MA Creative Writing Pays Off

Shane O’Neill writes:

I am in my Grandmother’s library. Surrounding me on the walls are lines of leather-bound tomes, heavily battered spines and curled yellowing paper. I am four and cannot read. Nonetheless, I sit with a book in my lap, trying to decipher the hieroglyphics before me. Even at that young age, I understand that these twisted shapes are code, and that an understanding of their form is of utmost importance. As I learned to read, I began to better appreciate the work of the writer. I vowed that I would one day try to engage with this artform myself. Throughout my adolescent years, I would attempt this in many different ways – by writing poetry, songs and short stories. However, for the most part, my efforts went entirely unnoticed. This year, during my Master’s Degree in English, I decided that I needed to begin seriously pursuing this passion. I thus enrolled myself in the Creative Writing module on the course.

I was very fortunate to be under the tutelage of the esteemed poet and novelist, Professor Peter Robinson, whose advice and encouragement were extremely motivating and inspiring. The work that I put into my writing eventually paid off. A short prose story that I wrote for this module entitled “Fragments” was shortlisted for the Francis MacManus Short Story Competition in Ireland. This competition is quite prestigious, and each shortlisted story is read by a professional actor on RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland’s national broadcasting station. My story was read by Andrew Bennett and a link to the reading can be found at the bottom of this post. Originally written under the working title “Kebabs and Hookers”, the story was inspired by my time spent in Bordeaux the previous year. Every Monday and Thursday evening, I would train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a gym in the sketchy part of the city past the train station. Equidistant from my tram stop to the gym was a Kebab shop, outside of which four to eight prostitutes could be seen working every night from 8p.m. My coach informed me that most of these women had been lured into France under the pretence of success and prosperity and were then prostituted upon arrival. This scene affected me profoundly and I had long intended to write a story based in such a setting. The result is perhaps my most realised piece of prose to date.

A link to a reading of the short story by Andrew Bennett can be found here:


About Cindy

Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature at the University of Reading. Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
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