Based in the childhood home of Oscar Wilde at 1 Merrion Square and delivered in association with the Irish Writers’ Centre, the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing offers aspiring or published writers a one-year course of study which examines the process and practice of producing prose fiction. The work of the last two years’ classes has included pieces that were shortlisted for the Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition, twice longlisted for the Fish Short Story Competition, and two students who were selected as finalists in the IWC Novel Fair. Within a critical workshop and mentoring format students are provided with tuition and advice in completing either a novel or a short story collection. Consideration is given to the intellectual, psychological, economic and cultural influences that underpin and drive the creative writing process. The course also emphasizes the business and professional environment of writing, with seminars presented by agents and publishers and master classes by established writers. The programme provides the student both with expert guidance in producing a substantial written work of publishable standard, and with a comprehensive understanding of the theoretical and practical requirements of successful participation in the activity of writing, whether as a professional career or as part of a lifelong personal commitment to creative endeavour.
A graduate of the programme will be in a position to consider submission of a complete and polished work to a literary agent or publisher. He or she will also be prepared for participation in a range of complementary fields such as journalism, publishing, editing, online writing, advertising, marketing and teaching. The degree develops a broad spectrum of transferable skills, including advanced and adaptable writing techniques, informed responsiveness to critical and editorial commentary, self-management and organizational competencies, and a high level of expertise in understanding and locating creative work within a historical and critical context. These skills are applicable not only in careers that draw directly on the ability to write creatively, but also in a wide array of related business, cultural and social activities such as keeping a web page, blogging, advocacy and grant writing, criticism and commentary. Finally, the degree highlights the beauty and, amid such suffering as is necessary, the joy of creative expression. Regardless of the particular path a graduate follows, he or she will leave the programme with an enhanced, lifelong appreciation of the manifold intellectual and emotional benefits and consolations to be found in the practice of creative writing.
Nessa recently published her first novel, The Branchman. She teaches on the MFA’s craft of creative writing course.
Nessa O’Mahony is a Dublin-born poet. She has published four books of poetry – Bar Talk (1999), Trapping a Ghost (2005), In Sight of Home (2009) and Her Father’s Daughter (Salmon 2014). A fifth, The Hollow Woman and the Island, is published by Salmon Poetry in May 2019. She co-edited with Paul Munden Metamorphic: 21st century poets respond to Ovid (Recent Work Press 2017).
Carlo Gébler teaches the novel workshop on the MFA in Creative Writing Practice.
Carlo Gébler was born in Dublin in 1954. His most recent publications (all from New Island) are The Projectionist, The Story of Ernest Gébler, The Wing Orderly’s Tales, a collection of stories told by a prison orderly, and The Innocent of Falkland Road, a novel set in London in the 1960s. Carlo Gébler was a teacher in HMP Maze from 1991 – 1997, writer-in-residence in HMP Maghaberry, Co. Antrim from 1997 to 2015 and now works occasionally in Hydebank College (formerly Hydebank YOC) and HMP Magilligan. He also teaches on the MPhil in Creative Writing in the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin, and is a member of Aosdana.
The MFA in Creative Writing consists of a variety of taught classes, workshops, and a culminating final project, which is a substantial portion of a novel or a collection of short stories. All modules are mandatory, with the exception of one of the writing workshop classes in the first semester; novelists are required only to take the novel writing workshop and short story writers are only required to take the short story workshop, not both (however, though attendance in both is not mandatory, any student is wishes to participate in both is welcome to do so). The creative writing project is developed throughout the course of the programme (indeed, some students may come to the degree with work already in some stage of completion which is developed in the programme) and is completed during the summer, with a submission date in the first week of September).
In the second year of the program the student works on a major writing project, usually though not ncessarily a continuation of the work developed in the first year, attending workshops and receiving one-to-one supervision; at the conclusion of second year the student submits a single work or a collection of short stories of approximately 50,000-80,000 words for assessment.
Semesters 1 and 2
Imagination and storytelling
The module examines the human propensity of using language to transform personal and social experience into imaginative constructs expressed in narratives, oral and written. Storytelling is one of cultural universals, from tribal myths to the modern novel and TV sitcoms, and its main functions include artistic self-expression, imposing cognitive order onto lived experience, and addressing the elusive questions of the purpose and meaning of life.
Writing workshop 1: the novel
The module is designed to develop greater competence and self-management in the complex process of writing a novel. Taught by an established novelist, the workshop guides students through the stages of planning, drafting, revising and completing a novel, with a focus on controlling and developing plot, characterisation, dialogue, and narrative style.
Writing workshop 1: the short story
Taught by an established short story writer, the workshop is designed to help writers to develop ideas for short stories and to draft and revise their stories effectively. Students are advised on such aspects of short story writing as setting up, developing and resolving the plot; introducing setting and context; developing characters; writing meaningful dialogue; establishing narrative point of view, tone and style.
The writer as critic
The module is designed to aid writers in developing skills and techniques of literary criticism; in other words, how to write effective, interesting, and persuasive reviews and interpretive analyses of literary fiction based on one’s experience, knowledge of literature, and insight into the creative writing process.
The craft of creative writing
This module provides students with practical guidance on the structural and technical aspects of fiction writing. Using examples from canonical fiction, the course discusses such topics as planning and preparation; relations between story and plot; plot structure and development; authorial and narrative voice; objective and subjective narration; characterization and character hierarchy; individualization of dialogue; employment of style, tone, metaphor, diction, and other literary devices.
The business of writing and publishing
Presented by agents, publishers and other professionals from the publishing industry, the module offers expert guidance on successful interaction with literary agents and publishing houses, publishing rights and contracts, applications for bursaries, e-publishing, publicity and marketing, editing and copy-editing, copyright law.
Writing workshop 2: the novel
This workshop is the second semester continuation of the first semester workshop on the novel. Students continue to share and discuss their work-in-progress with an experienced writer and other student-writers. Students offer drafts of their chapters for classroom discussion, thus obtaining the benefit of professional feedback and peer review to help them in the creative process.
Writing workshop 2: the short story
This workshop is the second semester continuation of the first semester workshop on the short story. Students continue to share and discuss their work-in-progress with an experienced writer and other student-writers. Students offer drafts of their short stories for classroom discussion, thus obtaining the benefit of professional feedback and peer review to help them in the creative process.
Masterclass in fiction writing
In this module an established writer shares his or her experience and gives expert advice on writing fiction effectively and successfully. The discussion focuses on such aspects of the creative writing process as generating and researching ideas for new fiction; thinking about story and characters; developing the plot; refining sentences and paragraph construction, and developing authorial voice and tone. Students are also given first-hand advice on how to promote their work, how to deal professionally with publishers, agents, and editors.
Creative writing project
After completing all the taught modules students are assigned an experienced writer as a supervisor to guide them through the process of writing a work of fiction: selected chapters from a novel, a short story or a collection of short stories. Students work on their writing project on their own, meeting their supervisor regularly to receive helpful feedback and professional advice on their work in progress. The word limit is approximately 15,000 words; the student should include in the submission a 1500 word critical analysis outlining the authorial decisions taken in arriving at the submitted piece.
Creative writing practice major project
In the second year students work with an experienced writer as a superviser to guide them through the process of writing a complete work of fiction of approximately 50,000-80,000 words, comprising a novel or a collection of short stories. Students work on the writing project on their own, meeting their supervisor regularly to receive helpful feedback and professional advice on their work in progress. The student should include in the submission a 1,500 word critical analysis outlining the authorial decisions taken in arriving at the submitted piece. During the course of the second year the student may also attend the novel and short story workshops in order to develop his or her material.
Attendance in all assigned modules is mandatory. Students are assessed by their participation in classroom activities, as specified by the lecturer. The final award is based on course work and the final project: 50 percent is made up from assessments in the taught modules, while the remaining 50 percent is related to the creative writing project, which involves a portfolio of about 15,000 words of original literary fiction, corresponding approximately to three chapters from a novel or to four short stories.
An honours bachelor degree in a cognate discipline may be an advantage but is not a necessity for entry to the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Practice. The principal requirements for admission to the programme are demonstration of a sufficient interest in the activity of creative writing and furnishing of evidence of an ability to undertake and benefit from a course of master’s level study and tuition in creative writing.
An applicant for the MFA should submit to the Admissions Office a statement of approximately 500 words of his or her interest in undertaking the course and a portfolio of his or her prose writing. The portfolio may consist of a single piece of writing or of a collection of up to four samples; the entire length of the portfolio should be approximately 3000 words. The applicant will also be required to attend an interview (in person or by means of the internet).
Along with academic knowledge that students receive throughout the duration of their chosen subject, students will also acquire and develop transferable career skills from their degree discipline. These skills along with potential career paths are provided below to give you a well-rounded view of what the course has to offer.
These skills include:
Graduates of MFA in Creative Writing will be prepared to participate in a range of complementary fields including: