A Creative Writing Education: Beyond the Workshop
/Intro by Rachel Marsh/
Over the last few weeks, the ‘A Creative Writing Education’ debates have alluded to creative writing degree courses. Professor Kirsy Gunn mentioned her role as Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Dundee, and Ross Stewart discussed his place as a student in a Writing Practice and Study Masters’ programme. Deanna Westwood stated that she took an Open University course in creative writing, and Jade Skinner and Henrietta Evans – despite having different opinions – were on the same creative writing undergraduate course. I even mentioned that I met Kathleen Grey during our creative writing Masters’ studies.
These days, you can now get a creative writing qualification all the way up to the PhD level. Yet, while creative writing as an academic subject has a long history in America with the first course offered at the University of Iowa in 1936, it’s a relatively new discipline in the UK. The University of East Anglia founded the first University-level creative writing programme in the UK over 40 years ago, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s the idea truly caught on in Britain. Now, according to an article by the BBC, ninety-five Universities in the UK currently offer a range of postgraduate degrees in creative writing, and ‘in any one year there are usually more than 10,000 short-term creative writing courses or classes on offer in the UK.’
However, despite the subject being embraced by students and University administrations across the globe, there is wide debate on the nature of creative writing as an academic subject and how it should be taught – if at all.
This week on ‘A Creative Writing Education’, we will not be debating several points of view, but instead Dr Paul Perry, Lecturer at the University of Kingston, will talk about a new collection of essays that discusses the various belief systems that run through creative writing academic courses. He is the editor of Beyond the Workshop, which provides a compelling suite of essays on the subject of creative writing studies and a range of practical creative writing exercises.
The exercises are original and effective ‘triggers’ from the contributors to Beyond the Workshop who are all writers and teachers of creative writing who have international expertise: they are poets, novelists, short story writers, creative non-fiction writers and essayists from the UK, Ireland and the US. The collection is published by Kingston University Press. The University of Kingston is a unique institution in that it offers creative writing degrees in conjunction with corresponding qualifications in the creative economy. This new trend in pairing writing with a specific career path certainly shows through in Beyond the Workshop, as several of the authors discuss the practical implications of creative writing.
Dr Perry has given ShortbreadStories permission to reprint his introduction to the book. In it he discusses the approach and argument each contributor takes, emphasising the variations in creative writing studies. His introduction to the book, as well as Beyond the Workshop itself, is an interesting read for anyone contemplating a degree in creative writing. Not only will it give you a heads up for what to expect in creative writing higher education, but it the writing exercises are useful to anyone serious about honing their craft.
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