MFA in Creative Writing  

Creative writing in the UCD School of English, Drama and Film draws on the long literary heritage of Dublin as a place that has produced many world-famous authors. It takes full advantage of the range of vibrant and dynamic literary activities in a country and a city where writers and writing are celebrated. The University has played a major role in the development of literary cultures both in Ireland and internationally and has long been associated with some of Ireland's greatest writers, including James Joyce, Flann O' Brien, Mary Lavin, Patrick Kavanagh, Maeve Binchy, Thomas Kinsella, Eilis Ni Dhuibne and Marina Carr. It is committed to supporting writers in all fields, including fiction, poetry and performance writing, as well as a diverse range of creative non-fiction. 

UCD offers three graduate courses in creative writing, an MA, an MFA and a PhD programme.  The MFA programme offers very close supervision in a tutorial setting of a work in progress for the duration of an academic year. Participants in the MFA would normally have a novel, collection of short stories or collection of poetry at an early stage of completion and a record of sustained engagement with writing. A weekly visiting writer programme brings all graduate students into contact with some of Ireland’s finest writers as well as literary agents and publishers. Every year a writer in residence, appointed with the Arts Council of Ireland, provides a credit-based workshop and individual direction to students. 

Writers currently involved with the MA and MFA programmes in creative writing include the playwright, novelist and poet Frank McGuiness, poet Ian Davidson, novelist and poet Paul Perry, novelist Anne Enright, short story writer and novelist Katy Hayes, novelist Declan Hughes, novelist Gavin Corbett and Sinéad Gleeson as Arts Council Writer in Residence. Participants in the MFA also get the opportunity to attend the very many cultural and literary events that take place in UCD, and recent visitors include Margaret Atwood, Kevin Barry, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanain, Paula Meehan and Paul Muldoon.

The School of English, Drama and Film has always included in its programme of extra-curricular activities a rich array of readings, writing workshops, writers’ groups, and special seminars offered by writers-in-residence. In 2006 a structured programme of courses and supervision, the now well-established MFA in Creative Writing, was introduced to enable committed writers to develop their potential within a supportive framework. It is a one-year course of lectures, seminars, workshops and supervision meetings which aims to provide committed writers with taught classes on theories and practices of writing, presentation and editing techniques, reading of selected texts as writers and supervision of a major writing project.

There are first-rate libraries in UCD and the Dublin area. Several have renowned archives as well as expertly resourced electronic collections. Over many years, the School has established a worldwide reputation for excellence in fostering postgraduate research and in teaching. Designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2009, Dublin has an immense amount to offer aspiring writers.

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As a participant on the MFA programme you will be part of a large world-class School of English, Drama and Film and will:

  • be taught by experienced published writers with international reputations;
  • experience and develop knowledge of the best contemporary writing;
  • learn how to produce and develop new ideas for your own writing;
  • gain skills in editing and revising;
  • take part in workshops, seminars and one to one tutorials;
  • explore the archives of some of the world’s leading writers in the Special Collections held in UCD;
  • develop a portfolio of work in your own chosen genre. 

A fundamental tenet of the Creative Writing Programme at UCD is a belief in the value of learning from writers who have mastered their craft. Accordingly, the emphasis is on learning to read like writers.  Students who embark on this course will already have acquired many of the skills associated with a programme such as the MFA in Creative Writing. In addition to sharing the objectives as outlined above with the MA programme, they will have a full work in progress and will be given close individual supervision in the progress and completion of that work (50,000 words) with a view to offering it for publication at the end of the course.  Class sizes are small, so the learning environment while upbeat and in every sense enabling, is necessarily quite concentrated.  

MFA students are offered a range of core and optional modules to choose from.

(Please be aware that moduel offerings are subject to change.)

Semester 1

Creative Reading 
Line and Structural Editing 
Pedagogic Strategies 1*
 

Semester 2 

Writer in Residence Workshop
Line and Structural Editing 
Pedagogic Strategies 2*
 
*Pedagogic Strategies is only available to students who hold a postgraduate degree. Students may take Writing for the Theatre as an alternative module.

The majority of teaching on MA in Creative Writing is structured around two intense block teaching days and requires students to be on campus on Mondays and Wednesday. Please bear in mind that on occasion you may be required to attend lectures/seminars/launches outside of these hours.

(Please be aware that timetables can be subject to change due to spacing and resourcing issues.) 

Students on the MA and MFA come from diverse backgrounds. Some come straight from their undergraduate studies while others might have spent some years in different jobs before coming to the course to fulfil their ambition to be writers. The student group is international, and students come to UCD from many countries to pursue their writing ambitions including Ireland, the UK, US, New Zealand, India, Austria and Germany.  Most have a good deal of writing experience and wish to pursue professional careers in writing, with specialisations in novel writing/short stories or poetry. Several of our alumni have won prestigious awards.

Yes. THE HCE Review is an online quarterly journal run by the staff and students on the MA and MFA in Creative Writing.  The journal aims to publish fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and visual art from both established and emerging writers and artists from around the world.

You can read more about the journal here.

Applicants applying for the MFA should present a clear vision of the writing project they wish to develop during the programme.  A strong portfolio should contain an outline [max 2.000 words] of the novel in progress, together with the opening 25 /30 pages. In the case of a short story collection, two stories, and in the case of poetry, a minimum of ten poems, maximum of fifteen; and finally, a personal statement of reasons for taking the course and references.

The personal statement should include a short summary of your writing experience to date and any courses or workshops you have attended.  Include a brief introduction of your history as a writer (or poet) and how and why you want to apply for the MFA.  What do you hope to achieve and how do you believe that the MFA will help develop as a writer? If you have been previously published or are the recipient of any literary awards, please include details of these, but bear in mind that a publication history is not required to apply.

Many of our alumni from the MA and MFA have gone on to successful careers in writing, publishing and media.

  • Colin Barrett won the Guardian First Fiction Prize with Young Skins [Pub. Stinging Fly Press / Jonathan Cape (UK) Grove Black Cat editions (US)] then went on to win both the Frank O'Connor International short story award and the Rooney Prize for Literature.  in 2015, Colin was nominated as one of the five under 35 honourees by the National Book Foundation in the US. His stories have appeared in Five DialsA Public Space and The New Yorker.
  • Dave Rudden is a leading writer of YA fiction and has been short-listed for the Hennessy New Writing Award and the Bath Short Story Prize. He is the author of numerous novels, most recent, The Endless KingDoctor Who: Twelve Angels Weeping: Twelve Stories of the Villains from Doctor Who, The Forever Court and Knights of the Borrowed Dark.
  • Jessica Traynor won the Hennessy Emerging Poet Award and the Hennessy Writer of the Year Award in 2013 and was the recipient of the Ireland Chair of Poetry Bursary in 2014. She is the author of two collections of poetry, The Quick and Liffey Swim runner-up in the 2015 Troubadour International Poetry Prize and Liffey Swim which was nominated for the 2015 Strong/Shine Award for first collections. 
  • Julie Morrissy is an Irish poet, critic, and activist. Her first collection Where, the Mile End is forthcoming in February 2019 with BookThug (Canada) and tall-lighthouse (UK & Ireland). Her debut poetry pamphlet I Am Where (Eyewear 2015) was shortlisted for Best Poetry Pamphlet in the Saboteur Awards 2016.
  • Henrietta McKervey has published three novels, What Becomes Of Us [Pub. Hachette Ireland], The Heart of Everything and Violet HillHenrietta won both the Hennessy First Fiction Award and the UCD Maeve Binchy Travel Award in 2014. 
  • Helena Nolan is a poet and short fiction writer and was selected for the 2015 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and will read as part of the International Literature Festival in May. She won the Patrick Kavanagh Award in 2011, having come second in 2010. 
  • Eamon McGuinness is from Dublin. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Ireland ReviewBoyne Berries, Abridged, The Honest Ulsterman, and elsewhere. In 2017, he was featured on the Poetry Jukebox in Belfast and shortlisted for the Strokestown International Poetry Prize. His debut collection is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.

 

How to Apply

  • Applications to the MFA must be made online; http://www.ucd.ie/apply/
  • Scanned copies of relevant academic qualifications, the writing sample and references should be included in the online application. If preferred, scanned copies of references can be emailed to graduateedf@ucd.ie by referees. References should be on headed paper, signed, scanned and attached to the email. The Graduate Administrator will mark them on your application as received and circulate them to the Creative Writing panel. Regrettably, we are unable to accept references in the body of an email.

The entry requirements for the MFA programme are any of the following; an MA, M Phil [Creative Writing] BFA [Creative Writing], BA Creative Writing Major/Joint Major or equivalent, a portfolio with an outline [max 2.000 words] of the novel in progress, together with the opening 25 /30 pages. In the case of a short story collection, two stories, and in the case of poetry, a minimum of ten poems, maximum of fifteen; and finally, a personal statement of reasons for taking the course and references.

  • The first round of applications will be considered from the end of January onwards and offers are made once all applications have been considered. The Creative Writing panel will then meet monthly to consider applications.  Applications close when the course is full.

If you have any inquiries about the programme or the application process, please direct enquires to Deirdre Daly at graduateedf@ucd.ie or telephone 716 8323.