A rise in demand for good writers

12 April 2024

Need a little help getting your first novel across the line? Or perhaps you would like to be on the other side, and be prepared for a career in the publishing industry? Or maybe you want to hone your written skills within your current profession to give your career an edge?

The University of Queensland (UQ) has got you covered with its Master of Writing, Editing and Publishing program (WEP), which will arm you with the skills needed to meet the growing demands of publishing today.

Dr Richard Newsome, Director of the Master program, tells ArtsHub that one of the degree’s key attractions is its flexibility. ‘We get people coming in wanting to write the great Australian novel, but also those wanting to improve their writing, editing and structural skills for workplace documents.’

Where writing starts

All students enrolling in the WEP Master program will do an introduction course to publishing in Australia, and then branch out into their own particular areas of interest.

‘We have courses such as Advanced Grammar – for those who don’t realise that what they learned in grade five may not necessarily be the end-all when it comes to grammar – all the way up to writing speculative short fiction. So, the program spans the full gamut of writing.’

Newsome continues: ‘English is probably one of the most complex languages in the world, and we often don’t know all the tricks that it entails, so [this will enable students] to come out with a level of expertise that gives people a distinctive skill that they can then transform into a professional advantage with their careers.’

As a successful writer himself, Newsome admits that he thought he knew everything about grammar, but is constantly surprised by UQ’s grammar experts. ‘I learn something new from them every year. The students feel as if they’ve gone through a bootcamp together, and they become quite bonded as colleagues, which is another key aspect of the course – creating networks.’

What are my prospects upon completing this degree?

Newsome says there is no “typical student” in this Master program. ‘Our age group would be from 21, with the completion of a Bachelors degree, all the way up to people who are in their 70s.’

He adds: ‘We get a real mix of life experience in the classroom, and that really drives a lot of active debate and discussion.’

The only requirement is a pass degree in a relevant discipline, and the Master program can be taken over 18 months as full-time study, or part-time over about a five-year period.

For those without a relevant first degree, entry to the Masters can be gained by first undertaking a Graduate Certificate in Writing, Editing and Publishing.

‘We’ve had people who’ve just slowly chipped away at it, and they’ve gone on to secure great teaching jobs or writing jobs,’ Newsome says. ‘We’ve had people who’ve gone off to work in commercial publishing, in trade publishing, either as editors or in the marketing side of things, while other people have taken what they learned back to their workplace and utilised their newfound skills to get promotions.’

‘It’s a good all-around qualification for anyone who has a creative bent,’ Newsome tells ArtsHub.

The role of real experience?

Students can choose to complete an internship as part of their program. These may be at highly respected literary journals and publishing houses – both commercial and educational – such as at University of Queensland Press, to independent booksellers and even Screen Queensland, for those students who are interested in taking their skills into that area of the market.

Newsome explains: ‘We have interns working across all aspects of the publishing chain, so they get exposure to every part of what it is to make a book and get it out into the world.

‘The University of Queensland Press has been named the Small Publisher of the Year for the last three years, and it’s an extraordinary cultural asset to have as part of the school’s offering.’

He adds, ‘Many of our students have gone on to secure employment, either with their internship provider or using the experience that they’ve gained to secure employment elsewhere.’

A further foundation of the program is that all the lecturers have established careers themselves as writers. ‘All of them are practising writers and many are working on a new novel or a new collection of some sort – so the students are receiving instruction from people who are actively using their skills, and are around active networks in the industry,’ Newsome tells ArtsHub.

‘I’ve used my own experience with editing a manuscript as a case study for a course I teach in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, so students can see a live document as it’s going through the editing process, prior to being published. There is a real benefit.’

Australia, as a market, has ‘such interesting stories to tell – so it’s important, not just as an industry, but culturally, to support all of those creative endeavours. Our program here actively encourages people to tell those stories, and to make sure that there is a sustainable commercial publishing space that encourages both the telling and the reading of those stories among our population,’ he says.

What will this degree give that a few years’ experience won’t?

Newsome says that one of the great outcomes of the WEP Master program ‘is a network of support people who are in a similar situation. There’s nothing like having a collection of colleagues who are going through a similar space to encourage you to keep going.’

girl with pink sweater and dark hair, writer Jasmin McGaughey
Torres Strait Islander and African American author
and editor, Jasmin McGaughey. Photo: Supplied.

He adds that many of these survive beyond graduation as lifelong creative networks. Graduate from the WEP program, Jasmin McGaughey agrees. She tells ArtsHub:

‘Writing has been a gateway for me to represent myself (and my people) in literature to hopefully show other First Nations people they belong in books and adventures too. My biggest achievement has been writing children’s books for Ash Barty,’ a dream job she landed through editing networks.

‘[The program] will also give you an awareness of what the industry is doing and how it operates – just little logistics of how the publishing sector works,’ says Newsome. ‘And it will give you a very pragmatic sense of what it takes to get something published, and to create an ongoing sustainable career in this area.’

Newsome acknowledges that, ‘Giving up 18 months of time is a big investment, but most of the courses are taught at night, so it is quite [achievable] for somebody who is working full-time or part-time to dip in and do one or two courses a semester and spread it out over several years. It means that they can still manage to take the time to invest and develop the skills that will advance their position.’

Learn how you can be part of the Master of Writing, Editing and Publishing Program at UQ