Molly Schmidt: KSP is a Place That Makes Dreams Come True
It all began in the Aldridge cabin, 2019.
I had a one-kilogram tub of hummus in the fridge, Sicilian olives marinated by my then lover’s Nonno, carrot sticks and a few bottles of dark German beer. It was summer and I was wearing a black and white silk chequered shirt that once belonged to a friend’s dad. I had never done anything like this before – spend a week dedicated to my writing. In allowing myself the time and the opportunity, I was truly staring my dreams in the face.
I’d never been big on using whiteboards, but the one that hangs on the wall of the Aldridge cabin changed everything. With the flexibility of erasing my thoughts, I poured my heart out on the melamine. In a bubble in the centre, I wrote Boat Dancing, the working title of a book I’d been carrying about in my head and heart since I was sixteen years old. I surrounded the title with the characters who lived within me, Rose and Frank Tetley, their dad, Eddie, their beloved mum, Elena. And then I wrote another bubble. It said Noongar characters? That bubble, with the big question mark, went on to become the question at the heart of a thesis that I undertook at Curtin University and planned during that first stay at KSP.
Supervised by Professor Kim Scott and Doctor Brett D’Arcy, I spent two years writing a thesis on how, as a non-Aboriginal writer, I could write a story that included Noongar characters without straying into cultural appropriation, misrepresentation or stereotyping. I undertook this research because during that first stay in Aldridge cabin, I realised I couldn’t finish Boat Dancing because I felt uncomfortable that as a WA writer I’d been writing a book based on Menang and Goreng Noongar Country (in the Great Southern) and hadn’t referred to these people or their culture for fear of “getting it wrong”. I made a promise to myself in Aldridge cabin in 2019 to do my absolute best to “get it right”. That looked like years of consulting with Noongar Elders, countless trips up and down Albany Highway, a lot of reading the WA authors who had come before me, and two newly purchased whiteboards.
Fast forward to my final stay at KSP in February of 2023 and I had the absolute privilege of concluding this project between the walls of the Clarke cabin. I found the same solace, energy and purpose that Aldridge had offered me on two previous occasions. There were olives in my fridge again (this time just from Woolies, but still delicious), beer and mangoes. It’s important to have the necessities when writing, and they are mine. In 2022, Boat Dancing became Salt River Road, and Salt River Road won the City of Fremantle Hungerford award, winning publication with Fremantle Press.
In 2023, in my final stay at KSP, I made the final changes to Salt River Road and sent it back to Fremantle Press, ready to be typeset and printed. I thought back to 2019, staring my dreams in the face, and how I’d written FREMANTLE PRESS on the whiteboard. A girl can dream, I’d thought. This girl did dream, and I am here to tell you KSP is a place that makes dreams come true.
TOP TEN TIPS:
1. Let yourself dream
2. Talk to your characters. Yes, out loud.
3. Use the whiteboard
4. Forget time. Write when you want to. Sleep when you need to. Drink coffee at night and (a little) wine in the morning.
5. Go for walks
6. Read your work in different places. From the armchair to the bed to the desk to outside in the sun. It hits different, in different light.
7. Let your intuition guide you. By this I mean – when you want to talk to the other guests, do. Ask them about their writing, their process, their journey. When you want to close the door and go inwards, do. Relish the time that can be purely yours.
8. Take a break from social media. This time is precious
9. Get a massage. You deserve it. There are some great places nearby.
10. Did I mention the whiteboard? It changed my entire process. Use it.
Molly Schmidt, KSP 1st Edition Fellow - February 2023