The inaugural University of Limerick Creative Writing Winter School took place 25-29th November at Hotel Doolin, Co. Clare. The Winter School aimed to provide early to mid-career creative writers with a five day, residential, immersive and focused professional development experience.
Themes chosen aimed to cover and engage with a mix of topics – some focusing on issues to do with creative practice, and others focusing on issues to do with the business of writing, pitching, and getting published.
A total of 27 writers attended the Winter School from Ireland, USA, New Zealand, England and Germany. The school included structured interactive lectures and discussions, author panel Q&As, Open Mic night and structured writing time. Each writer also received one-to-one critique meetings with writers in residence Kit De Waal, Donal Ryan, Kerry Neville and Rob Doyle.
The winter school also concentrated on health and well-being with early morning meditation sessions, cliff walks, and healthy meal options.
By the end of winter school each participant had completed 12 full hours of writing in a supported environment as well as attending the structured seminars, one-to-one sessions and literary salons.
Participants were extremely satisfied with their experience at UL’s first creative writing winter school. They spoke of impact, learning and of progress. Many of them referred to this having been a transformative experience in their lives as writers, – and one even went as far as to say ‘this was the best week of my life’.
“It’s truly the single most transformative experience I’ve had. This experience has raised my sense of identity as a writer.”
Many participants spoke of having achieved significant creative breakthroughs while working on their writing at Winter School. Since significant blocks of writing time were a key feature of the programme, the level of focus many of them managed to achieve in this immersive environment seems to have had an immediate and positive impact on their work.
One participant, Anne O’Leary, documented a day-by-day journal of the experience: anneolearyblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/ul-winter-school-day-1/
Thanks to the following for their invaluable input to the preparation, development and delivery of this programme:
- Prof. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
- Prof. Joseph O’Connor, Frank McCourt Chair of Creative Writing
- Donal Ryan, lecturer in creative writing
- Dr Kerry Neville, Fulbright Scholar at UL in creative writing
- Rob Doyle, Kate O’Brien Scholar
- Prof. Eoin Devereux, HOD Sociology
- Niamh O’Sullivan, Department Administrator
- Prof. Helen Kelly Holmes, Dean of AHSS
- Prof. Meg Harper, HOD of English, Irish and Communication
Huge thanks are also due to our wonderful visiting facilitators: Jo Unwin (JULA literary agency; Helen Thomas, Editor At Large, Hachette Children’s Books and Kit De Waal, award-winning author).