Our Creative Writing MA graduates are recording major professional successes.
Now a professional Children's author, Eloise Williams launched Gaslight (Firefly Press) at Cardiff Children's Literature Festival. The Cardiff born author adds this story to her debut novel Elen's Island (Firefly Press 2015). This latest work has been described as a darkly atmospheric RUBY IN THE SMOKE style mystery, rich in voice and character and set in the dark, morbid, death-obsessed world of the grifters and scammers of the Music Halls of late Victorian Cardiff.
Of her time on her MA course at Swansea University, Eloise spoke honestly, "I simply wouldn’t have had the confidence to have this career without it."
She added, "The workshops were so much fun and I learned so much from the tutors and from the other students. The course really gave me a chance to extend the skills I already had and also to build completely new ones. There were lots of challenges along the way because the course requires you to write in so many genres, and really stretches you creatively, but I like a challenge so I loved it!"
Natalie Ann Holborow’s eagerly-awaited first poetry collection And Suddenly You Find Yourself (Parthian Books) is also out now and meeting great acclaim.
Natalie said "I'm hugely grateful for the opportunity to have studied the MA at such a wonderful, supportive university and I truly felt like I was being taught by the best when it came to the English and Creative Writing department. The passion and drive of the staff is nothing short of inspiring, and as students we thrived off and echoed this energy!" She explained, "Critical workshops were vital to the development of my work, and though the whole idea of "critique" can initially seem daunting, as students we never felt anything less than nurtured and supported in a friendly environment which encouraged us to be open, positive, yet honest. This is key to preparing for a literary career, where critique is something we will regularly have to face as writers."
In the arena of sports writing, MA graduate Geraint Thomas was shortlisted for the UK rugby prize in the prestigious Cross Sports Book of the Year Awards, for his co-written biography Terry Davies: Wales’s First Superstar Fullback (Y Lolfa).
The book tells of Davies’s childhood in Bynea, Llanelli, learning rugby in Stradey School, making his debut as a schoolboy for Swansea, entering the Royal Marines and winning his first cap before going on to become a household name.
Launched last year at Parc y Scarlets, the book has received great praise and follows Geraint's 2015 self published release GI Limey: A Welsh-American's Second World War.
Geraint commented, "I'm delighted to be nominated and know how big an honour it is. It's particularly satisfying as a number of years ago, when I was just staring out in journalism, I approached a Welsh international about writing his biography but was eventually overlooked. I never gave up on that dream of writing a biography and now, not only have I achieved that goal, it has been officially recognised. It's the same lesson sports stars - or anyone who has accomplished something big - tell youngsters... don't quit, never give up on your dreams!"
He added, "the success of Swansea University's creative writing MA's is a testament to the skills of the tutors. I'd also like to add that learning about magazine journalism in Cardiff University, also helped instill in me the feature writing skills which have translated so well into my biographical work."
PHD student Lizzie Fincham is also celebrating. Green Figs & Blue Jazz (Cinammon Press) - her wonderful debut poetry collection is finding its way onto bookshelves.
From a winter solstice, gathering memories of a relationship in which the signs of transience and mortality appear in retrospect, the collection moves to a central act in which loss comes to the fore so that every place, each object, even the mud on a pair of boots becomes a stark meditation on what has gone, what might have been. Finally resolving in a final act in which memory, dreams and hope conspire to remake the past and give substance to possible futures, this evocative and imagistically rich collection moves full circle, ending in "advent" with the world still waiting.
Of the creation of the book Lizzie commented, "It began as it always did and always will with a few words on a page. Written on wet Mondays and tempting Fridays. Pushing through doldrum times". She added, "from the start of the PhD in Creative Writing at Swansea the challenges intensified. My tutors both encouraged and challenged me in equal measure. I was taught how to make every word count, and if in doubt, take it out! Hear the lines as well as see them. How important it was to create shapes on the page and rhythms for the ear."
Wendy Holborrow has also been busy, earlier this year she released I Address You: A Collage a combination of diagrams and form, from found poetry and personal letters, haibun, several haiku and prose poetry.
Hot on the heels then came two children's stories Jessie and Ben and the China Doll and Jessie and Ben in Space and then the reissue of all six issues of Poetry Greece, a publication that she founded and edited from 2000/2002.
Wendy said, "A lot of my success I attribute to the modules I studied on Swansea University’s Creative Writing Course which taught me new ways of looking at my writing, especially moving me from free verse lyric poetry to using much varied poetic forms. Nor would I have considered writing plays had it not been for the modules on drama and stage writing that I undertook. I also believe that my various tutors’ faith in me and my work enabled me to garner such success. The 'collage' was part of my final dissertation in the MA."
There were two big announcements, too, for Swansea’s dramatic writers.
Paul Whittaker’s play Gods and Kings has won a full professional production grant from Arts Council Wales. It will be performed at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, in September. The play has already received Arts Council Wales research and development funding, leading to a script-in-hand performance at the Wales Millennium Centre as part of Disability Arts Cymru’s first National Mental Health Festival.
Peter Gregory, Head of ACW’s Night Out programme wrote: “Gods and Kings is an honest account of living with mental illness…it is well written, rounded into a story and gives the viewer a good insight into living with bipolar disorder.”
Paul’s work demonstrates the value of Swansea’s unique multi-disciplinary approach to Creative Writing. He honed his skills as a playwright on the programme’s specific dramatic writing modules, but developed the story under the tutelage of Gilly Adams as part of the Writing the Self module.
Meanwhile, another Swansea MA playwright, Dave Shannon, has had his first professional commission with his short play Bus Stop due to be given eight performances by Drip Action Theatre at the Arundel Festival in August.
Thrilled at the breakthrough he said: “This makes all those rejections, being on a shortlist but not going any further, and rewrites/redrafts, worth the effort.” He praised the help and support and expert tuition he received on the MA programme at Swansea.
- Tuesday 30 May 2017 09.25 GMT
- Tuesday 30 May 2017 08.38 GMT
- Celine Smyth, Tel: 01792513476