Loraine Fergusson

MA Creative Writing, 2015

“I chose to come to Brookes because the luminous list of Creative Writing Fellows and speakers included two of my favourite writers – Philip Pullman and Howard Jacobson”

Having retired after more than twenty years as a graphic designer, Loraine Fergusson was able to devote her time to writing. Her two independently published novels, The Archivist and The Golden Hand, have enjoyed moderate success but she came to Brookes because she wanted to take her writing to the next level and reach a wider audience.

I chose to come to Brookes because the luminous list of Creative Writing Fellows and speakers included two of my favourite writers – Philip Pullman and Howard Jacobson. I was impressed by the promise of the Annual Creative Writing Showcase as I saw it as an opportunity to network with publishers and agents. I was also wowed by the new campus – I had studied Italian at Brookes nearly fifteen years ago when it had a real ex-poly feel about it. The new campus buzzed with excitement and purpose.

That list of Creative Writing Fellows glows even brighter for me now. Sarah Dunant and James Meek were just terrific. They didn’t speak to us as students – they spoke to us as writers. The Fellows all have their merits – even though I’m not particularly interested in poetry, Patience Agbabi brought us two fantastic hours of word play. Our tutors are also brilliant. Despite their incredibly busy lives, they have all made themselves available to us out of tutorial hours, taking the time to read and comment on our work.

I took the Narrative module with James Hawes last year – his teaching was truly inspirational and triggered a phenomenal amount of new writing from me. Having written in a vacuum for so long, I recognized that I had cultivated bad habits that were difficult to break and probably dated – for example, churning out short stories with a boom-boom ending that were in effect long shaggy-dog stories. My novels tended to be slow off the mark because I over-explained the backstory before getting going, so the work we have done during the course on beginnings has been invaluable.

The course has made me read several novels I would never have picked up. These have been a revelation. I have also had to write material I wasn’t particularly comfortable with and this has given me courage – the written word is powerful but if you constantly censor everything your write, you will knock the life out of it.

About half a dozen of us from the course have got together outside our classes to swap writing and comment on one another’s work. We’ve set up an online forum where we post work and share reference material that we think the others may find useful. I know that we will keep in contact throughout the summer as we work on our major projects and will keep meeting when the course ends. I have finally found myself a writers’ group of people whose opinions I value.

I am determined to find a mainstream publisher for my work. I don’t believe a book truly lives until it is read and I want my writing to reach that wider audience. The tutors are on our side and want us to succeed. Rejections are part of writing but if you have been submitting for a long time, it’s hard to believe that your writing has merit. This course has made me stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood and keep writing, keep submitting.

So much luck is involved in getting your big break – what are the chances of your manuscript landing on the desk of the right agent at the right time? Vanishingly small. But I am confident that the Brookes’ reputation and contacts in the larger publishing arena help to load the dice in my favour.

And I am sure my writing and presentation has already improved – in fact, December brought two modest successes. I received a commendation from the George Orwell Society for a dystopian story I wrote and the novel I worked on for my coursework was shortlisted in Flash500’s Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competition – all this helps to beef up my writing cv.