We caught up with Megan Hughes, one of our current BA (Hons) Creative Writing students, the novel that they are working on, their favourite author Becky Chambers and their three most valuable pieces of advice for prospective students...

What helped you decide to study at Leeds Arts University?

I first visited Leeds Arts University in 2019, when I was preparing for the end of my college education. I was still unsure as to whether I wanted to follow drama or change direction towards writing, so I decided to have a look at the Creative Writing course as one of my choices.

During the pandemic, I fell out of love with drama and got more into my writing again as a way of escaping from everything that was happening and my own mental health issues. When I decided that I wanted to focus my studies on writing, the first place that I thought of was Leeds Arts University. I remembered how kind the lecturers were on the open day and the facilities were amazing. I spent weeks reading about the course, and one of the things that appealed to me is how often you are able to write. There’s a lot of time spent putting what you’ve learned to use, which is a huge thing for me. I want to be doing, not just hearing about how to do it.Image: Courtesy of Megan Hughes

How does Leeds Arts University help you develop your skills and creative practice?

We have had the chance to try different styles and genres, as well as having talks by visiting professionals who work within the industry and teach us about their process. I have been able to develop the way I talk about objects, people and places in my work.

I’ve learnt that some styles work better with certain themes/ideas I have. If I’m struggling with an idea as prose, sometimes it will work if I try to make it into a poem. By being able to use these different styles, it means that I’m not forcing myself to write something and potentially burning myself out with my frustration.

Image: Courtesy of Megan Hughes

What genre do you specialise in and what are you currently working on?

I specialise in contemporary romance, specifically for young adult readers (12-18 years). I am currently working on a novel centred around a teenage boy called Tee who is trying to become popular. It’s something very special to me, since I had the idea when I was around 14, and I feel that I am only just able to find the right words to make him real.

Being at Leeds has made me much better in being able to critique and analyse not only other people’s work, but also my own. I used to be afraid of deleting things or changing them – there is one part in the beginning of the first chapter that has been the same since I came up with the concept. Every time I would rewrite it or try and edit it, I would just edit a few words and nothing more because I was too attached to this opening that I had come up with when I was still in school. Now, I was able to fully delete the opening and rework it. I wasn’t sad to delete it, as I thought I would be; I was happy because of the progress I saw when I replaced it.

Could you tell us about what writers and creators inspire you, for example is there something that you are currently reading that is feeding into the work you’re doing?

My favourite author is Becky Chambers, who wrote the ‘Wayfarers Saga’. I’ve tried to dabble in sci-fi a few times, but it never felt right to me whenever I wrote it – the words always seemed muddled and wrong on the page, and I would never write more than 300 words before giving up. It was only when I read the Wayfarers Saga that I realised sci-fi doesn’t have to have action in, and whenever I’ve tried to write sci-fi now it feels a lot more genuine.

Some other writers and books that inspire me, specifically in my genre of contemporary romance, are anything by Jojo Moyes, ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell, and ‘The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You’ by Lily Anderson. I’m currently reading ‘The Last Letter From Your Lover’ by Jojo Moyes, and I’ve reread ‘Me Before You’, ‘Fangirl’, and ‘The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You’ multiple times over the years. Fangirl was one of the things that gave me the final push to apply for the course, as it is not centred around the romance but it still plays a large role in the story. I like that Cath is not defined by her crush/love for Levi – her life doesn’t start to suddenly revolve around him. The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is a retelling of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, and I love the enemies-to-lovers plot between Trix and Ben, which is a trope I am a huge fan of using in my own work, that and friends-to-lovers storylines.

Image: Courtesy of Megan Hughes

What are the three most valuable things you’ve learned while studying at Leeds Arts University?

I think the first one would be to not be afraid to try new things, and to not talk badly about them when it’s your first attempt. I really struggle with poetry and so I’ve always avoided it. We’ve been doing a bit of poetry and so I’ve had the chance to try something that I’m not confident in, and sometimes the outcome works well!

I would also say that sharing work and accepting criticism is an important thing. I used to get really upset or angry when people would tell me that something was wrong or I needed to change something but now I know that they, as the reader, are able to see things that I haven’t noticed as they’re more detached from my work. I need to listen to their feedback otherwise I’ll never be able to improve.

And I think my last one would be about taking the opportunities you are offered, even if that’s just sharing your work with the rest of the class. I get nervous about sharing my work and when given the choice to either read my work out or have someone else read it for me, I tend to lean more towards the latter. I kind of just realised that I might not get another chance to do some of these things, like the spoken word events and the collaborations. It might still make me nervous, but at least at the end I can say that I tried.