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Writing Program Offers Limitless Opportunities

By Geoff Noseworthy
Special to the Gazette
Thursday, July 24, 2008


Looking for something to complement your BA this fall? Memorial’s diploma in professional writing lets you work with professional writers and like-minded peers in both a classroom and a professional setting.

Théa Morash, who graduated with a BA in 2002, became interested in the program to learn more about editing.

“I have experience in academic and fiction writing, but I’m a born proofreader, and the world of editing appealed to my stickler nature, as well as to my overall love of words,” said Ms. Morash, an established writer from the Goulds.
But she found the program offered a lot more.

“As I progressed through the courses I realized that I shouldn’t limit myself to editing, when I enjoy the writing process a great deal too.”

The diploma in professional writing is offered through the Department of English. It is comprised of six courses and an instructional work placement, part of which sees students attend seminars and exchange responses on Facebook, guided by a field placement instructor.

Prof. Jean Guthrie is the program’s co-ordinator. She noted that the benefits of this diploma aren’t restricted to arts students.

“Originally diplomas in the Faculty of Arts were conceived to serve students who were looking for some professional education with the BA,” said Prof. Guthrie.
“But now students in any program, or indeed people without degrees, may apply.”

The program also provides more than just a piece of paper to hang on your wall.

With professional writers mentoring the students, a writing community is formed in which students can feel comfortable. As for the work placement, it takes the students out of the classroom and into a professional work setting.

“It provides a professional context where students can extend the skills developed during their course work: identifying questions and stories to explore; focusing, drafting, revising and editing their own work; responding constructively to the work of others; and at the same time learning, with guidance, the structures and practices of a workplace,” said Prof. Guthrie.

The first group of students completed their work placements in June after working in a variety of areas, including Breakwater Books, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, Bristol, and Memorial.

Ms. Morash’s work placement has yielded early results.

“In my first week of work with CBC Radio, I pitched a story, researched the issue (homophobia in the province’s schools), arranged interviews, and prepared a piece for broadcast. It aired the Saturday following the first week of my placement, on Weekend Arts Magazine with Angela Antle.”

For Ms. Morash, the work placement proved worthwhile.

“I was working in a field and a medium that I had been keenly interested in for years; it was extremely satisfying.”

The placements have been worthwhile to employers as well.

Annamarie Beckel, editor at Breakwater Books, said that having students placed with the publishing company has been a positive experience.

“Initially, Breakwater Books was a little hesitant to take on student interns because it’s a very busy time of year for us. The internship program, however, has worked out wonderfully for both Breakwater and for the students.”

Ms. Beckel said that the students – David Weir, Karen Pittman, and Alana MacIsaac – are involved in every aspect of publishing, from reviewing new submissions to the launch of a published book to marketing.

Prof. Guthrie has to evaluate what is next for the program. There have been plenty of suggestions from the writers who have taught courses. And Prof.
Guthrie has her own views on where she sees things going.

“I’d like to see more workshop courses with different emphases: writing about the environment, or activist writing, for example, so that as numbers build, there will be more choices for students.”

With her work placement almost over, Ms. Morash already has a plan for the rest of the summer.

“My success in the program has already opened up freelance job opportunities at newspapers in the city, and I haven’t finished the diploma yet.”

Students interested in applying to the program for fall 2008 should submit their portfolios no later than July 31. For more information visit www.mun.ca/english/diplomas.

Geoff Noseworthy is an intern with the diploma in professional writing program.

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