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‘It’s the reason I’m a novelist’ – award-winning children’s author talks about studying with the OU

M. G. Leonard, award-winning author of bestselling children’s book series, Beetle Boy achieved a BA Degree in English Literature nearly 12 years ago. After not enjoying school and working various jobs in her 20s, the OU set Leonard on her path to becoming a writer. As we mark International Literacy Day on September 8th, Leonard talks about how OU study better suited her learning style and helped her to achieve her dreams.

I failed my A levels. I didn’t go to university when my friends did. I was left behind and then moved to London to work in the creative industries. University wasn’t on my radar for years. I’d never heard of The Open University. It wasn’t until I was working as an actor in my mid-to-late 20s, and therefore mostly temping at an insurance company, that I met a kind man who was nearing retirement. He told me about the OU. He studied courses for the sheer pleasure of learning. I was amazed to discover that a degree wasn’t out of reach for me. I decided to ‘dip my toe’ by registering for an introduction to humanities module. I was surprised and delighted that distance study was possible. I had thought to get a degree, I’d need lots of money, better qualifications, and to give up work for three years. These things were as impossible for me as travelling to the moon.

The OU taught me valuable skills…

I loved every minute of that first course with the OU. I decided to work towards a degree in English Literature, but I’m impatient. I didn’t want to take the recommended six years to complete the course. I doubled up on my modules and completed it in four years whilst working full-time. I became addicted to studying and would often work ahead, reading beyond the resources, eager to learn. The OU taught me valuable life skills, like time management, commitment and motivation. I became a ‘finisher’; I finish every project I start now. This makes you very employable.

The OU broadened the scope of what I believed I could do with my life – it opened up opportunities that I’d never considered before. After graduating, I continued my education at Kings College London with a Masters in Shakespeare Studies. I worked as a Digital Media Producer for Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and Harry Potter West End, all whilst writing my first book.

My skills blossomed

I had never dreamed I could be a writer. I struggled with grammar at school and was constantly told my written work was poor. I enjoyed theatre and storytelling but lacked the confidence to put anything down on paper. It wasn’t until I was writing essays and receiving constructive feedback from my OU tutors that my skills blossomed. The online courses and forums were life-changing for me, allowing me to study where and when I wanted – whether on the tube to work or whilst looking after my new-born baby.

Since finishing my first degree, I’ve completed a number of other modules just for fun. I am always telling people to try one. I introduced my sister to the OU, and she went on to study a Masters. I’m fiercely proud of my academic achievements. I worked incredibly hard to get my first-class degree, and it changed me. It opened my mind. I realise now that I am not suited to the traditional education system, but when I was younger I thought that the problem was me, that I lacked ability.

It has shaped my life

If you are considering studying with the OU, you must try it. The OU provides you with a toolkit and the support you need to get the best education. It’s up to you to take what’s an offer and make it a success, but the OU won’t let you down. If I’d known about the OU when I left school, I would have started sooner. The OU gave me more than an education, it has shaped my life, developed my confidence, introduced me to lifelong friends and made me into a writer. For that, I will always be grateful.

Find out more

On International Literacy Day

Visit M.G. Leonard’s website

About studying English Literature and Creative Writing at The Open University

About Author

Hannah is part of the Media Relations Team at The Open University, working with the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. With experience both agency and in-house, Hannah has worked on campaigns for a number of large corporate companies and brands, including RBS, NatWest, Travelodge, Audible, AA and the Royal Academy of Dance. She has completed a Masters in Publishing Studies from Oxford Brookes and is currently studying towards a DipHE in Computer, IT and Design. In her free time she enjoys photography, reading and going to the theatre.

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