All posts, English, Irish & Communication, Taught postgraduates

The Ogham Stone Literary Journal-The Postgraduate student experience-Grainne Quinlan (MA English)

Grainne is a graduate of the MA in Creative Writing (2017) and is a current student on the MA in English at the University of Limerick (UL), where as part of her programme of study,along with with her classmates on the MA English and MA Creative Writing programmes, she helped to edit and publish the “The Ogham Stone” literary journal. Grainne describes how this experience improved her editing and writing skills. She is currently working on a local project compiling an art anthology of the Burren region in Co. Clare.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you decided to study at UL?

I was looking into the possibility of studying creative writing in 2017. I’d been writing for years, trying to publish a children’s book, whilst working in the HSE and was feeling I’d lost sight of my creative self. I wanted to get a formal qualification in English and Creative Writing. I came across great reviews of the MA in Creative Writing course in UL where highly talented writers such as Joseph O’Connor, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald and Donal Ryan were on the teaching staff. When I saw the caliber of academic staff in the English department such as the award winning teacher, Dr Tina O’Toole and the renowned Yeats expert and scholar, Professor Margaret Harper, I knew this was a place I wanted to study- and I wasn’t wrong. I’ve been a mature postgraduate student now at UL for three years, having taken my English MA part time, and this extra time has opened the window of learning which I hope won’t end when I graduate in 2020.

I wanted to get a formal qualification in English and Creative Writing. I came across great reviews of the course in UL where highly talented writers such as Joseph O’Connor, Sarah Moore Fitzgerald and Donal Ryan were on the teaching staff. When I saw the caliber of academic staff in the English department such as the award winning teacher, Dr Tina O’Toole and the renowned Yeats expert and scholar, Professor Margaret Harper, I knew this was a place I wanted to study- and I wasn’t wrong.

Can you describe what it was like working on the production of the literary journal: The Ogham Stone?

Working as part of the editorial team for the Ogham Stone was an insightful experience. I regularly submitted my own work to various literary journals over the years and never truly knew how pieces were selected. I also didn’t appreciate the work that went into compiling a literary journal. I was probably suspicious too, thinking that editors just picked who they knew. I’d resigned myself to expect rejection as though it were a secret world I couldn’t enter. But editing the Ogham Stone helped me see the other side, and I was proved wrong.

 I was part of the poetry editorial team for the Ogham Stone, where we had the task of selecting the best 20 poems from over 200 submissions. There was an editorial group of seven and we read through every single poetry submission and marked each one out of five, then regrouped to see if our favorites were in sync which they generally were. I then, understood that good writing will always rise to the top, no matter what.

 I recall sitting up well past midnight leafing through the poetry submissions to choose what ended up being the best 20 poems to include in the Ogham Stone journal. I also learned that some of the rejected submissions  were also really great pieces of writing which made me realize rejection isn’t always a sign that work is bad, it just might not be the right fit. Or the right time.

MA students and faculty who worked on the editorial team that produced “The Ogham Stone” journal.

What skills did you develop during the production of this journal?

I developed the ability to look at work objectively. It enhanced my ability to recognize great writing for what it is rather than the subject matter. I experienced the buzz of working in collaboration with others, how to resolve debates when we sometimes didn’t agree and to step back to see what might fit on a certain page of a journal to perhaps marry with a short story or theme.

I developed the ability to look at work objectively. It enhanced my ability to recognize great writing for what it is rather than the subject matter.

What was it like working collaboratively within a team to produce The Ogham Stone? What were the challenges and benefits to working within this team structure?

The benefits were that the decision making was spread evenly between us all. Thankfully we generally agreed on the poems chosen. It didn’t lessen the workload though, as we still all had to read all the submissions. It was challenging, as we had deadlines, or were under pressure to select the work and get it typeset.

Can you describe what it was like to see the final version of The Ogham Stone after all your hard work?

 It was really great to sit back and read the printed journal as a reader rather than an editor, and appreciate the high quality of the production. Knowing my classmates had designed the cover, chosen the stories, and had spent hours working on online marketing from start to finish gave me a sense of pride and completion. Certainly the launch of the journal where the printed copies were distributed was a real moment of achievement for Dr. Carrie Griffin and the team. I recall prosecco being consumed that night. Many bottles!

Can you describe how this experience amongst other experiences in UL has benefitted you currently?

As I was out of education for many years, having completed my undergraduate degree in science some twenty years ago, it took me a while to adjust to third level again. But the last three years have been wonderful, both personally and academically. I have met so many brilliant writers, students and inspirational people at UL. As a direct result of completing my English MA I have now secured an employment position as a student tutor in the university, which is the icing on the cake- to know my studies benefited my career choices as well as enhancing me personally as was initially my only goal.

I have met so many brilliant writers, students and inspirational people at UL

Now, in terms of my own writing, I only submit my best work to journals. I edit and re-edit before I submit. I also read my own work differently, knowing how work is presented makes a big difference. I am now trying to gather work locally to compile an anthology of art from The Burren and my experience working on the Ogham Stone Literary Journal has allowed me to track the process from start to finish, to have realistic expectations and to anticipate delays and financial set backs, as well as being methodical and organized. But really, and I mean, REALLY, to enjoy every single moment as we did.

Sometimes we enter into something expecting one thing and come out with another. That’s been my experience in UL. It’s been transformational for me and absolutely fantastic.

Website: https://theoghamstoneul.com/

Twitter @TheOghamStone 

Facebook: @oghamstone@ul.ie

To learn more about the MA in English and to apply, please click here.

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