Craig Gamble (Writing for the Page, 2014)

It's not a prescription. It's the opposite. It's a year of freedom.

Craig writes: 'A few months after the end of my MA I was invited back to talk to the next group. So I repeated some sage advice we'd be given at the beginning of our year. I remember saying two contradictory things. Don't be afraid to experiment, you won't get a better chance to try new stuff and see if it works. And don't give up on something too quickly, sometimes you don't know what it is until you finish it. I also remember saying that it was the best year of my life and then feeling an urge to qualify that, because you know, children, family. But damn it – it was the most important year of my writing life.

'And inside I was awash with delight at being back in that room again. Feeling the excitement and sometimes terror at everything that happened there. The laughter and more than a few tears. The endless, intense, invaluable talk about writing and books and story telling. I've heard people say you don't need a course to teach you how to write. But that's to (wilfully?) misunderstand the MA. It's not a prescription. It's the opposite. It's a year of freedom to sit in a room full of others who are desperate to write (and who will be your best friends). To be guided and buoyed up by wonderful teachers and authors (especially the wise and generous Emily Perkins). To be given free reign to find your own writing, in whatever form that may take. Our MA was bursting with individual voices, ideas, stories. It had children's books and YA and biographical novels and loves that cannot speak their name. I dare anyone who doubts what the MA can do for their writing to keep those doubts once they embark on it. I double dare them.'

Bio: Craig Gamble completed the MA in 2014, and was awarded the Adam Prize in Creative Writing for his Young Adult manuscript The Watch List. He also completed Eirlys Hunter's Children's Writing Workshop in 2011, and a Young Adult Workshop run by the late Mal Peet in 2013. He has worked in bookselling in publishing for the last twenty-five years, and is currently at Te Herenga Waka University Press. His story The Rule of Twelfths will be published in the forthcoming anthology Monsters in the Garden. Craig is represented by the Bruce Goodall Literary Agency in the UK.