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Perhaps research is what I’ve learnt: what it is, why to do it, how to do it well – in the context of both my creative work and its critical exegesis.But although I’ve been successful at presenting chapters from my dissertation as standalone papers and articles, my full thesis had an intimate audience of just three examiners (besides my supervisor).
I have been awarded professional and personal insight into how I can now further my development alone. In ‘Why teaching (writing) matters: a full confession’, Jayne Anne Phillips argues that, more important than teaching writing, an MFA is a way ‘those engaged in the practice of an art can mentor apprentice artists, and apprentice artists, in community, can mentor one another.’ Our industry has long been aware of the value of mentoring: not only have established authors throughout history advised and edited emerging ones, but the trade itself is founded upon that all-important author–editor relationship (or author–publisher, depending on who takes on this developmental role).
As our profession and creative practice differs from fine arts’, so the nature of creative writing mentorships also vary – from other sectors, and within our own community.
Regardless of whether you agree at an undergraduate level, most would concur in the case of a student studying to be a doctor of philosophy.
Though perhaps arts courses are not inevitably so productive: David Foster Wallace’s well-known commencement speech neatly articulates how teaching individuals to think also teaches them to recognise and resist certain kinds of ‘Think-Speak’.
To connect Stover and Brabazon’s perspectives, supervisors don’t only help students navigate the university system, they must chart a path themselves that protects both their time and that of their student meetings.
In many institutions the preparatory experience for this one-on-one supervision, honours, is under threat.This integration of literature and creative writing is reflected in the structure of the dissertation, which introduces the creative work within a context of critical inquiry, bringing together the examination and embodiment of the literary act, a new model of scholarship and creative innovation.For complete information, please visit https://edu/cwphd. While the monetisation of mentoring provides a certain transparency, the user-pays model arguably influences the advice customer–clients receive. But if the individual working on a prizewinning manuscript is from the commercial sector then their feedback is also unlikely to be neutral, and more likely to be market-driven – which may, of course, be exactly what the applicant–author wants and/or needs.University supervisors, too, have their own interests and agendas, as Tara Brabazon sets out in ‘10 truths a Ph D supervisor will never tell you’.Which begs the question: what do we students (have the right to) ask for?Everything costs someone something – whether it’s cash, in kind, personal time or academic workload allocation.In this age of the ‘massification’ and corporatisation of universities, such an extravagant arrangement can be hard to defend.The cornerstone of most creative-writing courses is workshopping, where participants receive feedback from their peers, under the guidance of experienced tutors, who offer their own opinions and manifest best practice on how to present that.I might also add that, anticipating the importance of this student–supervisor relationship (having experienced similar, less successful, iterations during my time as first an honours and then a masters student), I followed my chosen professor from another university and across state lines.Findings from a 2002 survey of creative writing mentorships concluded that ‘in no part of Australia does there appear a lack of interest in mentoring activity’. In every state there are mentorships, which are either paid for, or awarded as a prize; editorships, which may be government subsidised but are generally delivered in association with a particular press (either as manuscript development, or a contract to publish); and myriad internship opportunities.