Despite leaving school early, Djamel White never gave up on his dream of becoming a writer. Now, the College of Arts and Humanities has awarded him the Annie Fanning Memorial Scholarship.
Writing is Djamel White’s passion and he has determinedly honed and developed his craft, overcoming many obstacles along the way.
The Christmas before his Leaving Cert, Djamel dropped out of school but he still had dreams of going to university. He spent some time figuring out what to do next, before securing a place on an early school leavers course focusing on employment skills at Kylemore Community Education Centre in Ballyfermot.
“I knew that I could come out with the equivalent of an LCA, which would then get me into a PLC.”
He went on to study media at Maynooth University, where he quickly realised “the practical nature of the degree” wasn’t for him. The following year, the chance to apply to study for the BA in Creative Writing at UCD came up and he applied for the course, describing it as “a no-brainer.”
“Before I started in UCD, I was just after dropping out of Maynooth University. I had worked in retail for a bit and I was doing an internship with Fighting Words, [whom] I had volunteered with previously.”
“I was always very much aware of the MA and the MFA program… especially the notable names that would have passed through it.”
“I want to be in a community of other writers, I want to have my work being read and criticised. Mostly it’s that incentive to keep writing but it also makes your writing a full time thing, and I think it’s really invaluable for anyone who’s trying to squeeze writing in.”
Excelling in his studies, Djamel was recognised and rewarded throughout his undergraduate degree.
“I was given the Humanities scholarship at the end of my second year…I got the highest GPA in the entire Humanities stream and that was a bursary, so it was nice.”
The BA also provided Djamel with the opportunity to do an internship with the National University of Ireland at their headquarters in Merrion Square.
“Something everyone could benefit from is the internship in third year…getting the internship and putting enough effort into it that it would benefit me going forward as well, I would call that an achievement.”
Djamel also got involved by taking on extra-curricular roles within the university, becoming a Student Ambassador, a Residential Assistant and then joining a pilot group as a Humanities Ambassador representing the College of Arts and Humanities.
He acknowledges that because he entered his undergraduate course as a mature student, it took him a little longer to get to know his classmates. Four years on, they have bonded and as they face graduation together, Djamel has the following words for his fellow students: “You’ve grown into really talented writers and it’s a pleasure to read your work, and I hope that you keep writing…I know some of you have been published recently.”
Currently, Djamel is working as a Publishing Assistant at New Island Books. He will be returning to UCD in the autumn to commence the MFA in Creative Writing programme and in another exciting development, he has been become the inaugural holder of the prestigious Annie Fanning Memorial Scholarship for creative writing.
“I’m excited about going into the MFA and working on my collection, having good supervision. I’ll be teaching undergrads, which is really exciting.”
In the meantime, Djamel is also exploring new opportunities to raise the profile of fellow writers and creatives. Alongside Clare Healy and Sarah Sturzel, he co-founded a new literary journal, Profiles, which is “a new publication dedicated to character-driven writing and portraiture.”
“Again, I think that the beauty of being a writer is that you do kind of have to have your finger in a few different pies.”