I spent the last month as writer-in-residence at Katherine Susannah Prichard (KSP) Writers Centre in Greenmount, Western Australia. Over the course of the month I visited many of the writing groups that meet regularly at the centre to critique each other’s work, learn about the craft of writing and produce anthologies. I was struck by the wide range of people that attend these groups and the incredible variety in terms of the work they produce. I particularly enjoyed visiting the children’s writing groups, led by the gorgeous Meg Caddy. The kids had such spontaneity in their approach to writing and weren’t constrained by notions of what ‘writing’ should be like. They were writing stories about space pirates and fatal equine viruses and they were hugely inspiring.
I was the guest of honour at a lovely literary dinner at which I got to meet all the members of the committee and many members of the centre, as well as a fellow writer-in-residence. I read extracts from two of my three published novels, and from my work-in-progress Monkey See. It was really strange to hear them read aloud in such quick succession and really made me realise how very different in tone they are. I also realised that putting so many Spanish names in Monkey See made reading it aloud quite the challenge!
I delivered a workshop on social media for writers, an area of passion for me, which generated lots of lively discussion. One night my son came for a sleepover in the cabin. He drew me a portrait which indicates that apparently I look to him like Freddy Kruger. I guess I need to work on my parenting techniques.
The centre is in a really beautiful setting and I loved watching the sun set and the moon rise over the city skyline in the distance.
Mostly though, I sat at my huge desk in front of my huge window and typed ferociously on my brand new novel – my fifth – a work about depression which I hope will also be funny – a difficult balance to strike. I wrote 23,000 words towards this new book! I was ecstatic with this outcome. I was producing work at four times my usual rate and had my personal best – a day in which I wrote just over 3000 words. It was really exciting to get on such a roll.
The residency was a valuable opportunity to learn some lessons about my writing process. What I learnt is that I can, when I get going, write a lot faster than I usually do. But I can’t sustain this for more than a few weeks. By week 4 I felt like I had fried a circuit in my brain. I had no ideas left and realised I needed some precessing time before I can continue with Self/Help. Instead I used the last week to creep towards the finish line of my fourth novel Monkey See, which is very close to completion (first draft). It was a wonderful and incredibly productive month for me and I’m so grateful to KSP for giving me this opportunity.