Tuesday, November 1, 2011

MA Creative Writing student longlisted for £5000 prize in Mslexia novel contest

One of our current cohort has been longlisted for the Mslexia 2011 Women's Novel Competition. Catherine Simpson is in the running for a first prize of £5000. The shortlist will be announced in early 2012.

The competition was open to unpublished female novelists writing fiction in any genre for adults or young adults. The judging panel is novelist Sarah Waters, literary agent Clare Alexander and broadcaster Jenni Murray.

Getting longlisted is another success for Catherine. Her short story Mercy Boo Coo was among the winners of Family Legends, a competition run by BBC Radio Scotland and the Scottish Book Trust earlier this year.

The story was published in an anthology called Family Legends. Catherine read Mercy Boo Coo aloud and was interviewed by BBC Radio Scotland's Culture Cafe in May. You can read her winning entry here.

The Process: applying to our course

The MA Creative Writing course at Edinburgh Napier University prides itself on innovation, taking a fresh approach to the teaching of creative writing. That extends to the way we examine applicants to our course.

Demands for places is high, with far more people turned away than accepted. We take a maximum of 24 students each year, to ensure the best quality student experience. As a result, there's no annual cut-off date for applications - once we're full, we're full.

Our process starts with the application form. We look for evidence that would-be students are already actively pursuing a career in creative writing. How? They could be taking short courses in writing, or studying via the Open University programme.

Publication history also counts in an applicant's favour. Past and present students have included published authors looking to change direction, established non-fiction authors, and writers with several short stories publications to their credit.

Most students have a degree, but it isn't essential - nor does it have to be in English. Psychology, history and medieval literature are among degrees held by past or present students. We recognise a range of qualifications.

Perhaps the most crucial element of the application form is your personal statement. It's our first chance to assess your ability to write, and a chance to demonstrate your passion for our course. We recommend researching what we do before you apply!

If your application seems promising, we invite you to submit a sample of your creative writing. However, we don't just accept any old thing. Why not? Because you could have been polishing your portfolio piece for years.

Instead we set a specific challenge. We provide a choice of opening sentences, and invite you to write a 1000-word short story in the style of your choice. We give you two weeks for this challenge, even give you a choice of delivery deadlines.

We've just received the first fruits from this new method and the results are promising. This process enables us to assess like with like, rather than comparing journalism with chapters from novels or extracts from plays.

The process replicates the writing challenges students face on our course. If you can't write a 1000-word short story in two weeks, you'll never survive on our course [let alone life as a professional writer].

If your story impresses us, you'll be through the final stage: a tough interview done face-to-face [or by telephone for international applicants]. We tell you the result within 24 hours, so you can start planning.

That's our process, that's how we pick our student cohort. It's an exacting method but - we believe - the best way to find writers who'll thrive on our course. Interested? Click one of the links top right!