I never knew the deafening sound of silence until arriving at Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers' Centre to complete a two-week residency as a First Edition Fellow. My ears have somehow adapted over the years to the dog barking, the electric guitar at full throttle, the theme tune of friends blaring – all at the same time. They’ve acclimatised to life’s madness that loudly whirrs along. I’ve learned to work anytime, anyplace, anywhere, pushing the noise into a background hum. Yet there I was, thrown into a new universe where bedlam no longer existed. In a place where there were no distractions. Just me, my cabin, and the silence … joined only by the precious gift of time.
The wooden cabin became my new home. The oversized desk had my name all over it and who am I to ignore that kind of magnetism? Warm and enticing, this was first class all the way, with a ridiculously comfy armchair and perfect tea-making facilities (Yes, I am British and love tea!). What a wonderful leafy view from my window too. The cabin consumed me whole. I settled down for the long-haul and hoped I had enough fuel to go the distance. I wrote up my goals on the whiteboard and powered up the laptop. My fingers hovered for a while as my brain tried to find it’s muse in the beauty of the moment, but it was lost beneath the silence. I sat for a good couple of hours, ignoring the novel I had every intent of working on, and simply enjoyed watching the magpies outside of my window. Then a poem popped out. Feverish, rambling, nonsense about the ringing in my ears of silence.
about free time
that was sublime
That was how my fellowship started. The ink flowed into a small collection of poems. The novel word count grew with the addition of wonderful new phrases and then diminished again as the old words screamed, ‘Mayday’, and parachuted into my own brutal slush pile. Killing Your Darlings is always an interesting experience. My whiteboard filled up with outputs and ideas. A whole plot tangle unravelled itself as I mapped it out on this wonderful blank canvas with colourful markers. I gazed at that beautiful whiteboard so many times, seeking inspiration on which twist or turn to take. The whiteboard was my muse.
I wrote until another fellow knocked to invite me for dinner and a glass of red in the main house. Of course, I had a lovely block of cheese in my fridge that was just perfect for the impromptu occasion. Dinner with other fellows was one of the nicest aspects of the retreat. It was always a riot. Pot luck meals shared with the two wonderful fellow writers staying in the cabins next door. Gourmet tip of the week – Chicken curry eaten after drinking the after-dinner Amarula is YUM! The chat was just as rich as our cooking. How to knock someone off with the right concoction of drugs. Why plastic plants are the bug bear of society. Areas where politicians struggle with parallel parking. That sort of thing.
Some days I didn’t get showered and dressed until just before dinner:
and best of all, I didn’t feel guilty.
Before arriving, I had made a pact with myself to embrace every moment of the retreat, so I attended four KSP workshops, two during the day with my old writing group, and two in the evening. I was made to feel most welcome as I tested out a new poetry slam piece for the first time. It was so wonderful to hear the different artistic forms other writers adopt in these groups. I found my routine, which was that I had no routine. There were no lunchboxes to make and no daily commute to tackle. The only commitments I had were a few events I had scheduled in to promote my new book release. A few being two poetry open mic events (one as a feature act), an art exhibition where I had a poem on display, a friend’s book launch, a school author talk about bullying and resilience, a student collaboration meeting, two libraries, six bookstores, one podcast, a studio interview at ABC and a partridge (nope, a magpie) in a garden tree.
Every event I attended and conversation I had gave me another boost, adding fuel to the soul to continue along the path of being a writer. I learned so much about the written and spoken word, I was inspired to set up a face group community called Words Worth during my stay, with the intent of creating a collaborative space for people to challenge the world and social injustice through words. This has resulted in me receiving an AusMumpreneur nomination for an Influencer Award and Making a Difference Award.
From a productivity perspective, the ability to spend 100% of my time dedicated to writing and all things literary was gold. I managed to edit one novel end-to-end in less than two weeks, something that would have taken me three to six months in the sphere of my normal day. The editing process was enhanced by a fantastic one-to-one mentoring session with author Annabel Smith, who shone a new perspective on my work for which I will be eternally grateful. I also worked extensively on a second novel still in early draft, and produced multiple poems which will form the basis of a new book.
Inspiration came thick and fast. The Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre is steeped in literary history and surrounded by nature. A poetry book borrowed from the beautifully stocked KSP library, written by Dorothy Hewitt, was just the ticket to unwind with just before bed. The birds that chirped on my windowsill beat any high-tech alarm clock on the market. In between, my insomnia, just like me, took a holiday.
If I can leave one tip for future residents benefiting from a KSP retreat, it would be to immerse yourself entirely in the experience. Fuel for the soul indeed.