Alison Lock is a writer who took the MA from 2007-2009
She speaks to Abi Curtis, the current Head of Programme, about
her time at York St John.
Hi Alison. Can you tell me a bit about your study of creative
writing at York St John? When did you study here, and what kinds of
modules did you take?
I studied at York St John University from 2007-9 on the MA
Literature Studies course. I took one term of Critical Studies
before taking the Creative Pathway. This 'Introduction to Theory'
was very interesting as it not only gave me a perspective of
literature from an analytical and academic point of view but also
an overview of how our writing is so much a reflection of the world
we live in; in terms of politics, economics, fashion and artistic
expression. Other modules on the creative side were 'Writing the
Voice', and 'Writers, Readers and Audiences'. These allowed
me to explore different aspects of short fiction and
What were your aims in taking an MA in creative writing?
My aims in taking the MA were really to enable me to spend time
studying and writing in a conducive environment with others with
similar interests. I wanted to develop my work but also to gain an
understanding of the relationship between reader and text which I
feel is the key to successful writing.
What were the most positive aspects of studying at York St
John? Do you think creative writing here offers things that you
might not get elsewhere? Why did you choose YSJ?
To be quite honest, I chose YSJ because the fees were affordable
unlike many other MA Creative Writing courses. This is not perhaps
the best reason but I was limited by my budget but also determined
to follow this course. Much of it probably depends on the
time and effort you put into your studies but also the
encouragement and direction by the staff. To fit in with a busy
life, I took the course part-time over two years and I was very
glad of this as it meant that I had the support I needed over a
longer period of time.
Why study creative writing at MA level? What are the benefits
of studying creative writing, rather than simply writing on your
It certainly pushes you along because of the deadlines and I
know that many writers drift away because of not having to meet a
particular goal. Alternatively, there are many short courses
on all aspects of writing that can be accessed these days.
These can be as relevant to the beginner as to the more experienced
writer who may wish to develop a particular aspect of their writing
i.e.: short story form, poetry, memoir writing. On the other hand I
do think that Creative Writing at an academic level could be useful
in other subject areas rather that strictly kept within an English
What did you think of your tutors during your time here?
I had one main tutor once I had decided to go on the creative
route and he was a novelist and very supportive of my
writing. At the time I was interested in writing a novel and
through the tutorials I learned a great deal about that particular
Does York as a city hold particular attractions for the budding
York is a city that is rich in history and therefore full of
inspiration for budding and experienced writers. When I was at YSJ
I travelled from West Yorkshire and thoroughly enjoyed my days in
York. In between tutorials and library visits I went to cafes
and wrote (ala JK Rowling!). I loved the bustle of the city,
the medieval buildings, the Minster, the buskers. It certainly
provided an inspiring backdrop.
What were the challenging aspects of your study?
As a mature student and having had a gap of several years since
my first degree my confidence was shaky. The element of the
course I found to be the most challenging at first was the Critical
Self Commentary needed for each module but ultimately I found it to
be the most useful. Employing theoretical perspectives is not
always easy when analyzing your own processes. It is the point
where the artist and the academic meet.
Have you had success with your creative writing?
Soon after finishing the course I was offered a contract to have
a collection of poetry published. It is called, 'A Slither of Air',
Indigo Dreams Publishing. The experience of having a book published
and doing public readings has opened up a new world to me for which
I am very grateful.
What are you up to now, and how do you think studying for the
MA has affected you writing career?
Studying for the MA was good because it gave me the confidence I
needed to send my work out into the world. It also gave me the time
and support I needed to reflect on my work and find the right
direction to take it. For me, it was a great stepping stone and I
would recommend it to anyone wanting to develop a career in
writing. I am now working on a collection of short stories to be
published next year.
What advice would you give to a writer or budding writer
thinking about taking the MA at YSJ?
I would say that before filling in the application form read as
much as you can about the course, look at the recommended
materials, reading lists etc. and enter into it with as much
knowledge as you can. Make the most of the resources available. The
more you put into it the more you will get out of it.
See Alison's website for more information about her work: