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.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.
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.
I learnt my craft as a jobbing journalist, speechwriter, editor and publisher.
And in every one of these paid positions I was apprenticed to a master (the word mistress will not do) – whether that was my manager, someone higher up, or an outside expert …
And while these academic skills will likely have future application, and further development (and possibly a broader audience than my creative work), that’s largely because I’m already employed as a university lecturer.
(Both the creative and critical endeavours – and their interrelationship – have honed my professional research, writing and editing skills, but as Justin Stover argues in ‘There is no case for the humanities’ this is ‘a valuable by-product’ rather than the core learning outcome of a humanities degree.
Rather, I see the value of my Ph D in, above all else, the supervisory relationship.
This unique experience, in all its complexity and intensity, is an introduction to – an induction into – how our writing and publishing industry works.In the case of my Ph D I received: close editing of my work (as one creative to another, but, importantly, from an author who’d had extensive experience working with a seasoned editor); guidance on my writing career; advice on becoming an academic; and even reflections upon becoming a mother – and balancing (or, more actually, juggling) all these things.It may be relevant to confess here that my degree took me a long time to complete – a very long time. This was clearly a factor in the life events that occurred over the course of my candidature, and probably also played a role in the relationship with my supervisor that evolved.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’.There are a number of reasons for this: one is the increasing popularity of a ‘3 2’ university pathway (a generalist undergraduate arts degree, followed by a postgraduate masters specialisation), as in the Melbourne Model; another is cost.Direct, individual – and generally face-to-face – attention is expensive.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).