Wednesday 29 June 2022

What is the MA in Creative Writing at Leicester? Some Questions and Answers

By Jonathan Taylor

          I believe writers are writers the day they describe themselves as such. 
 - Adele Parks

In this blog I want to introduce the Master's programme in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester, and answer some simple questions that often arise about it - i.e. 

  • What is the MA in Creative Writing?
  • What do you need to apply for the course? 
  • What modules does the MA in Creative Writing involve? 
  • What is the rationale behind the course? 
  • How is it taught? 
  • Who teaches the course? 
  • What have MA students gone on to do?
  • What other opportunities are associated with the course?

For students' perspectives on Creative Writing MAs see here and here and here

What is the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester?

This a year-long full-time course, or two-year part-time course that aims to help you develop your writing in a supportive and stimulating environment, taught by experienced writers and lecturers. It's a taught course that provides you with the support, skills, ideas, feedback, structure, community and space that will help your writing to flourish. It's a space for you to develop your own writing. 

What do you need to apply for the MA in Creative Writing?

First and foremost, we want students who love writing and reading, who are enthusiastic about the subject, who are willing to experiment. One of the wonderful things about the MA is the exciting mixture of students' hugely varied backgrounds, ages, experiences, ambitions and perspectives. We accept students with a relevant first undergraduate degree or students with significant writing experience. We always ask students to submit a sample of creative work, once they've submitted their initial application. If you have any questions about the application or eligibility, please email Jonathan Taylor: jt265[at]le[dot]ac[dot]uk. 

What modules does the MA in Creative Writing involve?

The MA is 12 months long full-time, 24 months long part-time. The modules are arranged as follows:

Full-time route (1 year):

In Semester 1, full-time students take two modules:

  • EN 7040 Research Methods in Creative Writing (30 credits)
  • EN 7041 Styles: Advanced Creative Writing Workshop 1 (30 credits)

In Semester 2, full-time students take two modules:

  • EN 7042 Applications: Publishing, Teaching and Other Stories (30 credits)
  • EN 7043 Substances: Advanced Creative Writing Workshop 2 (30 credits)

Over Summer, full-time students then also take:

  • EN 7044 Dissertation in Creative Writing (60 credits), usually due mid-September

Part-time route (2 years):

  • EN 7040 Research Methods in Creative Writing (year 1, semester 1)
  • EN 7042 Applications: Publishing, Teaching and Other Stories (year 1, semester 2)
  • EN 7041 Styles: Advanced Creative Writing Workshop 1 (year 2, semester 1)
  • EN 7043 Substances: Advanced Creative Writing Workshop 2 (year 2, semester 2)
  • EN 7044 Dissertation in Creative Writing, (year 2, Summer), due mid-September

What is the rationale behind the MA in Creative Writing?

I believe that Creative Writing is a wonderful hybrid subject (a kind of Frankenstein's Monster of a subject!), which intermingles academic research, vocational and professional skills, and creative practice - along with bits of other subjects, too. 

The different modules on the MA in Creative Writing aim to cater for these various strands: Research Methods in Creative Writing introduces the academic, theoretical and research aspects of the subject; the outward-looking module Applications emphasises the vocational and professional contexts for writing; while Styles and Substances are workshop-based modules which explore various elements of creative practice, introducing both key forms (fiction and poetry) and key themes (e.g. Place, Time, Memory). As your individual extended project, the Dissertation module is the culmination of the MA, and draws on the skills you've developed throughout the course. For the Dissertation, you're allotted an individual supervisor, who guides you through the whole process, and provides on-going support and feedback. 

At the centre of all the modules is your writing. Creative Writing is, I think, a subject where people learn by doing - so all of the subjects are explored first and foremost through writing. You write throughout all the modules, and all the modules are assessed (in different ways) primarily through creative work - along with accompanying reflective commentaries, and (in the case of Applications) a short oral presentation.

The MA in Creative Writing at Leicester aims to introduce you to the huge breadth and variety of this amazing subject. You will learn about fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, memoir, scriptwriting. We want you to experiment across forms and genres, and we believe that you learn by doing so: poets learn a lot by writing prose, and fiction writers learn a lot by experimenting with poetry. There are so many possibilities! During the MA, you may explore topics ranging from ekphrastic poetry, to reviewing, to oral histories, to neuroscience, to psycho-geography, to personal essays, to time travel ...

I believe writing is a learned skill, and can be taught. I believe the study of writing, storytelling, poetry, language is vitally important. And, above all, I believe it should be enjoyable (even though I don't believe in "organised fun"!).

How is Creative Writing taught? 

Each module is taught primarily by a two-hour seminar per week, during term time. Seminars might consist of in-situ workshop exercises, sharing work, peer feedback, introductions to and discussions of particular subjects, guest talks, masterclasses, and so on. Individual tutorials are always available, and you will be invited to special events associated with Creative Writing at Leicester (see also below). All students are allotted a personal tutor, who guides them through the course. 

Who teaches on the MA in Creative Writing at Leicester?

The course is taught by experienced and professional writers, editors and lecturers. The Creative Writing team at the University of Leicester currently includes Nick Everett, Felicity James, Harry Whitehead, myself (Jonathan Taylor), and Writer in Residence Kit de Waal. There are also guest talks, workshops and masterclasses on the course, given by visiting authors, publishers, editors and others. 

What have students on the MA in Creative Writing gone on to do?

Our students are amazing! They regularly publish their creative work in journals and magazines, give performances and readings, win competitions, both during and after the course. Among our graduates, some have gone on to publish books. Some have gone onto further study, at PhD level. Some have gone into publishing, editing, journalism, copywriting, teaching, film-making, arts administration, marketing, and so on. You can see some of our students' most recent successes here  

What other opportunities are associated with the course?

One of the most important aspects a course like this is feeling part of a vibrant community of writers. At Leicester, that community includes BA students, MA students, PhD students, staff, writers in the local community, and guest authors from across the UK. On the MA, you will be part of the Centre for New Writing, which hosts events and opportunities throughout the year, as well as a regular research group. The University hosts Literary Leicester Festival every year, which features a wonderful array of events and readings. You can join our large Facebook group, "Creative Writing at Leicester," on which we feature news, opportunities, articles and calls for submission. We run the popular review blog Everybody's Reviewing and a course blog Creative Writing at Leicester. Nick Everett co-edits poetry publisher New Walk Editions. And there are lots more opportunities in the University and city for writers too. We want you to feel part of all of this, and to contribute to it. 

More information?

We're more than happy to answer any queries you have about the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester, and to talk to you about it. Email Jonathan Taylor on jt265[at]le[dot]ac[dot]uk for detailed information and to discuss further!

Tuesday 28 June 2022

Nik Perring, "Ghost Reader"


Nik Perring is the author of six books for children and adults, and prize-winning short stories published all over the world.

He’s taught writing in schools, universities, in the community, with UNICEF and for the BBC; he’s been Writer in Residence for Sheffield’s Year of Reading, put poems on the sides of buildings and in city centres, and worked with a huge range of people in loads of countries. 

His most recent book is Ghost Reader, commissioned by the Sheffield General Cemetery Trust. The book is for 9-12 year-olds and is illustrated by Ella de Souza. You can read more about it below. 

Nik's website is here

About Ghost Reader, by Nik Perring

The ghosts are forgetting who they are.

The Grey Girl needs help.

She’s come to Ayala to ask for it. 

But how do you help a ghost? Especially one who doesn’t even know who she is …

Ayala is determined to find out in this exciting, sometimes creepy, and often tender adventure, starting in Sheffield’s General Cemetery and spanning eras and lives. There is help out there if you know where to look, from the living and the dead. The trick is finding out who’s telling the truth, and whose intentions might not be quite so honourable …

From Ghost Reader

‘You keep saying that you can’t remember things. How come you’re forgetting?’

Rosetta’s face became stern. ‘How would I know? Something strange has been happening. I wonder if the forgetting started when the visitors began arriving.’ She sighed. Pushed her hands to her cheeks. Shook her head. ‘Terribly sad. Those lost souls.’

‘Who?’ asked Ayala.

‘Newcomers to the cemetery, but not new to their second lives. For some reason, they started drifting in here, more faded than they ought to be. Some of them, you could barely see at all. All of them asking us questions that we cannot answer.’

‘What do they want to know?’

‘Who they are. Where they’re from.’

‘But why?’ asked Ayala.

A dog barked, and it was close.

Ayala froze. ‘Someone’s coming.’

Monday 27 June 2022

K. L. Slater, "Missing"


Kim Slater is the number one bestselling author of seventeen psychological crime thrillers. She has sold over two million copies of her books worldwide. She has also written four Carnegie-nominated Young Adult novels as Kim Slater for Macmillan Children’s Books. Kim has an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University and lives with her husband in a small Nottinghamshire village. Her website is here


About Missing, by K. L. Slater

I've known him all my life. I know he has taken my daughter. His mother says she can help me. But she's the last person I can trust ...

Samuel lived next door when we were children. We were inseparable. But he didn’t like sharing me with my adored little brother. And one terrible night, he got rid of my brother forever …

Now, years later, he’s free. And my daughter is missing.

I turn on my baby girl’s unicorn nightlight and bury my face in her pillow, my heart breaking. I know Samuel has her – he blames me for ruining his life, and even after all this time, he still doesn’t like to share.

As darkness falls, there’s a knock at my door and I open it to see Samuel’s mother. She says she can help me.

I know I can’t trust her, but I don’t have a choice. With each step I take, my fear grows stronger. Can she help me find my daughter? Or does she know something about what really happened all those years ago? Something that could stop me from saving my baby girl …

From Missing


Twenty-six years earlier, 1993

The disused warehouse was massive, but Jimmy was trapped in a tiny room within it.

Earlier, he’d climbed in through a broken window and looked around. The old metal machinery was still intact. It ran in lines up and down the vast floorspace. Some had been broken into bits by vandals, others had metal pieces stripped from them, but all towered above him like dinosaur skeletons.

Jimmy had been in the place about ten minutes when he’d heard shuffling noises and a funny strangled noise like someone had coughed and tried to cover it up. He’d run further inside the wide-open space of the warehouse and seen a door standing open over on the far wall.

When he’d got closer, he’d spotted an old sign hanging lopsided on it. Jimmy was the best reader in his class, if you didn’t count the new boy. He’d held the sign straight so he could see it properly and pieced the sounds together. He’d said slowly to himself: ‘Re-frig-er-ation unit.’ Everyone knew it was dangerous to hide in a fridge in case the door shut by accident and you got trapped.

Jimmy had pushed the sign hard to watch it whizz round on itself and it had flown off, clattering to the concrete floor. He’d looked around in panic, watching and listening for movement but all was still. He’d stuck his head through the gap and squinted into the gloomy unit. There was no fridge in there.

The shuffling sound had seemed like it was getting closer. Jimmy had stepped inside the unit and waited for his eyes to adjust. There were no windows in here. The room was very dusty, bare shelves all around it and rusty metal hooks hanging from the ceiling. The door had been weirdly thick and heavy when Jimmy had pulled it to behind him, leaving just a tiny gap.

People at school said the warehouse was haunted by two burning women. Once a food manufacturing plant, lots of people had died here ten years ago when there was a fire and a big explosion. Nigel Burley in Year 6 had said he’d seen the two women in the Easter holidays last year. Everyone had sat quietly in a corner of the playground, listening as he’d told how they’d rushed past him screaming, their hair smoking, the flesh melting from their faces. Nigel had told them he’d thought they were real people until they both ran through a solid wall and disappeared, leaving nothing behind.

So Jimmy had held his breath when the shuffling sound had drawn closer and he’d bit his knuckles to stop himself crying out. If the burning women pulled open the door, he would put his head down like a Spanish bull and charge forward. Ghosts weren’t real, they were like fog. You could walk right through them.

He’d heard heavy breathing and then the door had begun to open. Jimmy had caught a scream in his throat and balled his fists ready to run. Then the door had been pushed hard from the outside, like someone had their shoulder against it. When it had closed with a clunk, the space was plunged into pitch black.

Thursday 23 June 2022

Kelli Allen, "Leaving the Skin on the Bear"

Kelli Allen’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the US and internationally. Allen is the co-Founding Editor of Book of Matches literary journal. She is an award-wining poet, editor, and dancer. Her fiction has appeared in The Best Small Fictions 2022 and she is the recipient of the 2018 Magpie Award for Poetry. Her chapbook, Some Animals, won the 2016 Etchings Press Prize. Her chapbook, How We Disappear, won the 2016 Damfino Press award. Her collections include Otherwise, Soft White Ash (John Gosslee Books 2012), Imagine Not Drowning (C&R Press 2017), Banjo’s Inside Coyote (C&R Press 2019). Allen’s latest book is Leaving the Skin on the Bear, published by C&R Press, 2022. She currently teaches writing and literature in North Carolina. 

Kelli's website is here.


About Leaving the Skin on the Bear

Part soft underbelly, part scabrous self-reflection, Leaving the Skin on the Bear is a collection that takes readers on a sojourn through the richly imagined weaving of a world that is both our own and not. The poems collected here celebrate otherness and contradiction, demand understanding and the acceptance of not-knowing simultaneously. These poems stay the crooked path and reimagine what it is, and has always been, to learn that no loss is complete. The untamed imageries summoned here leap from one form to another in their need to meet the demands of what becomes a steady inquiry. This is not a collection of answers, but a testimony of what a life lived in questions might look like. In these pages we are, perhaps above all else, brought nearer to knowing the vanity of containing, and of what we bury. Living is a cycle of unearthings. This collection’s recurring potsherd cuts despair into our certainty, and its cost, towards the world. These pieces suggest that turning away from what wounds is the forgetting that strips a crucial magic: the capacity to marvel at feeling.

From Leaving the Skin on the Bear, by Kelli Allen

A thief, a nakedness, a boat far from shore

My legs are apart, twin otters 
sharing a stone between them.
No longer on the windowsill 
of my mother’s womb, this body
is not her body. The minnows 
we vomit we swallow back down—
These slithering selves too much 
under water. Once upon a time
Everything ends—the village, 
the woodcutting, the orphans’ 
hunger, and their fullness, too. 

Here is the world she plays:

Hornbill shadows through the threads in her socks and the whole of the lake bundled tight in her belly. Another morning for the girl, another hour watching across shore for her brother’s yellow boat. She reminds herself, in this waiting, that what the woodcutter splits is glued over severance when such waters seep wounded skin. This, too, is a duty between daughters and fathers: tending to broken roots before rot’s appetite bores holes more than well-deep. 

During the month of long nights, a gecko gives its life to the disagreement of two crows. But the girl wraps one thin leg around the other and the nest constructed is no refuge for anything tailed and hungry. It is nearing evening and stretched-out over rabbits, pelts sticky as evaporating nut milk, the mother does not allow agates, cock-shaped and orange-lined, time to speak. The girl listens to the same incantation, the same rhythm, and wishes her mother quiet, just once, just to let locusts sing the dinner dirge. The mother’s voice climbs over teeth and tongue anyway: what the stones say, the river says, too. This is not poetry for children too many years still ear-wet from the womb. 

When the three share a table between them, having agreed to masticate slow, thirty molar thrusts downward each, other breathing creatures align in the way of pilgrims in those woods. Circles form in any space suggested to them—even the catfish looking for warmth curl into one another at the suggestion of a waiting meal. Snails leave gelatin before daylight that the mother weaves into eleven arrow pierced cakes. The father tries not to swallow sand while his daughter’s hair collects the baked fletch as she eats, her bites light as an earthworm’s lung.
The caution of lilacs dictates a family’s scaffold atop grief. Mouths in triplicate give thanks as the mudwork dries and the false gratitude marks success on another floor lain straight and dust cleared. The missing remain so left, tucked behind busy tasks, tidy work to be done day and again. Before unfolding blankets, the daughter, father, and mother reach their arms round the table once more to form a clock. One finger from each hand points to the number for sleep, for when brother comes home, for don’t forget. 

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Mina Gorji, "Scale"

Mina Gorji was born in Iran and lives in Cambridge, where she is Associate Professor at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and a fellow of Pembroke college. Her debut, Art of Escape (Carcanet, 2020) was a Telegraph 'Book of the Month.' She has published poems in Poetry Review, Magma, London Magazine, bath magg, bad lilies and the Forward Book of Poetry amongst others. She has also written a study of John Clare's poetry, and essays on weeds, rudeness, little things and listening; a lyric-critical essay, 'Listening for Stars,' was published in Poetry Review (2021). Her new book is Scale (Carcanet, 2022). 

About Scale, by Mina Gorji 

At the volcano's edge, in exilic space, at the bottom of the Arctic Sea, or in the acid clouds of Venus, Mina Gorji's Scale traces life at its limits. The poems range across scales of distance, temperature and time, from vast to minute, glacial to volcanic, Pleistocene to present day, constellation to millipede. Adapting to the cold of a new continent opens a chromatic investigation of feeling. Shifting between scales, from insect to ancient star, Scale explores the forms, conditions and frequencies of survival.

Gorji's poems feed into current ecological concerns, but in no conventional or clichéd way. Marina Warner described her poems as 'building a place of safety—for herself, her family, her readers, and all those who are wandering and uprooted; her poetic methods take their cue from the many marvellous creatures she evokes and the multiple protective measures they adopt—nests, camouflage, mimicry, display. Above all, language can help create shelter.'

You can read more about Scale on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two poems from the collection. 


From Scale

The world is growing smaller
One of the tadpoles has died.
It is lying very still,
comma turned full stop.
Nobody cries.
We feel the shadow –
even as we shrink
from its touch
behind closed doors.
It is spring.
Up in the attic
I am imagining
deadnettle leaf
through a beetle’s eyes.


I dream of distance –
cold, untroubled distance,
the quiet further reaches of our sun,
far out from Saturn’s icy rings,
cold, remote, so beautiful.
Planet of the underworld,
guarded by Charon, Kerberos,
Styx, Nix, and Hydra.
We see your features,
almost familiar –
canyons, ice plains,
mountains topped
with mercury snow.

Friday 10 June 2022

Anietie Isong, "News at Noon"


Anietie Isong has worked as a corporate writer for some of the biggest brands in the world. His first novel, Radio Sunrise, won the 2018 McKitterick Prize. His collection of short stories, Someone Like Me, published in 2020, won the first annual Headlight Review Chapbook Prize for Prose Fiction. In 2021, Isong’s essay was included in Of This Our Country, a ground-breaking anthology celebrating acclaimed Nigerian writers. He has spoken at the Aké Arts and Book Festival, Henley Literary Festival, Marlborough Literature Festival, among other literary festivals. Isong studied at the University of Leicester and De Montfort University. His new novel is News at Noon.

About News at Noon

News at Noon, a new satirical novel by Anietie Isong, interrogates what it means to be a journalist in an era of misinformation. When a new virus is detected in Lagos, Ifiok and his colleagues in the media must immediately tackle its spread by raising awareness, sharing information, and supporting the outreach efforts of health workers. Unfortunately, they also have to battle against hysteria, misinformation, corruption and denial. The book also explores other themes such as fashion, relationships, and acceptance: Ifiok has found himself torn between two lovers – the young fashion designer chosen by his meddling mother and the very attractive but much older boss at work.

You can see more about News at Noon on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From News at Noon, by Anietie Isong

I was savouring my amala and egusi soup at The Lord Is My Shepherd Foods when Julius sent me a text. Apollo Man, our general manager, had summoned me to an emergency meeting with all news and programmes staff. I wolfed down my food. In my haste to leave, I abandoned a succulent piece of fried fish that I had unwisely reserved for the end of my meal. It also hurt that there was no time to wash my hands properly. This time Fresh Hands which Mama Shepherd had placed on the table claiming the washing liquid—made in China and made available only to special customers like me—could get rid of the most stubborn food smells, even fufu, would not be of use to me unfortunately.

Emergency meeting? My heart swung like a pendulum as I hurried back to Radio Sunrise. Was anything wrong? We had regular Monday meetings to discuss ongoing work and plan special broadcasts for occasions like Independence Day or Democracy Day. The last time we had an emergency meeting was when we found out that the erstwhile Minister of Information—nicknamed the Minister of Enjoyment because of his insatiable craving for parties—was coming to our station to commission a new digital studio.

Still longing for the last piece of fish I had left at The Lord Is My Shepherd Foods languishing on my otherwise clean plate, I entered our general manager’s office. ‘Is everyone here?’ Apollo Man asked. After a dozen staff members filed into the office it made me wonder if we could not have used the conference room on the second floor which had extra seating. I sat beside Boniface who had just returned from covering a press conference on the birthday of a prominent Lagos politician. He was grinning from ear to ear, a clear sign the assignment was fruitful.

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Maggie Brookes, "Acts of Love and War"

Maggie Brookes is an ex-journalist and BBC historical documentary producer turned novelist and poet. She relishes uncovering stories about the strength of women and the power of friendship and love in the most terrible of circumstances. Acts of Love and War, published in 2022, is a heartrending tale of love, courage and sacrifice, following three young British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. The Prisoner's Wife – based on an extraordinary true story of WW2 – was published around the world in 2020. Maggie taught Creative Writing at Middlesex University for thirty years and has had six poetry collections published under the name Maggie Butt. Her website is here. She is on Twitter @maggie__brookes

About Acts of Love and War, by Maggie Brookes

Maggie's second novel Acts of Love and War tells the story of Lucy who braves the horrors of the Spanish civil war to bring back two brothers - and ends up saving the lives of thousands of children. The two brothers are rivals for her affection and she loves them equally, or thinks she does. 

Author Nikki Marmery calls the novel,  "A love story with a twist; a war story with a difference." It draws on the memoirs of extraordinary women who worked to deliver humanitarian aid to refugee children. 

As the war intensifies, Lucy realises the challenge is not so much which brother she will end up with but whether any of them will survive. 

You can see more about Acts of Love and War on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read an extract from the novel. 

From Acts of Love and War

Hertfordshire, England, 1921

Lucy was sitting in her favourite place, halfway up the mahogany staircase, with a doll laid across her lap. From here she could see all the comings and goings of the house. She watched as her father opened the front door and light flooded into the panelled hall, fixing that morning in her memory forever, as if that was the day someone wound the clockwork and her life began. 

Her father ushered Mrs Murray inside and took her to the drawing room. Behind her came two boys, silhouetted in the doorway against the bright day beyond: a bigger boy holding tight to the hand of his little brother. Jamie and Tom stood still for a moment, on the threshold of Lucy’s life, and then moved cautiously forward into the unknown hall. As they walked towards her their dark outlines blushed into colour and rounded into flesh. 

Lucy thought one of them looked a little older than her and one a bit younger, perhaps seven and four. The bigger boy, Jamie, wore a school uniform with blazer, tie and short trousers. The small boy who gripped his hand was dressed in a sailor suit. As light fell on to their faces from the landing window behind her, Lucy saw Jamie’s lips were clenched hard between his teeth in the effort not to show his feelings, while Tom gazed all about in a mixture of fear and curiosity. They were as unalike as two brothers ever could be. Jamie had his mother’s blue eyes, sandy hair and freckled skin, while Tom’s eyes were brown as his hair; Jamie was skinny, as if he’d grown too fast, while Tom was square and solid; Jamie was pale as a china doll, whereas Tom was all aglow.

Lucy knew these were the boys who were coming to live in the little cottage next door. The boys with the dead father. She turned over the thought in her mind like a shiny new penny and imprinted on its reverse side she found the fact of her own dead mother. 

She watched as the boys became accustomed to the relative darkness of the wide hallway and caught sight of her on the stairs above them. When their gaze met hers, something seemed to catch in her throat and an unfamiliar shiver ran through her. She set aside her doll and stood up.

Later they told her that rays of sun from the landing window illuminated the blonde curls which encircled her head. But all she would remember was the way they stopped and stared as though she was a vision, as though she could become the fixed point in the turmoil of their lives. As though she would save them. 

Monday 6 June 2022

Recent Creative Writing Student Successes

Here (below) are just a few recent University of Leicester Creative Writing student successes, publications and so on. Congratulations to all!

BA Journalism and Creative Writing student Ayan Artan has recently had articles published in the Metro here, and Meeting of Minds here

PhD Creative Writing student Joe Bedford has continued his excellent series of interviews with authors, Writers on Research, here.

MA Creative Writing student Laura Besley's book, Un(natural) Elements, was published by Beir Bua Press. You can read details here. Her second collection of short fiction, 100ne Hundred, was shortlisted for the Saboteur Award for Best Short Story Collection 2022.  

Both Laura Besley and Kathy Hoyle (MA Creative Writing graduate) were longlisted for the Free Flash Fiction Competition 2022. Kathy was subsequently shortlisted for it too. You can see the longlist here

MA Creative Writing student Elizabeth Chell's poems "Vespula Vulgaris" and "Formica Lugubris" have been published in Coneflower Cafe Magazine, Spring 2022, here. Her poems "The Emperor Dragonfly," "The Marsh Fritillary," and "The Stag Beetle" are published in the new issue of Otherwise Engaged: A Literature and Arts Journal available here

Kassie Duke, MA Creative Writing graduate, has published her first collection of poetry, Word Bath. You can see details here

MA Creative Writing graduate Kate Durban has written about her experience of the Dissertation in Creative Writing here. She has also reviewed Martin Figura's recent poetry pamphlet, My Name Is Mercy, on Everybody's Reviewing here

MA Creative Writing student Tracey Foster's poem "Second-Best Jewellery Box" has been published by Ayaskala Magazine here. Her poem "Yin Yang Pond" is also in Fish Barrell Review vol. 4 here. She also has three poems in vol. 6 of Alternate Route magazine here.

On Everybody's Reviewing, PhD Creative Writing student Beth Gaylard reviews Judith Allnatt's novel A Mile of River here.

BA student Hannah Mitchell won second prize in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition for her story "Happy Birthday, Eileen." You can read it here.  

Alyson Morris graduated from her PhD in Creative Writing in Spring 2022. You can read about her project here.  

PhD Creative Writing student Cathi Rae has written various reviews for Everybody's Reviewing, including a recent one of The Fox's Wedding, by Rebecca Hurst and Reena Makwana here.

Jane Simmons wrote a review of Swimming to Albania by Sue Hubbard for Everybody's Reviewing here.

Three poems by MA Creative Writing graduate Laura Sygrove are published on Creative Writing at Leicester here.

Paul Taylor-McCartney recently passed his PhD in Creative Writing. You can read about an earlier blogpost about his project here

Lisa Williams, MA Creative Writing graduate, has written various reviews for Everybody's Reviewing, including one of The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante here.

PhD Creative Writing student Lee Wright wrote a review of Howard Jacobson's performance at Literary Leicester Festival for Everybody's Reviewing here

.... And finally, thanks to all the BA, MA and PhD Creative Writing students who took part in the Creative Writing Student Showcase event at Literary Leicester Festival in March. You can read about it here.  

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Joanna Ingham, "Ovarium"

Joanna Ingham writes poetry and fiction. She grew up in Suffolk and has recently returned to live there after twenty years in London and Hertfordshire. Naming Bones, her debut pamphlet, was published by Ignition Press in 2019 and she won the Paper Swans Press Single Poem Competition in 2020. She has worked in community arts, facilitating Creative Writing workshops in a wide variety of settings. She lives with her husband and daughter. Her new pamphlet is Ovarium, from The Emma Press.

About Ovarium, by Joanna Ingham

Tender, loving and visceral, Ovarium is a pamphlet of poems about a giant ovarian cyst. The poet charts her journey with the cyst, from diagnosis to surgery to recovery, and explores the way illness can make our own bodies mysterious to us. 

Ingham's poems are forensic as she looks at the disorientating and sometimes patriarchal language of anatomy and medicine. The collection shines a light on gynaecological illness and surgery, as the poet invites us to consider women's bodies as sites of illness, disgust and shame, as well as healing, endurance and strength.

You can read more about Ovarium on the publisher's website here. Below, you can read two poems from the pamphlet.

From Ovarium


I tried to think of you as fruit, growing
against the sun-warm wall of my gut.
Melon-headed, you nudged the leafy organs,
dug out a place for yourself in the plot.
I never guessed. I was only bloody earth
to you, a coldframe full of light.
You went on growing your juicy mucinous 
segments, your membranes of pith,
imagining you were part of me,
that I would want you, pomegranate
arrogant. You grew where I should have
grown other things, gone to seed already.
When you were ripe the doctors cut you 
from my branch, packed you whole in ice 
so you wouldn’t bruise, searched 
your maggoty core for rot. I wish 
I’d seen you, weighed you in my hands, 
breathed your fizzing orchard scent.


Two days after the blood test for CA125,
after passing the Macmillan stand by the automatic doors
with its rack of leaflets like ‘Preparing a child for loss,’
my terror solidifies into a half-imagined pain,
which I decide may very well be an emergency.

Because we don’t have a baby-sitter
I take a taxi by myself, wait for four and a half hours
on a plastic chair hoping that someone will tell me
they can take it out now, this thing I didn’t know I had, 
with names like mass and growth and tumour. 

I find I wish I had a dislocated shoulder instead,
like the green-faced boy, still in his football tabard,
or that I’d been in a fight like the girl from care,
or that I could sleep like the homeless man beside me,
his head on a black swollen bin bag.

When I’m finally taken to a booth, the nurse 
presses two fingers into my belly, asks if I want 
to feel it, explains that tumour doesn’t always mean
the worst. She diagnoses panic, tells me I’ll have to wait,
that I’m on the red-flagged pathway already.

At three a.m. I call a cab by the maternity block
and a man comes out and cries. I almost comfort him.
The pain is in my chest now, in my mind. 
There is no subject it can go to that doesn’t hurt, 
that doesn’t make me want to live.

CA125 is an indicator for ovarian cancer.