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’.
Last year I was fortunate enough to have the creative component of my Ph D published as a novel.
Would I say my Ph D has taught me how to write novels? As Helen Garner has famously said, ‘we have to learn to write again for each new book’.
Regardless of the role the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the USA’s creative writing MFA programs have played in the ascendance of this model, all of the institutions I’ve studied or taught at in Australia have favoured group workshopping as their preferred pedagogy. ‘[G]raduates of MFA programs often go on to teach in other MFA programs,’ KC Trommer points out, prompting me to consider anew my own experience in this context, both in the trade and academy.
I may be somewhat of an anomaly among creative writing teachers (though not among publishing lecturers) in not having undertaken such courses at an undergraduate level – I do remember enrolling in some subjects, but was always put off not by the quality of the work but by the positive response that it invariably received.
For context, I’d already had one novel published; for further context, that too had been developed through a higher education program – a masters.
Clearly I’m in favour of formal learning, but coming to the end of our highest arts degree I’ve been reflecting on what, exactly, it’s taught me.
It’s ‘the kind of thinking that probably does make certain of the young less ideal recruits in their armies of the employed’, Marilynne Robinson argues.) Should I then say, as Stover does, that the greatest insight my capstone qualification has given me has been into the particular and idiosyncratic bureaucracy of the university system?
Even more specifically, that of the university where I was studying?