Catherine Padmore - novelist and academic
I came to Deakin in 1998 to begin a PhD in creative writing (split between novel and exegesis) and started with a blank page.
The novel had been gestating for a while and evolved through a number of drafts, so I was keen to get my teeth into the next version. It was to be the story of a modern-day sibyl, the oracle figure in Greek and Roman mythology.
The exegesis was more difficult - in my first year I played with options, but none seemed right. Each was a project in itself rather than being intimately linked to the novel. Prompted by a conference paper to investigate the mythology of the sibyl I realised that should be my focus. The PhD became two companion texts, both looking at the sibyl in different ways: one through the lens of fiction, the other wearing my theoretical glasses.
My candidature had a few hurdles - one year in I moved to Sydney for my partner's work and had to change supervisors when my original one left. While all this caused a bit of upheaval it came with benefits too: I got to live on the Hawkesbury island where my novel is set, discovered Deakin's wonderful off-campus library service (they couriered books back and forward for me!), and learnt from different supervisors' approaches to the process.
It was a wondrous luxury to work on the project for three years, with experienced writers and editors reading it closely and providing input. Regular postgraduate seminars gave me a community of readers and writers, too, which balanced out the necessary solitude of the writing life. My PhD was also great professional training for when the novel came to be published - I'd been "house-trained" and had learnt to relish the editorial process.
Now I'm applying these skills to my second novel (twenty thousands words into a first draft) and teaching fiction writing at La Trobe University.