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MA Writing for Young People

Course Description

This specialist creative writing MA course enlists the expertise of our team of writer-lecturers, five of whom are currently published in the field of children’s writing. It is supported by visiting speakers from the children’s publishing world, including agents, editors, publishers and authors.

Leading Children's Literary Agent Jodie Marsh (United Agents) offers an annual prize for the 'most promising writer for young people'. We have an excellent track record of graduates achieving publication. Novels by Gill Lewis, Sam Gayton, Elen Caldecott, Jim Carrington, Alex Diaz, Marie-Louise Jensen, Sally Nicholls, Maudie Smith, Che Golden, C.J. Skuse and Sarah Hammond and picture books by Karen Hughes have all been published in the last five years. Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls won the Waterstones Children's Book of the Year Award and the Glen Dimplex New Writers Award 2008. Marie-Louise Jensen and Elen Caldecott were both shortlisted for the 2009 Waterstones Prize, and Elen was longlisted for the Carnegie award for How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant.


The course is for writers for children of all ages, from the picture-book age through to adolescent and ‘crossover’ writing which aims at markets among adults as well as young people. Though prose fiction is likely to be the main area studied, students will have the chance to look at writing in all forms, including poetry, picture book texts and non-fiction.

The course supports students to create a significant body of writing, with practical plans for its place in the real world of publishing. It is based on the principle that most writers learn and benefit from working closely with their fellow writers, in a disciplined supportive setting, and with tutors who are practising and published writers in their field.


Writing Workshops - In the first semester’s writing workshop you will explore a variety of formats and approaches, gaining a sense of the different age- ranges and forms. This is also an introduction to the writing workshop experience which is the heart of the course. In the second semester’s workshop you will be asked to choose your area of writing, and use the workshop’s feedback and encouragement to explore it in more depth. Full-time students take one writing workshop in Semester One and one in Semester Two. Part-time students take one workshop each year.

Context Modules - Each full-time student takes one of these in the first semester and one in the second semester. The first semester’s context module, Writing for Young People: Forms, Ages and Stages, is concerned with the writer’s relationship with their audience, a sense of the history of and issues raised by children’s writing. The second semester’s module looks at Contemporary Children’s Publishing, and aims to give a realistic grasp of the choices open to new writers in the field. Part-time students take one of these context modules in each year of study.

Manuscript - This is the development of a manuscript as near to publishable quality as possible. It is supported by tutorials with a manuscript supervisor. It may be a novel, a book of stories, a collection of poems or picture book texts.


The course is modular and offered for full and part-time study. Part-time students take the same course over a two-year period, taking one module each semester. Students complete four taught modules (two writing workshops and two context modules) plus a manuscript (double module).

Modules are normally taught via tutor-led writing workshops, organised in 11 weekly three-hour sessions on the Corsham Court campus. The manuscript is taught via one-to-one tutorials, working with a tutor with particular knowledge of your field of work. Throughout the course, there will be special events to bring in writers to discuss their work, plus literary agents and editors with practical advice on the publishing process. Our current writer in residence is Marcus Sedgwick.


This course is taught by publishing writers and depending on timetables will include:

• Julia Green: her novels for young adults include Blue Moon, Baby Blue and Hunter’s Heart (Puffin), Breathing Underwater, Drawing with Light and Bringing the Summer (Bloomsbury)and her most recent novel for younger children is Tilly’s Moonlight Fox (Oxford University Press).
• Steve May: author of Dazzer Plays On and One Chance (Egmont).
• Jonathan Neale: his novels for children are Lost at Sea and Himalaya.
• Mimi Thebo: author of Wipe Out, Hit the Road Jack, Get Real (Harper Collins); Drawing Together (Walker).
• Steve Voake: his novels include The Dreamwalker’s Child, The Web of Fire, The Starlight Conspiracy, Blood Hunters, Fightback and Dark Woods (Faber & Faber), plus his Daisy Dawson and Hooey Higgins series for younger readers (Walker Books).
• Children’s publishing industry specialists John Mclay and Janine Amos


The assessed coursework for each Writing Workshop is a folder of creative writing. For the first Context Module the coursework is an essay of approximately 2,500 words and a folder of creative responses. The second context module is assessed by a portfolio of writing tasks connected to the children’s publishing industry, including two book proposals. The manuscript is 35,000-40,000 words, or the equivalent in poetry or picture book texts.


Most of our students want a career as a published children’s author, and many have gone on to achieve this. Others have found work in the children’s publishing industry, or in libraries, bookshops and teaching or other work with young people.

Visit the MA Writing for Young People page on the Bath Spa University website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Marie-Louise Jensen

766.jpg I was sure that doing the course would give me a far greater chance of becoming a published writer than I would otherwise have - both because of the writing practice and guidance I would gain and because of the contacts I would make. As well as being challenging, useful and engaging, it was also lots of fun. We worked hard at getting into a young person’s mind set.

The campus is very beautiful and I enjoyed the scenery and unusual buildings every single time I went there. But the course and the people mattered even more, and they were great. Before enrolling I achieved a double honours degree in German and Scandinavian.

I now have an agent at United Agents in London and I am writing teen novels for Oxford University Press. It isn’t so much the qualification itself that has helped me so far, as the skills I learned and the contacts I made. If you want to write for young people, or are perhaps already doing so but want to improve and learn more, I can’t recommend this course highly enough.

(Student Profile)

Maudie Smith

I chose to do the MA in Writing for Young People as I felt it would give me the confidence to take myself seriously as a writer and to confirm for me the areas of writing to which my style was most suited. Also, to help me find the self-discipline to write regularly. It has done all this. The course was also strongly recommended to me by previous graduates.

I thoroughly enjoyed the friendly atmosphere at Bath Spa and the rather luxurious environment at Corsham Court – peacocks included! I particularly liked the way the workshops were run in an atmosphere of supportiveness and encouragement. We all very quickly became much more astute critics of each other's work and also of our own work. I felt very inspired by the opportunity to explore published children's literature and to attempt writing for all ages – from picture books for the very young to writing for teenagers and young adults.

Since finishing the course I have secured a three book deal with Orion Publishers for my Opal Moonbaby stories – novels for 7-10 year olds. I am currently writing the second of these books. Having the name of the course on one's CV is alone a big help in opening doors. The course has given me the ability to be critical of my work while inspiring me with the confidence to believe that I can write and get published too.

The course definitely lives up to its reputation. If you're serious about writing and have a big idea, or maybe a few half-finished projects stuffed in a drawer somewhere, go to Bath Spa and refresh your mind and your interest. Keep an open mind and things may well flourish for you. Not only will you be a better writer by the end of the MA, you'll also have the opportunity to meet many published writers, agents and editors and discover all the ins and outs of the publishing world.


Entry Requirements

We offer places on the basis of our assessment of the student’s quality, potential and commitment as a writer and their ability to benefit from the course. Normally, but not invariably, a student will have a degree. Applicants will need to submit a short piece of creative writing for young people with their application form: for example, six poems or two short stories or not more than 20 pages of a novel.

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