Winchester Writers’ Festival and MA Course

The University of Winchester Writers’ Festival is running from the 20th to the 22nd of June this year, and I will be there! Despite putting in a hefty chunk of time writing over the last couple of years and getting involved with a whole bunch of literature communities online, I’ve so far managed to completely avoid turning up to any actual, in-person events since leaving university. Which sucks, really, because I met a whole lot of interesting people that way (at least one of whom will also be at the Winchester festival).

Anyway, if you’re planning to go or just in the area, I’ll be there on the Friday and Saturday. It would have been nice to stick around on Sunday as well, but that mostly seems to be when things are winding down and to be honest my ticket only covers Saturday anyway. I don’t have a whole lot of money to blow on this, so I’ll just be there for the free stuff on Friday. Said free stuff, by the way, is open to the public and includes an open mic night hosted by Jasper Fforde that I fully intend to take advantage of. I’ll also be entering the writing competitions, though to be honest I’ve been doing that for the last two or three years even though this’ll be the first time I’ve actually attended the festival. If you’re interested in booking a place yourself, you’ve got until the 13th of June.

But while the festival only lasts two days, it turns out that I’ll actually be around for quite a while longer. I applied for an Master’s course in Creative Writing a few weeks ago and I’ve just found out I’ve been given an unconditional offer, which I’ve unconditionally accepted. I wasn’t originally sure this was something I wanted to do–it’s a whole year I can’t spend doing other things, it costs a bunch of money and there are no clear career prospects at the end of it–but fundamentally I think I’d just really regret not taking this opportunity. The whole time I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree, I’d be spending all day sitting through lectures on literary criticism or writing essays on obscure Renaissance pamphlets, and then running off in the evening to go to book launches or writers’ groups. It’s not that the really academic stuff wasn’t useful–given another chance, I’d still do it all over again–but what I personally went out of my way to get involved with was what was being written now, and what I could produce myself. Now that I’ve got the opportunity to go for a Master’s degree, that’s what I want to focus on.

Plus, while I don’t want to sound like one of those people who just uses a course to put off their real problems, the total lack of any promising career options right now is also quite a factor. In the short term I’d be quite happy with a dead-end job if it meant just being able to support myself, but in practice I live in a ghost town, it probably wouldn’t and “Maybe I’ll just flip burgers for the next fifty years” doesn’t strike me as being a particularly auspicious life choice. A Creative Writing qualification may not immediately lend itself to an easily attainable job, but it’ll at least make it less likely that I get locked out of a career that would actually make use of the skills I’ve been building for the last several years. I guess what I’m trying to say is: if reality isn’t working out for you, why not follow your dreams?

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3 comments

  1. 500woerterdiewoche

    Well, I wish you the best of luck following your dreams. Fifty years of burger flipping would be a lot of wasted potential, and although I generally distrust Creative Writing degrees, if you hope that’ll help you, go for it. I studied something useless but interesting as well, and while I didn’t get my dream job (mainly because nobody wants to pay anyone for what I like doing most), I’m doing comparably well.

    • Damon Wakes

      I sort of distrust Creative Writing degrees myself, to be honest. I only applied for this particular course because I was already familiar with the university (the Writers’ Festival itself makes it seem pretty promising) and only after talking to a few people who’d already been studying there. I know it’s not a “Get a degree, write loads of books, profit!” situation, and that it’s entirely possible to be a successful writer without ever studying creative writing academically, but I’ve invested enough time in writing already that if this kind of instruction can improve my work, I think it’s well worth putting in the time and money.

      I’ve also heard that some publications will take submissions more seriously if the author has a Master’s degree, and since I’ve had potential employers ask about publication credits, that actually could (indirectly) be a route into a decent job. I think it would be pretty naive to treat this as an actual career move, but at the same time I’d hate to think I’d missed out on an opportunity just to fling CVs at coffee shops for another year.

      Plus, if you end up using what you learn–even if you don’t use it in a job–I think that’s time well spent. Especially if there isn’t a whole lot of demand for your skills from actual employers.

      • 500woerterdiewoche

        It sounds as if you put a lot of thought into this, and I hope that means it’ll turn out well for you. If you think you need a Master’s degree anyway, it’s definitely better to do that in a subject you’re interested in instead of something you hate but struggle through just for your CV. Good luck with everything!

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