As of Monday, I start a two-week residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre. I’ll be away from my home and family, tucked up in a little cabin, where I’ll be pounding away at Ghost Tracks and a bunch of stories for my untitled-horror-stories-set-throughout-Western-Australian-history thing I’ve been chipping away at for god knows how long. I’ll also be delivering a public talk and a workshop, mentoring an aspiring novelist, and attending a literary dinner at the Centre– I’ll post an itinerary so you can join me in the general merry wassailing and biscuits.
For the moment, however, I thought it would be timely to visit some of the other writing destinations that have housed me over the last 16 years, and provided me with an opportunity to do something other than sit alone, in a room,
crying tapping out silly things on my keyboard.
Five for Friday: Writing Homes
THE KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD WRITERS CENTRE
My first, and foremost, writing home. Yes, I’m back there again this coming fortnight, but I’ve been going to this beautiful Centre up in the Greenmount hills for as long as I’ve been writing. I’ve attended writing groups; won their inaugural ghost story competition as well as won and judged their SF competition; been published in an anthology; fulfilled an Emerging Writer residency way back in 2004; been on the board of Literary Advisors; and generally flitted in and out over the better part of 20 years. If my writing career could be said to have a spiritual home, it’s here. It’s lovely to be back again, as I embark on the next step of my journey.
TOM COLLINS HOUSE
Home of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA). Early in my aspiring career I spent every Thursday driving the 45 minutes from my house in Huntingdale to attend a writing group there. I developed a habit of listening to a mix tape on the way– so familiar with the order of songs that I can still recite it now, 20 years later– because it gave me an opportunity to pick out two or three resonant lines from different songs that I could use as the basis for a story during the weekly writing exercise. An awful lot of my early publications came from this weekly ritual
I first met my good friend and occasional mentor at this Festival, way back in something like 2000, when it was staged at the Fremantle Arts Centre and he was an a panel in the sunlit gardens. I aspired to be a part of it for a very long time: for an ignorant neophyte, the sheer mass of professionals and associated hoopla was both inspiring and intimidating, and just a liiiiiiiitle bit like author crack. It’s moved to bigger surroundings, now: swallowed up by the Perth International Arts festival (for better and worse) and burdened by a much bigger program. I’ve appeared twice now (bucketlistTICK), and attended as an audience member 4 times out of the last 5 years. Every year begins with a calculation: will I have anything that I can translate into a PWF appearance this year? It’s my annual benchmark, and it still carries that heady whiff of author crack.
THE QUEENSLAND WRITERS CENTRE/BRISBANE WRITERS FESTIVAL
It’s no secret that I love Queensland like an errant brother filled with tropical fruit and lizards. I’ve visited Brisbane more often than any other place on Earth, and given the right circumstances, we would have been living there for any number of years now. The Queensland Writers Centre have been very good to me over the years. I’ve written for their member magazine, delivered an online SF writing course for the Australian Writers Marketplace through them, delivered workshops, and generally been treated like a visiting prince. Last year, of course, I was a guest of the Brisbane Writers Festival, where I was treated like a visiting Emperor, sold out of Magrit, signed an umptymillion books, delivered something like 800 talks in a variety of formats, ran a workshop, ate like a monster, and basically had the best time I’ve ever had as an author ever in the history of ever. Like the PWF, I would kill your grandmother to go back.
Back in the early days of the Century, I spent a week teaching a ragtag group of misfits
to steal the plans to the Death Star to harden the fuck up my repertoire of tips and tricks for bringing a critical hardening to their work. I was the 2nd week tutor for the 2007 iteration of this six-week writing bootcamp, tucked in between the legendary Robert Hood and the legendary Kelly Link, and amongst my students were the likes of Jason Fischer, Peter M Ball, Dan Braum, and Laura Goodin — so, you know, they survived….
It was the first time an outside agency considered my career and my work important enough to trust me with being a part of their direction. I was bemused then (if you take a look at the list of tutors, I stick out like barely-competent dogs balls) and grateful ever since. And I hold the fondest memories of late-night Mafia sessions, furious ditto/anti-ditto crit arguments, and even being forced to watch the entire misbegotten run of Firefly (Psst, Jess. It still sucks). I stayed an extra week, just to wander Brisbane and do some work with the QWC, and was invited to sit in with Kelly as she taught her week, learning as much as the students along the way. Real best-days-of-your-life stuff, and while I’ve had similar experiences since, it’s never quite been replicated.