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Postgraduate student profile: William Keohane, MA in Creative Writing

Photo of William Keohane
William Keohane, Masters in Creative Writing student

William is a student of the Masters in Creative Writing programme. He describes his experience of the Masters programme and why he would recommend the course to other aspiring authors below.

Can you please introduce yourself and explain why you chose the MA in creative writing in particular?

My name is William Keohane, and I’m a writer. My background would have been in poetry, but I’ve started to delve into different types of writing over the last year or two. I chose this MA because I wanted to get a broader understanding of the various forms that writing takes, such as short stories, novels and other kinds of Prose – not just poetry.

Why at UL?

I actually started in UL in 2014 for my undergraduate degree, where I studied psychology and sociology. From the campus to the staff, I couldn’t fault UL. I had such wonderful experience in UL for every one of those 4 years. In terms of the MA itself, you don’t need to be a former UL student to be aware of the incredibly talented and high-quality staff that work on this MA. Also, the amazing writers that have graduated from this programme showed me just how valuable this course could be.

 

"The amazing writers that have graduated from this programme showed me just how valuable this course could be."

 

How did you find out about the course?

When I was in the fourth year of my undergraduate degree, I was lucky enough to have a poem published by the Irish Times. At that point, Joseph O’ Connor got in touch with me and asked me if I would consider doing the MA. To get that encouragement as an undergraduate was amazing and so kind of him. During my undergraduate, Joseph O’Connor, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald and Donal Ryan also invited me to read with them at a Sunday miscellany recording, it was an incredible experience.

When I was on campus as an undergraduate student, events were organized as part of the MA, such as talks and poetry readings. I had also spoken to two other previous students who had graduated the year before me, and they both had really wonderful things to say too. I didn’t realize until I started the programme just how much I would enjoy it.

What specific aspects of your course have impressed you the most?

I think one of the most impressive aspects for me has been the one-to-one meetings. We have been assigned a different supervisor for each semester which is amazing and the feedback they give is really specific and detailed. As a writer who wants to possibly go into publishing, you must constantly consider your audience, so getting this diverse range of reader perspectives is invaluable. These supervisor meetings have been huge in terms of boosting my confidence as a writer – they know your talent even when you don’t.

 

These supervisor meetings have been huge in terms of boosting my confidence as a writer – they know your talent even when you don’t.

 

Not only are we getting the supervisors perspectives, but we also share our work with our classmates. Sending our work to one another, and receiving feedback from each other has been fantastic. Initially, it can be pretty scary sharing your work, but I think many of those fears just ebbed away during the course because everyone is so encouraging. Even if they don’t like the content you’re sharing with them; the feedback is always kind. Another benefit of sharing our work is that even though we’re all in different areas of the country and further afield and we’re all online, we’ve been able to get to know each other really well.

What experiences/opportunities has the programme presented you with?

In terms of guest speakers, we’ve already had visits from Roddy Doyle, Nicole Flattery and Mary Costello. They spoke about their writing process and what it’s like to be in the publishing world as a writer. I think for a lot of us on the course, we’re at the very beginning of that process, so it’s wonderful to hear from people who are years into this. I also work on the Ogham Stone,(Student-produced literary journal). That’s a wonderful experience because you get to learn what goes into journal editing. Many of us on the programme would have been submitting to journals, so we were at one end of the process. Seeing the other side – what goes into putting together a finished piece – is fantastic. As part of that module, we also got to meet with editors of other prominent literary journals in Ireland, including Danny Denton, the editor of The Stinging Fly. I believe many of us would love to get published one day in The Stinging Fly and hearing him speak about what he’s looking for and how he makes those selections help us in two ways. It helps us edit The Ogham Stone, but also how we aim our specific writings towards specific journals in the future.

Can you provide an insight into how the course is delivered and how you are assessed?

Classes are split between Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays. So you have two days in the middle to get into your personal work, catch up on assignments and do your readings, and then three days where you would have more intense classes and discussions. Guest speakers are slotted in there too throughout the weeks on specific days but we are always alerted maybe two or three weeks in advance. In terms of assessment, I feel like you can really work some of your own personal projects into some of the assessments. We have creative writing workshops where you would submit a body of work of maybe 3000 words and that could be anything that you wanted, so whether your background was in poetry or you were working on a novel in your personal time, you could submit an excerpt from that to be assessed in the class. There are four primary modules but in terms of elective modules, there’s a wonderful selection. I chose gender and sexuality and Irish literature because I’ve always been fascinated by that, especially as a trans man. There’s a real sort of gap in terms of trans literature and writing in an Irish context, so that module is a great example of how I got to weave my own personal interests into the programme. In terms of assessment, the course load will keep you busy, but again the work that you’re doing can be directed towards your own personal interests.

What else have you gained from the course?

I have definitely developed as a writer. The quality of my work has improved yes, but my confidence in my work has increased dramatically since I began the MA. For example, as part of the portfolio, I wrote a story and I went back to revisit the story only two weeks ago and could immediately see where it needed changes. I’ve also grown to love writing styles outside of poetry which I would have never delved into before I began the MA. Studying this MA makes me so excited for the future and for how my writing process is going to develop now that I have collected all of these skills. I think I’ll still be learning from the content of the MA even after the course is done.

 

Studying this MA makes me so excited for the future and for how my writing process is going to develop now that I have collected all of these skills. I think I’ll still be learning from the content of the MA even after the course is done.

 

What are your future plans? How has/will this course improved your future prospects and outlook?

I suppose my primary focus at the moment would be towards publishing a first collection and deciding whether that’s going to be short stories or a novel. When I started this Masters I had a lot of jumbled ideas in different places. I knew I loved writing and reading but through the one to one meetings and with the help of my classmates I was able to come up with a theme that is starting to tie everything together. I understand that writing is not the most secure future but I’ve developed skills that are useful in so many different domains of work. For example, right now copy editing is something that’s definitely needed and our reading, writing and editing skills would make any one of us ideal for that line of work. Those skills have increased exponentially and we’re only halfway through the 2nd semester so it’s crazy to think where we’ll be once the course is complete. I’m also considering a PhD in creative writing as I have enjoyed the research-based modules immensely, they were fascinating.

Any advice/tips for prospective students for the MA in Creative Writing?

I decided to include excerpts of work in different styles and genres in my portfolio and perhaps that was worthwhile because it allowed me to showcase a range of work. Although I was mainly focused on poetry, since starting the MA I have found myself branching out into completely different areas that I now find even more fulfilling. So, perhaps they could see that talent in my portfolio that I couldn’t. Another piece of advice I would give is to people is to read as much of the coursework as possible beforehand, not that you won’t have any time to read, but so much of your time will be dedicated to your writing process which is fantastic in itself. It’s just a good idea to get ahead of yourself.

Would you recommend the MA in Creative Writing to others?

Definitely. Whether you have or haven’t submitted or published anything in the past, I would go for it. There are a few people on the course whose first time submitting something for others to read was when they submitted their portfolio in their application to the programme. There are also people who would have had a publishing background prior to the MA. There’s a great mix, so if you love writing I would encourage you to pursue it and this MA is the perfect way to do that.

"if you love writing I would encourage you to pursue it and this MA is the perfect way to do that."

Learn more about the MA Creative Writing at University of Limerick, Ireland

MA Creative Writing