Course information

Length

1 year full-time or 2 years part-time

Scholarship information

Funding available

Course overview

Have you got a story to tell? A collection of poems that you can't wait to get down on paper? This degree will help you develop your creative writing practice. You’ll experiment with a wide variety of forms to help you discover your preferred mode of writing.

Please note: The MA Creative & Life Writing is now closed for 2019 entry.

 

Why study MA Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths?

  • You may be writing regularly; you may be returning to it after focussing on your career. Whatever your background, if you're serious about your writing, we can help you to develop your practice.

  • Our students bring with them a lively range of interests, cultures and experiences. We welcome students of any age who share the drive to take their writing seriously.

  • You’ll have the chance to experiment with different forms – poetry, the novel, short story and life writing - as well as to specialise in one of those areas -  and you will receive expert guidance in each field. Read work by our students.

  • Some seminars will be taken by visiting writers who will talk about their work, introduce you to different theories of creative writing and engage you in discussion about their writing. Recent visitors have included Ali Smith, Caryl Phillips and Daljit Nagra.

  • We regularly host panels of literary agents, editors, organisers of literature schemes and projects as well as weekly readings and discussions organised by our Writers Centre

  • Several graduates of this programme, including Jack Underwood and Emily Berry are published by Faber, long regarded as the pre-eminent poetry publisher in the UK. They join a list of Faber publishees that includes TS Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Many of our other students are published authors. In fact, over 80 of our students have published their work.

  • In 2018, the Royal Society of Literature elected 40 new fellows under the age of 40 – in effect selecting the leading young British writers today. Six of them – Ross Raisin, Evie Wyld, Lucy Caldwell, Sophie Collins, Amy Sackville and Emily Berry – are Goldsmiths creative writing alumni. No other university creative writing programme comes close to matching that.

  • Awards won by our creative writing alumni include the 2019 Desmond Elliott Prize, The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award, Authors’ Club First Novel Award, John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Betty Trask Prize, Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the Desmond Elliott Prize. There have also been shortlistings for the Costa Prize (in both the poetry and fiction categories), the Encore prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Orange Award for New Writers, the Dublin International IMPAC Prize, The Miles Franklin Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize, The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize, the TS Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for Poetry.

  • The Pat Kavanagh Prize is presented annually to an outstanding graduate from the programme. The £500 prize, created in memory of the much-admired literary agent, is awarded by a team of her colleagues at United Agents. This has been the catalyst for publication by several previous winners.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Nick Campbell

What you'll study

There are three main components of the Masters:

  • Creative and life writing workshops
  • Contemporary Contexts for Creative and Life Writing
  • One-to-one tutorials

There will be two core modules: a two-term workshop in creative and life writing, and a one-term Contemporary Contexts for Creative and Life Writing seminar module.

Workshop in Creative and Life Writing

All students attend this two and-a-half-hour compulsory workshop – part-time students attend in their first year. In the first term you will be encouraged to experiment with a variety of genres in creative and life writing, and then in the second term to develop your individual interests in poetry, fiction, autobiography and biography, or perhaps a fusion of those genres.

Each term you submit a piece of your own writing together with a critical account of how you have structured and developed it. Presentations of your work to other students with an account of your aims and approaches form an additional important element.

Some workshops will be taken by visiting writers, introducing you to a range of practices, concerns and techniques. The workshop also enables you to debate issues raised in the Contemporary Contexts module in relation to your own practice.

Contemporary Contexts for Creative and Life Writing

This is a two-hour seminar module, made up of informal talks by visiting speakers, followed by a seminar. These talks might be by practising writers, biographers, critics or philosophers (from both outside and inside Goldsmiths).

Our notable visitors have included Ali Smith, A L Kennedy, Daljit Nagra and Jon McGregor. Wide-ranging topics have included: the role of the writer and politics; writing the self; the relationship between contemporary fiction and biography; the relationship between fictional and non-fictional autobiography; writers and their readers; the publishing world; contemporary ideas about language; gender and writing.

In both the Contemporary Contexts module and the workshops you will be asked to consider works by significant contemporary writers in relation to your own writing practice. Assessment is by a critical essay on a writer or literary issue. Full-time students take the Contemporary Contexts module in their first term and part-time students in their second year.

Tutorials will be offered at regular intervals during the year (12 in all).

Options

You also choose an option module lasting one term. Full-time students take the module in the second term, while part-time students take it in the second year (second term). You can choose from a specialist workshop in fiction, poetry or life writing, or an option from the list of MA options offered by ECL including topics such as European Avant-Garde, Postmodernist Fiction or Re-writing Sexualities.

Assessment

Assessment is by the submission of four pieces of writing of 5,000 words each – either an essay, or, for workshops, a piece or pieces of creative or life-writing – plus a critical account of how you have structured and developed your work. You will also be assessed on a portfolio (maximum of 20,000 words) containing a piece or pieces of creative or life-writing together with a critical account of how you have structured and developed your work. In all cases, the number of words applies to prose. 

Download the programme specification, for the 2019-20 intake. If you would like an earlier version of the programme specification, please contact the Quality Office.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Entry requirements

You should have (or expect to be awarded) an undergraduate degree of at least second class standard in a relevant/related subject. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level.

International qualifications

We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 7.0 with a 7.0 in writing and no element lower than 6.5 to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

Fees, funding & scholarships

Annual tuition fees

These are the fees for students starting their programme in the 2019/20 academic year.

  • Home/EU - full-time: £6990
  • Home/EU - part-time: £3495
  • International - full-time: £14330

Please note that EU fees are being fixed at the above rate for 2019 entry. The fee level will be fixed for the duration of your programme.

If your fees are not listed here, please check our postgraduate fees guidance or contact the Fees Office, who can also advise you about how to pay your fees.

If you're an international student interested in studying part-time, please contact our Admissions Team to find out if you're eligible.

If you are looking to pay your fees please see our guide to making a payment.

Additional costs

In addition to your tuition fees, you'll be responsible for any additional costs associated with your course, such as buying stationery and paying for photocopying. You can find out more about what you need to budget for on our study costs page.

There may also be specific additional costs associated with your programme. This can include things like paying for field trips or specialist materials for your assignments. Please check the programme specification for more information.

Funding opportunities

Find out more about postgraduate fees and explore funding opportunities. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

Scholarships

This programme is eligible for one of the department's fee waivers. Find out more about how to apply.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online

          Please see our guidance on writing a postgraduate statement

  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)
  • You must also submit a portfolio of your creative or life writing with your application. Your portfolio should include two or three short stories, 20-30 poems or several extracts from a novel

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

When to apply

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.

If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline. 

Selection process

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Find out more about applying.

Staff

Staff who contribute to the programme include:

Maura Dooley – Poet and Programme Co-ordinator for the MA

Maura has published six collections of poetry, including ‘Kissing a Bone’, and recently ‘Life Under Water’ (2008) both of which were shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize. Maura is also an anthologist, has worked as a script consultant and been involved in numerous initiatives to enhance the profile of poetry in the United Kingdom.

Stephen Knight – poet, novelist and theatre director

His poetry publications include ‘Flowering Limbs’, ‘The Sandfields Baudelaire’, ‘Dream City Cinema’, and, for children, ‘Sardines and Other Poems’. He has published the novel, ‘Mr Schnitzel’ in 2000, and an anthology, ‘I Am Twenty People’, edited with Mimi Khalvati. His fiction and poetry reviews have appeared in the ‘Times Literary Supplement’ and the ‘Independent on Sunday’.

Francis Spufford – novelist and anthologist

Francis produced an anthology of literature about the poles, ‘The Ends of the Earth’ (with Elizabeth Kolbert), and he is the author of ‘The Child That Books Built’, ‘The Backroom Boys’ and ‘Red Plenty’.

Ardashir Vakil – novelist and short story writer

His first novel, ‘Beach Boy’, won a Betty Trask Award, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and has been translated into 10 languages. His second novel, ‘One Day’, was shortlisted for the Encore Award.

Associate Tutors include:

  • Romesh Gunesekera
  • Pamela Johnson
  • Eva Salzman
  • Nick Drake

Find out more about staff in the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

 

Careers

Careers

Graduates of this programme include writers Tom Lee, Lucy Caldwell, Ross Raisin, Amy Sackville, Rohan Kriwaczek, Evie WyldSara GrantNaomi Foyle, Bronia Kita, Lijia Zhang, Luiza SaumaAshley Dartnell and Suzanne Joinson and the poets Emily Berry, Andy Spragg, Kate Potts, Jack Underwood, Abigail Parry, Anthony Joseph, Katrina Naomi and Matthew Gregory.

Among them they've won or been shortlisted for awards including The Sunday Times/EFG Private Bank Short Story Award 2012, the Rooney Prize for Literature 2011, the 2008 and 2011 Dylan Thomas Prize, several Eric Gregory Awards, The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2009, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize 2009 and 2010, the Guardian First Book Award, the New Writing Ventures Prize, and several Betty Trask Awards.

Other graduates have gone on to work in publishing (for example, as senior commissioning editors), journalism, public relations, teaching, advertising, the civil service, business, industry, and the media.

Skills

The MA will enable you to develop transferable skills, including: enhanced communication and discussion skills in written and oral contexts; the ability to analyse and evaluate different textual materials; the ability to organise information, and to assimilate and evaluate competing arguments.

Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths

What our students say

Neil

"It was only really during the degree that I started contemplating writing something new, hitting on the idea of a memoir."

"During my degree I found myself being influenced by those around me, especially Blake Morrisson’s memoir, And When Did You Last See Your Father?, which offered massive clues as to my own writing, and which suddenly changed midway through the degree with the likes of Stephen Knight, Francis Spufford, and the wonderful Maura Dooley all seemingly convinced that I was a ‘life writer’ hiding behind fiction.

I've just published my first book, Four Funerals and a Wedding (Journeys in Creative and Life Writing), on Kindle, and it will be followed by a paperback edition soon. I’d been working on the novel off and on for years, but if I’m honest, I didn’t really have the writing skills to bring it to a suitable end. I was never very ‘literate,’ and had not really read too many books of a classic nature, reading (and re-reading) mostly American crime novels. As such I simply kept writing, never really knowing how to finish, with one book turning into two, and then into a trilogy. It was only really during the degree that I started contemplating writing something new, hitting on the idea of a memoir.

By its very nature the book is extremely personal and reflective, but I’ve since realised that the themes I’ve tackled – love, death, relationships – are universal, especially the parts referring to bereavement and grief, which many people, those that have read parts of the book, have commented offer up similar experiences to their own."

Lucy Caldwell

Award-winning author and playwright 

Lucy Caldwell was born in Belfast in 1981 and is a graduate of Queens' College, Cambridge and the Goldsmiths MA in Creative & Life Writing.

She is the author of three novels, Where They Were Missed (2006), which was completed during her MA, The Meeting Point (2011), which featured on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime and was awarded the Dylan Thomas Prize, and All the Beggars Riding (2013).

Lucy's stage plays and radio dramas have won several awards and her short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio.

In 2011 she was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for her body of work to date and in 2012 she was the recipient of a Major Individual Artist Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She is currently working on her fourth novel and on her debut collection of short stories.

Evie Wyld

MA Creative and Life Writing graduate Evie Wyld is an award-winning novelist. She has previously won Australia's biggest literary prize.  

In 2010 Evie was listed by The Daily Telegraph as one of the twenty best British authors under the age of 40 for her first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, and she was also included on GRANTA’s 2013 list of the 20 best young writers; joining a host of illustrious former nominees including Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, as well as fellow Goldsmiths graduate Ross Raisin. She has also been nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award. She has previously won Australia's biggest literary prize, the Miles Franklin Award, as well the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award and the Encore Prize.

Why did you choose to come to Goldsmiths and what attracted you to the MA in Creative and Life Writing?
Goldsmiths is in a part of London that I have a great affection for. It still feels like it’s evolving - it’s so easy to get into central London from New Cross, and yet it feels a long way out. The course itself appealed because I wanted to be able to take writing seriously, something I found hard without time dedicated to it. I liked the idea of having a reading list that would mean coming across books I wouldn’t normally have picked up. Part of the joy of this is in working out what you like and what you don’t like and why. But most of all it was giving myself the dedicated time to write.

What are your fondest memories of your time at the university? Were you inspired by a particular class or lecturer?
My lecturer Stephen Knight was incredibly helpful and his advice still guides me today. He had a reputation as being quite hard on students’ work, and a few times he told me that what I was doing was baffling, and he was completely right. I think one of the most valuable things to learn - which Goldsmiths really helped me to discover - is when you’re writing well, and when you think you’re sounding like a writer - two very different things, and accepting that you’re going to write some total crap is all part of learning. Maura Dooley was another lecturer who helped me immensely. She is generally thought of by all who meet her as a golden god. Calm and very kind, I remember she made the entrance interview a lovely thing to undertake rather than a moment of horror.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t think so much about the finished project. In fact don’t aspire to be a writer - write because you love the writing. The moment you think of yourself as a writer or as someone who is writing a book, you’re in danger of not seeing the work clearly. This is not a place to go seeking money, and once you’re fine with that ignore the people who talk about ‘getting work out there’. There is absolutely no hurry.

How do you approach the process of writing a novel?
So far each one has been different. There’s nothing magic though. I’d say the most bizarre thing I’ve noticed recently with the very start of the third one, is that I’ve been talking to myself a lot more about it. Lots of whispered conversations in the bath. Other than that I’ll just have to sit down and start to write something. Stephen Knight let me in on his secret which is to write one sentence and then write another, which is some of the best advice I’ve ever been given.

Is working in a bookshop as romantic as it sounds? (Evie works at Review Bookshop in Peckham)
It is a job - a lovely job, I love the shop, I care deeply about its success, but I don’t sit there reading and feeling at peace with all things. Generally I’m fretting about how to sell more books. At times when I’m very tired and when I haven’t had much time to write I feel a bit like Bernard Black, but on the whole I keep this inside - I’m yet to chase anyone outside with a broom.

You’ve grown up and lived in South London for most of your life - what is it about the place that appeals?
Being from two places (London and Australia) means that I always feel a little homesick for somewhere, but Peckham is where my roots really are. I live in Tulse Hill now, and so I have Brixton down the road too. Brixton and Peckham have changed a huge amount in the past 20 years, sometimes it feels like a little too much for me. But they are a lot of fun, and I like living on a hill and being near Brockwell park, which is the best park. It just feels, as closely as anywhere I’ve ever lived, like home.

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