MLitt Creative WritingKathryn Sandilands, UK

Tell us a little bit about your background...
I was brought up in a small town between Glasgow and Edinburgh. For my undergrad, I studied for a BA in Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford and went on to study for an LLM in Medical Law & Ethics at the University of Edinburgh. My background is therefore really in legal studies, which meant that embarking on an MLitt in Creative Writing was in some ways quite an intimidating prospect.

What inspired you to study Creative Writing?
Stories have been important to me from a very early age. I had an excellent English teacher in secondary school, who encouraged me to both read widely and write often. After school, it was important for me to make time to write even when studying other subjects at university, and the idea of carving out an entire year where writing would be my core purpose was incredibly exciting.

What drew you to the MLitt in Creative Writing?
Various friends had previously studied at the University of Strathclyde in a range of subject areas. All had spoken very highly of their experiences and how well it prepared them for future work or study. When I first read the programme brief online, the MLitt in Creative Writing appeared to balance opportunities to experiment in different creative approaches under expert tutors, with more practical learning about the industry of creative writing. This really appealed to me and was borne out in the way that each module was taught.

The course also culminates in a Major Project, which is an extended piece of writing to be written over the summer term. This was a really exciting opportunity to attempt a longer piece of writing and receive support and feedback from a supervisor while doing so. There were a lot of opportunities to consider how the ideas explored in classes might influence the approach taken to the Major Project. While challenging, it was a highly rewarding experience.

What specialist knowledge/professional skills have you developed during your time studying the course?
The course provided a lot of freedom in terms of the creative writing which students were able to produce for assignments, with workshops focusing on tools and approaches which might help to achieve a final piece of writing. There was also consideration of the more academic aspects of the subject through exercises in research and critical writing.

Aside from developing skills in creative writing itself, the course also provides an opportunity to learn about the publishing industries. In the first semester, the Writing Life module included guest speakers from a wide range of backgrounds who were able to describe their own experiences of these industries and to answer questions on the practical aspects of their work.

What has home learning been like in comparison to your traditional form of learning?
It was unfortunate that the pandemic prevented in-person interaction with tutors and course mates, but home learning was well-managed. Discussion was at the heart of the seminars and this was still possible in the new online format, with tutors making a real effort to utilise these tools to best advantage. Despite the challenges, there was a sense of community on the course.

Tell us a little bit about some of the projects you had the opportunity to write about during your time studying the course...
I mentioned already the Writing Life module in the first semester, which considered the more practical aspects of writing and publishing. The final project of this module involved producing a piece of creative writing specifically tailored for submission to a chosen publication target. After completing the assignment, I submitted it to my chosen target - an online literary journal - where it was accepted and subsequently published. This was particularly exciting and provided me with real experience of the editing process.

In the second semester, The Made Project involved creating a piece of writing which had an experimental “made” aspect. For me, this was quite a daunting brief as it involved bringing a new element to the work and thinking about how to incorporate something practical or tangible into the writing. I chose to write about my relationship with my grandmother and produced a short piece of film alongside the final written piece. It’s ended up being something really special to keep, and it encouraged me to try out a creative form that I had never considered previously.

What would be your advice for people considering taking this course?
Be explorative and experimental, especially in the early assignments, even if you already have a firm idea of how your work should look. It can be rewarding and might influence the way which you approach your final project.

What have you been doing since graduating?
Since completing the MLitt, I have begun a Doctoral Training Programme at the University of Leicester and will be researching legal and ethical issues presented by certain aspects of genomics. The MLitt has definitely allowed me to think about different styles of communication in research and I’ll take this with me in my new course of study. As well as this, I’ll certainly keep writing and will do so with a new confidence due to the skills developed throughout the course.