TTo celebrate the release of Georgia Springate’s debut novel, Beyond, on 1 March, we asked Georgia to write a Burning Chair blog on the value of Creative Writing courses – she graciously accepted. Here are her thoughts:
So, before I delve into the what’s, when’s and why’s of my own experience, let me throw a quick disclaimer out there: I’m only here this week to talk about my personal experience. I’m not going to force my opinions on anyone, or pretend I know that taking a Creative Writing course will prime you for publication. On the contrary, many many successful writers have never engaged in any sort of CW programme and this has had absolutely no hindrance. But, if you’re someone toying with the idea, or you’re interested in knowing a little more, you’re in the right place!
I’m currently in my third and final year of studying a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing with The Open University. For those that don’t know, the OU offers fully recognised degrees and courses through distance learning; essentially, they provide you with the materials and tutor, and you study around your existing commitments. It’s a route I chose personally in order to keep working a full-time job and not have to leave home to get my degree. For people looking to climb the career ladder in their existing field, busy parents, or those who would have difficulty attending a brick uni, it really is a great alternative. And for a cheaper price – win win!
The OU course has really helped me progress my writing in many ways. Firstly, before studying, I was only ever confident writing in prose. I’d done a couple of very short screenplays for Film Studies A-Level, but they were very very basic. The course has opened my eyes to all sorts of different mediums including several different forms of poetry, scripts, radio plays and short stories.
And, although many seemed scary at first – especially poetry! – I have actually gained some of my best marks in these new adventures. So, not only has it helped me become a more well-rounded writer, it’s given me new-found love and enthusiasm for every and any form of writing, not just the good old novel.
The second major thing I’ve learnt from the course is how to accept and work with feedback. This has been from both tutors and fellow students, and to be honest gave me a great grounding for receiving the suggested edits for Beyond. Learning to be open to changes, understand where you could’ve done better, and make a note of improvements for next time, are all important aspects to processing feedback.
I am part of the OU Write Club, which is a really supportive society. Members are encouraged to post extracts of their works in progress and ideas, and often receive some great constructive feedback from others. When I first started writing Beyond, I posted the first few chapters in the Write Club forum and people offered lots of support and positive words. It gave me the boost I really needed to carry on with my work and eventually submit it to Burning Chair!
So, overall points: my CW course has given me chances to explore new forms and mediums, accept and work with criticisms, and receive feedback on new ideas from fellow students. It’s been a very encouraging and supportive experience and I will probably miss it come June! Would I have taken a Creative Writing course had it not been that I wanted to study an English degree? Maybe, maybe not. But I am very pleased with my experience as-is.
Are you interested in distance learning, or looking into the course I study? You can find out more here: http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/
Beyond – by Georgia Springate
What happens when we die? Is this really all there is? What exists beyond this life?
Alex Duncan is just an ordinary 14-year-old boy. His main worries are homework, girls, the school bully…
…and his sister, Jenna, who has ovarian cancer, stage B.
As his parents retreat into themselves, Alex is desperate to find a way to help, a way to make things better for his sister. After all, it’s the not knowing that’s the worst thing.
While he tries to untangle the ultimate question, life still goes on: his best friend seems oblivious to his feelings about her, the school bully has taken a special interest in him, and everything he does just makes him feel more and more awkward and out of place.
What he learns on his journey helps him to come to terms with not only his sister’s mortality but also how he and his family and friends cope with that most compelling of questions: what lies beyond?