photography and his style of ‘roaming’ in a previous week.

The writing exercises were quite simple but we easily identifiable as being aimed at developing a manifesto. They were all prompts that we were expected to finish, such as ‘I believe..’, ‘I want…’, and ‘writing can…‘. There were also some more thought-provoking prompts, such as ‘what would you have written on your epitaph?’ and ‘If your manifesto had a voice, how would it speak?’.

Supporting materials were mainly website links to various manifestos but there were also a few relating to the Ars Poetica which is poem written by Horace in 19BC that advises us on the art of writing – very similar to how our manifesto could work.

My short story, Steal in the Night, didn’t make it into the workshop critique this week as there were already some works presented by others. Guess I’ll just have to wait for my turn.

End of Term #1 – Creative Writing MA Summary

Wow, it’s all gone so quick, where has all the time gone? I had planned and putting out a more detailed weekly update on the blog, but work and study have meant I struggled to do it so I’ve opted for a summary of each week which I hope to get out over the next eight days or so.

I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed this term and found it great to be back in the discussion forums and workspaces with other authors.  As writing can often be quite a solitary task, I do tend to miss being somewhat interactive and being able to see how other authors write, and think, about a particular subject gives you an insight into the workings of other minds.

Moreover, our online tutor, interviewed a number of other people during the term and I got to see how the creative mind works in other mediums, such as script/play writing and photography.  Being able to fire questions out to these guests and pull out some invaluable answers was an excellent way to find out about these mediums worked, something that I’d never really been exposed to.

The reading list for this course is HUGE and although I’ve been told I don’t need to read every book on the list (and many excerpts / books are provided in the online library) I do have an an old dusty shelf that needs to be kept occupied.  Second-hand, almost all the books cost me less than £50 which isn’t too expensive and pales into significance when you consider the costs for the MA itself, as well as the time I’ve chosen to invest in it.

The term culminated in a piece of graded writing split into two parts; a Manifesto, which I plan to put on the blog once it’s been marked, and a piece of prose for which I re-wrote the first chapter of my novel based on the techniques and skills that I’d picked up.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable eight weeks that has flown by and I can’t wait for term #2, Writing and the Self to begin.

Studying for an MA in Creative Writing

So, the good news about my studies is that I’ve been accepted onto an MA for Creative Writing; something that I’m really excited about. I’ll be starting the course very soon and will be studying with Teesside University. I had a number of chats with the tutor, Dr Sophie Nicholls, and it all just felt very ‘right’.

The MA details can be found here; Creative Writing MA Distance Learning

I’ve decided to take it over two years; the first year covering all of the pre-requisite knowledge and the second year will be a final project that I’m looking forward to. I’ve even been out and got fresh notebooks and pens ready for the start.

The only person who was a bit worried about it all was my son who, just going into his own final year of University, caught me reading the information about fresher’s week and panicked at the thought of me attending. I set his mind at ease quickly enough, but the thought of a paint party did pique my interest.

A Rejection letter I wasn’t expecting

It seems that Manchester Metroplitan University aren’t offering me a spot on their MA in Creative Writing. I’m not sure how to feel about this.

I want to be angry, I want to ask what the reason was, and I want to ask why they never responded to my phonecalls and emails since mid July asking about my application. To receive a letter of exactly six lines less than a week before the course was due to start doesn’t feel fair. I supplied 2000 words of prose, I completed their application form, I asked people to write references on my behalf and I saved up the fees in advance so I wouldn’t suffer financially through the year.

As it turns out, although the letter wished me the best and hoped their decision wouldn’t affect my future aspirations, the reality is that it has. All of the alternate courses have now closed their registrations for this year, apart from one which is charging almost triple the fees.

Being reflective, the letter has also made me think about my writing and whether it is good enough. I’ve always been accepted onto my academic courses without an issue and this one rejection has hit me hard. Now I’m wondering whether I should concentrate more on my new role at work and put my writing apsirations on the back-burner.

Fortunately, the stubbon part of me won’t let me do it. The stubborn part of me wishes to thank the MMU for the kick in the pants and wants to remind me that many authors have succeeded without any formal qualifications whatsoever. It wants to prove the MMU wrong.

So, I’m going to turn this frown upside-down and use the letter to my advantage. Whilst I forgo another academic year to apply for an MA in English Literature (I’m not specialising as much next time), I’m going to bleed the internet dry of online creative writing courses and use this time to build up my own academic exposure. If I can’t hope for the MMU to help me, then I’ll do it myself.

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go.

500 word book review… check!

2000 word short story… check!

2 references from professional organisations… check!

Finally completed my application to study the MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).  If successful, the eternal student in me will be getting out of the box again in early September.  Unfortunately, as I have a family and a full time job, I’ll be utilising distance learning so the eternal student will only be packing his virtual bags. It doesn’t bother me too much though having passed my previous degrees in a similar manner, as well as the Future Learn course that I’m currently doing.

However, this time just feels different.  I’m not sure if it’s because the MA is specific to Creative Writing and will focus on areas that I’m really excited to understand, or whether it’s because it’s a different university (all my previous qualifications were from The Open University).

The application process is certainly different; there was no need for reviews / references with my previous university (although I think that is because they focus more on the mature-student) and then, of course, there is the money.  I was fortunate(?) to have passed one degree when the UK fees were still quite cheap, and was in the middle of another when the fees increased sharply.  The Open University honoured the lower fees so I’ve been quite lucky, especially when the post-graduate fees haven’t increased so they are still (somewhat) affordable.

I do know this is going to be my first real venture on the path to becoming a writer and, to some extent, a lecturer. This is my first career gamble; I spent years building a career in IT and Computing, only to find myself in a role where I sit on the sand watching the tide of technologies come and go without ever getting my feet wet. I liken it to working in a library but being told you can never open the books.

I’ve played it quite safe so far with fairly generic degrees (IT & Computing, English Literature & Language) so this will be my first specialised step toward a goal and that is what I think is causing the butterflies in my stomach.

“Go to where you do not know what you do not know. That is where you will find all your opportunities.” (Jeffrey Fry)