Photo gallery: Girl with a Pearl Earring novelist Tracy Chevalier joins graduates at UEA degree ceremony

Tracy Chevalier, centre, with chancellor Rose Tremain and Prof Chris Bigsby at UEA congregation. Ph

Tracy Chevalier, centre, with chancellor Rose Tremain and Prof Chris Bigsby at UEA congregation. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

An historical novelist whose most famous book was made into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Scarlett Johansson received an honorary degree from the University of East Anglia this morning.

Tracy Chevalier said the UEA's Master's course in creative writing helped her become a successful full-time novelist.

The author of Girl with a Pearl Earring also revealed she might write a novel about Norwich Cathedral in the future.

She said: 'I think the UEA that year gave me permission to put writing at centre stage. Always before that I had worked full time, and crammed writing into a little corner of my life, but the course said take a whole year and write, and that is an incredible gift, but it forced me to take it seriously, and there was always a lot of criticism and mistakes and that's the whole process of learning – it's about making mistakes so you learn what bad writing is and how you can improve it.'

She said the course's good reputation made it easier to get a publisher and an agent.

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Although Norwich and her UEA experiences have not featured in her novels so far, she said: 'Norwich has such a rich history and in particular I love the cathedral. I have been toying with the idea of doing a novel about a cathedral at some point, and I think Norwich Cathedral is on the long list, if not the short list. I think I will go back to the cathedral today to remind myself how gorgeous it is.'

Today saw the first four of 16 graduation ceremonies this week which will see about 4,000 students rewarded for their year's of study.

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The university is also awarding honorary degrees to 17 of its alumni as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

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