Catherine Robertson (Writing for the Page, 2015)

My classmates were brilliant. My supervisor rocked. Emily Perkins was unfailingly generous with her knowledge and experience.

Catherine writes: 'Until three days before I applied, I'd not thought even idly about doing the MA. I took an Iowa short story course at the IIML in 2005 and enjoyed it, but I'd just submitted my first novel draft to UK agents, and over the next five years of more novel drafts and more rejections, I think I forgot that the MA existed. I also cried quite a lot, but that's by the bye. And when I was finally published, I concentrated on staying published by writing more books.

'But in November 2014, I was asked to assess an MA fiction folio, and halfway through writing up my report, I had a revelation. If I, too, did the MA, I wouldn't have to beaver away on my tod for months, but could write with the support and company of actual people. I could add that there was an angelic chorus and a shaft of light but you know how writers are. I emailed Emily and she told me I had three days before cut-off, and the hastiest MA application in the world was thus prepared.

'Once I'd been accepted, everyone I told – and I mean Every Single Person – said, "Why do you want to do it when you're a published author?" And they screwed up their faces like they couldn’t believe I hadn't realised I was a moron.

'Here's why: to have company and support (see above); to learn; to stretch myself, see what I was capable of; to NOT have to think about the expectations of a publisher but be free to experiment, rip stuff up and throw it every which way. I wanted to feel liberated, and I did, and I loved it.

'My classmates were brilliant – more supportive than I'd hoped, dauntingly talented and funny as f**k. (We know we were and will always be the greatest class ever, so don't even try.) My supervisor, Pip Adam, rocked. Emily was beyond brilliant – unfailingly generous with her knowledge and experience, kind but bang-on always in her critiques. Was it hard work? Yes, but who cares. Bring it. You're up for it.

'I submitted a folio that I thoroughly enjoyed writing, and of which I'm stupidly proud. Whether it will ever see the light of day as a published piece, I neither know nor care. It's irrelevant. The experience has been all.

'It was an outstanding year. Do it.'

Bio: Catherine Robertson is a novelist and co-owner of Good Books bookshop in Wellington. About a million years ago, she attained a BA in Eng Lit at Victoria University of Wellington, and in 2020 came back as the CNZ/IIML Writer in Residence. All her seven novels have been New Zealand best-sellers. She is on the Trust for Verb Wellington.

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