The MA programme will enable talented and experienced writers to develop their craft through workshops, seminars and one-to-one tutorials and to complete with the guidance of published writers, a dissertation in either: Fiction, or Biography and Life Writing.
This MA programme, with its well established reputation for teaching fiction writing, is now expanding to include provision for biographical and life writing. Students who chose the life writing/biography genre will be given an analytical introduction to the disciplinary history, theory and techniques of writing non-fiction. Staff will provide skills training in research methodology and life-writing narrative in biography, memoir, and the non-fiction novel.
The programme will also focus on contemporary writing and the literary marketplace.
This is the present course content and structure. There may be some changes and refinements.
The core of the course is the development of students’ own writing through workshops, small seminars and tutorials and dissertation supervision. In addition students select modules from a range offered by the department, such as Publishing (of the annual Mechanics’ Institute Review); Currents in Contemporary Writing: Encounters with the Real; The Practice of Biography.
Please note, students take EITHER a fiction-writing OR a life-writing/non-fiction writing* degree. There is no provision for mixing the two.
Writing and Reading Seminar:
Students begin with this one term module. Each session is divided into a writing segment where students present and discuss their writing, and a critical segment in which essential works of short fiction or biography/life writing are given close textual readings, and elements of craft are explored through exercises and presentation. In this way from the beginning full and part-time students engage in both the creative and critical aspects of the MA.
An original short story/non-fiction narrative and a critical essay (4,000 words in total).
This module follows on from the first module. It focuses entirely on students’ own writing and on the craft of a particular genre. Students present for the workshop short stories or sections of novels or memoir or some other non-fiction form.
A section of a novel or a short story (4,000 words).
Contemporary Literature module:
There are three of these modules to chose from: genre, European and US/UK literature. All focus on current writing in the literary marketplace, from popular to experimental, and the literary and cultural theory fuelling such work.
-critical essay (genre: critical essay/creative writing): 4,000 words.
-Includes Currents in Contemporary Literature: Encounters with the Real; Fiction of the 1990s; Contemporary -American Literature; Literature and Sexuality; Publishing; Practice of Biography.
Students work through drafts of their dissertation and preface with their supervisor. In the preface students discuss the development of their book and analyse particular literary influences.
preface (about 3-4,000 words) and a 15,000-word dissertation.
Readings and reading workshop
Students are eligible to take part in two extensions of the programme: writLOUD, a monthly readings event showcasing both new authors from Birkbeck’s creative writing courses and established writers; and workshops on reading their work aloud in front of an audience.
At writLOUD, writers in a range of disciplines – including short stories, novels, poetry, screenplays, life writing – read their work aloud to an audience of students, related-industry professionals and the public. Each writLOUD event features 4-5 students from Birkbeck’s Creative Writing courses and a well-known author with a connection to the college. Previous and/or confirmed guest writers include Jonathan Coe, Derek Johns and Susan Elderkin.
Workshops on reading your work aloud in front of an audience are offered at least once a term. They are organised jointly by Birkbeck’s MA Creative Writing and Theatre Studies programmes, and provide practical advice on such topics as selecting and annotating your text, vocal care and technique, relating to the audience and the physical space. Originally devised to support students taking part in writLOUD and publicity events for The Mechanics’ Institute Review, the workshops are also invaluable preparation for the public readings that have become a standard way for publishers to market authors and their work.
The programme runs over three terms. Sessions are generally 2 hours long, (options 1.5 hours) beginning at 6pm in the evenings. Each term is ten or eleven weeks excluding one reading week (no classes). There are one to one tutorials throughout the year and further support offered by the Royal Literary Fund Fellow with essay writing.
-Term 1: Writing and Reading seminar; Contemporary Literature module
-Term 2: Writing Workshop; MA Option module; visits by agents/publishers
-Term 3: dissertation supervision, up to three visits/readings offered by visiting writers, publication of The Mechanics’ Institute Review.
-Term 1: Writing and Reading seminar.
-Term 2: MA Option module; visits by agents/publishers.
-Term 3: dissertation supervision, publication of The Mechanics’ Institute Review.
-Term 1: Contemporary Literature module.
-Term 2: Writing Workshop.
-Term 3: dissertation supervision, visiting writers’ readings.