A specialist creative writing MA for writers for children and young adults taught by published authors.
- Excellent links with authors, agents and publishers, and a programme of visiting speakers.
- Annual prize for the 'most promising writer for young people' awarded by a leading literary agent.
- Excellent track record of graduates achieving publication.
This specialist creative writing MA is designed for writers for children, teenagers and young adults who aim to complete a novel, series of picture books or shorter stories for young children. It is a practical course, taught by experienced lecturers who are all published children's writers and/or industry professionals.
More than 30 graduates of this MA have achieved publication deals since the course began in 2004, with more novels due to be published in 2016-2017. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls won the Waterstones Children's Book of the Year Award and the Glen Dimplex New Writers Award in 2008. Marie-Louise Jensen and Elen Caldecott were shortlisted for the 2009 Waterstones Prize. Elen Caldecott, Clare Furniss, Gill Lewis and Jim Carrington have been long-listed for the Carnegie award. Sally Nicholls was short-listed for the Guardian children's book prize and won the Independent Booksellers' award in 2015 for her novel An Island of Our Own. David Hofmeyr was short-listed for the Branford Boase award 2016 for his novel Stone Rider.
'I'm not sure I would have had the space or the motivation to write a novel without the MA in Writing for Young People and it certainly wouldn't have been as good as it was.'
Sally Nicholls, MA Writing for Young People graduate
What you'll learn
The course is for writers for children of all ages, from the picture-book age through to young adult (YA). Prose fiction is likely to be the main area studied, but students will have the chance to look at writing in all forms, including poetry, picture book texts and narrative non-fiction for young people.
The course supports you to create a significant body of writing, with practical plans for its place in the real world of publishing. It is based on the principle that most writers learn and benefit from working closely with their fellow writers, in a disciplined supportive setting, and with tutors who are practising and published writers in their field. Most of our students aim to complete a novel by the end of the MA.
The writing workshop is at the heart of the course. What you'll do with tutors and your fellow writers in a workshop situation is learn to see your work through objective eyes and to think clearly about the different strategies you might adopt. You learn from each other's mistakes and successes as well as your own. You will be urged to try things out, take risks and experiment, and reflect on and discuss the writing process. The context modules help you to see your own writing in the wider context of published children's writing. The course encourages you to read widely and analytically.
In the first trimester's writing workshop you'll explore a variety of forms of writing, gaining a sense of different age ranges and styles of writing and experimenting with your own writing. We encourage all our students to experiment and take risks at this stage of the course.
The context module, Writing for Young People: Forms, Ages and Stages, is concerned with the writer's relationship with their audience, and will help you understand some of the issues raised by writing for young people. You read one set text each week to discuss in class, reading 'as a writer', looking closely at language and style, in addition to writing short pieces of your own creative work.
In the second trimester's workshop you will be asked to choose your area of writing, and use the workshop's feedback and encouragement to explore it in more depth. You will bring short excerpts from your work-in-progress for discussion and feedback in the group. You may continue to experiment with different ideas for other stories.
The second trimester's Context Module looks at Contemporary Children's Publishing, and aims to give a realistic grasp of the choices open to new writers in the field. This is your chance to learn about how the publishing industry works, and to develop the professional skills you need as a working author.
In Trimester three you will continue to write your work-in-progress, editing and re-drafting your work to help you develop a manuscript as near to publishable quality as possible. You'll be supported by tutorials with a manuscript supervisor. The manuscript may be a novel, a collection of stories, a collection of poems or picture book texts. Most of our students choose to write a novel for young people.
Part time students follow the same sequence of modules, but do so over two years.
How will I be assessed?
The assessed coursework for each Writing Workshop is a folder of creative writing plus a short reflective commentary. For the first Context Module the assessed coursework is an essay of approximately 2,500 words and a folder of creative responses. The second context module is assessed by a portfolio of writing tasks connected to the children's publishing industry, including two book proposals. The manuscript is 35,000-40,000 words, or the equivalent in poetry or picture book texts.
How will I be taught?
Modules are normally taught via tutor-led writing workshops, with one three-hour session each week for the eleven weeks of each taught trimester, at the Corsham Court campus. We aim to keep the writing workshops small - usually no more than eight students - so that there is sufficient time, support and attention for each person's work. The manuscript is taught via one-to-one tutorials, working with a tutor who is a published author with particular knowledge of your field of work. Throughout the course, there will be special events to bring in writers to discuss their work, plus literary agents and editors with practical advice on the publishing process.
Work placements, industry links and internships
The MA has established an excellent reputation in the children's publishing world, and agents and editors look forward to the annual Anthology of new work from the MA Writing for Young People students. We have links with local schools and the Bath Festival of Children's Literature. Sometimes publishers will approach the course with competitions or other opportunities such as writing a short story for a new anthology for publication, or for a new picture book text. MA Writing for Young People students were invited to write stories for the Roman Baths museum website.
The student anthology for 2016 can be found at inklingsanthology.com.
Careers and publications
Graduates have achieved publication deals with a range of different mainstream and smaller publishers, including Andersen Press, Bloomsbury, Chicken House, Egmont, Faber & Faber, Gullane, Hot Key Books, Nosy Crow, Orion, Oxford University Press, Penguin, Quercus, Scholastic, Simon and Schuster, Templar and Walker Books. Many more students have secured literary agents and are likely to secure publication deals in the future.
Some students who have performed well on the MA and have published work have subsequently taught creative writing at the University. Some have taught creative writing for other institutions. Some have combined their writing with subsequent careers in journalism, writing for magazines, teaching of different kinds, publishing, television etc.
Books published by graduates from this course include:
- Ways to Live Forever, Sally Nicholls
- Frost Hollow Hall, Emma Carroll
- Sam Gayton, The Snow Merchant
- The Snow Merchant, Gill Lewis
- Lucy Christopher, Stolen
- The Year of the Rat, Clare Furniss
- Stone Riders, David Hofmeyr
- Shrunk, Fleur Hitchcock
- Sweet Pizza, Giancarlo Gemin
Competitions and awards
Leading Children's Literary Agent Jodie Hodges (United Agents) offers an annual prize for the 'most promising writer for young people' from the MA.
'I particularly liked the way the workshops were run in an atmosphere of supportiveness and encouragement. We all very quickly became much more astute critics of each other's and our own work.'
Maudie Smith, MA Writing for Young People graduate
Facilities and resources
Where the subject is taught
This course is taught by publishing writers and depending on timetables will include:
- Julia Green: her novels for teenagers include Blue Moon, Baby Blue and Hunter's Heart (Puffin), Breathing Underwater, Drawing with Light, Bringing the Summer and This Northern Sky (Bloomsbury). Her latest novels for younger children are Tilly's Moonlight Fox, Sylvie and Star, Seal Island and The Wilderness War (Oxford University Press)
- Lucy Christopher: prize-winning author of Stolen and The Killing Woods for YA readers, and Flyaway for younger teens ( Chicken House)
- Steve Voake: his novels include The Dreamwalker's Child, The Web of Fire, The Starlight Conspiracy, Blood Hunters, Fight Back and Dark Woods (Faber & Faber), plus his Daisy Dawson and Hooey Higgins series for younger readers (Walker Books)
- Janine Amos: Children's publishing Industry specialist with many years' editorial experience, plus author of many books - her most recent children's novel is Walking on Gold.
- C.J. Skuse: YA author of Pretty Bad Things, Rockaholic, Dead Romantic, Monster and The Deviants.
Specialist visiting lecturers
- Julia Eccleshare: children's books editor at The Guardian.
Our Professor in Writing for Young People is David Almond, internationally acclaimed, prize-winning author of Skellig, Kit's Wilderness, Heaven Eyes, My Name is Mina, Jackdaw Summer, Clay, The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean, The Boy who swam with Piranhas, A Song for Ella Grey, The Boy who Climbed into the Moon, The Savage, and many more titles. His major awards include the Hans Christian Andersen Award 2010, the Carnegie Medal and two Whitbread prizes. His novel A Song for Ella Grey won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize in 2015.