Today I turned in the last piece of work for my master’s program at Bath Spa University: The first 40K of my manuscript, Illuminate. So you can now address me as Master Hollingsworth. (That’s how this works, right?)
It’s insane that a little over a year ago (June 2013) I had my first inkling about Illuminate. I didn’t even start writing until this time last year. Now I have a complete draft, most of which has already been revised to some extent, with a little over 40K in [nearly]-final-draft stage! That’s pretty mad.
Master’s programs can be a mixed bag, but I honestly cannot complain about my experience with Bath Spa University’s Writing for Young People program. My professors have been experts in their fields, and their guidance and input (especially from my tutor, Lucy Christopher) has made my manuscript into the almost-book it is today.
As well as the ethereal glow of smartness that inevitably comes with a master’s (yes now I know everything about the universe, thanks and you’re welcome) I also have gained a lot of practical skills, including things like:
- Psychic Story Clarity! Now I can concisely articulate the strengths and weaknesses in books from a structural viewpoint.
- Ninja Recommendation Skills! Whenever someone tells me a story they’re thinking about writing, I instantly can recommend a book list for them to read (for research, or inspiration).
- Publishing Spidey Senses! My brain is a spiderweb of publishing and publishing news.
- Monk-Level Chillness! Knowing a lot about the publishing industry gives me a new superpower: patient assurance. I’m not in a rush. The journey is the adventure. It’s cool, bro.
- Writing Falcon Punch! Drafting queries and even synopses doesn’t really scare me anymore?! What??
- Elastagirl Age Range Flexibility! I’m way more open to different age ranges, and actually really want to do some middle grade down the line.
- Offenders Assemble! Guardians of Gallantry! By which I mean, I have a group of fabulous writing friends.
So, goodbye, master’s program! Hello, real life.
And because you’re still reading, here’s a little excerpt from Illuminate!
“Your school looked grand, from what I saw, but…” Galvin paused. “The walls—do they ever bother you?”
“No.” Perl got to her feet and walked to the edge of the platform. In the distance she could make out the shadows of islands and their towers, still cloaked in the morning fog. The one directly ahead was Ashfall Isle. She raised her gaze past it, to the wide ocean. She wished she was one of those girls in the books Elatha sometimes illuminated—girls who turned to gulls with a simple thought and flew across worlds.
“What’s it like, where you’re from?” she asked Galvin.
“Glenmyr?” He shrugged and got to his feet. He moved with an interesting quickness—not overeager but intentional, almost its own sort of grace. “Well, I live in Corshem City, to be exact. Though it’s more of a trading town at best. Good tavern. Plenty of forests, that sort of thing.”
“What’s a forest like?” Perl asked.
He stared at her. “Don’t tell me you’ve never been in a forest.”
She shook her head. “I visited to the mainland of Alistryn a few times, years ago, but it’s all fields and pasture once you get away from the beaches. So I’ve been in a—what’s it called?—corpse of trees, but nothing more than that.”
“Copse,” he laughed. “Copse of trees.” He paused, and joined her by the railing. “As to a forest, it’s dirt and trees and things—no, I’m getting it all wrong.”
He stopped, closing his eyes, his hands tightening on the rail.
Perl waited a moment. “Is it that important?”
“Of course it is.” He opened his eyes, and seemed to look through her. “A forest is a great contradiction. It’s filled with life—green even in the shadows—but also death. The smell of the trees—it’s the smell of home, even of a home you never had, but it’s also the smell of decay. Creatures sing or cry for their mates. Everything is hunted. A forest is belonging and it is fear. It’s a dream and a nightmare.” He glanced down and half smiled. “Wandering under the trees—it used to be like coming back to myself.”
“Do you miss your home?” Perl asked. “Is your family still there?”
Galvin’s shoulders went visibly tight, even under his jacket. When he answered, his voice came haltingly.
“The home I knew has been gone ten years,” he said. “There is no point in missing it.”
Perl wanted to ask more. She was filled with a terrible foreboding that his family had met some sort of disastrous end, perhaps related to the country’s recent upheaval. Maybe they were one of the royal families Prince Lucaiot had punished in King Velimir’s absence. Maybe they had been killed.
But his eyes glinted with flint and fire and she cast around for something, anything, to make it go away.