Tuesday 18 June 2024

The MA in Creative Writing: Some Advice from Past Students

Starting a new course can be daunting, challenging, and this is especially the case for a high-level programme like an MA in Creative Writing. So we've brought together advice from some past students, for people who are thinking of doing the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. You can read their advice below, and you can find out more about the MA in Creative Writing, which is still open to applications for this Autumn, here. The course is open to part-time and full-time students. 

Advice from Past Students 

"Read widely and feverishly. Read the set texts, read the optional texts, read related texts. Read novels and short stories that have nothing to do with the course. Learn from them and welcome inspiration"  (Sam Dawson). 

"What I loved most about the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester was the variation of the modules, so my main piece of advice would be: never limit yourself and don't be afraid to try something new, as daunting as that can be. Also, read widely, write as much as you can, learn to give and receive feedback, go to events such as Literary Leicester and open-mic sessions, connect with students from other courses, integrate yourself into the local community and always keep a notebook with you for those ideas that pop up when you're least expecting them to!" (Laura Besley). 

"If you're neurodiverse you can expect to find patience and understanding. I certainly found this. It doesn't mean you won't be challenged, you will. However you can expect to leave the course a better writer than you went into it" (Constantine). 

"I almost didn’t sign up for the MA in Creative Writing. I was concerned that, as a mature student, I might feel out of place, but I decided to go for it, and it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. My advice to prospective students is to write outside your comfort zone and experiment with genres. That is what I did, with the support of the amazing tutors, and I came away with a memoir, a stage play, an array of poetry and pages of ideas to be developed. My only regret is that I can’t do it all over again" (Rosalind Adam).

"Soak it all up, attend every session and allow time to hang out at the library and with your MA peers. If you're back in education after some time out, know that everything will be fine within weeks and you'll thank yourself for signing up for this course!" (Karen Rust). 

"As a writer, you're private for so long with these characters and scenes and words, and then you go public. It's quite the contrast. Yet critique and feedback on the work creates a lingering conversation, and helps you get a clearer sense of words on the page" (Lee Wright).

"The MA in Creative Writing at Leicester gives you the freedom to experiment with your writing regarding content, genre, form and audience whilst giving you the tools to hone your craft to make your work the best it can be. My biggest piece of advice would be to really experiment with what you want to write during this time – nothing is off limits – and to take the time to appreciate the different parts of the process of a single idea from conception, redrafting, editing and finally finding its place in the world. A great part of this process is sharing your work with other students as readers and fellow writers along the way - I really encourage you do that as much as you can. Also, take advantage of the wonderful members of staff that are ever so supportive and bubbling with curiosity. They’re always so happy to read things and offer really insightful and constructive / productive feedback" (Amirah Mohiddin).

"My best advice is to remember that each piece of writing is a learning opportunity, whether you end up loving it or shelving it. Writing slumps are normal, and it's okay to ask for help if you're ever struggling. During my course, my lecturers and peers were a huge source of support and helped me produce some of my best writing. Also, remember to have fun and write what you enjoy! (Millie Henson).

"I was a nervous writer before I took the MA in Creative writing, and worked in isolation, unsure of my abilities. The best thing about taking is this course is finding your craft and gaining confidence in your words" (Tracey Foster).

"The tutor support both challenged and affirmed me. It helped the quality of my writing improve from when I first started the course. I was introduced to sources I'd never considered before, both in and out of the classroom. An enriching experience, the MA was one of the best things I've done. Be open-minded, learn from those around you, see what you do / don't have in common. I wrote this poem (below) inspired by my experience early on the MA" (Tionee Joseph).



My life was always this way,
Always in a group of people drawn together by chance,
The only thing in common,
Is that we signed our names on the same dotted line.
I get you: you get me.
Minds alike,
The flow unblocked.
My people,
My tribe,
My community.

- Tionee Joseph

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Megan Taylor, "We Wait"


Megan Taylor is the author of four dark novels, How We Were Lost, The Dawning, The Lives of Ghosts and We Wait, a haunted house horror. She has also had many short stories published, some of which are included in her collection, The Woman Under the Ground. Her next novel, a psychological thriller, The Therapist’s Daughter, is due out from Bloodhound Books in September 2024 and she’s working towards a second short story collection. Megan lives in Nottingham. She has been running fiction workshops and courses for over ten years. For more information, please visit her website here

About We Wait, by Megan Taylor
The wealthy Crawleys can’t abide a scandal, so when fifteen-year-old Maddie’s behaviour causes concern, she’s packed off to the family’s country estate, along with her best friend, Ellie. But while Maddie is resentful, Ellie is secretly thrilled. A whole summer at Greywater House, which she’s heard so much about, and with Maddie, who she adores …

But from the moment the girls arrive, it’s clear there’s more to the house and the family than Ellie could ever have imagined. Maddie’s aunt, Natalie, and her bedridden grandmother are far from welcoming – and something has been waiting at Greywaters, something that flits among the shadows and whispers in the night.

As the July heat rises and the girls’ relationship intensifies, the house’s ghosts can’t be contained and it isn’t just Ellie who has reason to be afraid. Three generations of the Crawley family must face their secrets when past and present violently collide.

You can read more about We Wait here. Below, you can read an excerpt from the novel. 

From We Wait
The woods were crowding so close when Ellie woke that, at first, she thought she’d dreamt her way right through to dusk. Before she’d allowed her eyes to shut, they’d been driving past white-walled villages and golden fields, the lazy spin of wind turbines on a hazy hill. Now there was nothing beyond the car but trees. They made a tunnel of the road, reaching out with fringed branches to brush the roof and overpowering the Beetle’s air conditioning with their rich, sweet breath. Ellie remembered Maddie mentioning the woods around Greywaters. Maybe they were nearly there? But there was no sign of a house, just those stretching limbs, the endless leaves …

All that green was dizzying; Ellie rubbed a sweaty hand across her face. Her head was still thick with sleep, her body aching, her shoulders stiff from holding herself apart from Maddie, who was sitting in the cramped back seat beside her.

Maddie didn’t return her gaze. She remained bowed over Ellie’s phone, half-hidden by her hair, a perfectly straightened auburn wing. She’d been that way for hours, ignoring everything but the mobile, which she’d grabbed from Ellie as soon as she climbed into the car. In the driver’s seat, Maddie’s mother continued to fume. 

Ellie could see Sara’s narrowed eyes in the rear-view mirror, and her mouth, sucked tight. But though she’d chewed off most of her lipstick, Sara hadn’t exploded yet. Perhaps she’d given up? It had been almost a month since she’d confiscated Maddie’s phone. 

Briefly, Ellie considered exploding for her, snatching the mobile from her best friend’s fingers, yanking the window open and hurling it out. Instead, she leant towards Sara, trying to think of something harmless to say, and that’s when she saw the girl.

A girl standing in front of them, in the centre of the road. 

Standing very still, as if stunned or waiting, framed by the green, the trees, like a girl in a picture.

A moment ago, the road had been clear. The girl must have come scrambling out of the woods, though the verges looked impenetrable, the trees bound with nettles, their thick branches entwining. The bright July sky reduced to a scattering of stained-glass pieces overhead.

Caught in the canopy’s shade, the girl didn’t appear to be crossing. She wasn’t moving at all.

Monday 10 June 2024

Penny Boxall, "The Curiosities"


Penny Boxall is a poet and children’s writer who has worked in various museums. She won the 2016 Edwin Morgan Poetry Award with her debut collection, Ship of the Line. She is writer in residence at Wytham Woods, University of Oxford, and was visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts at Merton College in 2019. She has held Royal Literary Fund Fellowships at the Universities of York and Cambridge, and is an RLF Bridge Fellow. She created new works for Tartu and Bodo Capitals of Culture 2024. Her debut novel for children is forthcoming in 2025. Her website is here.  

Penny's new poetry pamphlet, The Curiosities, is published by New Walk Editions, which is co-edited by Nick Everett, Associate Professor of American Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. 


About The Curiosities, by Penny Boxall
How do we remember and memorialise when we’re not at all sure what we have just experienced? How do we know our own minds when we find ourselves by turns reflected and obscured? The poems in this pamphlet are like artefacts in a half-forgotten museum: records of how life once was, or might have been.

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


From The Curiosities


I see her, evenings, in the new retirement flats
near my mother’s house. The curtains
are always open, or there are no curtains,
and so no mystery. She’s young for there.
She sits on the neat sofa, ankles crossed,
or writes neat letters at the bureau.
Sometimes there is a glass of champagne,
a single orchid. There are never visitors
I have suspicions. The space is as anonymous
as a brochure: not a particle on the carpet;
cards wishing her a happy something
lined up faultless on the mantelpiece.
Easier to think she’s on the payroll, Equity Card
tucked inside her model’s-own purse.
Easier that than to accept she really lives
like this: all lights up, nothing to hide.

Conservation Status

Least concern                            More than you can shake a stick at
Near threatened                         Enough for you to shake a stick at
Vulnerable                                  I wish you would put that stick down
Endangered                               Can’t see the wood for the trees
Critically endangered                 What is the sound of a tree falling
Extinct in the wild                       What is the sound of no trees falling
Extinct                                        What is a tree

Friday 7 June 2024

Serge ♆ Neptune, "Mother Night"


Serge ♆ Neptune, photo by Sofia Falconi

Serge ♆ Neptune has been called "the little merman of British poetry." He is a Faber Academy alumnus and a queer neuro-divergent poet based in London. His first pamphlet, These Queer Merboys, was published with Broken Sleep (2020). His work was longlisted in the National Poetry Competition and the Winchester Poetry Competition. Several poems have appeared in The North, Propel, The Rialto, Banshee, Magma, Fourteen Poems, and elsewhere. 

Cover Image ©Kremena Chipilova, "Lost in Reverie"

About Mother Night
Mother Night is a hallucinogenic journey across a city with too many alleyways and across a life surviving childhood sexual assault. Forming a nocturnal séance, Serge ♆ Neptune resurrects abusive old lovers and ghosts of the queers of the past – conjures men in cars and men in bedrooms – providing them invitation and shelter, or casting them to stormy waves.

In a book of many types of darkness – across poems of vulnerability and harm – what persists in Mother Night is its celebration of resilience, what shines brightest is the many ways it reaches for the light.

From Mother Night, by Serge ♆ Neptune

my block of flats on the new cross rd
is now a giant record player. memories
crackle from afar. graffiti from the sides

of houses leave the walls, join
the parade of the reckless. night is a bag
of marbles dropped – each one rolling

over cars & people. i succumb
to their pace & weight, their love-tight gripe,
brace & crumble under the pressure

of the encounter. maybe this city
indulges us because it needs to – mother
swan devouring her cygnets – to keep

its foot on us, to cook us slowly.
gravity trips me, i fall. night drips red-hot
on the brain, lifts visions from its marshes.

i squeeze my body to define
my territory against a hostile world. i believe
in my mistakes. i carry them out proudly

like a pair of eyes on a purple glass dish –
my head, crowned with candles.

Thursday 6 June 2024

Abi Hynes, "Monstrous Longing"

Abi Hynes is an award-winning drama and fiction writer based in Manchester, UK. She wrote the first four episodes of historical audio drama Dark Harbour for Audible, and is currently developing many original dramas for TV. Her script Long Lost was on the Brit List in 2022, and she has recently adapted Anne of Green Gables for audio drama for Audible, starring Catherine O'Hara and Victor Garber and narrated by Sandra Oh.

As a playwright, her work has been staged in theatres across the UK, and she works regularly with LGBT History Month, bringing forgotten queer stories to life on stage. Her short stories have appeared in a wide variety of journals, magazines and anthologies; she won the Cambridge Short Story Prize in 2020, and her debut short story collection, Monstrous Longing, was published by Dahlia Books in October 2023.

About Monstrous Longing

A desperate mother buys a love potion to win back her daughter’s affection. An actress has a forbidden encounter with her animal body double. An idyllic new home comes with an unexpected lodger – a poltergeist.

Exploring themes of desire, womanhood, and obsession, Abi Hynes’s collection of short stories is sometimes funny, sometimes uncanny, but never too far from the truth.

You can read more about Monstrous Longing on the publisher's website herehere. Below, you can read an excerpt from one of the stories in the collection. 

From Monstrous Longing, by Abi Hynes

From "The Something"

It was hard for Andrea to pinpoint the exact moment she became aware of the Something in her house. It had always had a sort of personality, squat little new-build that it was. Its roots spread deeper than was immediately obvious from outside. Its kitchen delved into the ground in a bizarrely old-fashioned design that left its little windows peeping just above the front lawn, offering an ankle-only view of passers-by to whoever did the washing up.

Other aspects of its layout seemed to defy logic and good sense. The two first floor bedrooms connected with each other, corridor-style. You had to pass through the ensuite to reach either of them, rending the guest room ... Well. Bloody inappopriate for guests.

The house asserted its own character with a pleasing confidence. It was one of the reasons Andrea had bought it. (An impulsive purchase, a Fuck it, why shouldn’t I? Giving off that dizzy rush of power. I am master of my own destiny!) Quickly, the house felt like a companion. It was co-conspirator in her emancipation from sharing unsatisfying flats with unsatisfying friends. She liked the Something, especially coming home on quiet, dark nights. The house’s confidence was catching.

The Something started small. It was the towel she noticed first (though there might have been other things before. Andrea could be dreamy. Unobservant). Clean and dry and folded neatly on a now-closed toilet lid. It was an unambiguous gesture, as there was no question of Andrea having put it there herself. Her towels were never folded, never carried in preparation to the bathroom. Her journey, dripping and shivering, to the airing cupboard in the guest bedroom, and then back, was part of her morning routine.

As a gesture, it didn’t frighten her. Her house wasn’t like old houses. It didn’t groan and whistle and scrape when the wind got up. It only sat there, resolutely silent, its burglar alarm and double-glazing primed against intruders, all its corners clean and cheerful. The Something was not a grisly intruder, Andrea was sure. It was just … the house itself.