Thursday, February 13, 2014

Polygon publishing graduate's novel - Wasp

Graduate Ian Garbutt

Major project is a key element in students attaining their MA in Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier Univeristy, but work on it doesn’t stop once they leave our course. Take the example of Ian Garbutt from our first cohort, the class of 2009/10.

Ian has just signed a contract with Polygon - original publishers of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency - for the novel that was his major project on the course. Wasp will be published in 2015. Ian is one of several graduates from the course represented by the prestigious literary agency Jenny Brown Associates.

We make no guarantees that our students will leave the course with a degree under one arm and a publishing contract under the other. Our MA programme is about progressing students on their journey as writers. But it’s pleasing to see graduates like Ian achieving their ambitions as writers - makes all the hard work feel that extra bit worthwhile. Congratulations, Ian!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mentoring on our unique MA programme

A new innovation we've introduced on the Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier Unveristy is a module called Creative and Editorial Development. In the past we offered students six hours of one-to-one mentoring, but this happened outside teaching modules. 

Now we have transformed mentoring into a long, thin module that runs over two trimesters - and it earns every student credits towards their MA. The new module has only been running for one trimester so far, but the results have been very encouraging.

We think mentoring is a crucial part of each student’s learning journey, preparing them for life as a self-sufficient writer when they will be working one-to-one with an editor, agent, artist, development executive, script editor or another creative collaborator.

We've also introduced a teaching internship scheme. Graduates from the last cohort are leading study groups and using their experiences on the course to help current students. We asked the interns to talk about the value of mentoring on our unique MA course.

Errol Rivera: “Mentoring is what makes this course unique. It helps not to think of your mentoring sessions as a personal workshop. When I stopped expecting answers or approval from my tutors, we started working like partners and some amazing things happened. What could have been a lesson become a conversation. Like everything else on this course, the focus is development - not solipsism.

Laura Clements:If you're serious about taking your writing further as a career, it's important to throw yourself into the editorial relationship.  The first thing you have to do is identify a purpose for yourself as a writer and a purpose for your writing. This isn’t something that you will necessarily be able to set in stone at the offset, but it will evolve with the progression of your work over the year. Mentoring is the environment in which this can happen.

Nicole Brandon: “It sounds strange to think of having a conversation as a professional skill, but you're here to learn how to be a professional writer and part of that craft involves words off the page, too. Being able to put together a conversation about your craft, your work and your future is just as important as being able to put together any piece of writing. Without being able to contribute to – and, sometimes, direct – these conversations, you'll have a tough time being taken at your due as a professional writer. How else can people know what you're about, if you can't tell them?”

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy graduation day for class of 2012/13

From left: Nicole Brandon, Laura Clements, Griff Williams, S-J McGeachy, Sean Bell.
Yesterday was graduation for the class of 2012/13. Not all of the class made it to the official ceremony - some are already busy working, or have returned to their home countries. But it was great to celebrate the collective success of the class. Today: back to teaching the class of 2013/14!

Monday, September 30, 2013

MA programme invades Wigtown Book Festival

Edinburgh Napier's MA Creative Writing programme is making its presence felt at the fabled Wigtown Book Festival and its offshoots this week. Current student Anni Telford [above] is reading and discussing her work from 1.30pm on Wednesday, October 2nd at Reading Lasses:

It's Crime Time (Anni Telford): What makes good people do bad things? After 30 years as a psychotherapist working with paedophiles, rapists and violent criminals, Anni Telford puts that experience to good use in her crime fiction. She will discuss her psychotherapy career and how it has inspired a collection of crime short stories.

Tutor David Bishop was in Wigtown on Sunday to run a packed workshop on creating comics, part of Wigtown The Festival. The MA Creative Writing programme's reader in residence Stuart Kelly is chairing events at Wigtown almost every day, while writer in residence Ken MacLeod is at Wigtown this Saturday [Oct 5th] to discuss his work.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Admissions process for MA Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland

Unique is a good way to describe the postgrad creative writing programme at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. For a start, we put genre fiction front and centre in our course. If you love writing and reading science fiction, fantasy, crime or horror, most MFAs and MAs don't want to know - but we embrace great genre writing.

Another unique focus at Edinburgh Napier is comics and graphic novels, which most other programmes ignore. In fact, we love this medium so much we devote an entire module about it, Writing Graphic Fiction. [You don't have to be an artist to write comics, but a passion for collaboration helps.]

Edinburgh Napier's postgraduate creative writing MA does not offer a poetry option. I repeat, poetry is not a requirement. There are plenty of other great courses with brilliant poets on the faculty - if you want to study poetry, seek them out. We have had prize-winning poets as students on our programme, but we don't teach or critique poetry.

There are no peer review workshops in postgraduate creative writing classes at Edinburgh Napier. I repeat, no peer review workshops. This boggles the mind of some people, as such workshops are the bedrock of postgrad creative writing pretty much everywhere else. But we don't have peer review workshops in our classes. Yes, really.

We do set weekly writing assignments and expect you to bring the results to class. You're expected to critically self-reflect on your work [with prompts from us], and to share that thinking. You'll receive professional editorial feedback, delivered in front of other students in a masterclass style. And you'll get six hours of one-to-one mentoring.

If that sounds enticing, here's how you apply for our course. Unsurprisingly, the admissions process we use to select students also seems to be unique to this programme...

First, you fill in and submit an application form [there are links for the online version top right of the blogroll on this page]. We welcome applicants who already have a degree [it doesn't have to be in English, English literature or some form of creative writing]. But we also recognise prior learning in people who don't  have a degree yet.

The crucial section of your application form is the personal statement. This is where you tell us about your journey as a writer so far, and why you want to come on our programme. Here's a hint: don't just paste in your usual personal statement. We always look to see if applicants have mentioned any of the unique elements on our course.

Do some research. There are links on this page to interviews we've given in the past about our ethos, our approach to  creative writing. Read other entries on this blog. If you want your application taken seriously, show us you've taken our course seriously. Plus: that statement is a first chance to showcase your writing. Blow our socks off!

All being well, we'll progress you to the next stage of our 3-step admissions process. We don't ask for a writing sample up front. Instead - if we like your application form - we'll invite you to take part in a writing challenge. We will ask you to write us an original short story of up to 1000 words, and you'll have two weeks to submit it.

To make this a challenge, we give you a choice of first sentences. You select one and use that as the opening for your story. We also let you decide when we send the brief, so you choose the two weeks for writing the story that best suit you. We even include the criteria we'll be using to assess your writing challenge submission.

Once you've sent us your story, we read and assess it. Some applicants get turned away at this stage [we take roughly one out of every five people who apply to our programme]. But if the story shows promise, we will invite you to a selection interview - either face to face, or via Skype if you live a long distance from Edinburgh.

The interview is the final stage of our admissions process. It can last up to an hour. During that time we use teaching and learning activities from our course to assess you as an applicants. But this process also gives you insight into our programme and how we teach it. The interview should be an enjoyable experience, not an interrogation!

We let you know within a day if we're offering you a place. We use a rolling admissions process, rather than stockpiling applications or making you wait months for a decision. Once we're full, we're full. Our MA takes a maximum of 16 full-time students a year, and up to four part-timers who study for two years to complete it.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch before you formally apply. Email programme leader Sam Kelly [her address is]. The class of 2013/14 is nearly full, and we have already offered places to several applicants for September 2014. The sooner you apply, the better your chances...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Successes for Creative Writing MA alumni

Two Edinburgh Napier MA Creative Writing alumni are being published in the prestigious annual anthology New Writing Scotland, which has helped nurture numerous notable writers over the years. Volume 31 features Mark Nicholls' A Disquisition on Inadequacy Among the Salaried Classes, while Rosa MacPherson has contributed a story called The Bleed.

Rosa's story started life as an end of trimester submission for the module Narrative Practice. This challenges students to write a short story inspired by one of three supplied plotlines - a Shakespeare play, a myth, or the lyrics of a murder ballad. Last year the same assessment led to Ever Dundas having her story Pure published in New Writing Scotland 30.

Former writer in residence Robert Shearman is a nominee for best collection in the British Fantasy Awards 2013. Remember Why You Fear Me [ChiZine Publications] is up against collections by Thana Niveau, Joel Lane, and Jonathan Carroll. The winner will be announced at the World Fantasy Convention at Brighton in November - congratulations, Rob.

Much sadder news was the recent death of acclaimed Scottish writer Iain (M) Bank, a great friend of current writer in residence Ken MacLeod. Iain gave his final interview to our reader in residence, Stuart Kelly. It's a wonderful article and worth seeking out (read it here). Rest in peace, Iain.