Postgraduate Queries

What's the best way to break into publishing? And which Masters degree in creative writing would be best for me?
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Publish and be practical

Q. I would like to know about postgraduate courses in publishing. My sister, who is a Thai, has just graduated with a BA in English and French in the USA. She would like to further her studies and become a staff writer on a magazine. At the moment, she is looking for courses in America, but I think we should look everywhere, including the UK. She's doing an internship at the International Herald Tribune in Thailand. She has managerial skills, although not in marketing. I support her and want to see her in the publishing business, rather than working as a freelance writer, as it sounds more practical to me.

A. Publishing covers a wide field, including the mass market, children's publishing, educational books, scientific journals and, these days, electronic formats as well. But, although the business of publishing might sound more practical than freelance writing, it is hard to break into.

The advice from the Publishers Association is to build up experience doing general duties within a small publishing house as a way to learn the business.

But if it's definitely a course you're after, several UK universities offer publishing studies, including City University (London), Kingston, Stirling and Robert Gordon. Intakes tend to be small, and there are language requirements for international students. It might be a good idea to choose a course with a strong work-experience element, as that could help with future employment.

Postgraduate courses will normally teach core skills in the five main job areas: editorial, design, production, sales and marketing and rights. The Publishing Training Centre ( www.train4publishing.co.uk) also has courses, some of which can be taken via distance learning (such as copy editing and proofreading). The centre has a guide to the industry and career opportunities that can be downloaded from the site.

Your sister could also take a look at postgraduate programmes in literature, creative writing and journalism. After all, she needs to study something she truly loves.

The write stuff

Q. I am confused about the difference between an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) and an MA (Master of Arts) in creative writing. I also wonder whether they have the same aim. Do you know of a website listing the universities offering MAs or MFAs in fiction writing by distance learning? Are there scholarships for distance-learning students in creative writing? I am a fiction writer and will be on leave of absence from my polytechnic in Nigeria, travelling to Kenya to be with my wife.

A. In the UK, the title MFA (Master of Fine Arts) usually means a higher-level course in art, such as painting or sculpting. In North America, it covers a range of creative courses, including writing. If you're hoping to study through a UK university, you are likely to end up with an MA (Master of Arts) in creative writing. You can find courses on www.prospects.ac.uk and www.hotcourses.com.

Distance-learning courses are offered at Manchester Metropolitan, Lancaster and De Montfort universities. To get on one, you'll need a high standard of English and samples of your work. You may have to attend a summer school.

As for the ultimate aim of an MA or MFA, this varies. Some courses are geared towards students producing work that is as near publishable as possible; for example, a completed novel. Others guide the student towards developing short pieces to add to their portfolio. You may also have to write a dissertation.

Choose a course that meets your interests, ambitions and ways of working. For example, how much tutor and peer feedback do you want? Funding for distance learning is unlikely, but not impossible. It might come from the university or the department, from charities and trusts, from arts boards or from your government; www.scholarship-search.org.uk has information.

Advisers: Mike Cox and Gillian Sharp of Graduate Prospects

Send your queries to Caitlin Davies at caitlind1@aol.com

Comments