After 12 very intense weeks at Swinburne we had a couple of final tutoral assignments to complete. These were designed by the course convenors to get our student perspective on each of our subjects.
I did all of the first four core subjects, a very big workload: -
Real life Writing
Research to Publication
Completing this gives one a Graduate Certificate in Writing. If I continue through next semester I will earn a Graduate Diploma. And if I follow this up with another semester I'll have an MA.
I'm posting my response to Critical Friends below, but want to add a couple of other things beforehand. The Swinburne MA in Writing is not aimed particularly at creative writing. It also takes in all comers so there is no requirement to have a writing background. Some of my class-mates struggled with the basics of writing English well, a surprise when considering the work required of a postgraduate degree in Writing. I understand that these days even undergraduate courses now have problems with students who are unable to write English clearly.
Of course postgraduate doesn't really mean a higher level tertiary degree any more, it just means that the universities can charge $1500 per subject and make a lot more money out of each student. Sorry to sound so cynical but I've sat in postgraduate law classrooms which were in fact just undergraduate subjects with the normal cohort of undergraduate students. The only difference was the cost of the subject if you were enrolled in a postgraduate qualification. Some postgraduate qualifications don't even require an undergraduate degree.
Although the Swinburne course is not really focused where I want to go with my writing I did find it in some ways interesting and a challenge. Here is my tutorial response to the Critical Friends week 12 question. This subject is really about learning how to read with an editorial eye, reading both your own work and that of others. Having said that I don't think I'll ever master reading my own work with a critical eye. Not do I think even well-established writers can successfully do so.
Write a brief account of what resources you found most useful in this subject.
Write 400/500 words and post them to the discussion area for this module.
I decided I would address this question by considering its component parts. What are resources? They can and do include the input of our tutor, the input of our colleagues, the work of our colleagues, the readings (both lecture notes and web articles), and the sheer discipline of thinking, reading and writing on a given topic week by week.
The person to person input of both tutor and colleagues has been highly valuable. There's an element of writing which subliminally seeks the approving 'other' whoever that 'other' might be and Catherine you've been an insightful and intelligent receiver of our work (and I'm not trying to curry favour).
I also found the wide range of responses from our group really fascinating. Even when I completely disagreed I would find myself considering what it was I disagreed about. It's my habit to walk every morning and I like having a 'thought' to take with me when trudging through the cold (we can't compete with Melbourne, but minus temperatures are the norm in an Ipswich winter, so yes, it gets cold here in SEQ). Taking a thought for a walk can trigger a whole army of ideas, as well as barking dogs.
The lectures notes and articles we've been guided through have served a similar purpose. Sometimes I agreed, sometimes I found the lecture notes simplistic or repetitive. But I was forced to articulate and write these things, although diplomacy did disguise some of my less than enthusiastic views. I can't point to particular individual writings from this module, but our first week's readings for Real life writing which included the fabulous duologue between Zadie Smith and James Woods were an electrifying kick-start for the whole course.
We've also been led to some really useful web portals on writing and the sites below are ones which will have a long-term usefulness for me (I think like a librarian – a good portal can be hard to find, so I've made a list):
http://www.poewar.com/articles/ [The Writer's Resource Center]
http://www.writewords.org.uk/ [Write Words]
http://www.theory.org.uk/ [the Theory.org.uk]
http://www.nla.gov.au/events/doclife/ [Documenting a life]http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/biograph/index.htm [Biography writing workshop]http://www.abc.net.au/wordmap/ [Australian Word Map]http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/instruct/guides/PrimarySources.html [Using primary sources]
Binding all of these individual processes together was the relentless discipline of producing the right words week by week. Dr Arnold nicely brings the practical business of writing into our last lecture for the subject : How do writers work? I liked her polite phrase "correction of avoidance procedures" which in my case can encompass cleaning the bath-tub, playing Scrabble on Facebook, watching 30 Rock or deciding to buy a new car (hours of rumination on http://carsales.com.au/ or http://redbook.com.au/).
In the end we should just get started, stay seated and write, managing our work processes as tidily as we would any other form of employment.
Of course when I wrote the words above I was writing from within the subject. From outside it I would probably add that much of the lecture material seemed out of date and highly self-referential by (and to) the lecturer who wrote them, not a practice I respond to terribly well. It seemed to me she hadn't quite mastered the business of editing her own work. I hope this summary is a helpful to anyone contemplating the Swinburne MA (Writing). Now that I've started I'll probably keep going with it, but knowing beforehand just how much of it involved reading and thinking about cultural theories, and to the writings of one lecturer, I'd have opted for a course which was far more practical and hands-on. Writing is a technical, craft-oriented process as much as it is anything else. Earlier in this blog I've summarised a couple of other online writing courses I've undertaken - one in New York and one in Sydney. Each of these was too amateurish for my purposes and suffered also because of the contrasting writing experience of the different students. I would consider myself to be a middle to advanced writer, not a beginner.
I'd be very glad to learn of other online courses which are more useful to fiction writers in a nuts and bolts way.