Simon Ferris- BA (Hons) in Writing and Literature

Name: Simon Ferris

School: Colaiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choosing your course: 

I’m a mature student. I took the scenic route to third level education. I’ve always been drawn to writing and the Arts, when working in Pubs/Hotels I would write sporadically, basically when I had the time and managed to get 2 short stories published at one point. Eventually I got my foot in the door of an Arts Centre/Theatre for a couple of years through an employment scheme, while there I took part in 2 plays with the local drama society, one of them on the drama circuit which was a great experience. In the back of my mind I knew I wanted to go to college. I needed to so that I could pursue my ambitions seriously and figure out exactly what those ambitions are. I would check prospectuses every year to see if any course stood out, I didn’t want to just pick the first one I came across; I had made that mistake before. I came across the Writing & Literature Program at ATU Sligo. It was a new course, it struck me as a fresh, exciting course that brought many different disciplines together. I had never seen a course that combined things this way, so I went with my gut and applied, thankfully I got in and the course has been great.  

What specifically about the course do you particularly enjoy: 

The chance to try different disciplines is great, some I never thought I would have the head for, let alone enjoy. We’ve written short stories, poetry, reviews, short plays & screenplays, personal essays, academic essays ranging from Greek Theatre to Film Studies, to Experimental Literature/Art. We have made experimental projects, it was amazing to see what everyone came up with on that; everything from films to photography, drawings, experimental writing, audio projects. Personally, I made a short film using a sort of miniature set put together with string and canvases in the spare room and combined that with videos/audio from online. It was fun (though I questioned my sanity at times) and it pushed me to accept limitations, and to try and use them to my advantage. The shared thread between every module is that the lecturers encourage us to express ourselves without fear of judgement or ‘failing’. There is an emphasis on us as students finding our own voices creatively and being open to trying out different ways of expressing that voice. I think that is the ultimate goal. For me it is a key reason this course stands apart.  

What is the best thing about your course that you think new applicants should know: 

We don’t have many exams! I’m in the second term of year 2 and have only done 1 exam, and it made up a teeny-tiny percentage of the overall mark for the module. I think that’s important for anyone coming directly out of secondary school; the focus is not at all on exam-based evaluation, it’s more about continual assessment based on participation, engagement and maybe where you are on the road to finding your voice. I know for me that was a big draw to this course, I didn’t fancy just learning how to pass exams again.  

What are your favourite modules on the course? 

I’ve liked them all. I think they all interlink, particularly with this course. We’ve been exposed to different Artists from so many different fields and found that there are so many similarities and contrasts between their work that it’s difficult not to have the modules blend a little. I think it’s necessary for this course actually.  It really helps to make you think about your own practice and what can work for you, or what’s not working and how you can approach it in another way.  

If you were speaking with a first year student about to start your course, what advice/information would you give them: 

Be open to exploring different writers/styles etc. than you would normally go for. Try and find something that you like/dislike or that interests you in each piece of work. It will help with assignments and it will serve you better with giving your personal response rather than trying to give the ‘right’ answer. The right answer is your answer.  Try to note what worked and didn’t work for your process with every assignment. i.e., did you spend too much time on one aspect, or not enough. Talk to your peers about what works for them and vice versa. It is a challenging course but you’re well able for it.  Embrace that challenge and go for it. That, more than anything, is what this course wants from you.  It flies in, so be open from the start.  

If you are involved in Sport, volunteering, working or have other passions you pursue outside of your academic life, can you tell us about that.  Especially mention any Teams, Clubs or Awards. 

I suppose doing the plays with the local drama society, it was a great experience and took me out of my comfort zone a bit. We travelled to about a dozen different theatres to put the play on and in retrospect I learned an awful lot by osmosis from doing that. This is connected to the course because it originated from an assignment; I got a short drama onto an RTE Radio 1 show called ‘Keywords’, and later made it into a short film for ‘The Word’, the collaboration between the Writing & Literature course and Sligo Library.  

What are your plans after ATU Sligo and any long term goals you are aiming for: 

That’s a tough one to answer. I’m hoping by the time I’m finished the course that answer will be a little clearer but I’m okay with not knowing. I know that I’ll leave this course with a much broader skill set than I came in with, and those skills will let me be pretty versatile in the long run. For the moment I’m enjoying doing the work for this course, it’s brought me down some interesting rabbit holes. Do ya think they’d pay me to keep doing assignments?