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Creative writing chelmsford

MA Creative Writing

Our challenging, practice-based course offers you a unique approach to the practice of writing, emphasising innovation and experimentation in your work.

On our MA Creative Writing, you deepen your knowledge of literary tradition, exploring different modes and genres in order to develop your own creative and expressive written skills. You expand your use of creative writing techniques and improve your critical judgement of your own work.

Our course encourages you to develop your writing by stepping outside your comfort zone and discovering the different approaches to verbal art that are possible today. This will invigorate your own practice, whether you are writing psychogeography, plays, novels, stories or something else. You will choose from a variety of modules, covering topics such as:

  • Development of a novel plan, from research and concept-development, to plotting, character, and structure
  • Experimental language play of the Oulipo group across the short story, autobiography, cartoons, cookery and theatre
  • Psychogeography, writing about walking, place, landscape, history and the psychic environment
  • Poetic practice across experimental writing in poetry from the performative to the visual

To help you hone your craft, we also host a Royal Literary Fund Fellow, professional writers on-hand to help you develop your writing on a one-to-one basis, and regularly host talks and readings by visiting writers.

Essex has nurtured a long tradition of distinguished authors whose work has shaped literature as we know it today, from past giants such as the American poets Robert Lowell and Ted Berrigan, to contemporary writers such as mythographer and novelist Dame Marina Warner, and Booker Prize winner Ben Okri.

This course is also available on a part-time basis.

Chat to our staff and students

Find out what it’s like to live and study at Essex from those who are already here.

  • Learn from the professionals as part of our innovative Writers at Essex series
  • Join a diverse network of distinguished alumni and award-winning teaching staff who have shaped the world of literature
  • Publish your own work in our annual creative writing journal, Creel

Our expert staff

Our teaching staff are experienced and established writers who have a breadth of experience across literary genres, from novels, prose and plays, to poetry and song.

Our creative writing teaching team has a breadth of experience in the literatures of different cultures and different forms. Our current teaching staff include poet and short story writer Philip Terry, non-fiction and wild writer James Canton, novelist and camper Matthew de Abaitua, poet and performance-writer Holly Pester, poet, fisherman and memoirist Chris McCully, and award-winning playwrights Elizabeth Kuti and Jonathan Lichtenstein.

Our Centre for Creative Writing is part of a unique literary conservatoire that offers students the skills, support and confidence to respond artistically and critically to the study of writing with the guidance of experts.

Specialist facilities

  • Write for our student magazine Rebel or host a Rebel radio show
  • View classic films at weekly film screenings in our dedicated 120-seat film theatre
  • Hear writers talk about their craft and learn from leading literature specialists at regular talks and readings
  • Our on-campus Lakeside Theatre has been established as a major venue for good drama, staging both productions by professional touring companies and a wealth of new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students
  • Improve your playwriting skills at our Lakeside Theatre Writers workshops
  • Our Research Laboratory allows you to collaborate with professionals, improvising and experimenting with new work which is being tried and tested
  • Contribute some of your work to our annual publication ‘Creel’, an anthology of creative writing produced by our postgraduate students and published by Muscaliet Press, founded by PhD Creative Writing alumni Simon Everett.

Your future

Many of our students have gone on to successfully publish their work, notable recent alumni including:

  • Ida Løkås, who won a literary prize in Norway for The Beauty That Flows Past, securing a book deal
  • Alexia Casale, whose novel Bone Dragon was published by Faber & Faber and subsequently featured on both the Young Adult Books of the Year 2013 list for The Financial Times, and The Independent’sBooks of the year 2013: Children
  • Elaine Ewart, graduate from our MA Wild Writing and PhD Creative Writing courses, placed second in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2015
  • Patricia Borlenghi, the founder of Patrician Press, which has published works by a number of our alumni
  • Petra McQueen, who has written for The Guardian and runs creative writing courses and is studying PhD Creative Writing in the Department

We also offer supervision for PhD, MPhil and MA by Dissertation in different literatures and various approaches to literature, covering most aspects of early modern and modern writing in English, plus a number of other languages.

Our University is one of only 11 AHRC-accredited Doctoral Training Centres in the UK. This means that we offer funded PhD studentships which also provide a range of research and training opportunities.

A number of our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies graduates have gone on to undertake successful careers as writers, and others are now established as scholars, university lecturers, teachers, publishers, publishers’ editors, journalists, arts administrators, theatre artistic directors, drama advisers, and translators.

We work with the university’s Careers Services to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

“The facilities were fantastic while the lecturers were very supportive and still continue to offer help, even though I have now graduated! There was always a good atmosphere and I know I’ll never have writer’s block again! I am working towards a career as a playwright, so of course my degree has been invaluable to me, and I have recently been approached to do a Channel 4 TV show called The Audience.”

Janine Hornsby, MA Creative Writing, 2012

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2.2 degree in Creative Writing, Theatre/Drama Studies, Literature, Media Studies, Art History, Music, Philosophy, History, Performing Arts, Journalism, Politics and Sociology.

You may be asked to provide a piece of creative writing if you do not hold a degree in a relevant field.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you’ll find this information.

English language requirements

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Course structure

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We’ll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we’ll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.


Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
Core You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Compulsory You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Optional You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.


Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules – increasing as you progress through the course.

Writing Groups

Looking for extra writing activities outside of NanoWriMo November? Need some encouragement, motivation or writing tips?

Not to worry! There are a whole range of different writing groups, and related activities, across the county of Essex – all friendly, helpful and supportive!

Don’t forget to also visit the NaNoEssex Facebook group! It’s full of the friendly tips and banter you’ve come to know and love throughout November, and it’s active all year round!

NaNoEssex Writing Group – (Contact: Emma Biddulph) For year round Write-Ins, related writing events and activities. Informal, monthly meetings with the friendly support and encouragement of the NaNoEssex community. Meeting details TBC. Free to join.

Basilon Writers – (Contact: Jenny Drew) A small writing and critiquing group for any creative writer seeking advice and encouragement. Free to join.

Chelmsford Writers, The – (Contact: Jerry) A friendly writing group that meets on the first Wednesday of every month (except December), at Hall Street Methodist Church Hall (CM2 0HB). There is a small charge (£4) towards the hire of the room.

Inky Fingers – (Contact: Rachel Gallhawk) A small, friendly group of Christians from different backgrounds who enjoy writing, sharing their work, and having a chat. Free to join.

Scribbles for Younger Writers KS2+ (Contact: Hellen Riebold on 07738 878825) This group aims to provide space, time, support and encouragement to young, enthusiastic writers to work on their own compositions. Two adult leaders – Hellen and Laura – are both trained teachers and DBS checked. Meetings are on the third Saturday of each month at 33 High Road, Rayleigh, from 2pm-4pm. Free to join. Parents are invited to contact Hellen with enquiries.

TLC – (Contact: Sarah Banham) Tender Loving Care is extended to everyone at the Toosey Literary Circle, which offers a friendly shoulder of support to those interested in creative writing. Meetings are monthly at Dukes Bistro on Clacton Road, St Osyth, on the first Wednesday of each month from 10:30am to 12 noon. Free to join. Please contact the host, Sarah Banham from For the Love of Books, for further details.

WINOS (Writers In Need of Something) – Contact: Hellen Riebold on 07738 878825) This group meets on the third Saturday of each month in the upstairs meeting room at Rayleigh Library from 2pm-4pm. A friendly bunch, who take turns to prepare writing challenges. Free to join, and open to all ages.

Witham Writers, The – (Contact: Anna Marsden on 01376 345059) The group meets on a Tuesday morning (10am -12noon) and is open to all who like to write fiction, non-fiction or poetry. The venue is ‘The White Hart’ hotel, Newland Street, Witham and the cost is £1.70 for coffee. Their are no enrolment fees and anyone attending is given a warm welcome.

Writebulb – (Contact: Carlie Cullen) This lively, friendly group originated following NaNoWriMo 2010, and grew! Meetings are at Chelmsford Library on the second Saturday of every month. Arrive early to guarantee a seat. £1 fee per meeting for refreshments.

Writers’ Circle, The – (Contact: Liz Felton) The circle is a group for writers of fiction and non-fiction alike to join forces and share examples of their work, to get constructive feedback, and participate in writing challenges and competitions. First meeting is Wednesday 22nd July, at The White Hart pub, Bocking End, Braintree, from 7pm – 8.30pm.

Writers Reading Group, The – (Contact: Sam Handley) A monthly book group with writing challenges! Meetings are at Utopia coffee shop in Southend, 3pm-6pm, on the first Sunday of every month. Free to join.

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