Editorial by Paul Munden
Earlier this year, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) staged its 50th anniversary conference, in Washington DC. NAWE is rather younger, this year celebrating 30 years (with a conference in York, see p.5). At AWP, NAWE was represented within two international panels that brought together not only US and UK members, but also representatives from Australia, Canada and China. In a session titled “Divided by a Common Language”, I was joined by Stephanie Vanderslice (Director of the Arkansas Writers MFA Workshop and founder of the Creative Writing Studies Organization); Lori A. May (based at the University of King’s College Halifax and a Board member of the Canadian Association of Writers and Writing Programs); Fan Dai (Director of the Sun Yat-sen Center for English-language Creative Writing in China), and Jenn Webb (Head of the Centre for Creative and Cultural research at the University of Canberra and past President of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs). Our panel considered how creative writing—as a general pursuit, an academic discipline and focus of research—varies from one context to another, not least in its discourse. A glance at the conference programmes and publications associated with each of the national organizations is instantly revealing of this variety: at first glance, a writer interested primarily either in craft, pedagogy or research, might be forgiven for thinking that one or other organization was or wasn’t for them. Dig deeper, however, and it’s clear that there is much to be gained from engaging with the diversity of approaches.
A second panel at AWP was titled “Don’t give up the day job”. For this session I was joined again by Lori May and Jen Webb – together with Paul Hetherington, also from the University of Canberra – and Randy Albers, from Columbia College Chicago and a NAWE Conference regular. With a highly engaged audience, we discussed how creative writing graduates – around the world– are prepared for lifelong careers. There seemed to be a shared belief, despite some statistics that tell a different story, that creative writing courses – both in their core content and additional professional development programmes – offer students not only the necessary transferable skills but also substantial inner resources with which to make a success of their lives. We should like to make this a focus for a future edition of Writing in Education, and submissions on this theme are now invited.
For the NAWE Conference in York, we look forward to receiving proposals that represent the full variety of members’ interests – and which stay true to the guiding principle of the NAWE?Conference over its 29 years to date: active peer learning, typified by the creative writing workshop. The forefront of creative writing practice, pedagogy and research can be experienced in the workshop, but academic papers and indeed any other types of presentation and discussion are most welcome. The deadline for proposals (which should be made via the Conference/Submittable page on the NAWE website) is 31 May 2017.
As if the various national conferences were not enough, there is an extraordinary wealth of conferences and symposia on offer this June/July – no less than seven separate events (listed in detail on p.7). At the long-awaited English: Shared Futures conference in Newcastle, the two international AWP sessions described above will be continued (with some of the same personnel, plus others) as part of a creative writing strand curated by NAWE. Literature and Language strands have been similarly curated by our partners in the conference – the English Association, University English, the Institute of English Studies and the Higher Education Academy – and the dialogue between all of them is a fundamental purpose of the overall event. We hope to see many of you at what promises to be an exceptional gathering of writers and scholars.
Finally, I should like to welcome three co-opted members to the NAWE Management Committee (now formally described as our Board of Directors). Ian McEwen, Rhoda Greaves and Mike Loveday bring considerable expertise to the team, and they are looking forward to working on our behalf in the next phase of NAWE’s development.
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