Welcome to Creative Writing at UCC

This site is a road map to the world of creative writing at UCC.  The School of English offers creative writing at undergraduate, Masters and PhD level. See what we do – check out our blog written by students, see the major names in literature who visit our campus, and explore the numerous courses we offer that redefine and broaden what it is to be a 21st century creative writer. 

News and Events

Colum McCann to read at UCC

The distinguished Irish writer Colum McCann will read at UCC in the first event of the Department of English’s 2020 Reading Series.

McCann, who was born in Dublin, is the author of seven novels, including Transatlantic and Let the Great World Spin, and three collections of stories. His international honours include a National Book Award, the International Dublin Literary Award (formerly IMPAC) and a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government.  He is a member of Aosdána and the American Academy of Arts.

His fiction has been published in over 40 languages.  He lives in New York and teaches on the MFA programme in Hunter College, New York.  His new novel, Apeirogon, will be published in February.   

The reading takes place on Tuesday, January 28, West Wing 5 @6.30pm.  Admission is free and all are welcome.

 


UCC's first Choctaw scholar

Jessica Militante is the first recipient of a Choctaw Ireland Scholarship, created to commemorate the historic connection between the Choctaw and Irish people created during the Great Famine.  Here she writes about her Choctaw - and Cork - roots.

When I think of my Choctaw ancestors, the first word that comes to mind is resilient. My people are the embodiment of the word. In 1831, the Choctaw people were forcibly removed from their land in the southeast of the United States due to President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act.

The Choctaws were the first nation to endure the march, which began in an exceptionally harsh winter and continued for several months, for over a thousand miles, to what is now Oklahoma. The unfathomable conditions, lack of resources, and the widespread of disease during the Trail of Tears lead to thousands of Choctaws’ deaths. Yet the Choctaw people did not allow this incomprehensible trauma to destroy them. They persevered.  

Resilient is also a word that I associate with my Irish ancestors. The people of Cork endured the catastrophic event of the Great Famine a few years later, between 1845 and 1852. The scarcity of food was extreme, and the residents of Cork were starving and suffering from famine-related diseases. They were hungry and scared, and yet they too persevered.

These two resilient nations of my ancestry came together in the most remarkable way. In 1847, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma heard of the great hardship the people of Cork were facing and felt compelled to assist them. They raised $170, today’s equivalent of over $5,000, to aid the city of Cork in their time of need. The Choctaws gifted this money to Cork not from a position of wealth but from one of empathy. Having just lived through their own unimaginable tragedy, they identified with the suffering happening in Cork and, out of pure generosity and love for humankind, wanted to help. 

This immeasurable act of humanity has never been forgotten by the people of Cork. It is the reason that there is a gorgeous sculpture of nine, twenty-feet, stainless steel eagle feathers in the town of Midleton. It is also the reason that I am able to study at University College Cork.

I am the first recipient of the Choctaw Ireland Scholarship, a scholarship created to commemorate the beautiful connection between the Choctaw and Irish people. Ireland is showing that same generosity and love for the Choctaw nation with this scholarship which is allowing me to study for my master’s in Creative Writing here at UCC.

The second term of my one-year master’s programme starts this week, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my past five months in Cork. Last semester, I had the pleasure of having afternoon tea with UCC’s president, Dr Patrick O’Shea, along with the recipient of the George Mitchell Scholarship, Minhal Ahmed.  We spoke about the motivation behind the Choctaw scholarship, fun places to visit around Cork, and, of course, the weather! Having been born in and lived the majority of my life in California, Irish weather has certainly been an adjustment.

My five roommates are all from various places in Ireland which has made it so easy to learn more about Irish culture. Between them and my Cork classmates, it’s clear to see that generosity and human kindness is still very much alive in Ireland. 

I have been to visit the Kindred Spirits sculpture in Midleton twice now, once with my mom and once with a fellow Choctaw student, Chayla Rowley, who is studying in Dublin as a Fulbright scholar. Each time that I go, I stand in the middle of the circle, my Choctaw flag wrapped around my shoulders as the eagle feathers stretch towards the sky around me and I am overwhelmed by the strength and love I feel.

Further developing my creative writing at UCC is helping me toward achieving my goal of publishing a young adult novel. Throughout my own childhood and adolescence, I strongly connected with the trials and triumphs of the characters I read about which I feel played a vital role in my desire to become a writer. I want to provide other young adults with the same joy of representation in the novels they read and hope to inspire a similar desire to share stories as the novels I read did in me.  

I have yet to decide where I plan to live after graduating from UCC. In addition to California, I have previously lived in England and Japan, but Cork has been as welcoming as if I had lived here my whole life. All the possibilities are quite exciting, and I look forward to what my future holds for me.

I am so honoured to receive this opportunity and proud of both my Choctaw and Irish ancestors for their immeasurable acts of resilience and generosity. Such acts are so rare, and I am thrilled to help in some small way to keep this connection strong.    

Jessica Militante with UCC president, Dr Patrick O Shea, and Minhal Ahmed, recipient of the George Mitchell scholarship for 2019/20.

       


No jackets required

Coats hanging on the Ha'penny Bridge Dublin today. Photo: RollingNews.ie

Coats left for the homeless last week on Ha’penny Bridge, Dublin, were later removed by Dublin City Council for causing ‘congestion’.  Here is MA in Creative Writing graduand, poet Molly Twomey's timely response, featured on Broadsheet - https://www.broadsheet.ie/2019/12/16/no-jackets-required 

Zip It

We ask you to kindly halt
leaving your parkas and jackets
to warm the homeless

for we cannot have tourists
distracted from their whiskey
lattes and Aran jumpers.

They’ll stop taking selfies,
we’ll have nothing left
to post on Lovin’ Dublin.

We have given your coats
to Oxfam for students
to buy, resell, repay their loans.

Your woollen hats and mittens
are a real congestion issue.
People are bumping

into each other like scabies
on a child’s elbow.
If they really want a home,

they’d apply for the HAP
scheme on their iPhones.
Look, we can’t build more shelters

or estates, we just gave 23 million
to a rafting course; kayaking,
water polo. We don’t mind

stags and hens pissing
down Camden’s Place, snorting
coke off Molly Malone’s tits.

At least they’re not setting up
tents like whack-a-moles
outside the church,

making it hard to stomach
our tuna melts. Feeling guilt
when we tuck in

the bathed skin of our children
under plastic moons
and glow in the dark stars.

Molly Twomey


Fair Day for Laura!

Congratulations to our newly conferred doctor in creative writing, Laura McKenna, who has just been announced as one of twelve finalists in the Irish Writers Centre Novel (IWC) Fair  2020.  (https://irishwriterscentre.ie/blogs/news/announcing-the-novel-fair-2020-finalists)

This year's winners were selected by author-judges Christine Dwyer-HickeyNiamh Boyce and Kevin Curran. The finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their novels directly to some of the top names in publishing across Ireland and the UK at an event in the IWC in February.

Laura's submission to the Fair is her doctoral  novel, Words to Shape my Name.  An historical novel, it's based on the life of Tony Small, an escaped slave who journeyed to the heart of revolutionary Ireland in the late 18th century as the manservant of Lord Edward Fitzgerald.

The novel has already been long-listed for the Bath Novel Award 2019, and an article drawn from the critical research portion of Laura's thesis has been accepted for publication in History Ireland in 2020.

Now in its ninth year, the Novel Fair has resulted in 20 success stories, giving aspiring writers the chance to kick-start their literary career.  Last year, five of the 12 finalists secured publishing deals. Previous Novel Fair winners include Catriona Lally who was recently awarded the prestigious Lannan Literary Prize worth $100,000.

 

 


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