With an undergraduate degree from UCC in English and History of Art, Jamie O’Connell has embarked on a MA in Creative Writing, writes Zelda Cunningham.
What are you studying?
I am studying an MA in Creative Writing in UCD, which is a year long course.
Was your undergraduate degree in English helpful for this MA?
My undergraduate degree was completely different to this. I didn’t really enjoy my Arts degree, in the sense of hundreds of people going to lectures, and mainly focusing on critical theory. My masters is the opposite of that. There is only about six people in most of my classes, with only twelve in the year, and it’s all very creative, and interactive. It allows you so much freedom. Working in small groups is hugely beneficial. One of our lecturers said to us that we would learn in one year what would take us five years on our own. There’s very little steering, a lot of it is editing and refining your initial drafts.
What does your course entail?
It’s only six hours of lectures a week, but with every lecture, there is an assignment to do, so you are constantly writing short stories, essays, readings or various assignments, depending on the class. You do a lot of working yourself. The lectures are very small, so a lot of the time you are just sitting around a table, with the lecturer directing a discussion of your work and editing it. At the end of the year, you must produce a portfolio, which is about 15,000 words, for which we have about three months to complete. There are no exams in this course, it’s all continuous assessment, with fifty credits going for your portfolio.
What does this course require from the student?
I think 85 people applied for the course and only twelve where successful, so when applying you have to show huge enthusiasm for writing. That is what they want to see more than anything really. They want to see a real dedication to writing. The whole point of the year is to improve your writing.
Who would you recommend this masters to?
I would recommend this to anyone who is serious about creative writing, be it poetry, fiction or drama, but also to those interested in publishing or editing. It really is a dream year. You will see such a drastic improvement in your work by the end of the year. I wince reading the stuff I wrote to get into the course! The course really looks at all aspects of your writing, from microscopically dissecting it to examining the literary genre. Writing is a craft, and although imagination is obviously involved, the craft does need to be harnessed.
I applied for an associate programme in a New York publishing house, where you spend four months in each department of the publishing house. I am also applying for a creative writing PhD in East Anglia, which I’m leaning towards at the minute.