We caught up with Creative Writing MA graduate, Jessica Andrews, to find out what she’s been up to!
What are you doing now?
I am currently working on my second novel. I published my debut novel, Saltwater, in 2019. I also co-run The Grapevine magazine and literary podcast Tender Buttons. I work as an English tutor and teach writing workshops.
What attracted you to your course, and to Kent? Where did you study prior?
I completed a BA in English Literature at King’s College London. I chose the Creative Writing MA at Kent because it was one of the few courses that allowed students to take both fiction and poetry modules. I also spent a term in Paris and I thought the experience of living in a new country would inform my knowledge of the world and my writing.
Which aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most, and why?
During my BA at King’s, I sometimes found academia alienating and I found it difficult to connect with a lot of the books we studied. My experience at Kent was very different. In our seminars, we were encouraged to think about how particular texts made us feel and why, which felt much more suited to my understanding of literature. I also learned a lot from visiting lecturers who gave seminars in Paris, such as Lauren Elkin, whom I found very inspiring. I really enjoyed the Creative Writing Series in Canterbury, which gave me the opportunity to listen to listen to authors speaking about their work.
How has your time at Kent helped you in your career so far?
My time at Kent gave the confidence I lacked during my undergraduate degree. The writing workshops were small and intimate and I learned a lot from my tutors and the other students on my course. It gave me time and space to take myself seriously as a writer and to experiment and develop my voice. I also made close friends who are writers, which is an invaluable support network I did not have before.
Were you actively involved in any research centres or projects?
I worked on The Menteur student magazine. The experience of editing a magazine helped me to set-up The Grapevine with some friends who also studied at Kent.
What impressed you most about our academic staff?
Prior to my MA at Kent, I had never really met a professional author before. The brilliant writers working at Kent made me feel like working as a writer was a real possibility. My course felt very personal and my tutors were attentive and invested in my work. They shared their own writing knowledge very generously and helped to build my confidence in my own work.
Are you still in touch with any of your friends from University?
Yes – I am very close friends with Catherine Madden, whom I met on my MA and we run The Grapevine together.
Did you undertake any work experience whilst at Kent? What did you do? Did you find it was helpful in your studies and has it benefited your career to date?
I worked a lot of jobs to support myself financially whilst studying at Kent. I worked in a few different pubs in Canterbury and then as a nanny and an English tutor in Paris. It was often difficult to juggle everything but those experiences informed my writing. I spent a lot of time observing people and I use a lot of details from various jobs in my writing today. It also made me quite determined in a way that I might not have been if it was an easier option for me.
Could you describe a typical day in your current role?
I usually teach online classes in the mornings. In the afternoons, I work on my new novel or any freelance writing work. In the evenings, I do admin such as replying to emails or working on my other projects. I sometimes attend literary events in the evenings, either as an audience member or participant.
What are your future plans/aspirations?
I would love to be able to keep writing novels, and maybe an essay collection one day. I would also love to expand The Grapevine into a small feminist press. In the future, I would like to work in higher education; sharing skills and being involved in a writing community feels important to me.
Are you currently working, or have you recently worked on any interesting projects that you would like to tell us a bit more about?
I recently moved to Bristol and set-up a collaboration with local bookshop, Storysmith Books, to co-host Tender Buttons, the literary podcast I run with my partner. It would be great to do some in-person events at the bookshop post-pandemic.
The Grapevine are also due to release the first in a series of collaborative pamphlets between writers and artists, which is about romantic relationships, memory and loss by Catherine Madden and Anthony Elliott. There will be an online launch in the summer.
Before Bristol, I was living in Barcelona, where I was part of a multi-lingual performance collective, Anemone. All members of the collective are now living in the UK, and we hope to be able to organize events when covid restrictions are lifted.
What is your favourite memory of Kent?
During my term in Paris, a group of us used to go to La Rotonde bar after our workshops. It was always exciting being there, in such a literary place, talking about books and ideas.
What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent
Make your decision based on the course; that seems like the most important thing.
How would you describe your time at Kent in three words?
Nurturing, validating, transformative.
Take a look at Jessica’s website.