Writing students flourish with work-ready opportunities in regional university

Published 15 July 2019
Creative writing student Rebecca Sargeant Creative writing student Rebecca Sargeant at Byron Writers Festival

Attending a regional university can create unique study and work opportunities for students in an institution where creativity flourishes.

The NSW Northern Rivers, a region bumping up against the border with Queensland, is home to Southern Cross University. The area lays claim to Australia’s highest concentration of arts and creative industries practitioners outside of the cities.

In addition, the Northern Rivers is culturally rich: music (Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival, Mullum Music Fest, Bluesfest); art (Lismore Regional Gallery, Tweed Regional Gallery); literature (Byron Writers Festival, Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup); theatre (NORPA (Northern Rivers Performing Arts)); film and TV (location for: Aquaman at Fingal Head; The Gods of Wheat Street in Casino; Sea Change in Brunswick Heads).

Against this backdrop, Southern Cross University students are exposed to a diverse range of literary and creative opportunities unique to this region. Some extra-curricular activities, in particular, prepare students for a professional life in the literary industry.

Furthermore, out of the University’s writing program a regional literature has emerged: Northern Rivers Gothic.

“The students have a keen engagement with creative activities in the region, and we see it as our responsibility to connect students with literary-industry opportunities,” said Course Coordinator Dr Lynda Hawryluk.

“We are conscious of the need to provide our students with professional training or work experience opportunities to read, write, publish, a publisher/editor, to work in a writing related industry context. We tend develop a professional and collaboration relationship with students and they keep in contact to share their successes and achievements once they have graduated.”

Writing students are engaged in local literary festivals – like the Byron Writers Festival where they contribute to the Festival’s blog and internships in the Festival office. Students work is also showcased in each edition of the BWF magazine Northerly. Students are exposed to the process of submitting their work and gaining editorial feedback, readings and performance competitions, and form their own local writers’ groups. Writing staff also promote opportunities and student achievements through the Writing Program Facebook group, and a ‘Writing Showcase’ on the University’s website.

“Students compete in the Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup, volunteer at the Byron Writers Festival office, and get involved in local writing groups. They really contribute to the cultural capital of the region, and beyond,” Dr Hawryluk said.

“Not unlike the regional literatures of Tasmanian Gothic and Southern Gothic, we think that the Northern Rivers is generating a regional literature, a literature of the Northern Rivers Gothic.”

The work of staff and postgraduate students contributes to the growing catalogue of Northern Rivers Gothic. Included in works of this nature are adjunct lecturer Jesse Blackadder’s (2005) After the party and SCU alumnus Jessie Cole’s Darkness on the edge of town (2012) and Deeper water (2014). PhD and Masters creative-writing theses by Tessa Chudy (2014) and Christine Tondorf (2016) respectively have investigated a NSW North Coast regional noir and Gothic, along with Writing staff.

Read the full paper ‘Ready for work: Education literary professionals in a region’ published in a special Writing and researching (in) the regions edition of TEXT journal.

Media contact: Jessica Nelson 0417288794 or jessica.nelson@scu.edu.au