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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Creative Writing

The Creative Writing MA at Durham is an academically rigorous programme that gives students structured support through writing workshops and one-to-one tutorials in order to develop practical knowledge of writing poetry and prose fiction. Students also study a broad range of literature from the 20th and 21st centuries, and produce new work in response. We also offer a Creative Writing PhD or MLitt, in which you will produce a complete and coherent creative writing project in your chosen form, plus a literary-critical dissertation of a high academic standard.


Creative Writing at Durham is taught by the following members of the Department of English Studies:

Paul Batchelor

Dr Paul Batchelor is Director of the Creative Writing MA. His first book, The Sinking Road (Bloodaxe, 2008), was shortlisted for the Jerwood-Aldeburgh Best First Collection Prize and the Glen Dimplex Best First Collection Prize. He has also published a chapbook, The Love Darg (Clutag, 2014), and edited a collection of essays, Reading Barry MacSweeney (Bloodaxe, 2013). He has received an Eric Gregory Award, The Times Stephen Spender Prize for Translation, and the Edwin Morgan International Poetry Competition. His poems and translations have appeared in several anthologies and in publications including The Guardian, The London Review of Books, Poetry, Poetry Review, The Times, and The Times Literary Supplement.

Naomi Booth is a writer and academic. Her fiction tends to explore unsettling landscapes, strange compulsions, dangerous bodies and contamination. Her academic research currently focuses on the literary history of swooning, though she has broad interests in contemporary fiction, literary theory, ecology and northern writing/publishing.

Kayo Chingonyi is the author of two pamphlets, Some Bright Elegance (Salt, 2012) and The Colour of James Browns Scream (Akashic, 2016). His first full-length collection, Kumukanda, was published in June 2017 by Chatto & Windus, and was awarded the International Dylan Thomas Prize 2018. He has also won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, been Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and has co-edited issues of Magma Poetry and The Poetry Review. He is currently poetry editor for The White Review, and a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry. Kayo is also an emcee, producer, and DJ.

Claire Harman

Photo credit: Chris Loupos​

Prof. Claire Harman won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for her first book, biography of the novelist and poet Sylvia Townsend Warner (1989), and has since published biographies of Fanny Burney (2000), Robert Louis Stevenson (2005) and Charlotte Brontë (2015), and Janes Fame (2009), a study of Jane Austen’s legacy and influence. Her books have been shortlisted the Whitbread Award, the Duff Cooper Award and the Saltire Award. She won the Forward Prize for Poetry in 2015 (for Best Single Poem) and the Tom-Gallon Award for short fiction in 2016. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2006 and in 2016 became President of the Alliance of Literary Societies.

Dr Sam Riviere is the author of the poetry collections 81 Austerities (Faber & Faber, 2012), which won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and Kim Kardashians Marriage (Faber, 2015), which was shortlisted for the inaugural Ledbury Forte Prize.In 2009 he received an Eric Gregory Award. Safe Mode (Test Centre, 2017), an ‘ambient novel’, is his first work of fiction. Limited-edition publications include Standard Twin Fantasy (Egg Box, 2014) and True Colours (After Hours Ltd, 2016). He completed a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2012, and from 2015–2017 he was Writer-in-Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Since 2015 he has run the poetry micropublisher If a Leaf Falls Press.

Sunjeev Sahota was born in 1981 in Derbyshire and continues to live in the area. Ours are the Streets was his first novel and his second, The Year of the Runaways, was shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and was awarded a European Union Prize for Literature in 2017.

Events and Opportunities

In addition to formal teaching of creative writing, our strong research culture has attracted numerous well-known authors to Durham to discuss their work through public lectures or seminars. Past visiting authors include Booker prize-winning novelists A.S. Byatt and Pat Barker, Pulitzer prize-winner Jane Smiley, Desmond Elliott prize-winner Preti Taneja, and poets such as Tara Bergin, Liz Berry, Colette Bryce, Paul Farley, Mark Ford, Vona Groarke, Sarah Howe, Kathleen Jamie, Luke Kennard, Sinéad Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Don Paterson, and Anne Stevenson. Visit our Events page for a full listing of what's coming.

Other Creative Writing Connections

The Department is involved in various other University and external groups that support writers. These include:

  • The Centre for Poetry and Poetics. Based in the Department, this runs a number of events each term, including open-mic nights and talks by established poets.
  • Durham University Creative Writing Society. A group for students to develop their work in a friendly setting.
  • The Bubble. Student-run online magazine that publishes creative writing and reviews.
  • Durham Book Festival. Annual festival bringing well-known authors to Durham, including the Festival Poet Laureate appointed by the Department; the Festival includes workshops and networking events for aspiring authors.
  • New Writing North. Writing development agency for the North-east, which runs workshops, lectures, competitions and magazines. The Department works with New Writing North to develop Durham Book Festival.

Successful Students

Several of our students have gone on to achieve success and recognition with their published creative work. Recent notable successes include:

  • John Clegg won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2013 for his first book of poetry, Antler. His second book, Holy Toledo! appeared in 2016. John can be heard reading from and discussing his work in this READ podcast.
  • Sarah Fletcher has been a Foyle Young Poet of the Year and a two-time recipient of the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize. She has published two pamphlets: Kissing Angles, was published by (Dead Ink Books, 2015) and Typhoid August
  • Eiffel Gao’s poems have appeared in The Poetry Review and Shearsman magazine, and she is an editor for Transect.
  • Chris Kerr’s poetry has appeared in a number of publications, and he recently published his debut pamphlet, Citidyll.
  • Lauren Owen published her debut novel, The Quick, to great acclaim. It was praised by Hilary Mantel as ‘a sly and glittering addition to the literature of the macabre.’
  • Alice Oseman has a two-book deal with Harper Collins, following the success of her first novel, Solitaire.

PhD and MLitt in Creative Writing

We welcome Creative Writing PhDs in poetry, the short story, innovative fiction, narrative non-fiction, memoir and life-writing, and hybrid forms of writing.

MA in Creative Writing

Our Creative Writing MA is an academically rigorous programme that will develop your practical knowledge of writing poetry and prose fiction.

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