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Mary (MPhil in Children’s Literature) talks about her career and journey as a creative writer

I’m studying toward my MPhil in Children’s Literature, which has been a brilliant experience so far—the course allows me to revisit all my childhood favorites through a brand-new critical lens, and I will never read The Hungry Caterpillar the same way again! I focused on short stories and poetry during my undergraduate degree (which I graduated from in 2020) but children’s literature has always held a special place in my heart. My parents were incredibly supportive of my voracious reading when I was younger, and I absolutely credit them for encouraging me to pursue making up stories of my own—and I suppose I’ve never stopped! I’ve been fortunate to find representation with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency for my middle grade fiction, so I have my fingers crossed for what the future might hold. Eventually. (Publishing is very slow.)  

I genuinely believe there isn’t one correct way to write or be a writer. Some of the best advice I ever received was during my undergrad, where a professor told me, you can get away with whatever you can get away with. Perhaps I just enjoy that snippet because it sounds like a nonsense puzzle, but basically, I think it’s important to have fun, take risks, and find your voice without worrying about how you measure up to everyone else. Obviously there is a lot to be said for learning craft! Workshops and critique groups are excellent for this! But I find writing is at its most provocative and lovely when it comes from places that can’t be taught, so if you want to write, then write, and the rest will come later. 

My entry for the Florence Staniforth Prize is about a house, and a bog, and two women, and some thinly veiled existential angst. There are fossils and lots of dead things. I am always, permanently, without fail, terrible at explaining what my stories are about, but if you’ve ever wandered through an empty field and suddenly realized how old the world is, and maybe it’s made you feel strange or lonely or calm in ways you can’t describe …. then sorry, no, I’m still not certain what the story is about. Mud, maybe?

It goes without saying, but this has been a particularly weird year and I’m so, so grateful for the boost winning this prize has given me. Getting shortlisted alone was astonishing. I still can’t quite believe that I’ve won! I think I choked a bit when my name was called! My most heartfelt thanks go to the judges, administrators, and everyone behind the prize at Lucy Cavendish College. Thank you for providing a space for creatives to grow. It really is such an honour to be part of this wonderful community, and no, I haven’t stopped smiling yet.

Read about the six talent shortlisted students

Read more about the Lucy Cavendish College Student Fiction Prize

Bookings are now open for the Online Lucy Cavendish College Creative Writing Weekend on 25th and 26th September 2021.

Devote a weekend to improving your creative writing skills on our online course, open to all prose writers, regardless of experience or gender. Click on the button below to find out more and book your place.

Creative Writing Course