By Hannah MA Creative Writing student at The University of Exeter
My name is Hannah and I am a word nerd. I love them all, every character, particularly once they’ve been plucked from language’s jumble and trained into lines designed to delight. My favourite word tamers include Emily Bronte, Robert Macfarlane, Hillary Mantel, Oscar Wilde, Terry Pratchett and Haruki Murakami. These literary legends transport one from the bed, the bath or the bus to the Moors, sixteenth-century Court, Discworld, tropical archipelago’s and Victorian parlours. Until teleportation becomes an option reading is the easiest way of getting yourself an interdimensional holiday for a tenner – a real penny saver for travel bums like myself. Twenty-five years after discovering I could get to Narnia, Hogwarts and Wonderland by reading, I’ve come to study word organisation at Exeter. I hope that the modules, lecturers, environment, time and space help me craft something(s) that transports other readers away from (and on) rainy afternoons and sleepless nights.
Why study a Creative Writing masters? I’d already completed a BA in English and Creative Writing, what would I gain by putting myself through another bought of deadlines? Even I’ve asked myself the question on the Sunday’s I’ve spent hunched over a laptop while everyone is out playing or snoozing on the sofa. Technically I’d already achieved what I’d set out to: I was paying the bills through my work writing. I’d also discovered just how many varied opportunities there are for pen wielders; in Peru I used my degree honed skills to write about the alleviation of Menopause’s 34 symptoms and in the UK, I’d increased charitable income by working as a Trust Fundraiser. But the problem is, I wasn’t writing my words, (and my interest in surrealism and fin de siècle Gothic’s far surpasses my interest in the menopause).
So, I’ve decided to actively Coddiwomble*, that is to push myself to ‘travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination’. The ‘vague destination’ is somewhere / some scenario where I can live by writing my own words (ideally it will be on a beach). In order to purposefully travel towards this unmapped location, I quit my full- time job as a Trust Fundraiser, jumped into the unknown (excuse the cliché) and landed back on campus – the University of Exeter’s to be precise. Already the move has forced me to grow as a writer.
In term one Sam North’s suitably challenging Poetry of Events module convinced my classmates and I, that in order to excel we needed to stop worrying about crafting beautiful prose and instead focus on working out what separates a good plot from a bad one. (Hint: Desire and satisfying the audience’s thirst for puzzles is key). I’ve also been able to indulge my fascination with late 19th century society and its literature by taking the English Literature module Empire, Decadence and Modernity. Highlights have included; considering the paradoxes and epigrams of Oscar Wilde and discovering relatively obscure but brilliant texts such as The Story of a Modern Woman by Ella Hepworth Dixon.
The wisest decision I made was to complete the course over two years rather than one. In addition to getting a whole extra year of study, I’ve also been able to combine the course with a role in communications and, importantly for me, I’ve only had to deal with one set of deadlines per term.
Realistically the move back into academic study may not add digits to my paycheck or land me a top dollar publishing deal, but it is allowing me access to storytelling experts, 1-1 support, a global community of writers and most importantly of all, the time and space to write.
*Can we all try to actively reintroduce this incredible old English slang word back into everyday conversation?