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Kathy Sharpe: KSP Has a Quiet Energy

Strange creatures called Woylies, Quendas and Bob Tails.

A place where the cries of black cockatoos call me out of my cabin to look up into the sky. Sometimes before I spot them, I see their shadows pass across the floor of the garden. I look for the flash of burnt orange in their tail feathers. Behind the leaning white trunks of the gum trees, red sunsets blaze, firing up the outline of the cityscape below. Here, there is a sense of separateness. Night falls and the faraway glitter of city lights reminds me that the real world, somewhere out there, is going about its business.

At the beginning of a two week residency at KSP, you feel gifted with all the time in the world. So how can it be over so fast?

Coming from the east coast, the unique beauty of the Perth Hills is as important for me as the work going on inside the cabin. Each day starts with a walk in John Forrest National Park, watching the morning light on the grass-trees and the wallabies resting on the sandy earth, unconcerned by human visitors. Most days little flocks of fairy wrens dance alongside me as I walk, the males dressed proudly in their completely blue suits, so much flashier than their cousins in the east. The high path looks down into rocky gorges and the sky is vast, the air cool before the gathering heat of the day.

KSP has a quiet energy. During my first stay I read ‘Wild Weeds and Windflowers’, an account of Katharine’s life written by her son. The book paints a picture of woman who was intense, uncompromising, a disrupter. She was restless, ambitious and prolific. I wonder if she left something of her spirit here in the old house with its quiet rooms and expansive verandah, and in the garden she loved so much?

There is energy too, in the work going on all around. Writers in their cabins, wrestling with plots and deadlines, the lively discussions of the writers’ groups in the house, the quiet workings of the staff, going about their duties in house and garden. It’s not lost on me that the creation of this undisturbed creative space is the result of hard work. Efforts are focused on respecting the writer’s need for solitude and peace, with the choice of companionship and support when you seek it.

I leave here once again with a stronger sense of the future direction for my entire body of work, and with a clearer road map for my writing once back in the real world. Thank you KSP Writers Centre.

Top ten tips for writing at KSP

  1. If you find yourself procrastinating, consider the work ethic of the native bees in their office outside Clarke window.

  2. If you still find yourself procrastinating, consider the work ethic of Katharine Susannah Pritchard.

  3. Borrow a book from the KSP library. Reflect on the fact that your book will never be in there if you don’t get to work.

  4. Now that you’re ashamed of yourself, draw your story in coloured text on the white board to keep yourself on track

  5. Try to write with confidence even on days when your writing self esteem is low. (Channel bolshie attitude of Katharine Susannah Pritchard)

  6. When you get tired of your own thoughts, join one of the welcoming writing groups up at the house, and hear about the coloured text stories that live in other people’s heads.

  7. Brave the spooky tunnel at John Forrest National Park (best done with a fellow writer and a torch)

  8. Never fail to watch the beautiful WA sunset light in the garden at the end of each day. Take some incredibly disappointing photos of same and then accidentally delete them all anyway.

  9. Take a whole day off to go to Penguin Island - no explanation necessary.

  10. Soak up the unique atmosphere produced by the competing forces of tranquility and energy, the birds, the bees, the trees, the time, the space, the company of Quendas and Woylies and humans with the same purpose as you.

Kathy Sharpe - KSP Fellow, February 2023


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