I teach narrative non-fiction on the MSt in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. Over the past few years I have learned a tremendous amount about the craft of writing from my students, sitting in little tutorial groups discussing biography, history, travel, life writing, science writing and the jagged boundaries between fact and fiction.
Among the texts we examine are Helen Macdonald’s H is For Hawk, Anna Funder’s Stasiland, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. I believe that we live in times that need honest, powerful and intelligent true stories more than ever. My aim as a lecturer is to help students find the best way of writing their own stories.
Before I joined the team at Oxford I worked for seven years at City, University of London on their ground-breaking MA in narrative non-fiction. That course was interesting because students were required to complete a 60,000 word manuscript during their two years of study – all in different genres of non-fiction: memoir, biography, history, true crime and so on. I led a literary criticism module looking at works by writers like George Orwell, Anna Edmund de Waal, John Hersey, Sarah Wise, John McPhee, Lorna Sage, Richard Holmes and John Krakauer.
At both institutions I have had the pleasure to work with many students on their books and I am proud to see a growing number of them go on to get agent representation and publishing contracts of their own.
More on the Oxford MSt in Creative Writing can be found here.