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What Students Said about our Distance Learning Creative Writing MA in 2011
A selection of responses drawn from anonymous evaluation forms completed by our Distance Learning MA Summer School in July - August 2011.
The Summer School: “A very intense week”
It has been a very intense week and I think it will take a long time to digest everything, but it’s been fantastic. I’ve learned so much about writing, my own and other people’s, and am energised to try all kinds of new projects. The summer school has exceeded my expectations. Thank you so much for all your hard work putting it together!
The staff and the Department all went the extra mile to make you feel at home and were very helpful.
I had no idea how important the week would be – bonding the group; putting ideas together; showing the way forward very clearly; an opportunity to air problems.
I really appreciate the fact that there is a summer school. Even in this virtual age, it gives DLMAs a solid perspective on work and colleagues. It establishes a sense of belonging.
I was especially appreciative that my tutor came to the graduate bar and continued talking with students after the day’s workshops and evening readings. An enormous thank you to all tutors involved. It was wonderful to meet everyone in the flesh and to feel part of a group.
The writing ability and research interests of other students are inspiring. During the week, thinking about the evening readings, I kept thinking ‘What a wonderful way to spend an evening’. Can we all meet again? A fulfilling week, the benefits of which will affect work for months to come.
It has been an extremely interesting and rewarding week. It has succeeded in inspiring me with my creative writing. It has reassured me regarding the potential of my work – it has also been very productive for me. It’s a rare opportunity to have a week out of normal life to sit and concentrate on writing with no distractions and this has been a real pleasure…The evenings of reading aloud were particularly rewarding... On a personal level this has been a very important week – a week of realising that I have to commit more to my writing, pursue it as a goal and drive myself harder to improve. So thank you!
The workshops: “This week has broadened my conception of writing…”
I found all of the workshops useful…I appreciated the range of subjects and approaches. I was particularly stimulated by the mixture of emphasis on both writing itself and the practicalities of publishing. I arrived assuming I would learn mostly about the latter, but have been very inspired by discussions of the writing process (often at a philosophical level). This week has broadened my conception of writing and I have found myself engaging with genres that I have never approached before.
You had something to take away from each workshop no matter the genre you were writing in.
I got a clearer perspective on POV from George Green’s session. He was lively and communicated with ease by using practical examples to explain. That opened up a whole wide world of hidden revelations about creative writing.
The individual reading session was fantastic. Reading and hearing back one’s own voice turned out to be sort of soul therapy. It reminded me of what Jane Draycott wrote to me during one of her first year tutorial feedbacks about the power behind reading aloud one’s writings.
I found all of the workshops helpful and relevant to my project and to writing in general. Michelene’s class gave me a perspective I had not considered. One workshop built on another, e.g., Mr Gilkes class on performing and then actually reading the work. The more academically focused work, synopsis writing, allusion in writing and critiquing with Graham, the reflective essay and writerly reading with Lee, were like master-classes for musicians. These topics are always helpful to writers, over and over again.
I liked all workshops and found them very helpful to my writing project. I particularly liked the ‘Writing Allowed-Reading Aloud’ session with Michelene, the ‘Voice’ one with Brian and the ‘Deep in the Telling’ session with Graham. I also found the ‘Synopsis Writing’ session with Graham very enlightening as well as the critical writing workshop, which was the most useful of all.
All of the workshops, without exception, were relevant and useful. I took something away from each one that I plan to apply to my own writing. The workshop with Brian McCabe was well-planned and interesting….The workshop with Graham on ‘Deep in the Telling’ was excellent in that it encouraged me, as a writer, to think more about my approach to writing and to consider how every word, every mark of punctuation affects meaning. As a result I am much more open to poetry and hope to apply a more poetic approach to my prose writing. Lee’s ‘Writerly Readings’ session was also excellent – I wish we had had more of that. I think this type of work has a tremendous influence on how we write.
It was especially valuable to meet our tutor face to face and to have a chance to discuss the evolution of our work and research. There was a wonderful mix of workshops for both prose and poetry. All the workshops were useful for different reasons. I generally find it difficult to produce prose in a workshop session but learnt from others in Sara Maitland’s group who don’t have the same problem and produced a draft in keeping with the inspiring ‘Retelling Old Tales’ theme of the workshop. I found myself returning to aspects of the discussion over the week and on returning home.
It isn’t just the discussion, work produced and refection in each session but the effects on writing afterwards. Jane’s session and Graham’s critical workshop left me with a greater understanding of how to work with ‘the unexpected’ as it arises in re-drafting. The use and choice of visual material in Jane’s session was rewarding. We came away with lots of tools which could be used in future.
Graham’s insightful deconstruction of our prose and poetry in the critical workshop was inspiring… I’m still processing ideas raised in that session; it was so thorough. Hopefully the rigour with which Graham commented on our work will enhance not only our writing but our feedback on each other’s work in future conferences. Graham’s session, ‘Deep in the Telling’, was a fascinating exploration and discussion of ‘the theory of mind’. It was especially helpful to receive references and quotations on handouts and during discussion. I loved his use of visual aids such as Jenga and totem poles for prose structure and poetry writing.
Lee’s Self / Critical essay workshop was very accessible whilst being thorough and academically rigorous. The session encouraged clarification of our own research and the direction of our reflective thesis. The opportunity to verbalise our research questions with our peers before recording them clarified concerns and direction. Lee’s Writerly Reading session was valuable not only for the close-reading of specific texts but for the reflection it engendered in relation to our own work within the group, and how it encouraged searching for associated works afterwards.
Attending Michael Gilke’s workshop was a great opportunity and has sown seeds of confidence needed for performing work.
I thought the final workshop (Graham), where we critiqued a page of writing from all of the students, was the single most useful workshop of the week.
Jane’s session was particularly good – very clearly thought out and well planned, and very productive in terms of creative output… Also Michael Gilkes’ session – great – very focused… The final day – critical workshops probably most useful.
George Green’s topic on Action Points was very stimulating because it enabled me to venture into unfamiliar territory as a writer. Prof. Michael Gilkes emphasised performance in reading, which inevitably affects the words on paper. This is essential to poetry. The tutorial… was certainly important because the face-to-face gave me a clearer picture of my mentor, her own capabilities which were tremendous, and gave me a platform for better engagement. Graham Mort’s one on one feedback opened layers of my work I never knew existed. Lee’s reflective essay workshop illuminated the importance of that final piece towards the end of the course.
The workshops were all illuminating but I would particularly single out Graham’s critical workshop on Friday morning and Sara’s storytelling workshop on the first day. These two were exceptionally relevant to my dissertation project and helpful generally. One-to-one turorial on Monday was excellent. Lee’s Writerly Readings was thought-provoking and challenging.
The international dimension: “I felt like I travelled to Greece, Canada, Ireland, Nigeria, Scotland and other places all at once.”
Travel, globalisation, language, culture, dynamism and exposure are all important to me as a writer and artist. I felt like I travelled to Greece, Canada, Ireland, Nigeria, Scotland and other places all at once. It made the various interpretations of texts essential in building and understanding myself as a writer. It is important for writers to hear and read literature from all over the world because words travel in the air and we never know where our words will land, and which part of the world will receive them.
When I looked for a DLMA programme I looked for something new and innovative – I wanted to be part of a community of writers from around the world. Lancaster University is fulfilling this…The transcultural exchange in writing extended to economic, gender, political and many other discussions. We think we are fairly well-informed on current events, but nothing can replace that 1:1 access and knowledge we have gained through our personal exchanges. I have learned so much this week about the challenges, hopes and dreams facing the Nigerian and Ugandan students. I will take their aspirations and poetry back to my country to share. Isn’t that the only true way to gain a greater understanding of one another?
… I feel that just as important is what all of the international students take back to their own communities from Lancaster’s unique programme , and what is happening with African literature and literacy because of it; and that all of the writers that I come into contact with be told about this inspiring work.
Reading / listening to the work of writers from different cultural backgrounds and hearing their responses to my own work has made me think of writing (my own and others’) in new ways. It is a cliché to say it adds a richness, but it’s true. But it’s important at a much wider level; because of the ever-increasing mobility of people and texts across borders, it is crucial as writers to consider readers and writers of other cultures. Audiences are increasingly heterogeneous, as are our influences in terms of the writers we read. Meeting those writers and readers in the flesh and exchanging and commenting on each other’s work is crucial.
I was very impressed by the international composition of the course. It was enriching and stimulating. The dynamic within the group, the discussions and insights were a major unexpected bonus.
Meeting the students from outside the UK was a wonderful part of the week. It brought to life aspects of culture and writing which I had only been able to touch lightly on during the year. I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss politics and social issues with the students from Uganda and Nigeria. I was fascinated by passionate discussions about political issues which arose from time to time.
Such a privilege to be close to writers from across the globe and to learn and be enlightened by the diverse perspectives this encourages.
Food and accommodation: “It felt like home…”
It felt like home here… Food was great.
The accommodation was very good.
Very clean and private accommodation, but with facilities to sit late and chat in the graduate bar or the shared kitchen in the flats if desired. Plentiful supply of good fresh food.
Cake publishes poetry, flash fiction and reviews with work from established poets and newcomers alike. Go to Cake»
Share research and make connections with other researchers. Go to the Luminary»
The Flash Journal is an undergraduate run termly journal which publishes fiction, poetry, critical and hybrid work by current Lancaster undergrads. Go to Flash»
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