top of page

Michelle Stephens: KSP Writers’ Centre has provided me with enough light for my return journey

Midway through my stay, I reach an impasse in my work.

My usual solution for unravelling any plot-knot is to walk it out. To pull on my runners, leave my screen behind, and head outside in search of a different perspective that might help me find a new way forward.

A quick google search of Greenmount draws me a route—a forty minute bushwalk to the historic Swan View Railway Tunnel—through quiet bushland and state forest. I see no one as I walk. There’s only me and a rowdy bunch of red-tailed black cockatoos following the track today. The walk leads me deep into John Forrest National Park where the colour of the red rocks and bright sky are saturated to unnaturally vivid levels.

Ahead, I find a woman. She’s sitting on a camp chair with a cup of tea, like she’s been waiting for me to arrive. ‘Do you want a light?’ she asks. I take the torch she offers, and she waves me on without another word.

A rocky gorge rises on either side to funnel me forward before the tunnel appears—a low, dark archway bordered by bluestone. I shine the torch into the void and enter. It is cold and damp and dark inside, only a distant pinprick of daylight visible at the far end. I tread hesitantly. The ground uneven beneath my feet. Rocks and gravel and potholed puddles threaten to bring me undone with each step. It is only the torch the woman offered which lights the way and stops me from stumbling. I trail my hands over the smooth stone walls, trying to make sense of the unknown space stretching before me. I don’t rush through the quiet. I take my time. Unhurried. Feeling my way in different directions. It is only when I emerge out the other end that I realise my plot-knot has somehow untangled. That I now know where to head next.

I return down the tunnel, more certain this time. Hand the torch back to the woman, with thanks, because I no longer need it. KSP Writers’ Centre has provided me with enough light for my return journey, offering a similar chance to safely explore the unknown spaces that exist in my work. Granting me the gift of time and space and quiet, so I can grow more certain of my footing there too.



1.     Take this opportunity to lean into the absence of a television. Retreat is a great time to catch up on all those author talks, festival videos and writing podcasts you have saved and bookmarked on your devices. There will never be a better time to fully immerse yourself in the writing life.

2.     On retreat you will spend lots of time sitting at your desk, balance that out by making use of the yoga mat in your cabin. A ten-minute stretch between sessions will do wonders for your ability to stay in the seat.

3.     On a related vein, pack your runners. A quick walk is a great way to change your focus and find solutions to any stubborn plot niggles. There are national parks tracks and beautiful bushland within easy walking distance of KSPWC.

4.     Embrace the regularity of your days. Wake, stretch, eat, write, walk, eat, write, rest. Rinse and repeat. A routine can be restorative, not boring.

5.     Real life can still intrude, despite the best laid plans. Deal with those things in the first thirty minutes of your day and then give yourself permission to forget about them for the remainder.

6.     Read all the writing advice and author tips you like, but only take from them the things that work for you. Because none of them specifically relate to the writing of your book, in your way—you’re the only one who knows how to do that.

7. Share your writing successes and disappointments. The writing community is amazingly supportive and can understand these things in a way that the non-writers in your life possibly can’t. The support of fellow writers can help you find a way through the tough times and be the wind beneath your wings for your triumphs.

8.     Don’t feel bad if you want to spend all your time on retreat writing, reading and dreaming, instead of cooking. A week of microwaveable meals won’t give you scurvy and the world won’t fall apart because you’ve chosen to prioritise the things that really matter to you for the duration of your stay.

9.     Pack enough snacks to see you through the week and be prepared to keep your chocolate stash in the fridge—it can get rather warm in WA.

10.  At the end of your workday, head outside to watch the sun sink through the trees and to come together with your fellow retreat attendees. A cheeky glass of wine as you all debrief on your progress (and problems), will help fuel and inspire you for your next writing session just as much as a good night’s sleep.

Michelle Stephens - KSP Flash Fellow, February 2024


Recent Posts

bottom of page