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At university, training to become a writer is a hit

Pay close attention to the following pitches. A group of LGBT friends organize an attack in France. An elderly, established writer writes a story about the memory of mankind, which will be sent into space. Three animals converse in an urban space. Currently in the making, these stories could soon find a publisher and land on your bedside table. They are imagined and written by students of the master’s in creative writing from the University of Paris-VIII.

That day, seated in a semi-circle, eight budding authors collectively discuss their projects. They are 21 or 37 years old, have previously studied social sciences or performing arts, they have worked in translation, the media or communication, and present texts as varied as their profiles. “Novels, poetry, theater or even books combining fiction and essay. All those who join the master must have a literary project and bring it to fruition at the end of their training.says Mathieu Bermann, writer and lecturer in stylistics at the University of Paris-VIII.

For the past ten years, university masters aimed at training future writers have multiplied in France. In Paris-VIII, at the University of Le Havre, those of Toulouse, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges, Paris-Saclay, Cergy-Pontoise… New courses of this type open every year. The Paris-VIII course is the spearhead of this movement: it counts among its former graduates some forty published writers, including Fatima Daas, revelation of the 2020 literary season, Anne Pauly, winner of the Inter 2020 book prize, or even Lucie Rico, 2021 Ecology Novel Prize.

If all the students in the program do not reach the firmament of published writers, the master “nevertheless make one dream less”, summarizes Léa Cuenin. At 31, this former business school graduate left her job in the subscription department of a press group to devote herself fully to writing her book. During her two years at Paris-VIII, she benefited from project follow-up – every fortnight, each text is read and commented on by the other students and teachers –; theoretical training to analyze contemporary writings; meetings with publishers, translators, critics; and practical workshops to experiment with new forms of writing.

Courses well established abroad

“During the first semester, I worked on the life of a fictional writer. At each session, we developed a different theme: first his biography, then his dreams, or even his animals. Working on a story that has nothing to do with my project allowed me to diversify and expand my writing », enthuses his classmate from the master’s degree, Alba Pagán. Translator for Spanish publishing houses, this 30-year-old is surprised that masters in creative writing are unknown in France, whereas in the United States, Quebec or Great Britain, the programs of creative writing are well established in the university landscape.

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