Author Joyce Grant was so pleased with her experience at the Humber School for Writers, that she decided to take advantage of Humber's partnership with the University of Gloucestershire that gives HSW grads advanced standing in their distance MA in Creative Writing. She told us a little bit more about her experiences, both at Humber and at the University of Gloucestershire.
Q: You’re a trained journalist, but you’ve elected to continue your studies in writing. What drew you to the Humber School for Writers correspondence program, and what did you take away from the experience?
A: The first time I did the Humber program, I had just quit my job in Toronto and moved to a small town; I wanted to switch gears and do more creative writing. But journalism and creative writing are technically very different, so to make the leap, I realized I needed the help of a mentor. I was thrilled to be able to work with Antanas Sileika. His advice was thoughtful, incredibly well-informed and always helpful. I still draw on the technical advice he gave me to this day. He also gave me reading and assignments that boosted my learning. But more than that, he encouraged and supported me as a writer. That’s extremely important, because writers tend to work in such solitary circumstances; having an advocate and a mentor is so valuable. Even now, many years later, when I’m stuck with something, I hear his words—and they still help me. This course meant a lot to me and I’m so thankful that I did it.
In fact, I did the program a second time, with the wonderful author Elisabeth Harvor and once again, it was an extremely valuable experience. I would recommend the Humber School for Writers' Correspondence Program to any serious writer who is looking for mentoring and wants to improve their writing.
Q: What appealed to you about the University of Gloucestershire MA program?
A: The fact that the UGlos program was connected with the Humber School for Writers gave it a lot of clout, in my mind. I know that they were very picky about the school they chose to partner with; that prompted me to look into the program in the first place, and I’m glad I did.
Doing a mentoring program like this, the writer puts a lot on the line. It’s very exacting work, taking apart your writing and putting it back together—you’re really putting your work in someone else’s hands, to a certain extent. You’re taking a leap of faith that what they’re telling you is right, in an area that can be so subjective. So you have to be really certain that the people you’re placing your trust in are experts. And I’ve definitely found that to be the case here.
I also liked the flexibility—it’s part-time, so I can continue to work in addition to my creative writing. I can do the work for the course whenever I want to, as long as I get my submissions in every week.
Also, the physical campus at UGlos, where they hold the on-campus version of this course, is nicknamed Hogwarts, because it looks a lot like it. How good is that??
Q: How has the Gloucestershire program augmented what you learned through the School for Writers?
A: I was partnered with professor Martin Randall at UGlos and already, at three months in, I’ve found it to be an incredibly valuable experience. I trust him as a mentor; we recently had a Skype chat and I asked him about a million questions. He’s experienced and talented—and he gives very thoughtful advice that has been beyond helpful. I feel that my creative writing is already heading to a new level. For a writer, that’s everything.
The UGlos program is much like the Humber program—you submit about 1,000 words a week and get feedback and then continue writing. It’s a very adaptable program; I’m working on a manuscript that was already about 20,000 words long and I was able to continue that project with Professor Randall. Other people are doing shorter works or poetry and they get the kind of mentoring they need.
Three times during the course there’s also a major essay component, which is submitted online. That’s a really fascinating component that’s unlike anything I’ve ever written, because it’s a "reflective" essay, looking at your own writing, methods and influences. It adds another dimension to your writing, because you’re expected to look at it in-depth and really analyse what you’re doing and why. I’d say that’s been the biggest learning curve for me thus far, but I can already see that the reflective portion is going to be something I use in the future. It’s not just "writing" but adding a layer of insight and professionalism to the work. There is also a lot of reading required for the reflective part of the program, and I’ve been learning things I wouldn’t have otherwise in terms of writing methodologies and schools of thought.
Q; Aside from the credential, what do you hope to take away from your time in the Gloucestershire program?
A: Having a Master’s Degree is important because I want to move into teaching, at least part-time. Beyond that, though, this course is helping me finish a major work and improve my writing, overall. That’s huge.
Q: If you had one piece of advice to give to a fellow writer who is considering further education, what would it be?
A: Talk to people who have taken the course or done the program, and try to touch base with the instructors. You’re going to be working pretty intensely with your mentor, so you need to make sure the fit is right for you and for your work.
I would definitely encourage any serious writer to continue their education. There’s always more to learn. The field is always changing and evolving. You want to be in on that evolution—growing and learning isn’t something you do once, it’s a lifelong commitment to improving your craft. And that growth, ultimately, will be reflected in the quality of the work you produce.
Joyce Grant is the author of the Gabby series of picture books and Tagged Out, a middle-grade baseball novel set in Toronto. Its sequel, Sliding Home, was published in April 2018. Find out more about Joyce and book her for a school visit at joycegrant.wordpress.com, or check out her kid-friendly news site, teachingkidsnews.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram at @JGCanada and @TeachKidsNews. Find out more about her baseball novels at facebook.com/TaggedOutNovel.
To find out more about the master stage progression route for Humber School for Writers grads, check out this page.
Photo Credit: Beverley Daniels Photography