MA in Creative Writing
*Applications for 2024/25 are open*
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 MA programme includes lectures, seminars, workshops and supervision meetings, providing committed students with the support they need to produce a major piece of writing by the end of the course. 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 MA 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 MA 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 MA programme you will be part of a large world class School of English, Drama, Film and Creative Writing 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.
For the academic year 2022/23, the following core and optional modules are offered.
(Please note that these may be subject to change from year to year.)
- Craft and Composition [10 Credits]
- Writing Poetry [10 Credits]
- Writing Places [10 Credits]
- Peer Reviewing/Visiting Writers Workshop
- Creative Reading [10 Credits]
- Writing Project Preparation [10 Credits]
- Chapter 1: Beginning a Novel [10 Credits]
- Sound and Visual Poetry [10 Credits]
Writing Project –c.15,000 words (30 Credits)
Students are assessed in a variety of ways, which may include writing assignments, editing exercises, creative responses to texts, class presentations, and writing portfolio.
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 Wednesdays. 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 conisderations.)
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.
Please read the following guidelines for the portfolio section of the application.
The portfolio should be approximately 3000 words and may be a mixture of fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction or a novel excerpt. This might be a 3,000 word sample of prose or 6 poems, or a combination of prose and poetry. The work submitted does not have to previously published but do show us your best work. When formatting your portfolio follow the general guidelines for submitting to a literary journal; double-space prose and single-space poetry unless your writing uses alternative formatting. All genres and styles of writing are welcome.
The personal statement should include a short summary of your writing experience to date and any courses or workshops you have attended. Perhaps also include a brief introduction of your history as a writer (or poet) and how and why you want to apply for the MA. What do you hope to achieve and how do you believe that the MA 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.
- Disha Bose MA (2015-2016) Born and raised in India, Disha now lives in Ireland. She attended University College Dublin, where she completed a Masters in Creative Writing (2016). Disha Bose’s debut novel Dirty Laundry, a domestic noir, is to be published by Viking Books in the UK and Commonwealth (May, '23), and by Ballantine Books in North America.
- Sonya Gildea MA (2019 - 2020)
Winner of the John McGahern Literature Award 2021; Poetry Ireland Introductions poet
2021/22 (selected by Seán Hewitt), winner of an Ireland Chair of Poetry Student Award
2020; recipient of a literature Bursary Award 2021 from the Irish Arts Council and winner of
the Cúirt International New Writer’s Award (2015). Sonya has published in Crannog; the
Stinging Fly; the Irish Times; Tolka journal; the Cormorant Broadsheet; the Night Heron
Barks; The Maynard journal of poetry; the commemorative anthology Hold Open the Door
(UCD & Chicago Press 2020); the Poetry Ireland Introductions anthology This Is What You
Mean To Me (2021); Arlen House Publishing anthology of contemporary Irish poetry
(2022); and The Common literary journal (2022).
- Sree Sen MA (2019-2020) Published in Poetry Ireland Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Local Wonders (poetry anthology by Dedalus Press), bath magg, Crossways, nether Quarterly, Headstuff and others. She’s the winner of the UCD Maeve Binchy Travel Award 2020, recipient of Cill Rialaig Residency 2020 & Agility Award 2021 by the Arts Council of Ireland.
- Aingeala Flannery MFA (2018-2019)
The Amusements debut novel published by Penguin Sandycove June 2022
Arts Council Literature Bursary 2020 and 2021
Winner Harper's Bazaar Short Story Competition 2019
'The MFA in Creative Writing at UCD gave me the encouragement and space I needed to
focus on my writing. It was challenging and inspiring, I came away with fresh ideas and a
stronger sense of my natural writing style and the themes that excite me. Our class stayed
in touch and it's wonderful to have that ongoing support - for the rejections as well as the
celebrations. The MFA in Creative Writing changed my life'
- Aoife Fitzpatrick MFA (2018 - 2019)
Debut novel, The Red Bird Sings, from Virago Press, June 2023
“I miss the MFA. Not just the notable experience and insight of its teachers, but their
authentic interest and vital engagement. That's what makes this course special; why it can
transform both writer and work-in-progress.“
- Liz Houchin MA (2018 - 2019)
‘Anatomy of a Honey girl (poems for tired women)’ published by Southword, 2021.
Awarded Literature Bursary from Arts Council of Ireland, 2021.
- Brendan Casey, MA (2018-2019)
She That Lay, Silent-like, Upon Our Shore, was long-listed for the Deborah Rogers
Foundation Award and will be published by John Murray Originals in 2023.
'The course allowed me to dedicate myself to writing in a structured nurturing environment
in which I had the time and space to develop ideas. Since graduating I have signed with
RCW literary agency in London, and the thesis I submitted in UCD went on to form the
basis of my novel.'
- Sarah Gilmartin MFA (2018-2019)
Her debut novel Dinner Party (Pushkin, 2021) was shortlisted for best newcomer at the
Irish Book Awards and the Kate O’Brien Award 2022. Her stories have been published in
The Dublin Review, New Irish Writing and The Tangerine. Her story The Wife won the
2020 Máirtín Crawford Award at Belfast Book Festival.
- 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 Dials, A 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 King, Doctor 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 Hill. Henrietta 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 Review, Boyne 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.
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.
Aingeala Flannery MFA (2018-2019)
The Amusements debut novel published by Penguin Sandycove June 2022 Arts Council Literature Bursary 2020 and 2021 Winner Harper's Bazaar Short Story Competition 2019
'The MFA in Creative Writing at UCD gave me the encouragement and space I needed to focus on my writing. It was challenging and inspiring, I came away with fresh ideas and a stronger sense of my natural writing style and the themes that excite me. Our class stayed in touch and it's wonderful to have that ongoing support - for the rejections as well as the celebrations. The MFA in Creative Writing changed my life'
Aoife Fitzpatrick MFA (2018 - 2019)
Debut novel, The Red Bird Sings, from Virago Press, June 2023
“I miss the MFA. Not just the notable experience and insight of its teachers, but their authentic interest and vital engagement. That's what makes this course special; why it can transform both writer and work-in-progress.“
Brendan Casey, MA (2018-2019)
She That Lay, Silent-like, Upon Our Shore, was long-listed for the Deborah Rogers Foundation Award and will be published by John Murray Originals in 2023.
'The course allowed me to dedicate myself to writing in a structured nurturing environment in which I had the time and space to develop ideas. Since graduating I have signed with RCW literary agency in London, and the thesis I submitted in UCD went on to form the basis of my novel.'
Aidan Dolbashian, MA Creative Writing 2016.
The year I spent studying creative writing at UCD was instrumental to my development as a poet and as a writer in general. The diverse staff of teachers and authors that the program hosts are not only masters of their craft, but they also have the ability to see the potential in their students and help them hone their skills, as well as turn their weaknesses into strengths. Having received my creative writing degree from UCD, I have all the confidence I need to truly call myself a writer.
Disharee Bose MA Creative Writing 15-16
The Masters in Creative Writing at UCD exceeded my expectations. In the year I spent on the programme, I was able not only to begin writing a novel, but almost finish the first draft. Also, l found the courage to write poetry again. Every class, whether theory or practice, included lots of well-directed and very relevant discussion, so there was a great sense of involvement. The atmosphere was one in which everyone was empowered to pursue their own creative endeavours. The guest lectures from publishing experts and well established writers were particularly helpful in learning how to go about having my novel published.
- Applications for the MA must be made online; http://www.ucd.ie/apply/
- Applications for 2024-25 academic year opened on 1st October 2023
- The first round of offers will be made at the end of January. Applications thereafter are reviewed on a rolling basis. We advise submitting your application early.
- Applications will be closed once all places have been filled by suitably qualified and capable applicants.
Application requirements are:
1. Academic Transcript(s)
2. Sample of recent creative work: 3000-word writing sample of prose, 6 poems or a mix of both.
3. Personal statement
4. Any other supporting documentation that may be relevant to your application.
5. English Language test certificate (IELTS or equivalent at 7.5 with no component less than 7.0)
6. The email addresses of two academic referees.
Scanned copies of relevant academic qualifications and the writing sample and references should be included in the online application.
Referees will receive an email and link to upload the letters of recommendations. References should be on headed paper and signed.
For further details, please see the MA Creative Writing programme UCD webpages.
The entry requirement for the MA programme is a BA Hons English or equivalent, and/or proven commitment to and experience in the field of creative writing; a portfolio (c.3000 words) of recent creative work; a personal statement of reasons for taking the course and references.
If you have any questions about the programme or the application process, please contact Fiona French, Graduate Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.