Course studied: MA Creative Writing
Graduating year: 2015
Job: Self-employed writer, freelance journalist
Emily worked as a journalist at Bristol Post for eight years before undertaking the MA Creative Writing course at Bath Spa University. She is now a self-employed writer and freelance journalist. After sending off manuscripts of the novel she worked on during the course, she was offered representation by three agents. As well as working on her second novel, Emily has also started up a writing workshop, WriteClub, with a fellow student on the course.
Emily's Bath Spa story
Since I left Bath Spa, I spent a few months working on re-drafting my manuscript for the novel I was working on during the MA, then after about the ninth draft I sent it off to three literary agents. One of the agents had been to speak to us at an event held by the university organised by one of the tutors. On the MACW we had regular Tuesday evening events organised by one of the tutors. He invited agents, editors, and authors to come and speak to us. Personally I didn't like to bombard them all at the end of each talk - perhaps I would have done if I felt one agent in particular was a perfect match for me. Instead, I made careful notes - these came in handy when I sent my manuscript to one of them, as she seemed pleased that I remembered what she had said in her talk.
I had met another agent in a serendipitous encounter when he sat next to me at another university-organised event.
The second event was a larger one organised by the department to honour a visiting Australian author. The meeting I had there was chance. I was sitting next to an empty seat, and halfway through the first talk of the day, a man came in and sat next to me. I had no idea who he was, but we got chatting afterwards and he asked about the book I was working on. I told him all about it - still unaware as to his identity. He then revealed he was the visiting author's agent! I looked him up afterwards and found that he represented some really huge authors (Kate Atkinson, Kazuo Ishiguro... the list goes on). He seemed to like me and the idea of my novel enough - he gave me his email and told me to send the finished manuscript when it was done. I kept in touch by email until I was ready to send it off, and eventually he was the agent I chose to represent me.
" I simply wouldn’t have reached this point in my writing career without completing the MA – it is no exaggeration to say that it changed my life."
So, I think my advice for handling these events would be - make careful notes in case you do want to contact them in the future. Approach any that you think you have a strong chance with, or would really like to work with. Don't waste the time of someone who might not, for example, be interested in your type of work.
I was lucky enough to be offered representation by all three agents– and I turned to some of my former tutors at Bath Spa for advice on how to choose.
Choice made, I worked on another couple of drafts with my new agent before we sent it off to several publishers. Again, I was very lucky to end up with more than one to choose from and I ended up accepting an offer from Harvill Secker, an imprint of Penguin Random House. At the moment I’m working on (yet more!) drafts with my editor, ready for a 2018 publication date – and have started working on my second novel. I’ve had support and encouragement from my manuscript tutor, and fellow coursemates, throughout the process. I simply wouldn’t have reached this point in my writing career without completing the MA – it is no exaggeration to say that it changed my life.
Alison Powell and I were keen to start a writing workshop, and came up with the idea of WriteClub. We have been running it for six months, on a monthly basis. It's a two hour session, where 15 people pay to take part - we've been sold out for every event. We started off by inviting friends and contacts, then advertised it on free listings websites. During the session we start off with some movement-based exercises to loosen everyone up, then we do timed writing exercises which people then share with the group. We only allow positive feedback - there is enough of the negative kind around, and it's nice to offer people the space to write and get a pat on the back for their work. The emphasis is definitely on having fun with your writing, and enjoying it. We've had all ages and all abilities attend - it isn't just for seasoned writers but for people who want to give it a go. Some people just like to come along because it is two hours in their diary when they know they will get time to write.
More info at www.writeclub.org.uk
''My advice for current students is ...''
Don’t take your time at university for granted – get everything you can out of it. Take every opportunity, learn as much as you can, develop as many skills as you can.
Go to as many of the talks that the university puts on as you can. If I hadn't been to the talks about the Australian author, I would never have met my agent. Speak to as many tutors as you can. Getting to know my tutors made me feel confident in contacting them for advice even after the course. Speak to as many of your coursemates as you can. Are there people you could do more work with - like Alison and I have done?
''The best thing about the course I studied was ...''
... Meeting other people who wanted to do the same thing as me – I made lifelong friends.
''I recommend Bath Spa because ...''
… It’s a beautiful city, and there are some amazing tutors to work with.