Masters of the Universe?

Previous visitors to the blog will recall that I completed my last MA module in January…  and, officially, finally graduated last month.  But I decided not to do the gown-hiring, hand-shaking thing this time around:  been there, done that, see the old photo every time I visit my Mum’s flat.

Great to catch up with a few of my fellow former MA students for coffee, though.  Check out this link to see some their recent work now on show to the public:

I’ve written before that you should choose the right time to start a creative writing course, that you have to consider when is best for you to begin to share and receive feedback on your work.  But when the time is right, it can be great to be part of a little community that shares your interest, shares your passion…  It feels good to restore some writing enthusiasm, to feel that you’re doing something of value.  I came home from the café feeling better about myself.  Not quite Masters of the Universe, maybe, but certainly Master of a Paragraph or two.




Adrian Fayter MA… continued

Previous posts indicated that I followed a flexible, modular course, which meant that I could actually complete faster than the usual part time pattern, yet not be a full time student either.  But this arrangement finds me getting my results in July, for a course I finished in January, with official graduation next November…

So I can now officially say I have a Masters degree, with Merit.

Now, interestingly, I mainly used my two novels for the creative work on this course, and the module that brought me lower grades was the one where I experimented with poetry.  I’m still pleased I did that, and I think it broadened my skills as a writer.  But I recently met a fellow writer whose MA in Sheffield required the completion of a whole novel in order to pass the course.  Which got me thinking that, for most students, it wouldn’t leave much room for experimentation in other forms.

So, the moral is, that if you are a prospective Creative Writing student (and always assuming you are not limited by geography), then it really is worth doing your homework about the course content and the assignment requirements before you choose where to study.  And also  to consider your own aims:  do you want to experiment and gain broad skills or do you want to focus on one specific lengthy piece of work?

I was lucky enough in a way to do both.  (Still gutted I didn’t get a Distinction, though)…


Theory versus practice…

Back to the retrospective MA diary, and the question of literary theory.  What use does a wannabe novelist have for the strange philosophies of Structuralism, Postmodernism or Reception Theory, to name but three?  Apart from making rubbish jokes about the so-called ‘Death of the Author,’ of course…

I have to say that I quite enjoyed dipping back into theory as part of my MA, partly because it’s sometimes nice to do something intellectually challenging for a change.  And it sometimes helps to give a different perspective on the practicalities of writing.  Take Wolfgang Iser’s idea that the reader is constantly revising what he thinks of a text because each new section causes him to re-evaluate what he read before, and also to have new expectations of what is still to come. Sounds odd? But think about a reader of a whodunnit, who is working his way through a series of clues and misdirections… And then you start to see what Iser means. So a bit of theory can be quite a good thing, so long as it doesn’t keep you from the hard graft of putting your own words on the page…

But those who can’t do… teach, don’t they?

If you check out some of the online debates about creative writing courses, you’ll find people wondering about the teaching staff…  Why would you want to be taught by someone who has published maybe two or three books, and obviously isn’t making a living from them?

But of course, you could also ask whether anyone lucky enough to make a full time salary from writing would bother to teach as well…  And, much more importantly, teaching has it’s own set of skills: I’ve been to so many workshops where successful writers stand up and give ill-prepared, boring or hopeless talks…  Even the late, and very great TV writer Alan Plater was tedious the time I went to see him speak.  (As I only saw  him  once, it may be unfair to judge him too harshly, but the point is that successful writers are not necessarily good speakers or teachers).

Now, some of the teachers on my MA course were also Doctors of English Literature, and it sometimes showed.  But when looking for a university course, I suggest you don’t get too hung up on the so-called writing ‘success’ of the teachers.  By all means take a look at the quality of their work, but more importantly, see what you can find about the quality of their teaching

Adrian Fayter, MA – worth it?

Welcome to the MA retrospective diary…  Having completed my final module, it’s time to consider some of the costs and benefits of the experience.  Was it worth it?  For me, definitely yes.  To start, here’s a list of three key benefits which in turn connect to questions to ask university staff if you are thinking of signing up for a Creative Writing course :

Feedback from other students on my work – this was particularly useful due to the wide range of ages, nationalities and backgrounds of fellow students, and the small size of groups.  Ask about:  Usual size of teaching groups.

The chance to edit and proof read the whole of my novel with my personal tutor.  Ask about:  How much individual tutorial time you would get.

Doing research on sales and marketing for the genre I am working in. Ask about:  What contact there would be with professionals from the publishing industry.

Further reflections in future posts…