Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Back To School



Fresh faces and voices are milling about the small city that is University College Dublin this Freshers' Week, and I am fortunate enough to be among them as I begin my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Whether writing can be taught has been much debated ever since the first Iowa Writers' Workshop was established in 1936. My position on the matter is obvious, but I can't resist listing just a few MFA-ers in support: Ethan Canin, John Boyne, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Paul Murray, Raymond Carver...

Plenty can be taught, and learned, about writing, but the MFA is about more than just the dissemination of information. As Richard Bausch put it, the MFA is a modern version of the Salon, a place for writers to come together and discuss what matters to them: structuring their novel, finding an agent, finding the time, putting a comma in here[,] [  ]or not. It is part-academy, part-therapy, part-communion. Writing is, after all, a solitary occupation, and an MA or MFA provides support, feedback and encouragement.

Yesterday I met the interesting-seeming people who will be my peers for the next two years, along with stellar teachers James Ryan, Eílis Ní Dhuibhne and Frank McGuinness. At one point there was a conversation about Edna O'Brien and her forthcoming memoir, and since I'm a big Edna fan, even wrote a thesis about her in the past, it was thrilling to realise that some of those present are personally acquainted with her. A glimpse of what it means to be immersed in the world of writing only one day in, and it feels like pure indulgence.

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