On My Final Semester

This post is a requirement for one of my classes. In it, I briefly reflect on my last semester of study and look ahead to the future (masking my fears with gratuitous Game of Thrones references as I go). I’ve also written a more honest and comprehensive assessment of my future prospects and last few years of study, but haven’t the stones to post it yet.

* * *

Sometimes it feels like I’m in the Game of Thrones universe. A sense of foreboding has gathered all semester. Winter is coming! Not literally, of course – here in the southern hemisphere we’ve closed the door on that detestable season – though my apprehension about the future is certainly comparable to the sun-loving Lannisters’ fear of the cold.

Winter-Is-Coming-frozen-37077348-500-500In a few short weeks, I’ll be out there beyond the wall[s of NMIT]. Reactions around me are mixed: some students anticipate the transition, others dread it. I don’t wish to overstate, but the occasion feels momentous. It’s finally time to shake off any lingering man-child tendencies, apply what I’ve learnt over the last four years of study and embrace what could cutely (and reductively) be called the next chapter of my life. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the next few months. What will I do? How will I get by? Will Daenerys and that guy that looks like Ronan Keating act upon their sexual tension? One hopes I’ll secure employment quickly, and not require any government support (what Justin Heazlewood calls ‘the fortnightly arts grant’).

Fortunately, this semester has been all about building confidence and developing the necessary skills to re-enter the workforce. It’s best, then, to be optimistic. My peers and teachers have expressed belief in me. They’re confident I have the capacity to succeed in this industry, so I should really start backing myself.

My views on the publishing industry haven’t changed too dramatically this semester, though it’s been helpful having the importance of networking and professional conduct reaffirmed. My favourite class this semester – despite all the ghastly role-playing and public speaking – was Tender and Pitch, as its lectures and assessments had obvious real-world application. There’s clear merit in learning how to write effective cover letters, present well in interviews, and research and apply for grants. I’ve no doubt this knowledge will serve me in the future. (In Game of Thrones terms, Tender and Pitch was like sword training.)

* * *

A few stray thoughts: Over the semester, my lecturer, Rose Michael, urged us not to regard publishing personnel as the enemy. I appreciated this as, to date, the course had markedly favoured self-publishing, (which is cool, but I perceived a subtext: some lecturers obviously believed traditional publishing was antiquated, and wanted us to think of agents/editors/publishers as opponents who are only out to ride trends and line pockets). There’s a misconception that publishers are out to exploit, homogenise or squash authors’ voices. In reality, most are just doing the best they can in a difficult economic climate.

The industry has undergone massive changes over the last five years, making this a very interesting time to study. All semester, Rose provided great insight into the current working practises of publishers. She did this to help us understand exactly what happens when our work emerges at the other end of the pipeline. She was refreshingly real with us and I feel fortunate to have had her as a lecturer. I’ve learnt a lot about how to effectively market my work and consequently look forward to shopping my manuscript around next year. Like the Mother of Dragons, I’m quietly optimistic about the future.

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2 thoughts on “On My Final Semester

  1. Tom I can’t believe you’re at the end of your program, congratulations! It seems like just yesterday that I first discovered your refreshing sense of humour and admirable honesty regarding the writing school process. I can’t believe four years have passed and you’ve grown so much as a writer. The breadth and depth of your writing is astounding. I’ve never met someone who could write non-fiction in the same engaging manner as fiction, it’s a very difficult skill to master. Yet I fully enjoyed your interview pieces, your school reflection posts and your short stories. You’ve proven to all of us that you’re not only prepared for this industry, but you have a lot to offer in terms of the content you bring. I know you will do well out there and that many talented agents and publishers will be fighting over you. But while they’re all re-enacting the red wedding, I want you to never forget your ironbor—I mean, your true writing heritage. I want you to always consider why you began writing and what stories you endeavour to tell, because that’s why we’re all here on this blog my friend. You have the stories we’re excited to read! 🙂

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