By Jacqueline Grima
Since it was founded in 1998, Manchester Writing School has produced an astonishing community of published and successful writers, with many of its graduates going on to establish successful careers in the literary industry. Under the guidance of Creative Director Carol Ann Duffy and a whole host of published writers on the teaching team, students of the writing school’s MA have gone on to achieve success in, among others, the Costa First Novel Award, the longlist of the Man Booker Prize and the Bridport Prize.
Humanity Hallows spoke to some of the Writing School’s graduates to ask them how studying at the Manchester Writing School has helped further their writing careers.
After graduating, Sarah Morris, who studied on the MA novel route, signed with an agent. She then went on to sign a two-book deal with Two Roads books, a six-figure deal with a US publisher for the US and Canada, and separate deals with publishers in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and the Czech Republic. Sarah told us, “The Creative Writing MA course provided the perfect environment in which to pursue my dream, not only of writing a novel, but also of getting it published: accomplished tutors setting high standards and providing invaluable feedback; visiting speakers giving practical advice on the publishing industry; a supportive group of talented fellow students cheering each other on. Oh, and that all-important deadline, the power of which shouldn’t be underestimated.”
Kate Smith, who also studied on the novel route, which previously required the completion of a full length book, has recently signed with Valley Press. Her novel The Negligents, which she began writing as her MA portfolio, will be published next June. Kate said,
“The Manchester Met MA I’m sure was a huge factor for me in finding a publisher. For a start, it forced me to finish the novel, and, in working towards that deadline, I had sections critiqued numerous times by excellent tutors and other students; it gave me the confidence to believe that the book was something worth doing, and therefore something worth doing well (as well as I could); it allowed to me to try out things, some of which worked, some of which didn’t, to write and rewrite (repeat 1000 times).
“As part of the MA we learned some really useful skills such as how to approach an agent/ publisher, and during the course, various agents and publishers came along to talk to us which meant access to a world whose door I think would have been closed to me had I not done this course. I’m very grateful to Manchester Writing School and would recommend the MA if you’re serious about writing.”
Other successful graduates of the novel route include Oliver Mell, whose young adult novel Godless is available now from Austin McCauley, Eileen O’Reilly, who has signed with Two Roads, and Sarah James, whose novella Kaleidoscope has recently been published by Mantle Lane Press.
Graduates from the MA’s poetry route have also achieved great success, with poet Maggie Mackay publishing work in a range of print and online publications including Prole, The Interpreter’s House, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Obsessed with Pipework, and in various anthologies. Poet Keith Hutson has recently joined the editorial board of Poetry Salzburg after the publication of his pamphlet and Elisabeth Sennit Clough’s collection Sightings was published by Pindrop in 2016.
Other poetry graduates who have achieved success include Mark Pajak, who has won the Eric Gregory Award and the Bridport Prize, and Khadija Rouf, who received a commendation for her poem in the Hippocrates prize.
Many of the Manchester Writing School graduates have achieved success in competitions and anthologies. Bernie Cullen won the York Mix competition and Robert Gardham’s story ‘Wedding’ appeared in an anthology created to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation. Robert said, “During my time on the MA at the Manchester Writing School, I had my first publication which was a tremendously exciting moment: a piece of flash fiction I wrote for the Baby Shoes anthology with proceeds going to charity.
“This really made it clear that there are so many opportunities out there for new writers, which being on the MA brought me into contact with, you just have to hunt for them, and, once you find that first success, you can build on it. I’m currently writing some more flash for a follow-up book, and have almost completed my novel for my final hand-in which is approaching fast.”
Suzanne Finch’s poem ‘Sloth’ appeared in an anthology produced by the University of Chester Press. The collection was created to showcase the best entries in the High Sheriff’s Cheshire Prize for Literature. Suzanne said, “The MA has been hugely beneficial to my poetry writing. Working with tutors and fellow students on the course has enabled me to redraft my work to a higher standard. In addition, my confidence has developed in a way which has encouraged me to put more of my work out into the real world for consideration.”
Other successes include Emma McGordon, who won the 2017 New Writing North Julia Darling Fellowship, Liv Sandwell, who was shortlisted for the 2017 Wicked Young Writer awards, Arnold Fanning, who has signed a non-fiction book deal with Penguin Ireland and Marita Grimwood, whose application to the North East Writers’ Block scheme was successful. Ian Humphreys has also been selected for The Complete Work III programme, an 18-month scheme involving mentoring from a leading poet and publication by Bloodaxe.
Postgraduate students at Manchester Writing School can study for either an MA or MFA. Routes of study include novel writing, poetry, writing for children and young adults and place writing, and the courses can be conducted on campus at Number 70 Oxford Street or via distance learning. For more information, visit the writing school website.