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A Cabin, a Cat and a Ghost (or two)

What better way to start a report than with a confession: although I hoped to be deliriously productive during my KSP Fellowship, I was happy just to escape my absurdly hectic (and noisy) household. The good news is I managed both.

I was awarded a KSP Fellowship to work on the second act of my full-length play, Leaving. I had hoped to have a decent first draft in hand when I arrived at KSP on 26 March but, alas, things often don’t go to plan; in fact, I could write a play on the obstacles and pitfalls that reared their ugly heads in the weeks before my departure – it would make a good tragicomedy. The challenge was not to let the shift in the starting line affect my productivity at KSP – for me, much of writing (and occasionally the lack thereof) is a head game.

Confession #2: I hadn’t done much research on KSP in the lead-up to my trip. As an over-thinker (a natural state after so many years of philosophy), I didn’t want to wrestle preconceptions on arrival. A mantra resurfaced in the back of my mind from a ‘70s EST workshop that I was roped into by a well-meaning friend: Just ‘be’ in the moment. Easier said than done for someone whose brain doesn’t have an off switch.

Without doubt, the joy and meaning bestowed by the KSP Fellowship – and that is the perfect word – came from the ‘gift’ of time and space. Aldridge was my Tardis (it actually is much bigger than it looks) and within its four walls I travelled many places, some new (peace and quiet) and inspiring (a virtual fountain of ideas), others confronting (what if everything I’ve written is drivel) and occasionally scary (why am I even doing this). Thankfully, the good guys won.

The simple life, so to speak, came at the right time. To have no demands placed on me, no one in my ear, no background noise, no surly teenagers to distract me took some time to get used to. As a master procrastinator (though I prefer to use the term creative deferral), I was surprised by how easily I fell into a productive routine.

On the first morning of my Fellowship, I enjoyed a tête-à-tête with mentor Suzanne Ingelbrecht, a Perth-based playwright, director and producer, who provided dramaturgical input on another work (a monologue project) as the second act of Leaving had stubbornly refused to find its way to the keyboard. In the one-hour session, Suzanne and I discussed what worked in my script and areas that needed further work. It was a very productive experience, with Suzanne’s thorough and insightful analysis shedding light on the way forward. My FFs (fellow Fellows), Paul Garrety and Stella Glorie, also provided valuable feedback on my work; in fact, I couldn’t ask for a better brains trust as I benefitted from their friendliness, humour, generosity of time and support. I’m currently in the process of reworking the monologues as part of a holistic work. It’s been slow going (refer to earlier comment on surly teenagers; interestingly, one of the teens just read this draft and offered to write a piece about surly mums … I told them I didn’t realise they liked writing fiction ;-)

I won’t write at length about Katharine, as others have so eloquently described her presence, which is felt throughout the property. Her legacy is preserved with the utmost care and respect but I felt her presence most as a gentle nudge to keep going, a reassurance that I was meant to be there, that I had something worthwhile to say, that I was on the right track. I think that is the magic of a KSP Fellowship – like a well-worn jumper it is soft to the touch, taking the shape of the person who wears it, each stitch woven with memories and experiences that comfort and inspire. It is anything and everything you want it to be.

The good thing about the KSP Fellowship is that you’re in the driver’s seat – you have only your conscience (and wallet) to answer to. The KSP Writers' Centre beckons if you are so inclined, offering an impressive range of activities. I’ve attended many writing workshops over recent years and what I enjoyed most about KSP is its utter lack of pretentiousness. The local writers are down-to-earth, dedicated to their craft and welcoming. The homestead exudes character and is showing its age in places but that’s a good thing; each crack tells a story of a life well lived.

Opportunities extend beyond KSP. If you want to flex your leg and literary muscles, there are easy walks nearby and scenery galore only a short drive away. I had never been to Perth so I had my mind set on the city, beach and Rottnest Island. I could have easily justified it – a reward for being deliriously productive. But my past experience told me: R&R + happy hour = mojo lost. I focused on my work instead, even reading my new children’s picture book, The Trouble in Tune Town (shameless plug) at the KSP (Boya) Library down the road, a most impressive space run by a team of friendly and enthusiastic staff.

Then there’s the cat – the cat that appears when you need it most. The cat that will be anything you want it to be: friend, playmate, laughing stock, distraction, guardian. The cat that moves without sound, that doesn’t appear to eat yet is never hungry, that walks and rolls over but doesn’t run or climb. If I left my door open, I suspect it would have quickly made itself at home, but no amount of antihistamines was going to let that happen.

Be prepared for some funky sounds. In my cabin it was the aircon (I think), occasionally the fridge. I’m a city girl at heart (wonder years courtesy of the Bronx) so noise is often comforting, a reminder that I’m not alone. But there were many nights where the sounds definitely came from outside the cabin. And sometimes there were multiple ones coming from opposite directions. Was it the wind? Or one of the resident magpies? A payback from the cat? A polite chiding from Katharine to lay off the Tempranillo? A cruel joke by my FFs?

If you find out, please tell me.

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