During his MSc in Creative Writing, Ronan Ryan found it both comforting to be surrounded by people who shared his obsession and fascinating to hear perspectives shaped by a variety of backgrounds.
MSc in Creative Writing
|Year of Graduation||2007|
Why did you choose the University of Edinburgh?
Before I arrived in Edinburgh, I had been writing fiction for many years, but I hadn’t received much feedback and I hadn’t known other writers. I enrolled in the Creative Writing masters wanting to get a sense of whether I was on the right track and to develop my abilities as best I could.
My experience at the university was invaluable. I don’t believe a postgraduate creative writing course is supposed to "teach" you how to write – you have to be a self-starter when it comes to generating material – but what a workshop environment does provide is the chance to learn how to self-edit, as you’re compelled to articulate your response to the finer points of your fellow work-shoppers’ writing and to defend what in damnation you were thinking with your own.
The course gave me a much-needed shot in the arm and, by the end of it, I was a stronger reader, editor, and writer. Plus, it was comforting to be surrounded by people who shared an obsession with filling paper with squiggly symbols in the hope of stringing together packs of lies into coherent narratives.
The course gave me a much-needed shot in the arm and, by the end of it, I was a stronger reader, editor, and writer.
Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University
After completing the MSc, I continued to live and work in Edinburgh for another couple of years, and then I moved to New Zealand to undertake a PhD in English Literature at Victoria University of Wellington – the main component of my thesis was a novel so I was able to put to use all that I had learned at the University of Edinburgh.
Once I was awarded the PhD, I moved to Dublin and, with the benefit of being a more experienced writer, I thoroughly redrafted the novel I had been working on during the MSc. I signed with an excellent agent and she quickly secured a book deal with an ideal publisher, Tinder Press.
"The Fractured Life of Jimmy Dice" – a family saga about trauma, grief, and love, set in Ireland and narrated by a ghost – was published around the world in January 2017, and the Irish Independent Review named it as of one of their 'Books of the Year'.
Socialize heavily. At the University of Edinburgh, there’s a great opportunity to meet a wide variety of people at a highly interesting time in their lives – on my course, there were students from Kenya, Japan, Russia, and Iceland, and even a couple of Scots and a lone Irishman – so try to be a sponge and learn as much as you can from them.
Also, find an extra gear and work harder than you’ve ever worked before. A healthy life/work balance can be achieved by keeping sleep to a minimum.
The Fractured Life of Jimmy Dice (external link)