“I found the course fantastic and really inspiring. I particularly love writing short stories because it’s amazing what can be achieved in such a condensed space. Sadness, humour and many other emotions can all be expressed in the short story.”
Undertaking an MA in Creative Writing transformed a need to read into a compulsion to write for prize-winning author and Edge Hill graduate, Carys Bray.
The Southport mother-of-four won the MA category of the Edge Hill Short Story Prize in 2010 before going on to scoop the Scott Prize for Short Stories, an international award for a first collection of short stories by a single author.
Carys, who has also had stories published in numerous literary journals and magazines, is currently completing her first novel as part of a PhD in creative writing at Edge Hill.
“I’ve always loved reading, and for some people it’s a natural progression for this to develop into a love of writing, which is what happened to me,” says Carys.
“I started writing stories when I was about nine and spent hours on Famous Five-inspired adventures starring myself and my friends. Many years later, when all my own children had started school, I did a BA in English literature at the Open University and there was an option to do creative writing. I decided to have a go and discovered that I really liked it.
“I began creative writing in earnest when I started my MA at Edge Hill. I was very shy about my writing when I started the course, but I’d hit my thirties and saw this as a last chance to find out if this was something I could do.”
Carys’ tutors soon spotted her talent and urged her to send her stories to literary magazines. Her first story to be published was The Ice Baby, which appeared in New Fairy Tales. More stories were published and Carys won the Edge Hill MA student prize with a short story called Just in Case.
“I found the course fantastic and really inspiring. I particularly love writing short stories because it’s amazing what can be achieved in such a condensed space. Sadness, humour and many other emotions can all be expressed in the short story,” says Carys.
After completing her MA Carys continued writing until she had enough material for a collection of stories called Sweet Home, which went on to win the Scott Prize – and be published in the UK, Australia and the USA.
“It took me about 18 months to write the stories,” explains Carys. “The driving element of the book is a preoccupation with family, and with the things that go wrong, and right, when people live together. The collection explores a variety of dark familial ‘failures,’ but it’s also meant to be funny and, ultimately, optimistic.
“Some of my favourite short story collections have been written by previous Scott Prize winners and I’m really thrilled to join their ranks.”
Now midway through her PhD, Carys has completed the first draft of her as yet untitled novel, which is about miracles and explores themes of guilt, grief and loss of faith in miracles.
“Although the novel sounds heavy, it’s not entirely pessimistic and has a fairly upbeat ending. It’s about how people try to engineer miracles and fail, then there’s a miraculous coincidence that no one could have predicted,” says Carys.
So how does her literary activity fit in with the hectic demands of raising four children?
“I write while they’re at school and in the evenings and squeeze it between the unavoidable things,” says Carys. “My children have been great. They forgave me for crimes against progeny, such as forgetting mufti days and hogging the computer, and they cheered my successes.
“My husband, Neil, made extra time for me to write by doing the ironing and cleaning the bathroom. He sometimes cooked – until we all decided that it was better if he didn’t – and he read all of my stories, even though he prefers non-fiction.”
Looking ahead, Carys’ ambition is to finish her novel, along with the thesis for her PhD, a research project exploring the development of myths and sacred stories.
“Eventually I’d like to do another short story collection,” she adds. “My first one had a lot of children and young families in it so now I want to write some material with more adult themes.”
To find out more about studying this programme, please view full course information for MA Creative Writing.