PhD Creative Writing
From Aberdeen to Scots Scriever
Your Time at Aberdeen
Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
I came to Aberdeen in 2006 to study English Literature with Language and Linguistics, and then went on to do my MLitt and PhD in Creative Writing, so it was eight years straight through. I never applied anywhere else! Being from Fraserburgh, I chose Aberdeen so I could still be close to family, and also so I could try out different subjects in first year and see what suited me best.
Why did you choose your particular course?
From the middle of primary school onwards, I wanted to be a writer, but in secondary school, I had a lot of pressure to either become a lawyer or a doctor, so I ended up doing maths and science and did well in those subject, but the whole time, I found that English was the only subject I felt most challenged by and that made me think the most. So I went against my family's wishes and only applied for English. Lo and behold, it worked out well, and I still ended up being a Doctor!
If while at Aberdeen you benefited from a scholarship, what was the scholarship and what difference did it make to your time at Aberdeen?
I was very lucky to receive the Janet Harrison Scholarship throughout my undergraduate which provided a small annual stipend, and the James Carnegie Scholarship which provided some money off my MLitt tuition fees. Without these, I'm not sure I would have financially been able to focus as much on my studies as I did. I was then very fortunate to receive AHRC funding for my tuition fees and a stipend during my PhD. This allowed me to fully focus on my studies, as well as take on some creative and community projects which ended up being essential for my career progression. It also meant I managed to submit my PhD within three years, which definitely would not have been the case otherwise!
What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I particularly loved going to The Burn in Edzell with the English department during my postgraduate years. This was a great way to socialise and share learning with other students and staff in a different setting, and to make proper friends with fellow PhD students going through the same trials and tribulations!
If you were involved in any clubs and societies as a student, what did you enjoy most about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
During my MLitt, I joined Aberdeen Student Show, performing on HMT stage in the 2012 production, 'Mary Torphins'. From there, I went on to be involved in further productions, on stage, in the adminstration team and eventually as alumni on the production team as Script Editor, a role I have held for four productions: 'Spital Shop of Horrors', 'Sister Echt', 'Dirty Danestone' and the 2023 production, 'Ayetanic'. Most importantly, it led to me making friends for life!
Did you hold any student leadership roles, e.g. Class Rep, Club Treasurer, Social Convenor?
I'm pretty sure during my undergrad I was roped into a few roles such as class rep, and so on. I was also on the committee for the English Literature Society, and president of the Creative Writing Society at one point, but that feels so long ago now that it's a bit of a blur!
If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
Get involved with societies as soon as you can! And engage with what else is happening culturally off-campus. There's lots going on connected to the Art Gallery, performance venues, etc., if you look for it!
Walk around the campus and discover all the hidden spots - I only discovered Cruikshank Gardens in 3rd year...
Your Time After Aberdeen
What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Creative Project Practitioner at Aberdeen City Council's Creative Learning Team.
What did your first role involve?
I helped lead and support various creative projects across Aberdeen City with schools, communities and creatives. The main projects I focused on was developing emerging artists and writers through long-term programmes which helped to generate communities, opportunities and new ways of working in the city, leading to impacts in schools and communities beyond.
What is your current job title?
Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen.
What is your current role?
Teaching and research.
Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
From graduating to now, I have published fiction and poetry regularly, had a novella published ("Nevertheless"), exhibited my work at Aberdeen Art Gallery (The Bill Gibb Line), and staged work with the National Theatre of Scotland. I have also performed my work internationally, as well as on BBC Radio 4.
Alongside my writing career, between working for ACC's Creative Learning team to starting as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen at the end of 2022, I worked for 4 years for national arts education charity Art UK, who digitise artworks from public collections making them freely available online. My role was to help run engagement programmes in schools and communities across Scotland and Northern England, as well as creating online resources. I progressed from an Officer role to Learning and Engagement Manager before taking on my current lecturing role.
I am also currently the National Library of Scotland's Scots Scriever, creating new work which engages with their collections in North East Scots (Doric).
Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
My MLitt and PhD in Creative were crucial in developing my writing skills which led to me being regularly professionally published. My undergraduate degree in English provided me with excellent communication skills and critical thinking skills which has allowed me to work for various arts organisations with an interdisciplinary focus.
Across all of my degrees, I was encouraged to write in my own voice and celebrate North East Scots (Doric), which has led to me now being the National Library of Scotland's Scots Scriever.
One Top Tip
Remember that in addition to the knowledge you now have in your subject, you have gained so many other skills in communication, research and creativity that will hold you in good stead for a variety of careers, maybe even something you hadn't ever considered before. Don't be shy in selling your best attributes!