The Journal of the Australian Association of Writing Programs
It's Time for a Professional Voice
Creative Writing as a discipline has - in the last four years (indeed, in
the last decade) -
virtually exploded onto the university sector in a sudden and ungainly manner. Like a rude girl
she sits in the senate, her bright red lipstick out of place amongst all that beige and grey.
The professional association, the AAWP, is not yet three years old and has
yet to function as
an association in any meaningful sense other than hosting annual conferences and beginning to
gather its research foundation in its refereed journal. In themselves, these advances are
salutary, but there is plenty more to do.
We don't blame anyone here, the task is simply too large, the expansion
and demands too
great to be carried out by a handful of overworked academics from around the country. There
are 142 named awards in Australia where a student may study writing, but there are not that
many subscribers to this journal.
Even the tasks of framing a constitution, opening a bank account, or setting
a membership fee,
have proved to be too complicated. As members of the executive we take on board our share
of this responsibility.
At the 1998 conference in Adelaide, Professor Andrew Taylor once again reminded
us all of
the urgent need for a national association with lobbying clout. But there is simply too much
work to do and no one has the energy to set up the important infrastructure of the association.
It appears that we can't even begin this process.
We do not wish to sound negative here, we simply want to point out that
the task is so large
it's daunting. Many more contributors are needed at the central level.
With an association that exists mainly perhaps by name only - unfunded,
unacknowledged - we have however achieved a lot. There have been three annual Australian
conferences, and a fourth is about to open in Perth in September/October 1999. The
conferences are seen as an important part of our academic year and their location is now
organised two years in advance. There is no shortage of offers from members or their
universities to hold these conferences.
TEXT has set up a research culture and, almost by accident, a collegiality
departments. But here is the rub. That collegiality has generated a timid climate where
colleagues are shy to respond to, or debate with, papers published in TEXT. The letters pages
of TEXT are not overly brimming with correspondence, heated or otherwise. Where is the
discourse, the variety of opinions, the debate?
Are we calling for blood in the pages of TEXT? Perhaps not blood, just bright red lipstick.
And why do we need hot debates? Because almost everything we do in our teaching
is a result
of folklore - folklore applied at local levels. And in the end that isn't good enough - it's just too
comfortable, too beige an environment.
Is dialectic needed for progress? No issue has ever been hotly debated in
the Letters section
of TEXT over six issues.
If the AAWP could form as a lively association where collegiality and communication
was fostered, then TEXT might be opened to more vigorous and rigorous debate.
Of course, there's a fine line here. What we don't need is the development
schisms and unresolveable conflict. The AAWP has shown itself to be, thus far, a significant
grouping of like-minded academics all in pursuit of best Australia-wide outcomes.
But perhaps we should get even more intimately involved, one with the other.
The nineties was
our decade of explosion; we now need networking.
What writing in the university sector needs, now more than ever, is a functioning
body, an AAWP strong in infrastructure and voice. To make this happen we need to get
further behind its operation.
We urge you all to do so.
Letters and Debate
Vol 4 No 1 April 2000
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Tess Brady