My first MA, in Creative Writing, led me to a supportive network of other writers, including fellow participants in Clockhouse London Writers and the Middleoak Writing Group. The course also led directly to my two novels, Spellhaven and Ghosts and Exiles, which I am thrilled to have published by Mirror World.
Some people would think that one MA is enough. But, although writing fantasy fiction is now my main occupation, I have missed the challenge of studying. That’s why I decided to sign up for another MA, in Folklore Studies. This is a new course, at the University of Hertfordshire, the only one of its kind in the UK.
I am now in the second year of the course, which is fascinating. Before I did some research into birthday customs, I hadn’t noticed how important birthday parties can be in fiction, from The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. For a class on the folklore of landscape, I investigated the history of the real Dick Whittington and his connections to Highgate Hill, where he heard the bells promise he would be Lord Mayor of London Town. I have learned some new skills, as a participant observer and as an interviewer. And I have been intrigued and impressed by the work of my fellow students – have a look at the blog of the Folklore Society, if you’re interested.
Meanwhile, I have completed the draft of another novel, although I can see that it needs quite a bit more work. This will be a standalone fantasy about a house full of secrets and a woman who has lost her place in life. I have also produced several short stories. Coming soon are stories in the magazines From the Farther Trees for December 2020 and Mirror Dance, Spring 2021. Both offer a fresh perspective on fairy tale motifs, one in a secondary world setting, the other in an alternative version of the 1930s in England.
I can’t pinpoint any exact influence from my studies on my fiction. but I’m sure that everything I learn helps me expand my ideas and gives new dimensions to what I write. And I’m really enjoying the course for its own sake.
Here is our third post for a special weekly blog series we’ll be running over the next few weeks, showcasing some of the wonderful talent of people who have recently completed or are currently undertaking the MA in Folklore Studies at the University of Hertfordshire. Throughout this series you will see some great folklore-inspired work,…
Sandra Unerman lives in London in the UK. When she retired from a career as a Government lawyer, she undertook an MA in Creative Writing at Middlesex University, specialising in SF and fantasy, and graduated in 2013. Since then, she has had a number of short stories published. She writes reviews and articles for the British Science Fiction Association and the British Fantasy Society. She is a member of London Clockhouse writers and other writing groups. Her interests include history, folklore and medieval literature.