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Lisa Collyer: You Get Very Spoiled at Katharine's

(But) I missed my kitten!

I arrived at Katharine’s exhausted. It’s been a big year: the excitement of being short-listed for The Dorothy Hewett Award, the disappointment of not winning, and now the difficult journey of pitching to publishers, and so, it was a welcome retreat to shut myself away in a cabin where I could get on with it quietly. I had nothing to do except read and write. Everything else was optional.

I read A LOT. I brought two crates of books with me. These included large botanical books and field guides for my writing workshop, Floral Bodies but it also included lots of poetry books that I hadn’t yet had time to read. Additionally, the discovery of KSP library was a bonus. I own lots of poetry books and borrow from the public library’s slim pickings, but having access to four shelves, including tomes I hadn’t been able to obtain, was success. I read voraciously and wrote poems that riffed off Kinsella, Kent, Hewett, Potter and Maria Dhavana Headley’s, feminist translation of Beowulf.

I wrote poetry daily. There is a subconscious pressure to achieve more output when on residency. In my case, I didn’t have to tend to my vegie garden or walk the cat. Although, I did miss my kitten, her purr, the soundtrack to my verse.

The first and second week were like two different retreats. The first week was a holiday from obligations at home: writing, bushwalking, exercising, eating good food and getting to know my fellow writer-in-residence, Katie Hale. Talking to Katie about overseas publishers and journals really expanded my strategy about where I was pitching for publication. The second week, I lost my voice (ironically) and came down with bronchitis, which was a downer and although stopped my ability to exercise, socialise and drink wine, I was still able to read and write.

It all felt very indulgent. You get very spoiled at Katharine’s. Sofija, Sheree, Mardi, and everyone I met were so accommodating and welcoming. There is a resort feel at Katharine’s and we were the V.I.Ps, without the pool (although, there was one up the road): a secluded cabin on a bush property, wild bees, and lovely treats prepared by Sofija. The retreat at Katharine’s was healing balm. I enjoyed sitting in the sunshine reading books and drinking plunger coffee before returning to my cosy cabin to write poetry.

Pictured: KSP Poetry Writing Group My top ten tips. Nice alliteration!

1. Relax. We often arrive tired. I wrote on the board, that I didn’t have to be always productive. Psychologically, this took the pressure off, and I managed to be quite prolific because of it.

2. Organise. Prepare your workshop beforehand. I did this so, I could focus entirely on my creative input and output, without having to spend a lot of time preparing hand-outs and workshop objectives.

3. Exercise. Go bushwalking. Movement is the best way I know to get the words flowing. It really is a wonderful opportunity to get out of the suburbs and into the natural bushland. Spring was particularly wonderful, with wildflowers abundant and kangaroos sunning themselves. Although one growled at me!

4. Eat well. Treat your body and health as important to your creative output. Use the kitchen to cook up yummy, fresh food. Feel light and springy, then treat yourself to some wine or chocolate after a hard day’s output.

5. Read. Use the library. Bring your own books. Indulge in the reclining chair and allow yourself to be inspired. I found many books I read, lead to inspiration for poems.

6. Party. I went out on a few nights out. Hemingway’s (Mundaring) on a Tuesday night has live jazz and cocktails. I saw a show at the Quarry Ampitheatre and went for dinner with my husband and a picnic with my family. We can’t work all the time and writing is work. Have fun. Stay connected.

7. Play. Art should be playful. Enjoy it. Do silly things. Set yourself challenges. Then find creative ways of achieving them. e.g. How can I project agency in three different ways? Turn your poem upside down. Use only one sense, typically not sight. Do something you don’t usually do.

8. Believe in your art. If you don’t nobody else will. You may not be at the stage you hope to be, but art is creative expression and what you are doing is important and will develop. Believe in what you are trying to achieve and never apologise for it.

9. Take risks. Push at the boundaries. Art should disrupt the accepted beliefs of the day, or else what’s the point? Find your own voice. Not everyone will like it, but some will, and that’s okay.

10. Be Fearless. I always think, I have nothing to lose. Whether it’s applying for a residency or competition or publication or spending my days writing. If you achieve what you set out to do, it’s a bonus, and if you don’t, you haven’t lost anything. Lisa Collyer - KSP Invited Writer-in-Residence 2022


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