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Mark Keenan: 'Choose to be a writer. Make it yours.'

Mark Keenan stayed at KSP Writers' Centre as a First Edition Writer-in-Residence in March 2022.

Staying at KSP Writers Centre is magical. Maybe the house and the cabin have mystical powers. Or the grounds, the trees, the garden beds. Perhaps, it’s the bees. Or it could be staying at KSP simply opens you up to the power you are carrying inside when you arrive.

I have stayed in the cabins before. Worked away at my words, at me, at the mystery of writing. But this was my first time attending KSP on an organised retreat. Three days of workshops, facilitated by Laurie Steed, as part of the Emerging Writers Program, supported by KSP, Fremantle Press, and the DLGSC.

It was the perfect way to enter my new project, a memoir; about alcoholism, and my experience with it.

Coincidentally, starting the retreat on the eighth anniversary of my sobriety, I got to share my dreams for the project with Laurie, and two other incredible writers, Emma Pigniatello and Nadine Browne. We talked about what I wanted to get from the project, what I hoped others might gain, and how I might approach that.

We looked at character, the centre of all good storytelling, and plot and structure. We reviewed approaches to editing and rewriting.

And we considered how to be kind to ourselves as we share our words. Because that’s what writing is about, isn’t it? Sharing of stories, ideas, truths.

And I look forward to sharing mine, as a gift, to myself and hopefully others, through this Emerging Writers Program.

Mark’s Top Ten Tips for Writing and Life (current as at 26 March 2022):

1. Act well, without attachment to outcomes.

2. Write first drafts without boundaries. Start without a plan and listen to what your characters want to say.

3. Get out in nature. There is no personal crisis, character block, or plot confusion which cannot be helped by spending time with trees.

4. Move. If you can run, run. If you can’t, walk. If you can’t walk, find another way to exercise and shift your body.

5. When you experience something which bothers you, notice how it makes you feel and ask yourself why it upsets you.

6. Treat everyone, including yourself, with kindness. Always.

7. The drivers behind human behaviours is complex – in real life, and in fiction, ask yourself, ‘what happened to them?’

8. Routines are great. Routinely change them.

9. If you can’t get out in the trees, showers are also pretty good.

10. Choose to be a writer. Make it yours. Own it. Say it loud and often, ‘I am a writer.’

~ Mark Keenan 2022


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