A few weeks ago I promised to write about the writing courses I’ve completed over the years and a little about the Masters writing program at the University of New England. A few years after completing a Masters of Justice at the Queensland University of Technology I got the study bug again and thought one of those distance education Tafe courses offered by Thomson Education (now Cengage) would suit my busy schedule. As Barbara mentioned in the post below, these courses are quite amateurish. But I must admit I quite enjoyed it and churned out a few short stories, though it certainly was not taxing. And of course, the marks were rather generous. However, I probably could have learned just as much by picking up a book about creative writing at the local library and saved myself $1200.
Despite this, I went back again two years later and studied Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing. I knew as soon as I received the materials that this was a bad choice. The package came with two thin workbooks and nothing else. I returned the books with a formal letter cancelling the course, well within the prescribed time, or so I thought. Two weeks later I rang up to make sure everything was squared away to find out that they had received the books but not the letter and it was now too late to cancel the course without massive penalties. Trying to make the best of the situation I tackled the course with gusto, which quickly waned after three assignments. A Fantasy writer I found a lot the material bent towards Science Fiction, which, save for a few favourite authors, I have absolutely no interest it. I also found the assignments to be very rigid unlike the previous Creative Writing course where you had much more leeway in what you could write. In the end I gave up on the course, not willing to waste anymore of my precious spare time.
At the beginning of this year I started a Master of Arts, majoring in Writing at UNE. UNE has established itself as an excellent Distance Education University and offers great support to all its Distance Ed. students. And unlike a recent story in the Sunday Mail by a disgruntled Lecturer, this university certainly has not dumb downed its content. It is also not expensive, roughly half, if not less, the cost of the Open Universities (about $650 per unit). I have not decided whether I’m going to complete the whole Masters program or just settle on a Graduate Certificate of Writing (with my daughters’ disability, any number of surprises could be hiding around the corner). You have a large choice of core units to choose from and so can tailor the program around your own particular interests. The core units for the GCW are:
- Critical and Creative Writing Through Literature
- Writing for Work
- Publishing and Editing, and
- Research in Writing
I’ve also elected to do 'Children’s Literature and Fantasy' which I’m really looking forward to. I’ve already read all the prescribed books ($200 worth, but hey my daughter can read them as she grows up), which included 'The Tombs of Atuan' by Ursula K. Le Guin, 'The Change Over' by Margaret Mahy, and several others including a few children’s books such as 'Where the Wild Things Are'. I will also be studying 'Critical and Creative Writing' next semester, which included 'The Princess Bride' in its prescribed text list (a nostalgic favourite of mine).
I hope this quick summary is helpful for those contemplating further study. If you are a beginner writer, the Creative Writing courses offered by Cengage or Lifestyle Direct could be for you. But if you are looking for something more challenging, stick to a reputable University such as UNE, UQ or QUT.