Because I run my own publishing company, MidnightSun Publishing, I get very little time to write. Attending residencies is the best way for me to get away from the constraints of the business and my busy family life. I have three children at Primary School and often feel compelled to help out and attend events when I am at home, but when I’m physically removed I can no longer do that.
My residency at the KSP Writers’ Centre was a time and a place for me to breathe. A place where I could sit back and stare out of the window and let the ideas come, a place where my own writing could take centre stage. I loved every minute of it! Of course I missed my family and of course I still had to answer gazillions of emails in connection with my publishing business, but mostly my time was spent thinking about my novel, plotting, planning and – yes! – actually writing. I had set the ambitious target of finishing my novel The Song of Glass during my time in Perth. As it turned out, my target was perhaps a little bit too ambitious. I still have one chapter to write but overall I was very happy with the amount and the quality of the writing that came out of the residency. I worked on four different chapters, all written from different points of view and immersing myself in the novel for an extended period of time was exactly what I needed.
I was inspired not only by the chattering birds in the trees outside my window but also by all the amazing people who welcomed me into their writers’ groups, who made me feel at home and were more than happy to share their writing with me. The lovely people in the Thursday Night Group deserve a special mention as they welcomed me with open arms every week. But they certainly weren’t the only ones. All the groups I attended had their own distinct ways of operating and all were happy invite me in. I did some of my best writing alongside the marathon writers.
The fact that the KSP Writers’ Centre is quite inaccessible was mainly an advantage, as I ended up going to the shops for provisions only once a week. On the other hand, the glorious John Forrest National Park is a short walk away and I walked there every day to stretch my legs and enjoy the bush. Kangaroos and kookaburras would greet me as I fought my way through thick spider webs. I find that walking aids thinking and to walk and think for two hours is a luxury I can rarely afford when I’m at home, but at KSP that became my natural routine. My reading also thrived as I’m one of those peole who can walk and read at the same time, which brought out a lot of positive commentry from friendly people along the way. I read eight books in four weeks, which felt incredible. All the books were written by people I know, including Irma Gold, Allayne Webster, Cameron Raynes and Michelle Dicinoski, and afterwards I contacted them all to tell them how much I loved their work.
My month as the Writer-in-Residence at the KSP Writers’ Centre has been one of the most informative, enjoyable and productive months of my life. I wish I could spend a month like this one, writing in solitude in gorgeous surroundings, every year from now on. And I will never stop telling writers to apply. Next time, it might just be their turn.
KSP Writer in Residence
Anna’s Top Ten Tips
Read, read and read some more. It doesn’t matter much if this reading includes interesting articles posted on social media or the classics or both. Just read!
Sometimes the gestation of a story is longer than the gestation of a child. Let it take its time.
Don’t give up! The more rejections you have, the thicker your skin will grow. With five rejected novels in the bottom drawer you are honing your craft and hopefully getting closer to the one that will be picked up.
If you are stuck, put your work away for a while. Apparently Jane Austen put hers away for a year, but even a day or a month might change the way you look at those words on the page.
Connect with your community. Join a writers’ centre or a writers’ group. Listen to what other writers’ are doing and share your own work. This exchange can lead to useful feedback helping you see new things in your writing.
Attend events. Go to book launches and get to know other writers who can one day become your readers. Listen to writers you know of but also those you have never heard of at writers’ festivals.
Apply for everything, including grants and residencies. You never know, one day you might be the lucky one. Your applications will improve over time and so will your chances.
Send your work out widely. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or pin all your hopes on that one perfect poem. When you get a story, a poem or even a novel rejected, send it out again, to a different magazine, competition or publisher. The next reader might love it. All you need is one person advocating for you.
Write every day, if you can. This is one that I really struggle with myself as I am so busy being a publisher and rarely have time to concentrate on my own writing. I still think it’s still a great tip and I urge you all to do it.
Read your work out aloud. Even if you only read it to the cat, reading it aloud will attune you to its cadence and you will hear where it needs tweaking.