Tuesday 29 September 2020

"Girls Who Play Sports"

By Dani Devenney

Hi! I’m Dani Devenney, I’m 23, and I’ve recently finished my MA in Modern Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. I’m originally from Jersey, in the Channel Islands, and I attained a 2:1 in BA English at the University of Plymouth in 2018.

My dissertation was a Creative Writing project examining the representation of girls who play sports in children’s literature. I focused on women who play sport in literature for my undergraduate dissertation, but for Master’s level I chose to focus on children’s books as I felt there was a gap in the market. There are so few children's stories about young girls in sport. 

I wrote two stories, each dealing with hurdles young girls might face within team sports. One story focused on a girl who can’t play in the football final she’s always dreamed of because of an illness, and the other confronts bullying on a school netball team. Finally, the critical reflection examined the representation of girls in comparable primary texts, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to delve into contemporary children’s literature over the summer.

Having initially signed up for the MA in Modern Literature, I was unsure of whether I’d undertake a creative dissertation, although the option was available to me. Having the 70/30 balance between creative and critical writing in the creative dissertation was attractive as it meant I got to play to my strengths as a writer, whilst still giving myself room to critically explore the subject of young female athletes in children’s literature.

The best advice I read was to write 500 words a day. That way, I hit the word count within 30 days. I knew that would be a huge weight off my shoulders as reaching the word count is the most stressful thing for me, in any essay. The earlier I hit it, the more time I have to ask for feedback and edit accordingly. While I was unemployed at the beginning of lockdown, I managed the bulk of the dissertation by treating the MA like a 9-5 job (this was never going to be possible every single day, but I kept as close to it as I could) and working on those 500 words day in, day out, with evenings reserved for reading wider material that would help with the critical reflection. 

In mid-July, however, I began a job which took up four full days a week, and time management became a skill I had to master. Many of the words I’d written were jumbled notes: shreds of paragraphs splattered onto the page saved *just in case* they came in useful later – and they did. From this, I gradually (read: slowly, diligently, and with more tea breaks than I care to admit) glued the pieces together to create two stories and a critical reflection. I work very slowly, so having a document of random ideas and quotations I could refer back to was useful in case I forgot about any points I wanted to make. Eventually (one week before the deadline) I had completed two stories and a critical reflection. I put this down to setting aside big chunks of time where I could work at whatever pace suits me that day, and doing this as consistently as possible.

Here is a sample from one of the stories:

From 'Jasmine, Football, and the Grumbling Appendix'

Jasmine whipped the ball around her marker with an expert flick of her ankle. She had practised this move against her brother, Alex, a thousand times on their cul-de-sac, always relishing the confusion on his face. She darted around him, low and quick, like a fly you just can’t swat. The following summer, Alex’s confusion turned to frustration one day when she beat him five-nil. He didn’t come out to play after that, so their father suggested Jasmine sign up to play with the village team, Rose Bay Rovers. Today, she was in the starting 11, playing for a place in the local cup final. 

1 comment:

  1. Dear Dani, I really enjoyed your blog on girls who play sports. I lover your topic. I always loved to read but I just realized there weren't stories about girls doing those things. I also loved sport: I ran track and played soccer, and that helped me get sanely through high school. It was very important for me, and gave me a good example for a lifetime. Sport is great for all! Good luck! Laura