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Posts tagged ‘writer-in-residence’

You’re a writer, you can dash something off

During the last month while I’ve been Established Writer-in-Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Perth, I’ve discussed craft and lifestyle issues with writers working in many different fields. One experience we all have trouble with is when non writers assume that because your job is to put words together, you can do it at the drop of a hat.

Birthday cards and get-well cards are the most trying

We might not even know the person the card is intended for. Yet we’re still expected to come up with something witty to make the card sparkle.

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Get well or not, it’s all up to you.

Um…no. “Just dash something off.”  

Susan O’Brien, a delightful and talented poet I met at Poets@KSP, said she was also told, “It doesn’t matter if the poem doesn’t rhyme.” The person asking had no idea what kind of poetry Susan writes. Didn’t matter. Just dash something off. It’s not that we don’t want to help, but it’s as difficult as anyone else would have demonstrating their trade on a whim.

Would you approach a doctor at a social gathering

and request a note for your employer?

It doesn’t matter if I’m sick or not, just dash something off. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Yet writers are constantly asked to supply original words to suit any occasion. “Don’t spend any time on it, whatever you do will be fine.” Would that our editors were equally agreeable.

Just call me Hallmark

More often than not, I agonise over words, reaching for exactly the right phrases to capture a thought or feeling. Or strive to describe a character’s situation so vividly that a reader lives it, rather than reading about it. It’s not unusual for writers to read over the previous day’s work, delete the lot of it and start again.

When I wrote my first novels, I was still a freelance writer of non fiction books and articles. Yet I managed to write five books over two years. When I decided to write novels exclusively, I looked forward to seeing my output soar. Guess what? I still wrote two to three novels a year. By then I’d used up all the plots I’d carried around in my head, and much of my own experiences. And my expectations for myself had risen.

The writing gets harder, not easier as you demand more of yourself

The act of putting the words together was less scary because I knew I could do it. But what was I to write about? The terror of the blank screen or page haunts every writer I know. I believe we write to see IF we can do it. Every book is a first book. New challenges, new pitfalls.

Roses are red, violets are…azure, beryl, cerulean, cobalt, indigo, navy, royal, sapphire, teal, turquoise, ultramarine

Nope, no dashing off happening here. What about you?


Established Writer in Residence, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Perth

And dashing posts off on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook


Finding your tribe, why it’s vital to writers

Okay, writing isn’t the only solitary occupation. Train driving is also lonely – but you don’t have to first invent the train.

I’m writing this from the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in Perth, Western Australia, where I’m their Established Writer-in-Residence for four weeks. The centre is the oldest of its kind in Australia and is set in the green hills behind Perth. My cottage is surrounded by bushy garden, a few minutes from the main house.  As this is my first experience as a writer-in-residence, I didn’t expect to feel so completely at home within minutes of getting here.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I was among my ‘tribe’

Anyone who has attended a writing conference will know what I mean. You may never have set eyes on these people before but you feel an instant kinship with them. They “get” what you’re about. If you talk about killing someone, they don’t call the police. They know you mean in your fiction. (At least we hope!)

They don’t look at you sideways when you mention writing 500 words in a day, because they know it’s progress on the day before when you wrote none.

They also understand that writing words is the most important thing in your life after your family. Well maybe equal with.

And that’s okay too.

It’s great to fit in

They don’t feel slighted if you break off in mid-conversation to write something down so you won’t forget it. They’ve been there and done that.

They completely understand why you’re still in your jammies at 4pm

Far from making you a slacker and a slob, it means you had other priorities, most of them to do with writing.

They also understand the meaning of a “good rejection.” No other profession gets so excited when a publisher turns you down, but with encouraging comments about your work.  We know how much that means.

Settling in to this place dedicated to writers and writing was practically instant. I love that my accommodation has a huge desk under a window, with a view all the way to the Perth skyline. That’s inspiration for you. And that it has a proper office chair so I can spend as long as I want writing without killing my back.

The cottage also came with a basket of goodies including Lindt blueberry chocolate, Ferrer Rocher chocolates, fresh dates (are we sensing a theme here?) and wonderful fruit teas.

All they ask in return is that I write and talk about writing

During my stay I’ll complete my own project, give a workshop, read my work at a literary dinner, and talk about books at a breakfast open to the public. Many writing groups meet at the centre and I want to visit as many as I can. I started with a poetry group and loved every minute, even though poetry isn’t my thing. Hey, it’s writing and they’re writers, what more do I need?

Where is your tribe? At a particular place? Perhaps online? How did you find them and what do they mean to you?

To me? Everything.


In residence at

on Twitter @valerieparv

and Facebook



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