Creative writing learner gains scholarship for a Master's Degree

Rachel NicholsonLearner Rachel Nicholson has studied Creative Writing for over two years at the Guildford Centre and recently secured a scholarship to study a Masters Degree in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University with the support and encouragement of her Tutor, Guy de Ferrer.

Learner Rachel is a qualified linguist from Oxford University in both French and German. After teaching English in Switzerland for a year following university, Rachel volunteered to work at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature and it was here that she began to harbour a dream of writing a novel.

Inspired by some of the writers she met at the Festival, and by her own love of France, Rachel decided to move to Paris to write. However, she admits that without any real guidance or structure she floundered at every attempt and never got beyond the first page. During her time in Paris, she funded herself by working first as a bilingual secretary before finding a role as a marketing consultant within a Franco-British company. Nine years later, she finally conceded that her writing wasn’t going to take off and that her heart wasn't really in business, and so took the decision to follow in her father's footsteps and become a teacher – something she had always suspected she would end up doing.

Upon her return to the UK, she completed a PGCE at Oxford University and was soon offered a post at a prestigious school in Surrey, where she began a successful career as a modern languages teacher. She concluded that teaching was definitely her vocation but never stopped dreaming and talking about writing a novel too. Finally, she decided to "put her money where her mouth was" and sign up for a creative writing course with Surrey Adult Learning.

For more than two years, Rachel attended Creative Writing classes primarily at our Guildford centre under Tutor Guy de Ferrer, but was also taught for a term by Tutor Ruth Brandt at our Woking centre. Both Tutors run popular courses which inspire our Learners: Guy de Ferrer adopts a versatile and informal learning style, while Ruth Brandt offers a more structured teaching approach, each providing the Learner with the opportunity to explore and shape their own style. Both Tutors share the same drive, close mentoring techniques with feedback and appreciation.

Rachel began by writing short stories and was able to develop her style and skills under guidance from her Tutors. She says she thrived on the weekly deadlines, encouraging feedback and opportunity to work with other Learners. Her stories were initially influenced by themes such as school and relationships but her passion for history soon took over. Her work also received praise from her peers who asked her why she did not take her writing more seriously and extend one of her short stories into a novel.

After dedicated study with Surrey Adult Learning, Rachel took a leap into the unknown to devote her energy to writing her first novel, which is set in Occupied France. She was awarded a scholarship to study a part-time MA in Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes University, with the aim of completing her first draft during the two-year course. She is keeping a foot in the classroom through a part-time teaching post at a leading independent school in Oxford.

Rachel shared that the amount of research required in order to create a historically accurate story was both a joy and a challenge: "I love history but I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I want it to be just right."

Rachel further affirmed that "it is a direct result of the guidance and encouragement I received from both Guy and Ruth that I have the skills and confidence to write this novel."

Surrey Adult Learning would like to congratulate Rachel’s success and wish her every success in her writing pursuits.