The Creative Writing & Research Interviews are a series of interviews with writer-researchers, in celebration of the publication of Researching Creative Writing by Jen Webb.
Niyousha writes: Professor Jeri Kroll is currently Dean of Graduate Research and was formerly Program Coordinator of Creative Writing at Flinders University. She is on the editorial board of Australasian Association of Writing Programs journal TEXT.
This is the first part of this interview.
Can you use six words to tell us a little bit about who you are?
Poet, fiction writer, academic, equestrian, mother, partner.
How did you become interested in the relationship between creative writing and academic research; and how has that relationship played out in your own experience?
I completed a conventional PhD in English at Columbia University but once I was in the academic workforce I wanted to teach creative writing, which I had studied as an undergraduate. I was able to develop general creative writing as well as expository writing courses in my second full-time academic job. Once I moved to Australia, I introduced creative writing (The Craft of Poetry) as the first of its kind at Flinders University in 1979.
Creative Writing as an academic discipline was just developing here and through professional associations and writers’ festivals I met others who were focused on the interface between creativity and research. Given the educational and associated funding structures in Australia, it made sense to try to see how beneficial an academic environment could be for creative writing, especially since both higher education institutions and commonwealth bodies did not accept the notion of ‘research equivalence.’ Out of necessity and debate among academic-writers, teacher-writers, et al (choose your own term) came a surprising rush of ideas about the multifarious relationships that could be established between creative artifacts (in a variety of modes) and research imperatives.
The Australasian Association of Writing Programs (founded in 1996) and its new journal TEXT: Journal of Writers and Writing Courses became a terrific support for everyone working in the field as they explored the possibilities for individual and postgraduate research projects. I owe a lot to conversations with generous colleagues around Australasia.
I designed the doctorate in creative writing at Flinders and supervised the first graduate. That in itself was a learning experience because I had to articulate to colleagues in conventional disciplines how creative work could be more than practice and, indeed, how many forms creative research could take.
In fact, this necessary discourse with non-practitioners forced me to interrogate my own methodology and to discover aspects of my creative practice that I might otherwise have overlooked. Conceiving of creative projects as research encourages a broader perspective, since writers in academia have to consider in what way they might be contributions to knowledge or culture.
On a personal level, I have to ask: why should what I create and interrogate critically matter to anyone else? What benefit might they derive? The same questions have to be posed by my research higher degree students. They have to come to the conclusion that research embedded in creative practice can enrich rather than restrict them.
This is the first of two segments in the interview with Jeri Kroll. In the next segment, Kroll discusses what her creative process and shares writing advice.