Tue 21 November 2017
Life after Graduation
Studying Writing
Life after Graduation
A Balancing Act
Emma Hardy
Emma Hardy describes how she has become a full-time creative writing tutor and writer since graduating from the University of Leeds with a Creative Writing MA in 2004.

After graduating in 2004 with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Leeds, I moved to Manchester and began working for the University of Salford Careers Service, where I stayed until 2008. The irony being, of course, it took me that long to focus on what I wanted my own career to be - but as writers, where would we be without irony?

I wrote in my free time (mainly prose and reviews) but without regular commitment. A creative turning point came for me in 2006 when I was accepted onto a Young Writers attachment with Contact Theatre in Manchester. I changed direction with my writing and since then I have written primarily for the stage (but recently returned to prose, winning the Leaf Books 2009 short story competition).

During the years I worked within careers, I took on related freelance writing work - writing career profiles for www.prospects.ac.uk. My professional turning point came when I took on a secondment position in 2006 and co-ordinated a project which focused on raising the aspirations and employability of 16-19 year old learners. In this role, I wrote and edited educational products, co-ordinated events and ran student workshops. I decided to take steps to achieve my long standing goal of teaching creative writing.

In September 2007 I commenced study on the City & Guilds 7303 short course Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) at a local college. This gave me the practical skills I needed to begin teaching. At the same time, I contacted the English Department at the University of Salford and asked if there was any possibility of my leading workshops in Creative Writing. I was offered an hourly-paid teaching position after meeting the Creative Writing programme leader.

I felt that to teach, I had to primarily be a practising writer, otherwise I lacked the credibility vital for the role. I reduced the hours I worked at the Careers Service until, in early 2008, I resigned to become a full-time creative writing tutor and writer. You cannot be one or the other - the two go hand in hand to create one full-time role.

I began to establish myself as a freelance tutor. This involved making contacts, joining various creative and educational networks and undertaking training courses in my own time (and often at my own expense). At the same time, positive results and positive feedback on my teaching approach meant that I was offered more work by the English Department at the University of Salford, who were supportive of me as a fledgling academic. As I became involved with the work of the Creative Writing team and undertook more varied teaching, I gained confidence in my ability as a tutor.

I teach for the Open University, in Adult and Community education and in schools. I also tutor teenagers who are studying towards GCSEs/A-levels. This summer I took on the role of Head of Academic Study for Creative Writing at the International Summer School of Scotland. I am building up a unique portfolio.

The work/life/writing balance is not an easy one to establish. As a creative practitioner and writer, you are responsible for making things happen. Finding funding for projects you want to run, being involved with support organizations, searching for work via creative networks and listings sites is time consuming, even before the pitching and application process begins. After this you find the idea you have proposed doesn't quite fit! Much of my work comes via contacts I have made - I never underestimate the value of networking.

I have the right documentation to make me employable: Public Liability Insurance and a CRB Check/Disclosure is essential. Without a regular set income I have to manage my finances. Registering as self employed and dealing with the required paperwork can be time-consuming. I have taken on other work when required - working, for example, as an external examinations invigilator in a school. There is no substitute for being organised.

So, to the present day and what may come as a shock after what I have said so far! I have left my job at the University of Salford and moved to Glasgow. I have walked away from the web of contacts I established and I am now studying on the new MFA in Applied Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, by direct entry into year two as I already hold an MA. The structure of the course is that I study the taught element of Glasgow's Creative Writing PhD programme (seminars and workshops) plus a pedagogy class. I have decided to study this course for both professional and personal reasons.

I look back over the last few years and see how much I have achieved in a short space of time. I also realise how I have overworked myself, physically, emotionally and mentally. I used my work to block out underlying personal problems. I was diagnosed recently with chronic stress, something I refused to address until I got to breaking point. Luckily this has occurred at a time when I can step back and immerse myself in what I love.

Writers procrastinate. We divert ourselves and we find reasons not to write. Teaching Creative Writing can be one of these reasons. I am enrolled on a course where I have to write, where I am expected to present three 5,000 word workshop submissions per semester, plus weekly creative parodies and essays of 1,000 words. This is in addition to my own writing and a reading list that would terrify the boldest of readers. This year I cannot do anything but write, read and occasionally teach (I still work for the Open University and run freelance workshops).

I have started to write for academic publications. My research interests are pedagogical and are especially concerned with how young people approach the subject of Creative Writing from a global perspective. My reasons for studying the MFA also relate to the fact that I want to consider teaching outside of the UK - it may sound trite, but the F' in between the 'M' and 'A' carries weight outside of the UK in relation to teaching contracts.

I am, however, being encouraged to stay on after completing the MFA year and to study for a PhD with the department. Further years within academia, finally focusing on writing and not thinking too much about other jobs and life outside of my creative work, does sound very appealing right now.


Career Ladder

Freelance Creative Writing Workshop Facilitator
May 2008 - present

Associate Lecturer
Open University, West Midlands
October 2008 - present   

Academic Head of Study, Creative Writing
International Summer School of Scotland
July 2009 - August 2009       

Part-time Lecturer in Creative Writing
University of Salford, Salford    
September 2007 - May 2009       

Freelance Personal Tutor   
October 2008 - April 2009       

External Examinations Invigilator
Whalley Range 11 - 18 High School, Manchester
May 2008 - June 2009

Secretary to Head of Service (part-time)
Careers Service, University of Salford, Salford    
October 2007 - February 2008       

Network Project Co-ordinator (Secondment)
Careers Service, University of Salford, Salford
July 2006 - April 2007   

Jobshop Assistant
Careers Service, University of Salford, Salford    
October 2004 - October 2007    

  
Emma Hardy works as a freelance Creative Writing tutor, writes prose fiction and for the stage. Since writing this article, Emma has converted courses and is now studying towards her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.


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