Student spotlight details
The Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing gave Paul the freedom to experiment with different genres, and the confidence to embark on a new path in life.
'Prior to joining the Diploma I'd been trying to write a novel (albeit not very successfully!) at the same time as working for the civil service.
'It was quite by chance I found out about the Diploma (having spotted a leaflet in the window of the University Admissions Office). Up to that point my writing had been a very solitary affair (I'd always had this Victorian image of the artist as some kind of secluded genius!)
'Reading that leaflet convinced me the Diploma was an opportunity to be disciplined about my writing - and have it evaluated within the framework of Oxford University. I also liked the prospect of 'experiment' - and by that I mean removing the pressure from myself to complete a novel and simply return to a 'zero' state.
'I really enjoyed the intensity and absorption afforded by the week-long Summer School at the end of Year 1. The opportunity to focus purely on writing (while being served tea, coffee and three-course lunches!) was a wonderful luxury.
'I also believe the range of tutor experience (often international) gives the Diploma a huge advantage in that you are benefitting from so many contrasting perspectives; while there's simply no pretext for getting bogged down in one area (or being complacent) because you are regularly moved on to the next discipline. I really started to appreciate how writing exists in many different guises.
'The most challenging aspect of the course was probably the proximity of assignment and portfolio deadlines, alongside the examination, at the end of each year. Although perhaps I should add that the critical reading assignments were both engaging and challenging: they gave me an opportunity to attempt learned essays on extracts by two favourite authors while having to unravel the discipline's often abstract theoretical concepts.
'I came onto the course wanting "to see where it would lead..." so it was really interesting to discover new disciplines (i.e. drama and screenwriting) and rewarding in that I was now allowing myself the time to write poetry. Certainly, I was surprised by my embracing of 'form' in Year 2 and also that poetry became my portfolio choice in both years. By the end of the course I felt there were so many writing avenues to explore that the novel was no longer at the forefront of my aspirations.
'Never having been a high-flyer in the world of work, I think it fair to say that a prospective Oxford University qualification gave me the confidence to take a voluntary exit package from the civil service. At the very least, I'm now more open about my writing ambitions.
'Since completing the Diploma I've been shortlisted for the Live Canon International Poetry Prize (and published in their anthology); and also a runner-up in the Troubador International Poetry Prize.
'I'm currently enrolled on Introduction to Screenwriting (taught by Dr John Ballam, the Diploma's Course Director) where I'm learning a great deal as well as thoroughly enjoying a process I knew virtually nothing about less than a year ago. In conjunction, I'm working on a full-length movie screenplay that originated as a short exercise on the Diploma and have also started my own filmwriting blog (Cellophane Tears). My longer-term goal is simply to keep working on projects that interest me. Hopefully, one of them will come to fruition!
'While it is absolutely possible to pursue an existing project (assignments are remarkably flexible in this respect) I would encourage prospective students to view the Diploma as two years in which they are free to experiment. The course does not see publication as a holy grail - and that becomes quite liberating. In this way, you can look forward to achieving a wide-ranging portfolio of work; as well as having gained a deeper understanding of your relationship with writing itself.'