Creative Writing Summer Programme

2016 CW Desroby 200x155 72dpi

6 – 19 August 2017

We are now in the process of planning next summer’s programme. 2017 information will be available in November.The following Information relates to 2016 and will give you a general idea about what we offer.

Programme Director: Professor Jem Poster

This programme builds on a rich literary tradition at Cambridge: it is designed for participants who wish to develop their existing writing skills. Elements will focus on the writing of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, in a range of genres and styles. Course Directors – all established writers – will set practical writing tasks, and guide students in critical reflection on their own work and that of their fellow students, as well as on the work of published writers.

Students are expected to put in a minimum of two hours per weekday of writing as private study. Participants may elect to use free time at weekends for a sustained period of writing. The course is intentionally rigorous, and all applicants must demonstrate a high level of fluency in English in their applications.

Academic programme

  • One special subject course per week (workshops take place twice a day)
  • Four special subject courses (two for each week)
  • Evening talks

Special subject courses

Students choose one course each week from among four practice-based courses (writing for performance, short stories, creative non-fiction and a general approach to the art and craft of writing). Students write 350-500 words a day for their course.

Week 1

9.15am – 10.45am and 2.00pm – 3.30pm

Wa1 - Fiction I. Writing plot. What's the big idea? - This course is now full
Wa2 - Writer’s art, writer’s world I. Essential skills - This course is now full
Wa3 - Writing short stories I. Memory, imagination, research - This course is now full
Wa4 - Writing non-fiction I. Lives - past and present - This course is now full

Week 2

9.15am – 10.45am and 2.00pm – 3.30pm

Wb1 - Fiction II. Writing character. Who and why? - This course is now full
Wb2 - Writer’s art, writer’s world II. Wider explorations
Wb3 - Writing short stories II. Place, character, voice, action - This course is now full
Wb4 - Writing non-fiction II. People and places - This course is now full

Plenary lectures

Morning plenary lectures will be given by visiting novelists, poets and other figures from the world of publishing, who will address a variety of matters related to their own work and to the craft of writing more generally. Lectures will include:

Professor Jem Poster: Location, location, location: writing place
Mark Tredinnick: The self escaping onto the page
Dr John Lennard: The stops buck here: the uses and abuses of punctuation
Dr Sarah Burton: Recreative writing: history meets fiction
Midge Gillies: Hidden voices
Professor Tiffany Atkinson: Form and content: making the relationship work for you
Grevel Lindop: Writing a life of secrets: uncovering and creating the past    
Jane Rogers: Voice and point of view in fiction    
David Constantine: The short story    
Lee Brackstone: The editor's view

Plenary speaker bios

Jem Poster is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University, and Affiliated Lecturer in Creative Writing with Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education. He is the author of two novels, Courting Shadows (2002) and Rifling Paradise (2006), as well as a collection of poetry, Brought to Light (2001). He has won prizes in major poetry competitions including first prize in both the Cardiff International Poetry Competition in 1995 and the Peterloo Poets Open Poetry Competition in 2001. He is currently Programme Advisor to Cambridge University’s MSt in Creative Writing, Programme Director of the Institute of Continuing Education’s Summer School in Creative Writing and Director of Academic Programmes for the Financial Times Oxford Literary Festival.

Mark Tredinnick was winner of the Montreal Poetry Prize (2011) and the Cardiff Poetry Prize (2012), and is the author of The Blue Plateau, Fire Diary, and nine other works of poetry and prose. The Blue Plateau won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award; Fire Diary was winner of the Western Australia Premier’s Book Prize. He is also the author of The Road South,The Little Red Writing Book, The Land’s Wild Music , A Place on Earth, The Lyrebird (poems), and Australia’s Wild Weather.

John Lennard is a former Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge and currently Professor of British and American Literature at the University of the West Indies, Mona. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has taught for Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education for more than twenty years.

Sarah Burton is the author of two critically acclaimed biographies, Impostors: Six Kinds of Liar (2000) and A Double Life: a Biography of Charles and Mary Lamb (2003), shortlisted for the Mind Book of the Year award; a children’s book, The Miracle in Bethlehem: A Storyteller’s Tale (2008) and a page-to-stage guide, How to Put on a Community Play (2011). Her spoof The Complete and Utter History of the World: By Samuel Stewart, Aged 9 was published by Short Books in September 2013. She has taught Creative Writing in a wide variety of contexts, and is currently director of Cambridge University’s MSt in Creative Writing.

Midge Gillies is the author of seven non-fiction books, including biographies of Amy Johnson and Marie Lloyd. In The Barbed-Wire University (Aurum Press, 2011) she explores what it was really like to be an Allied Prisoner of War in the Second World War. She is the author of Writing Lives (CUP, 2009) and co-author, with Sally Cline, of The Arvon Book of Literary Non-Fiction (Bloomsbury, 2012). She studied history at Girton College and has written for a range of national, international and regional newspapers and magazines. She is currently working on a book about army wives from the Crimea to the present day. She is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge and Director of the Institute of Continuing Education's Undergraduate Certificate in Creative Writing.

Tiffany Atkinson is a poet, literary critic, and long-time creative writing teacher in universities, schools and community writing groups. Her poetry is published widely in journals and anthologies, and her first collection Kink and Particle (Seren, 2006 was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and winner of the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. Her second book, Catulla et al (Bloodaxe, 2011) was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year. Her third, So Many Moving Parts (Bloodaxe 2014) a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, has been shortlisted for the 2015 Roland Mathias Poetry Prize. Her newest work explores experiences of illness and treatment, for which she won the Medicine Unboxed Creative Prize in 2014. She is a Professor of Poetry at the University of East Anglia.

Grevel Lindop was Professor of Romantic and Early Victorian Studies at Manchester University, before leaving to write full time.  He has published six collections of poems, including Selected Poems (2000) and Playing with Fire (2006).  His many prose books include A Literary Guide to the Lake District (1994; new edition 2005), which received the Lakeland Book of the Year Award. Travels on the Dance Floor, recounting his pursuit of salsa through seven centuries of Latin America, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week, and was shortlisted for Authors' Club Travel Best Book 2009.  He has rcently completed a biography of the poet, novelist and Oxford 'Inkling', Charles Williams.

Jane Rogers was educated at New Hall, Cambridge. She is the author of several novels, including Separate Tracks (1983); Her Living Image (1984), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; The Ice is Singing (1987); Mr Wroe's Virgins (1991); and Promised Lands (1995), winner of the Writers' Guild Award (Best Fiction). She is editor of Oxford University Press's Good Fiction Guide, published in 2001; she also writes for television and radio. Her latest novel is The Testament of Jessie Lamb (2011).

David Constantine is a poet, critic, fiction-writer and biographer. His collections of poetry include Something for the Ghosts (2002), shortlisted for the Whitbread Poetry Award; Collected Poems (2004), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation; Nine Fathom Deep (2009); and Elder (2014). He is a translator of Hölderlin, Brecht, Goethe, Kleist, Michaux and Jaccottet and author of Poetry (2013) in the Oxford University Press series The Literary Agenda. He is also author of a novel, Davies and a biography, Fields of Fire: A Life of Sir William Hamilton. He has published four collections of highly acclaimed short stories, Back at the Spike (1994), Under the Dam (2005), The Shieling (2009) and Tea at the Midland and Other Stories (2012), which was winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.

Lee Brackstone is Creative Director of Faber & Faber, where he works with Petina Gappah, Sarah Hall, Rohinton Mistry, Andrew O’Hagan, David Peace, DBC Pierre, Simon Reynolds, Jon Savage and many others. He is founder and editor of Loops, a journal dedicated to music writing, which is co-published with Domino Records.

Evening talks

Some evening talks are for the Creative Writing Summer Programme only. Others are shared with the Medieval Studies, Interdisciplinary and Shakespeare Summer Programmes also running at this time. Invited speakers include:

Julian Munby: From Florence to Galway: the European context for the towns of the British islands
Dr Catherine Alexander:
Remembering Shakespeare
Dr Catherine Alexander: An introduction to Cymbeline
Louis de Bernières: A conversation with Louis de Bernières
Vivien Heilbron and David Rintoul: Exits and entrances

A typical day

In the mornings you attend a class from your Wa or Wb special subject course, followed by a plenary lecture. In the afternoons you attend another class from your Wa or Wb special subject course. Subject specific and joint lectures are offered in the evenings.

College accommodation

Accommodation is available for participants who want to stay in a Cambridge College. Please see the accommodation options and accommodation fees available for this programme.

Non-residential attendance is also available if participants prefer to find their own lodgings.

Information for applicants

Programme calendar (pdf version, 32KB)
Who can apply
How to apply (pdf version, 90KB)
What happens next?
Tuition and accommodation fees (pdf versions, 46KB and 42KB)
Language requirements
Visa guidance
Booking terms and conditions


The quickest way to apply is by using our secure online booking system. You can also apply by downloading an application form (pdf) and sending it by post or fax.

Creative Writing statement

In addition to meeting the Language requirements for Creative Writing, all applicants are required to submit a 300-400 word written piece, explaining their reasons for applying. This statement must be included with your application, and will be reviewed before places are offered. Label your submission with your name and use the header: 'Creative Writing Statement'.