Multi award winning author Donal Ryan visits Waterford Institute of Technology to give a creative writing workshop to students on the BA in Arts course
On Thursday 5 March, the author Donal Ryan visited Waterford Institute of Technology to facilitate a creative writing workshop with English students studying on the BA Arts programme. He also took part in the English at WIT podcast, The Nerve.
Ryan is the winner of the Guardian First Book Award, the EU Prize for Literature, the Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and has been nominated for the Man Booker Prize twice. He is a Creative Writing lecturer at the University of Limerick and his novel The Spinning Heart is on the Leaving Certificate syllabus.
Each semester, students of English on the BA Arts programme gain the opportunity to meet and engage with an author or academic in their field through a workshop organised by the lecturing staff on the English team. This semester, Donal Ryan instructed students on the development of character, on the discipline of writing and on finding truth and beauty through simplicity and precision. Using a mixture of prose, poetry and music, Ryan urged students to plunder their own lives and the lives of those around them for material and to develop empathy with their characters.
Third year student Michael Power described it as a unique opportunity. “The English programme at WIT has made me think about language and literature in a new way and has helped me to notice everything that I used to take for granted and this was no exception,” he said. “It was amazing listening to someone who has been to the top of the bestseller list speak about their work in such a plain and accessible way. It made me realise that there is something extraordinary about our ordinary experiences and I found that very inspiring.”
The benefits for students
Dr Jenny O’Connor, an English lecturer at WIT knows the benefit of such events for students. “The English team here have worked especially hard over the past number of years to expose our students to new experiences,” she said.
“They have been to theatrical productions locally and nationally, they’ve taken part in poetry and creative writing workshops, they’ve had a chance to see a live production in class and chat with the cast and director, they’ve had wellness sessions and academic writing classes, and have taken part in our podcasts, too. Authors Claire Keegan and Danielle McLaughlin have both visited the Institute and have been very impressed with their confidence and ability. We were lucky enough to secure a small amount of funding from the National Forum Teaching and Learning fund this semester to aid this work, and we receive great support encouragement from the School of Humanities. We think our students are very lucky, and we are too.”