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Creative Writing Summer School 2014

Key facts

Sorry, this course is currently unavailable. Please use the course enquiry form to be kept informed of future runs of this course.

TypeSummer Schools -
AddressHeld at Exeter College
DatesSun 27 Jul to Sat 16 Aug 2014
Subject area(s)Creative Writing
FeesResidential - from £2,725
Non-residential - £1,200
Application statusClosed to new applications
Course codeO14I070JDR
Course contactIf you have any questions about this course, please email ipwriters@conted.ox.ac.uk.


The Creative Writing Summer School offers specialist seminars for anyone wishing to enhance their ability as a writer


The academic programme consists of

  • a daily programme of readings and talks given by established authors (who will usually read excerpts of theiir work), agents, editors and others,as follows:
    • Derek Beavan, award-winning novelist of literary fiction - A steep learning curve: an established novelist chooses Kindle Direct
    • Rachel Bentham, writer and tutor - The practice of writing
    • Andrew Blades, Lecturer in English at St Peter’s College, Oxford - Writers on writing
    • Helen Bryant and Kathryn Price, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy - How to work with an editor and master self-editing techniques
    • Lorna Fergusson, fiction writer and tutor - Story evolution: how a story grows from the germ of an idea to the finished article
    • Jonathan Gharrie, Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing, Iowa Writers' Workshop - Two years in Iowa: reading, writing and teaching in the program era
    • Julie Hearn, author of young adult fiction - Wimpy kids, wayward girls and the witchfinder general: conjuring characters with teen appeal
    • Jeremy Hughes, writer of historical fiction and memoirist - The craft of writing
    • Jenny Lewis, poet and tutor - Writing poetry from research
    • Shaun McCarthy, playwright and screenwriter - What are we pasionate about as writers?
    • Nicholas McInerny, radio scriptwriter - Radio: the film that plays in your mind
    • Helena Markou, Senior Lecturer in Digitial Publishing at Oxford Brookes University - Digital publishing
    • Will May, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Southampton - Writing in the university, writing in the world
    • David Sergeant, poet and Lecturer in English at Plymouth University - On writing poetry and being published
    • Caroline Wood, literary agent, Felicity Bryan Associates - What an agent wants

  • study in small interactive seminar groups, led by tutors who are both published authors and experienced teachers

The programme is suitable for writers at both intermediate and advanced levels - see Level and demands, below

Applicants at intermediate level take two mandatory seminars, Critical Reading for Creative Writers and Developing as a Creative Writer

Applicants at advanced level choose two seminars from:

  • Advanced Critical Reading
  • Approaches to Poetry
  • Biography and Autobiography
  • Key Aspects of the Fiction Writer's Craft
  • The Writer Within
  • Writing for Performance
  • Young Adult Fiction

Seminars will involve writing exercises, group discussion, and the development of a portfolio of creative writing

Each seminar has two two-hour meetings per week, and classes will usually contain no more than 12 participants

Contact hours

The programme provides a minimum of 46.5 contact hours, comprising

  • 22.5 hours of plenary sessions (15 sessions lasting c.1.5 hours each)
  • 24 hours of seminar meetings (12 per course)

Social programme

A range of optional excursions and social events will be offered throughout the summer school. These are likely to include: a walking tour of Oxford, after-dinner talks, open mic nights, and weekend excursions to sites of literary and/or historical interest.

Please note that most of these activities incur additional costs, which are payable by students in Oxford

Programme details

Click here to view the seminar timetables PDF document.

Seminar options


Critical Reading for Creative Writers

What can we learn from fiction writers and poets, and how can we feed this back into our own creative writing? This course takes a selection of writing from the 1800s to the present as a basis for critical reading and discussion, asking what the techniques of canonical writers can tell us about our own creative work. We shall also consider less successful writing, and writing from a range of genres – from crime fiction to chick lit – to analyse what it is that makes a piece of writing ‘good’ or 'bad': and to think about how we might apply this to our own creative projects.

Tutor: Dr Tara Stubbs is a University Lecturer in English Literature and Creative Writing at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, and Director of the Oxford University Creative Writing Summer School. She is the author of a range of publications on modernist poetry and fiction, with a focus on Irish and American literature, and has recently begun a biographical project on the publishing career of Harold Macmillan.

Developing as a Creative Writer

Want to improve your creative writing? This course will offer you the chance to develop your creative prose in an inspirational and nurturing environment. By looking at the techniques that published writers use, we shall learn how we can bring our own stories to life. Practical exercises and discussion of each other's work will enable us to deepen our understanding of fundamentals such as character, description, plot, dialogue, point of view and suspense. We shall also experiment with different narrative forms. Last but not least the course will explore how to rewrite and edit - vital skills for your creative writing in the future.

Tutor: Frank Egerton studied English at Keble College, Oxford, and has reviewed fiction for the Times, Times Literary Supplement and Financial Times. He teaches creative writing at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Oxford University. His first novel, The Lock, came out in 2003 (Smaller Sky Books) and his second, Invisible, was published by StreetBooks in 2010.


Advanced Critical Reading

This course will help creative writers to hone their critical reading skills, introducing them to a variety of strategies they can adopt in their own practice. Drawing on literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we shall analyse issues such as voice, form, setting, irony, figurative language and narrative beginnings and endings. The course will focus on poetry and prose in various forms, including short stories and novels, and the writers featured will span both centuries, from Jane Austen all the way to Zadie Smith.

Tutor: Dr Andrew Blades is Lecturer in English at St Peter's College, Oxford. He also teaches online courses and summer schools for Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. He is the author of Twentieth-Century American Literature (Longman, 2011) and is currently writing a monograph on the literature of the Aids epidemic.

Approaches to Poetry

This course will consider the roots of English poetry, placing particular emphasis on its many sounds and voices. We shall study different forms, explore new and traditional approaches, and see how identity and context influence the making of a poem. There will be creative writing exercises in each session to stimulate our own poetry and the results will be workshopped in a friendly and supportive group.

Tutor: Jenny Lewis has published two collections of poetry, When I Became an Amazon (Iron Press, 1996) and Fathom (Oxford Poets/Carcanet Press, 2007), and has had seven plays and poetry cycles with music and dance performed at major UK theatres. Her third collection, Taking Mesopotamia, will be published in 2014.

Biography and Autobiography

If there are things in your own experience, or that of your family, or there is someone you have known and always wanted to investigate, then this course will provide you with the tools to shape a literary work that makes your story enjoyable and accessible. You will learn to recognise what things are significant, how to characterise them in ways that bring them to life, and how to structure them to keep a reader’s interest. Whether yours is a story of travel, personal exploits or the witness of unsung heroes and events, this course will help you to turn it into words that last.

Tutor: Dr John Ballam is Director of the Undergraduate Diploma in Creative Writing at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. He is the author of many reviews and has published works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and for performance. His best-known title remains his memoir, The Road to Harmony (Long Barn Books; new edition, 2009).

Key Aspects of the Fiction Writer's Craft

This wide-ranging course is designed to help you develop your writing potential, with lively discussion throughout and stimulating writing exercises to help you hone your skills. We shall examine how you find inspiration and more importantly how to stay inspired! We shall analyse published examples illustrating core aspects of the fiction-writer’s craft. We shall explore issues of plot-structure and characterisation, play with point of view, write convincing dialogue, create evocative settings and atmosphere. We shall also engage with the crucial close-focus techniques of self-editing, followed by discussion of pathways to publication..

Tutor: Lorna Fergusson is a literary consultant, novelist and award-winning short story writer, who has taught on various Oxford University Department for Continuing Education programmes since 2002. She recently republished her novel, The Chase, originally published by Bloomsbury. Her chapter on 'Pre-writing' appears in Studying Creative Writing (ed. Sharon Norris; The Professional and Higher Partnership Ltd, 2013).

The Writer Within

How can we develop the writer within? Together we shall look at the writing process, and address aspects that arise for each participant. We shall engage with some writing practices and exercises to deepen and stretch students’ writing. The group will sometimes work as a whole and sometimes workshop in small groups and pairs to generate maximum feedback. The aim is to support and find ways to nourish students’ ongoing writing practice, as well as to develop their abilities. All participants will produce a final piece that has been workshopped by both tutor and peers.

Tutor: Rachel Bentham is currently Royal Literary Fellow at Bath University, and teaches for both Bristol and Bath Spa Universities. Her plays and short stories have been regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and her poetry is internationally published. At present she is completing a novel set in Tahiti, and hugely enjoying the research this work has engendered.

Writing for Performance

This course aims to provide anyone who has ever wanted to write a script for stage, screen or radio with a toolkit of essential skills needed to create a drama that is structured by the timeless devices used by all playwrights - story design, character development and delivery of thematic ideas - and built around the tutor's experience of having work produced in the current theatre and media scenes. Students will read and discuss extracts from modern plays and radio scripts that illustrate key skills that dramatists use, then practice these in small group devising activities, collaborative and solo writing activities. No previous experience of writing for performance is required, but a desire to give actors great lines to deliver and audiences dramatic moments to excite and inform them is crucial!

Tutor: Shaun McCarthy is a playwright of stage and radio dramas and an author of many study texts and guidebooks to plays and creative writing. He is currently developing two stage plays: A Brave Vessel, a short drama about the legacy of colonialism, and The Hooligan Nights at the Redgrave Theatre, Bristol. He is Royal Literary Society Fellow at Cardiff University and teaches short courses in writing for performance at Oxford and Bristol Universities.

Young Adult Fiction

The young adult/crossover fiction market is one of the fastest growing areas of publishing. This course, run by an established novelist, will look at the way successful writers have used dialogue, tackled taboos and developed plots to appeal to younger readers. It will also explore such key topics as planning, research, and inspiration. Students will be guided in the development of a story of their own, and there will be an opportunity to share work during the seminars.

Tutor: Julie Hearn is the Carnegie-nominated author of a number of novels for young adults: Follow Me Down (2009), The Merrybegot (2005), Ivy (2006), Hazel (2007), Rowan the Strange (2010), and Wreckers (2011), all published by Oxford University Press. Her seventh novel, Dance of the Dark Heart, will be published by OUP in April 2014.


  • All students who complete the programme will receive an `attendance certificate`
  • Those seeking credit at their home institution may request a `detailed certificate` which lists contact hours (for lectures and seminars), an assessment of their contribution to seminar discussions, grades achieved, and private study hours

Please note that, as Oxford University does not offer credit for this summer school, those wishing to obtain credit from their home institution for attending this programme must make appropriate arrangements with that institution in advance

Level and demands

Who is the programme for?

  • All applicants should be keen readers and bring an open-minded, questioning approach to both reading and writing
  • All applicants should have written regularly and read widely over a sustained period
  • The intermediate-level strand of the programme is suitable for applicants who have studied creative writing or English literature at university for a minimum of one year
  • The advanced-level strand of the programme is suitable for applicants who have studied creative writing or English literature at university for a minimum of two years
  • Prospective applicants who do not have experience of studying creative writing or English literature at university must be able to provide evidence of significant prior activity as a creative writer


This is an intensive programme of study taught to an informed international audience

Applicants should be confident that they are academically and linguistically prepared for such a programme

Participants are expected to

  • undertake preparatory reading in advance of the programme
  • attend all plenary sessions and relevant seminar meetings
  • be actively engaged with their seminar topics
  • submit an assignment for each course taken
  • undertake approximately 96 hours of private study during the programme (elements of private study will include: reading, writing and other preparation between seminar meetings, work in the library, writing papers, etc)

English language requirements

As students are expected to participate fully in seminar discussions and are required to produce written work it is important that applicants can demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency in the four language skills - listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Applicants for whom English is not their first language must provide evidence of their competency in the form of an original certificate or a certified copy that is not more than two years old on the date the summer school starts. These applicants must satisfy one of the following requirements:

  • IELTS - minimum overall score of 6.5, with not less than 6.5 in each of the four components
  • TOEFL iBT - minimum overall score of 100, with not less than 25 in each of the four components
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) - grade C or above

For further information on English language qualifications:

However, non-native speakers of English who are currently undertaking (or have successfully completed) a full-time degree-level course at a university where English is the language of instruction or who have significant business and professional experience in an English-speaking environment may not need to provide a certificate of English language qualification. Please contact the Programme Administrator for further details.

Disabled students (including those with mobility difficulties)

The aim of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education (OUDCE) is to treat all students equally and welcomes applications from people with disabilities. Individuals` needs are taken into account as far as possible, providing reasonable adaptations and assistance within the resources available. We ask that people let us know of any disability or special need (confidentially if required) so that we can help them participate as fully as possible.

When applying for OUDCE`s college-based summer schools, prospective students with mobility difficulties or visual or hearing impairments may want to make preliminary enquiries to the Programme Administrator, as the age and layout of these colleges often makes them user-unfriendly (although adaptations are often possible). Oxford, as an ancient city, tends to be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities. The number of very old buildings, designed in an age less sensitive to issues of disability, makes access to much of the city centre difficult. However, OUDCE will do as much as it is able to make study with the department possible.

Applicants should contact us if they will have problems gaining access to a bedroom or a teaching room that is located on upper or basement floors, or to the college dining hall (which is reached via a flight of stairs).



Founded in 1314, Exeter College is one of the university`s oldest colleges and is situated in the heart of Oxford.

Students who choose to attend the summer school on a residential basis will have a single study bedroom and will take meals in the college dining hall.

Bedrooms are located up the four to nine floors of a staircase; bath and/or shower and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared.

A limited number of rooms have private bathroom facilities (shower and toilet) and these are available for an enhanced fee. Early application for these rooms is essential - ie by the first gathered field deadline of 15 February 2014.

Students cannot be accommodated at Exeter College either prior to or beyond their programme dates. Family members and/or friends who are not enrolled on this summer school cannot be accommodated in college.

Students who choose to attend the summer school on a non-residential basis are responsible for finding their own accommodation. Information on accommodation in Oxford can be found on the internet at:

Please be aware that there is high demand for accommodation in Oxford during the summer months.

Exeter College has rooms which can be taken on a self-catering basis roughly one mile away from the main college site. For further information please contact the Assistant Steward by email: accommodation@exeter.ox.ac.uk


Students will have access to the Continuing Education Library (c.10 minutes' walk from Exeter College)

IT facilities

All students will be eligible to use the computers and printer in Exeter College's computer room

Laptops and wireless internet access

  • For residential students, wireless internet access is available in all bedrooms
  • For all students, wireless access is available in communal areas of the college


Programme fees

  • Residential - standard room - shared bathroom facilities - £2,725
    Fees include tuition; access to IT facilities and the Continuing Education Library; accommodation in a room with shared bathroom facilities, and meals in hall (except lunch on Saturday and Sunday)
  • Residential - room with private shower and toilet - £2,985
    Fees include tuition; access to IT facilities and the Continuing Education Library; accommodation in a room with private shower and toilet, and meals in hall (except lunch on Saturday and Sunday)
  • Non-residential - £1,200
    Fees include tuition; access to IT facilities and the Continuing Education Library; the programme`s formal opening and closing receptions and dinners

Successful applicants who accept our offer of a place on the summer school will be invoiced for the appropriate programme fee once they have been enrolled on the programme.

Students are required to pay the full fee within 30 days of their invoice date. Late applicants (see 'Apply for this course', below) are required to pay the full fee within 7 days of their invoice date. Places will not be held for students whose fees are not paid in full by the due date. In no circumstances will students be admitted to the summer school unless all fees have been paid in full.


All enrolments are subject to OUDCE's Terms and Conditions for Course Registration and Fee Payment

If you wish to cancel you must inform the Programme Administrator by email at ipwriters@conted.ox.ac.uk

Please be aware that if you cancel your place on the summer school you will not be entitled to a refund, except in exceptional circumstances, and at the discretion of the Director of Public & International Programmes at OUDCE. In such circumstance that a refund is given an administration fee may be levied.

You are therefore very strongly recommended to take out vacation cancellation insurance, and you should consult your travel agent and/or insurer for information and advice. Please note that OUDCE does not provide any insurance cover.

OUDCE reserves the right to alter details of any course should illness or any other emergency prevent a tutor from teaching, and to cancel a course or seminar if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2014. If it is likely that individual seminars or the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified in writing within seven days, and possible options clearly explained.

If you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2014, you should assume that the course and your seminars will be running; there is no need to contact us to confirm. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

Apply for this course

Click here to download the application form

Please ensure all sections are completed fully, clearly, and in BLOCK CAPITALS.

The form must be accompanied by:

  • A brief statement of purpose (350-400 words) detailing your academic reasons for wishing to attend the summer school. This should include what you feel the programme would offer you and your writing, and what you feel you could bring to the summer school. This may include details of creative writing courses you have previously taken, or the relevance of the summer school to your present course of study or professional development. If you are applying for the advanced-level strand of the programme it is essential that you clearly state your reasons for wishing to enrol on specific seminars.
  • Samples of work which demonstrate your powers of creative expression. If you are applying for the intermediate-level strand of the programme you should provide two 1,000-word samples of prose fiction; if you are applying for the advanced-level strand of the programme please provide samples of your work relevant to your first and second choice courses and ensure that the name of the seminar is printed at the top of each sample. As a guideline prose fiction, narrative non-fiction and dramatic dialogue samples should be no more than 1,000 words in length; applicants for the poetry course should provide 5 short poems.
  • A copy of your transcript, or a certified list of courses taken. These must be in English.
  • In the case of non-native speakers of English, official evidence of English language competency.
  • A letter of recommendation from a person - usually an academic who has taught you - who can give insight into your academic capabilities and writerly achievements. Where this is not possible, a letter from an appropriately qualified/experienced person who can comment on your motivation, commitment to writing and potential for development is acceptable; however, a reference from a family member or friend is not.
  • Four photographs (UK passport-sized - ie 4.5cm high x 3.5cm wide), with your full name printed on the back of each.

Please note that incomplete applications will not be considered

Applications should be posted to: Creative Writing Summer School, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK

An email acknowledgement will be sent to confirm receipt of application materials

Please note that we are currently unable to receive applications by email or fax

Application deadlines

Oxford University operates a 'gathered field' closing date system by which applications are reviewed fairly and equally in batches at specific dates throughout the admissions period rather than on a first come, first served or rolling basis.

There is a limited number of places available on every advanced-level course within each gathered field, and in assigning successful applicants to seminar groups the admissions panel will pay particular attention to applicants' personal statements.

There are three deadlines for applications:

  • Gathered field 1 - 15 February 2014
  • Gathered field 2 - 15 March 2014
  • Gathered field 3 - 15 April 2014

Subject to the availability of places, late applications may be considered on a first come, first served basis until 15 May 2014

Notification of the admission panel's decision

Applicants will normally be notified of the panel's decision by email within 14 days of the relevant gathered field deadline.

Applicants who are offered a place on the summer school must respond in writing within 14 days to accept or decline the offer. In accepting our offer of a place applicants are committing to paying the programme fees in full by the due date.

Please note that late applicants will be notified within 7 days of their materials having been received, and successful applicants will then have 7 days in which to accept or decline our offer of a place.

Enrolment, invoicing, and further course information

  • Students will be enrolled on the summer school once they have accepted our offer of a place
  • The enrolment process includes the issuing of invoices, which will be posted to students together with full instructions for payment
  • Detailed academic and seminar information will be emailed to students in Spring 2014 togther with 'Joining Notes', which will contain a wealth of practical information to assist students prepare to travel to Oxford

Any queries?

Please contact the Programme Administrator by email at ipwriters@conted.ox.ac.uk

Important information regarding immigration and visa requirements

All students travelling to the United Kingdom (UK) are required to hold a valid passport. OUDCE welcomes international students on all its courses; however, it is the responsibility of applicants to ensure that they conform to UK immigration law.

If you are an European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national you do not need a visa to enter the UK to participate in one of OUDCE’s summer schools. You are free to enter the UK as long as you show your EEA or Swiss passport on arrival.

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national, you will need to enter as a Student Visitor. The Student Visitor route allows students over the age of 18 to study either part-time or full-time for up to six months in the UK.

If you are not an EEA or Swiss national we strongly recommend that you visit the UK Border Agency’s website before submitting your application.

Please note that Oxford University summer schools administrative staff are not permitted to provide information and advice regarding visa-related matters: all such enquiries should be submitted to Oxford University’s student visa and immigration advisers via email at student.immigration@admin.ox.ac.uk

Sorry, this course is not currently accepting applications. If you have any questions about this course, please use the course enquiry form.

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