My Life, Student Life

Masters in Creative Writing — University of Birmingham

Introduction

Beginning the search, I started to sift through Universities closest to home that held a taught Postgraduate Creative Writing course at the University of Birmingham. It was a red brick University so I knew it was highly rated and had prestige. I had a look at the course and it offered a little of everything, from poetry to screenwriting, to short story writing to prose writing. We, as students and as writers, could learn how to refine our knowledge and skills in the genres we naturally have a passion for and also explore our writing capabilities in other genres and forms. We can study with other students who may be writing in a different genre to each other and receive feedback on our work as we move through the course. We may go into the course with particular ideas of the genres we want to write in and the projects we want to complete but choices may change in the progression of the course.


University of Birmingham was close to where I lived and the course looked great. It went hand in hand. There was a lot more information on accommodation for both able bodied students and disabled students for me to see. Oppurtuinities for disabled students to take part in tasters stays so we could get a feeling of what it would be like. However, the plan was if I did do a Postgraduate degree that I would commute from home. I would be quite local and it would be easy for me to travel back and forth. As I was researching, I saw that there was an open day coming up so I decided to visit and see in person whether it would still be an option.

Open Day

Ahead of the open day at University of Birmingham, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by the thought of going to the University of Birmingham because it’s so highly rated. Stepping onto the campus, I was taken aback from the size of it and the magnitude of students moving through the campus. There was a mix of old and newer buildings on the campus, the grandeur of them, other than that, it was just like any other University I’ve been into. The campus was vast and expansive, it was a lot to take in. The campus was spread out and I tried to remember the easiest, accessible routes but it was difficult and the overall access was suitable, places within the campus were more difficult than others and I had to go around a longer way to to get where I needed to go too. There was lift access but there were few that I could find. The lifts I could were thin and I just about got into it with my electric wheelchair and my dad, but I was still able to do it. Small issues that we can look into if I decided to study here.

Clubs and Societies

While on the open day, I did hear about the clubs and societies available at University of Birmingham and a few stood out to me…

Redbrick

University of Birmingham’s official student publication. One publication in print and online, featuring new written, video clip and audio clip content, complete with photographs, all created by students; journalists, reporters, commentators, photographers and editors covering wide areas of student life for fellow students to read and enjoy. As a participant in the society, we can join and contribute to the paper produced on a fortnightly basis issued every Friday as it is distributes across campus, representing readers and students as best it can. Redbrick publication offers a live platform for blogging for readers to get directly involved with the team behind Redbrick’s creation. One for me to look into. 

Burn FM 

University of Birmingham has its own radio station for students to take part, giving everyone the chance to express themselves through radio broadcasting in the Autumn and Spring terms. Students also have the opportunity to have a regular DJ slot doing whatever style of show they would like; mainstream or specialist, music or speech-based, all the time broadcasting from University of Birmingham’s studio suite in the media centre. This society is one I would like to do, especially since I had such a good time on Demon FM during my undergraduate degree. 

Doctor Who

University of Birmingham’s official Doctor Who Society. DocSoc. The society that welcomes students who have seen every episode  that has been or have only seen a few episodes to join together and express our love for all things Doctor Who, spin offs, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures included. The society hosts a range of different activities including watching episodes of both the new and classic episodes of Doctor Who, arts & craft sessions, quizzes, pizza nights, pub nights and more, occasionally joining with other societies like PotterSoc and LockSoc in hosting these activities and nights. DocSoc also arrange a trip to Cardiff every year which was once the Doctor Who Experience, visiting filming locations the show has used to film over the last 10+ years. I liked the idea of this society, definitely a society that I wanted to try, especially as I’ve recently got into The Sarah Jane Adventures and am trying to get into Torchwood.

Writer’s Bloc

University of Birmingham has a Creative Writing society, there are writing workshops and editing sessions for page, stage, and screen. Further to this it aims to create an open and safe environment for students to write, share and perform their creative work. The society also hosts different open mic nights and events, hold poetry slams before building and publishing journal of participants’ creative work. This society might be a possibility for me as its something I haven’t tried before but there is a risk that it may be too similar to what I already will have to do during the course and will I get tired of doing it all day and all evening.

Harry Potter 

University of Birmingham have a Harry Potter Society of Witchcraft and Wizardry! As part of Pottersoc, students, whether they have seen a film or two or the most knowledgable fans can get involved in a wide range of harry potter themed activities every Thursday during term time. This includes a sorting ceremony, film nights, quizzes, scavenger hunt, fudge-crawl, games nights, a triwizard tournament of their own making and the society’s own halloween and Christmas parties to give students a magical experience. One that I am defiantly excited by and would be most looking forward to join. 

Filmsoc  

Students would meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Arts Main Lecture Theatre in the University of Birmingham to enjoy screenings of a variety of films consisting of international, classic, and modern films. Those who join can meet other film loves while taking a part in the  occaisonal quiz and a number of cinema trips. I would love to be a part of this society, being in desperate need of downtime after hard day of classes.  

Creative Writing Open Day Lecture

During the open day at the University of Birmingham, I attended a course lecture with one of the members of staff that would teach on the MA Creative Writing degree. She was kind and had patience as she kindly moved desks and chairs so I could get more comfortable in the room and give my full attention to the lecture. All the course lecturers who teach on the different modules have industry experience, having had their genres and forms of their own work, some cross-genred publications published. We as students have the benefits of their experiences while studying a pure course-work based, 11 month programme (full time). All the modules all related to different areas of Creative Writing while students are exposed to new approaches and ideas as we complete everything in balance, critical and theory based work alongside creative work as we develop our styles and voice as individual writer.

At the time of the lecture, there were a small group of students in the classroom so it was nice to talk about the degree more one on one. Within this chat, the course lecturer talk covered the MA Creative Writing degree and the four modules through step-by-step. Writers Workshop (40-credit module) Poem as Story (20-credit module) Creative Writing Masterclass (40-credit module) and Intertextuality: Story, Genre, Craft (20-credit module) followed by a dissertation.

The course teaches genres side by side, from poetry to screenwriting, to short story writing to prose writing, bringing together different writers from different backgrounds as we take part in small group workshops which you can discuss creative and critical work in safe, supportive environments as we receive critiques and constructive feedback from fellow writers and tutors for students to edit and improve our creative work and critical essays.Alongside the team of tutors, the course invites various industry professionals in as guest lecturers such as agents and editors. These sessions will allow the guest lectures to coach students, encouraging them to pitch their creative work as we each build up a portfolio of our own creative work.  This will overall help the industry and the world of publishing become less ‘mysterious’. There is also the oppitunity to do a PHD in Creative Writing at the University of Birmingham. 

MA Creative Writing Modules


Taking a closer looking at all of the four modules at University of Birmingham,  Writers Workshop (40-credit module) Poem as Story (20-credit module) Creative Writing Masterclass (40-credit module) and Intertextuality: Story, Genre, Craft (20-credit module) followed by a dissertation. 


While I was looking at each of the modules I couldn’t help but mentally plan an idea for each assignment criteria…

The Writer’s Workshop

This module encourages small workshops. Students will work together, sharing our work and commenting on our peers techniques and concepts. The aim of this is to develop our understanding of technical concepts in our chosen genre. Personally, I want to venture out of my comfort zone and try new genres, as well as develop different stories that have been on my back burner, gathering dust for awhile. But I will still continue to write my fantasy-fiction novel, Realms of Magic. In fact, As the assignment is a 5,000-word portfolio of creative work, with a 3,000-word piece of critical writing, I am considering pursuing Realms of Magic here. 

This module will allow me to be more hands-on with my creative fiction, figuring out the strengths, weaknesses, challenges and technicalities of the fiction while I’m in a effective workshop which will provide me with critical and constructive feedback from fellow writers and teach me to make the improvements to my creative fiction.  I feel its vital for writers to explore the craft of stories in different genres when in its written in different forms.

Writers need to explore, generate ideas and practice the techniques for effective story-telling. The overall course and this module will help me transform this piece of fiction and using certain guidelines and standards I hope to approach editors and agents to get my piece launched within the industry.  

Poem as Story – Story as Poem

In this unit, I as a student can learn to work on poetry and fiction simultaneous. This will allow me to experiment as  a ‘poet’ or ‘prose writer’ allowing me to develop as a writer. I along with other students will be set weekly writing exercises and set texts to practice writing these forms as we critique each others workings. I am unsure of my plans for this unit, but the assignment offers the chance to write a 3,000-word poetry and, or short fiction portfolio and a 2,000-word essay. I guess if it came to me completing the course, I would be writing in both forms and styles in the lead up to the assignment and depending on how each go, I will have a clearer idea of which form I want to focus on for the assignment. Another upside to having the room to experiment and explore different genres  within the course before deciding what my final projects and dissertation will be.    

Creative Writing Masterclass: From Workshop to Bookshop

All the modules within this course is in some way linked to ‘Creative Writing Masterclass: From Workshop to Bookshop’. This module builds on the research and professional skills developed in ‘The Writer’s Workshop module. This module will help students develop their work even more, with particular focus on form, style and narrative.  


As well as working on creative pieces of work in chosen forms and genres, the Industry world will be be emphasised and we will be involved with key industry discussions with tutors and agents and editors to how to tailor our work to industry standards. This may lead to the influence to consider personal artistic visions of the type of writer we want be and the required steps we as writers have to take to achieve this.  

If I was to complete this module at University of Birmingham, I would keep an open mind to what creative piece I would pursue. My urge is to focus on my fantasy-fiction novel but then I think I would also want to try some realist fiction writing with the module and assignment. I enjoy reading realist literature such as Adrift by Tami Oldhan Ashcraft and Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. These books have strong character development and non-linear writing can transcend limited settings compared to fantasy fiction writing. I would want to find confidence to write in these different styles and genres and see if this takes off at all.

Intertextuality: Story, Genre, Craft

This module encourages you to explore notions of relationships in story and form and how this links to how the writer goes through with their ‘story-telling’ to accomplish how a story appears to others. This will lead to analysing different texts to generate further ideas and develop strategies to develop the skillset of individual writers going forward into a career as a writer. I am slightly apprehensive if I was to complete this module. But I guess, I will see what comes of this if I were to study the module at University of Birmingham.

Dissertation 

After a tough number of months of intense studying it will be time for our final dissertation, which takes place over the summer if a full-time student. University of Birmingham offers students opportunities to explore and experiment with creative work throughout their time as a student whether this be poetry prose writing, developing short stories, novel writing and scriptwriting. Students may start their masters study with an idea for what they will do for their dissertation but then change their mind by the time it comes to writing it and the course allows you to do so. 


The dissertation will be 75% creative portfolio of 12,000 of a portfolio of creative work in the form of a screenplay, excerpt of a novel, a collection of short fiction or a collection of poetry (600 lines). We as students will have complete creative control over our project. Then to accompany this will be a 25% critical essay of 3,000 words in relation to critical and creative context, with reference to your development as a writer over the course of the MA.  
Students will receive constructive feedback on dissertations through small group workshops which are dived and tailored to the genres or forms in the dissertations that have been decided on.  We will also get one-to-one tutorials from our supervisor during the time of the dissertation period. 


Personally, I am considering to proceed with writing one or a number of creative pieces I have been trying to work on for some time. However, I am open to try new and different types of writing and to see where the course would lead me. 

Part-time Pathway

University of Birmingham offers students a full-time option and a part-time option within the degree and there is also the flexibility to change to the alternate option if things change. University of Birmingham is thought to have kept a nice part-time community, considering most part-time students are constantly off and on campus due to their other commitments. I knew that both the full-time option and a part-time option have their benefits as well as their challenges. It is about weighing the pros with the cons.  

Attending the MA Creative Writing course talk on the open day, I found the course intimidating, I mean I know a Postgraduate degree would be hard graft regardless but what ever I can do to relieve any stress on myself, I will do. Thinking about all the facets of the course, I think if I did do this course it would be best for me to go down the part-time option.   
The part-time option will take place over two years, as well as levitating the pressure off me slightly, it would also help me devote more time and passion into each of my projects, while working on my writers craft and overall development as a writer.    

To my current knowledge, students who take the part-time option are to complete Writers Workshop and Poem as a Story in first year and Writers Master Class and Intertextuality: Story, Genre, Craft in the second year but this is subject to change.  In doing this, I would be able to get a head start on thinking about my dissertation during the first summer of the degree. It would also give me the opportunity to meet my dissertation supervisor early and begin conversions regarding my project while I am still creating the foundation of it.  

The more and more I think of the part-time pathway the more I think that this will be the best possible option for me and how I work if I were to come study here. 

Disability Services

Following the MA Creative Writing open day lecture, my dad and I spoke to to the disability services at University of Birmingham who, when heard about my needs seemed happy to put into place any arrangements I needed to be able to study MA Creative Writing. 

The members of the disability team would be and are in regular contact with the other departments in the University including Estates and the tutors in my course to make sure I have few difficulties if I decide to chose to study at University of Birmingham.

The tutor who took the MA Creative Writing lecture informed me that they have had students with mobility issues previously on the course, which I found a defiant reassurance. She also said that she would happily look into things for me and would change locations of meetings and classes if needed at any time in my studies, especially as the University of Birmingham being a mixture of old and new buildings the access can be questionable in particular buildings.

The disability team and the tutor planned to follow up anything they didn’t know of or weren’t sure about and contact me direction with a follow up so I could make an informed decision. Both teams were very prompt in contacting me the following day.  According to the disability team there is disability adapted accommodation available at University of Birmingham. This was a consideration but due to the amount of contact hours I would be expected in in class, my dad and I decided that it that it wouldn’t be worth it and to commute from home instead. 

If I were to decide to apply to University of Birmingham, further conversations will be had with the disability team and tutors on the course to ensure specific arrangements would be put into place for my studies. 

Thoughts

In first instance, I was unsure about University of Birmingham but attending the open day was eye-opening. I was about to learn more about a postgraduate degree and its requirements and thought this would be a strong course. The tutors were also very supportive and just all round strong individuals. I was also pleased with the amount of creative control and depth we have for the assignments and projects. 

The disability team at University of Birmingham are very supportive and I have confidence that they would be supportive and in regular touch with my MA Creative Writing tutors during my time at University of Birmingham.

I would chose the part-time pathway and chose to commute from home, despite the disability-adapted accommodation and complete the majority of studying in the University’s library to avoid distractions from my home environment. This way I would be able to sleep better than if I was in student accommodation, helping me relax, finding that balance and therefore focus more on my studies. 

Consideration 

Overall, the more I researched into it and spoke to people, the more MA Creative Writing at University of Birmingham became a strong contender in my University considerations to study a masters degree!

 

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