So there I was, cheered on by my children at my graduation ceremony. I’d given myself a year to devote to writing, to plunge more deeply into the world of my novel. It didn’t go exactly as planned.
At times it was excruciating – being forced to consider the mistakes and writing tics that I’d picked up over the years and needed to shed. Frustration at the way the modules were organised so that I wasn’t able to access the tutors I wanted or the modules that were my first choice. And during those first months a depression I couldn’t shift following the death of my nephew, for that, I’m grateful that the university provided a counselling service that helped enormously.
On one of the modules, I was taught by poet, Tim Liardet and wondered how the course and the fellow poets would help my prose. In fact, the writing in that module – where we close studied texts – gave rise to writing that went onto be recognized. My story, ‘The cows are out for spring.’ was long-listed for the Bristol Short Story Prize and ‘Sound Scrabble,’ a flash fiction piece about hearing impairment, long-listed for Tongues and Groove prose poetry competition.
Being amongst serious talent and passionate writers was wonderful. These writers pushed themselves and supported me and others along the way.
After I’d handed in my final 40,000 draft of my novel and the course ended, there was an inevitable sense of disappointment and loss as all the structures that had been provided for us slipped away.
Luckily I belong to a critique group of MA students where we carry on workshopping our works in progress. It is inspiring to see their work and think that their work could be published, (come on, #agents!). And I still belong to Bristol Novelists writing group.
For me personally, the MA had always been a life-long ambition. Back when I finished a creative writing and literature degree at Sheffield Poly I dreamt of doing an MA, but going onto further study seemed out of the question. I needed to work. In my family I was the first to go to university and studying an arts subject was seen as a waste of time and money and a risk. My parents both left school aged fourteen. Although my dad was a great aural storyteller, the keeper of family history and sayings, he told me I was wasting my time going to university. My mum stepped in to support me however and smoothed the way.
While bringing up children the dream of studying remained just that and later as a single mum for years it was also out of the question. It was only when my children were through education and a student loan for post-grad study became available that I contemplated the MA again. I sent off my stories before the deadline, not expecting to even get an interview so was both surprised and delighted to get a place.
Now I’ve finished the MA my new ambition is not to work towards publication but to be published. And that means grafting, sitting down daily with my words and working through the doubt, misgivings and sheer complexity of writing a novel.
My aim is to for my work to be read by others and good enough to land on a literary agents desk and for them to say, yes.