Postgraduate Lives: Nicholas Murgatroyd, PhD at Manchester University

'I could write all day if I wanted to'
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The Independent Online

Nicholas Murgatroyd, 33, is doing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Manchester, under the auspices of Martin Amis.



Why did you choose this course?

I did the MA in creative writing at Manchester a few years ago, and after I got a distinction I realised I could apply for funding for a PhD from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). I got it, and knew I'd have three years of writing time. Creative writing courses are becoming more popular, so I thought I'd be more likely to get a job in a university afterwards with a PhD.

What's it like being taught by Martin Amis?

I don't get any individual attention from him, but he does do "fiction masterclasses", where we read a novel and then discuss it. The atmosphere was a bit weird to start with, because everyone was just thinking "Oh my God, it's Martin Amis!" But he's very open to people's ideas – he doesn't hold forth for hours. He's clearly thought a lot about what he's talking about.

What do you like best about the course?

I've had a few full-time jobs in the past, so it's a dream to be finally doing what I want to do. At most universities you have to write self-reflective pieces, but the Manchester course has a critical element instead, where you analyse another writer's work.

And what is the most difficult thing about it?

One of the hardest things is getting used to the amount of time you have. When I did my MA I was always writing against the clock because I had to fund it by doing a part-time job. Now I wake up in the morning and think: "I could write all day if I wanted to".

What is the main focus of your PhD?

I need to write a novel, as well as a smaller critical piece on another writer. I'm still working through my exact storyline, but the basic premise is that a group of writers are having a retreat on the same spot where Ovid was exiled: there's a storm and they all start to metamorphose. It's really a satire on writers and writing itself.

Will it set you up well for the future?

I hope so. I've been writing since I was 18 but I've not had anything published apart from the odd short story in a magazine. We have agents coming to talk to us who say they get about 4,000 manuscripts a year: I hope that if they see I'm doing a PhD and have made a commitment to writing, they'll look at mine for longer than most.

How much does it cost?

The PhD is £9,300 – fortunately I got AHRC funding.

Would you recommend the course to others?

The PhD is good for someone who has already completed at least the first draft of their novel, because you have to realise how much dedication it takes.

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