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Alumna riding a wave of literary success

A University of Chichester creative writing alumna has been enjoying a successful year, topped-off by her short story being featured on BBC Radio.

Melanie Whipman, a graduate of the University’s MA in Creative Writing and current PhD student, had her story ‘Llama Sutra’ read on Radio 4.

It is another notable achievement in what has been a very successful year for Melanie. Her story ‘Peacock Girl’ won first prize at the International Rubery Book Award, her story 'Hook, Line and Ninety-Nines' got second prize in the A Vogel short story competition in February, and ‘Llama Sutra’ itself won this year's Ink Tears Competition, the prize for which was £1,000 and the opportunity of having her own anthology published, which will be published later this year.

The idea for ‘Llama Sutra’ came while Melanie was training for a marathon, when she used to run past a llama farm on her route, whilst the form of the story was informed by her MA study at the University.

She says, “I'd written a couple of essays on magic realism when I did my masters, and I've always liked the form - I love Ovid's Metamorphoses. Ted Hughes talks about how the supernatural erupts into a realist setting, and this is what I've attempted to do with ‘Llama Sutra’. On the surface it's a very realist tale about a couple's struggle with IVF, but the denouement takes it into the surreal.”

Due to the surreal elements in the story, Melanie admits to being a “tad surprised” when Jeremy Osborne phoned to say he wanted to broadcast it on Radio 4, but she was delighted with the finished product, which appeared largely uncensored.

She says, “I thought Camilla Marie Beeput's reading was fabulous - she really spun 'Llama Sutra' into physicality for me.

“Jeremy Osborne said he'd probably have to make a few 'scatological' edits, but in the end he didn't edit much out at all. In fact, when I listened to it with my husband and fourteen year-old twins over the supper table on the Sunday evening it was quite a shock!”

Melanie is currently working on her novel for her PhD, whilst she is also undertaking a PGCert at the University and teaching creative writing in Farnham.

For more information about the University’s Creative Writing MA, go to: www.chi.ac.uk/department-english-and-creative-writing/postgraduate/ma-creative-writing