Tuesday, October 09, 2007

MA in Nonfiction

I had lunch (at a fine noodle bar on The Cut near Waterloo) last week with Julie Wheelwright. I had met Julie the week before, when she came to the London launch of The Write Guide. 'Hello,' she said. 'I'm running the MA Nonfiction course at City that you set up'.
I felt a stab of ownership, then promptly let the feeling go. Ownership is stupid. It's like getting a puppy and resisting its growth into a dog.
Curiously the City course stemmed from interviewing people for The Write Guide. Harriet Gilbert runs City's MA in Novel Writing, a fairly unique course in that its participants produce an entire novel. An MA in Nonfiction seemed like a natural companion. Over six months I designed and wrote a course, and we began the process of steering it through the various committees.
It's now enrolling for January 2008. Julie tells me that the current interest is in the life-writing angle, though the course's remit is larger than that. As with the novel, the course is geared to production of an entire book. That is much tougher with nonfiction than fiction, so realistically students are going to turn up with much of the research in place. Nonfiction really is the growth area in creative writing at university.
I wish it very well. I'm delighted that thorugh Julie Wheelwright it is being brought into real kicking and breathing existence.
Meanwhile I've just steered second year students here at Plymouth University through their first creative writing workshop, in which they all wrote a nonfiction piece on place. I was moved to see the work that stems from people I have already come to know. The writing showed a real variety of depth, talent, craft and effort. That's a bonus of teaching writing - people you come to appreciate in any case dare to invert themselves and reveal their writing side. You're suddenly in a room of kindred souls.

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