Belinda stiles

Belinda Stiles

Why did you choose to study your degree at the University of Leeds?

I already knew Leeds had a fantastic reputation as one of the country’s top Russell Group universities.

Walking through campus really sealed the deal for me — it has such a buzzing atmosphere. After finishing my undergraduate degree in English and Philosophy, I knew Leeds had more to give, and didn’t think twice about continuing on for my MA in Creative Writing and Critical Life.

What opportunities have you taken advantage of so far?

Alongside my degree, I joined the University Cheerleading Team, Leeds Celtics Cheerleaders. Leeds Celtics have been absolutely fundamental to my university experience, providing me with an incredible group of friends from day one and endless social opportunities.

During my Masters, I was also on the committee as Lions Team Secretary, which has been a great experience for my CV and was so much fun to be involved with.

How do you think your degree at Leeds will help you in your career?

Leeds has constantly pushed me outside of my comfort zone both within and outside of my studies, and I am a more confident person for it.

Being in the city means you are never shut off from the world, and you meet different people every day. Being able to interact with the world around me makes me a better, more thoughtful, and more observant writer.

What skills have you gained so far?

My Masters in Creative Writing and Critical Theory combines two practices that are usually kept apart, giving me a really unique skillset.

It pushed me to think outside the box, and test the limits of my writing. These two elements complement each other in making me analytical, creative and concise.

Have you worked closely with a particular tutor or member of staff?

This year, I worked closely on several projects with my MA course leader, Dr Jay Prosser.

Jay constantly pushed me to think differently about my writing and to send my work for publication. His support has been invaluable and he has always trusted my process, giving honest feedback and advice when needed.

My recent published work was actually a result of one of his modules.

Tell us about your publishing success.

My recently published work is an extract from a sonnet sequence exploring several themes including identity, fragmentation and metaphor.

The titles are taken from letters I found written at the Casa de Julieta in Verona, asking for help in, or reminiscing about, love. I used these letters to explore my own experiences, focusing on my travels around Italy and the notion of translation.

It is by far my most ‘personal’ work to date, and I owe much of this to the accountability demanded by the sonnet form. I took much of my inspiration from Jhumpa Lahiri’s memoir In Other Words and Salman Rushdie’s essay Imaginary Homelands, both of which I was studying for my MA at the time.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering studying Creative Writing and Critical Life?

The more you put in, the more you get out! If you are willing to really throw yourself into your subject, you will gain so much from your degree and your tutors will go out of their way to support you beyond it.

Maintain a good work-life balance and say yes to every opportunity which presents itself - you never know where it might take you.

What did you think of our facilities?

Leeds has a renowned archive in the Brotherton Library and the tutors are experts in their subjects, often publishing their own papers alongside teaching. There is a range of study spaces to suit every learning type, and the university is constantly building and expanding.

What do you think of Leeds as a city?

Leeds is a fantastic place to live with a vibrant student community. There is something for everyone — whatever your music taste, interests or hobbies.

I love how it’s big enough to always be able to find something new, but small enough to get to know your way around. You really do feel part of the city.

Leeds has a wealth of great opportunities for young writers both within and outside of the university. I would urge anyone who is interested in creative writing to get as involved as possible, and make the most of the university’s connections with different publications and authors.