The University of Newcastle, Australia

Creative writing graduate research at Newcastle

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Creative writing graduate research program – a University of Newcastle success story.

Creative writing graduate research

As Sydney Morning Herald literary editor Susan Wyndham wrote earlier this year in her Undercover column after two University of  Newcastle creative writing graduate research students were short-listed in the 2013 Premier's Literary Awards: "They must be doing something right in Newcastle." (SMH, May 25-26, 2013 Spectrum 29).

When Associate Professor Kim Cheng  Boey joined the School of Humanities and Social Science at Newcastle in 2003, he alone constituted the University's creative writing department.

He was joined by Dr Keri Glastonbury in 2006 and Dr David Musgrave in 2009, and while creative writing is essentially a solo pursuit, Kim Cheng says teamwork is manifest in the trio's ability to offer different areas of expertise.

"It has been good working with different writers," he says. "We can pool our experience and different knowledge together.

"Creative writing involves working in different genres. The teamwork allows for specialisation and distribution of interests and expertise."

Kim Cheng, who had established himself as a poet of renown in Singapore before migrating to Australia in the late 1990s, enjoys working across different genres.

"I started the job as a poet, but writing and teaching the fiction and non-fiction courses over the last 10 years, I found myself trying out other forms and genres."

Kim Cheng's book of personal essays, Between Stations, was nominated for the Western Australian Premier's Award for Nonfiction in 2009. He has just completed a novel on the life of a Tang Dynasty poet.

Kim Cheng's other interests include Contemporary Irish Poetry. His essay on the West of Ireland, Sailing to an Island, earned a Vice-Chancellor's Award for Research Excellence in 2009.

Keri's focus is on creative non-fiction and contemporary poetry.

She is writing a series of essays on cities, including Rough and Tumblr: Blogging Newcastle, and a true crime essay: Lost Wagga.

In 2011 Keri received the FEDUA Vice Chancellor's Award for Supervision Excellence and she has supervised nine RHD completions, among them Michael Sala, whose PhD manuscript, The Last Thread, was the Pacific Region winner in the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize and won the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing at the 2013 NSW Premier's Literary Awards.

"With all three Creative Writing staff at the University of Newcastle being published poets, there is a real understanding between us all about language's poetic potential, no matter what the genre," Keri says.

David's current research projects include work on a novel about an obituary collector and the study of 16th and 17th century emblem books for a collection of poems titled Anatomy of Voice.

"It's an interesting team at Newcastle," David says. "The three of us who are permanent are all poets, yet by far the majority of projects we supervise are prose.

"I've also published a novel and Kim Cheng has just finished one as well, so I guess there is a bit of breadth to our experience.

"We have been lucky to have some talented students come through and I hope this continues."

One such PhD student, Joanna Atherfold, says the feeling is mutual.

 "The creative writing team provides me with support on a range of levels from publication opportunities and research directions through to editorial suggestions and close readings of my work," she explains.

Joanna's research project, Watermark, "applies a liminal framework in its exploration of the transformative process that takes place in the in-between spaces between autobiography and short fiction, as well as underscoring the interplay between past and present, and mapping the fluid boundary of the littoral".

"The creative component of my research is a volume of autobiographical short fiction contextualised within an Australian coastal landscape," she says.

"Kim Cheng Boey has mentored me from my undergraduate writing classes through to a PhD scholarship. This is a path I would not have considered without his support and ongoing faith in my ability."

Find out more about graduate research in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of  Newcastle.

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