Last year, I completed my Masters in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. Applying to the course was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it has changed my life considerably since then!
Despite the fact I was working full time, I decided to fit the course into one year instead of two. Although not the cleverest idea, it did teach me how to prioritise my work-load and the benefits of coffee.
In 2016, I entered the world of higher education, feeling like a fish out of water. I was surrounded by highly intelligent people, who already had fantastic ideas for stories and characters. I was in awe of everyone and everything, not least Corsham Court, the stately setting for the workshops, where peacocks sauntered the grounds!
For the first few weeks, I managed to keep up with the work, taking cues from the other students and reading the material, as well as writing like my life depended on it. It was wonderful. My life-long dream of becoming a published author suddenly seemed possible. I got good marks for my first couple of assessments and I told myself ‘I’ve got this in the bag!’.
Then it all started to go downhill. I struggled to find my ‘voice’ and I couldn’t think of a manuscript idea for the final assessment. I got a lower marks, despite working my butt off. I lost all my confidence. I emailed my tutor and told her that I was wasting her time and mine.
Luckily, my wonderful tutor told me that the grades weren’t everything and I was still learning. It was all going to be OK!
I threw myself into the third term, writing before work, after work, on the weekends and on my lunch-breaks. I read voraciously. I stopped focusing on the grades and concentrated on finding my voice and my story.
The manuscript idea wasn’t a lightning bolt of inspiration. It was the work of several stories that grew and developed over the course. I changed characters, story-line, genre and perspective, until finally, The Dream Eater fought its way into being, kicking and screaming. It was a surly story that had to be coaxed and cajoled and I spent many sleepless nights trying to make sense of it.
When the MA completed, I felt relief, pride, sadness, as well as fear. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to carry on writing without the deadlines, the support of the other students and the encouragement that the course had given me.
I let The Dream Eater snooze for a while, while I went back to the reality of the world outside the MA. I tried to start other writing projects but I couldn’t get The Dream Eater out of my head.
With the Anthology Launch coming up, I went back to editing The Dream Eater, wondering how I could muster up the energy to complete it. Then I decided to change the setting to Zambia, where I had grown up.
It was as if I had breathed life into it. Everything changed. I was finally in love with my story. I delved into my childhood, remembering how the air tasted and how the ground felt beneath my bare feet. As I looked through old photos, I poured the memory of the heat and the rain into the writing.
I finally felt like I was writing what I knew and staying true to who I was. It was the story of me and my experiences of growing up in such a unique and beautiful country.
The love and work that went into editing The Dream Eater paid off and I got two offers of representation! I was absolutely amazed and in awe of both agents but ultimately decided to go with Alice from Madeleine Milburn Agency. Her enthusiasm for The Dream Eater blew me away and her love for the character ‘Tao the goat’ made me love her even more.
It has been a thrilling ride so far and I’m incredibly excited for what will come next.
There is still so much to learn about writing, I will never feel like I know it all, but my confidence is slowly growing. I’m starting to trust my instincts and believe in my story.
The Dream Eater has grown up and so have I.