An interview with Dr Clare Morgan: 3-Day Short Fiction Workshop Director


As part of our creative writing workshops programme for 2017 – we are carrying out a series of interviews and blog posts with our Workshop Directors to give you an insight into their own writing lives.

There are a number of places still on some of our Workshops and these can be booked here.

Dr Clare Morgan is founder and director of Oxford University’s world renowned M.A.Creative Writing programme.  Her novel, A Book for All and None published in 2012 was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best Novel Award and described as ‘written with eloquence and artistry’ by the Mail on Sunday; and ‘too tantalising to resist’ by Time Out.  She has published a collection of stories, An Affair of the Heart, and her short fiction has been widely anthologised, as well as commissioned and broadcast by BBC Radio 4. She is a member of the Folio Prize Academy and former Literary Mentor for the Arts Councils of England and Wales.

Clare will be directing our 3-Short Fiction Workshop on Thursday 1st, Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd June 2017 at Listowel Writers’ Week.  BOOK NOW for this workshop as places are limited to 15.

. When did you start writing fiction?

AWhen I was eight and the first line of a story dropped into my head.  I knew that nothing in the future would be likely to give me more pleasure than creating a world on the page out of nowhere.  That’s how I became a writer, and from there also a tutor who helps others to get into shape on the page what their imagination is telling them.

Q. Where and what did you study at college?
AI have an MPhil in English Literature (20th century) from Oxford and a doctorate in English also from Oxford – though my doctorate covered philosphy and art as well as literature.  I also took an MA in Creative Writing from University of East Anglia, where I worked with Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain.

Q. What are you currently working on?
A. A short story about revisiting the home town you’ve run away from and discovering some unexpected things about yourself.  Also working on a new novel.

Where do you usually write?
A. Ideally at a table by a large window overlooking the fields around my house in Wales.  If I’m writing in Oxford it’s at a small table in my bedroom, but again, with a view of the garden and a very quiet street.

Q. Can you describe your writing process in a paragraph?
A. I don’t usually map things out in great detail before I start.  For short stories, my imagination is generally triggered by a phrase that comes into my head, or an image.  The story builds, sentence by sentence, from there.  Rewriting is very important and my stories usually have many drafts. 

Q. Who were your early influences?
A. For short stories, Raymond Carver remains an influence (one of my most anthologized stories has Carver as a character).  Chekhov is another influence, and also George Saunders more recently.  And James Joyce’s Dubliners is an umissable part of the writing fabric, as are Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys.

Q. What are you reading at the moment?
A. Hermione Lee’s biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, plus Ford Madox Ford’s  The Good Soldier and Daisy Johnson’s collection of short stories Fen (Daisy was one of my students on the Oxford programme)

What would you choose as your death-row dinner?
A. I’d probably be too intent on working out how to avoid the inevitable to think about food.  But if I ever did come to accept that the worst was about to happen, then I might request a childhood favourite of old fashioned trifle with the sponge cakes well soaked in sherry and glace cherries decorating the top.

Q. What will you be hoping to cover during your poetry workshop in Listowel?
. I want to work on unlocking some of the amazing possibilities the short story form has to offer.  I want to help people think about voice and structure, and get down some of their exciting ideas onto the page in a supportive environment.

Have you ever been to Listowel and what are you looking forward to?
A. I haven’t been to Listowel yet, but I know the area and have walked a lot there.  I’m looking forward to getting to know the lovely town and being part of the exciting writerly explorations that make up the festival.

What has been your proudest moment to date? 
A. Publishing two books in one year.

Q.What would be your desert island book?
A. It would need to be a large book that would bear endless re-readings – so I would have to go for Tolstoy, Anna Karenin.

What does your ‘perfect day’ entail? 
A. Several hours uninterrupted writing (going well, of course) by the sea or a pool in a glorious climate, followed by a long swim in impossibly warm water and supper outdoors with some good wine.

Thank you Clare, we look forward to welcoming you back to Listowel in June.

Book Now for Dr Clare Morgan’s short fiction workshop.



Listowel Writers’ Week will take place between the 31st May and 4th June 2017. Check out our early bird tickets now on sale.