My time as FAWWA Emerging Writer-in-Residence
In April 2014, I spent two glorious weeks living and working in Mattie Furphy House at the Fellowship of Australian Writers (Western Australia). During this time, I spent many hours revising my literary crime novel Thirsty Work, a draft of which had previously been written, in part, while undertaking a similar residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in 2013. My two other main roles were mentoring FAWWA members and conducting a three hour workshop on novel writing. I found Mattie Furphy House to be an inspirational place in which to work, not only the house itself but the tranquil location in which it is set, Allen Park.
My workshop on Saturday 19th April, Writing Your Novel: How To Stick It Out and Get It Done, provided me with an opportunity to teach beginning and emerging writers numerous technical concepts relating to novel writing, as well as providing an idea of the overall journey that writing a novel entails an author to undertake. Twelve participants attended the workshop and they proved to be a very enthusiastic group. I went half an hour over the scheduled time in order to complete my presentation, and almost all of the participants stayed to the end and provided positive feedback upon its completion. I’m hoping that FAWWA will get me back later in the year to run my second workshop, Breaking into Publishing.
One of my roles as FAWWA Writer-in-Residence was to offer mentoring to a FAWWA member. Danka Scholtz von Lorentz was chosen for this purpose, and prior to the beginning of the residency I was given the opportunity to read twenty pages of Danka’s work in progress. Subsequently, I met Danka at Mattie Furphy House and I spent more than two hours working with her on her manuscript. I have encouraged Danka to keep in contact with me so that I can further monitor her progress in the months ahead.
At the beginning of my residency, I set myself a target of forty hours revision on Thirsty Work, which I am pleased to say I was able to exceed. This meant that I would be spending around three hours per day working on the novel. Thirsty Work had already been revised to some extent prior to this, but those forty hours enabled me to significantly tighten and polish the novel as a whole, reducing the overall length from 75,000 to 66,000 words in the process. This residency came at a critical time for me in that I am preparing to submit Thirsty Work to publishers, and I am pleased to report that I consider my revision work on the novel to have been a success.
Over the course of my two weeks at Mattie Furphy House, I was acutely aware of the privilege that had been bestowed on me by FAWWA to work in such a beautiful, even awe-inspiring environment. The house is not only an excellent work space for writers itself, but it is a beautiful house and historical artefact in its own right. Early in my residency, I realised that there was a walk trail directly behind Mattie Furphy House leading up to a lookout which offers spectacular views of the nearby ocean. Each day I walked this route to Swanbourne Beach and on a couple of occasions I treated myself to breakfast at the Naked Fig Café. I also found the local Kirkwood Deli particularly useful and I found their macchiato not only to be excellent but extremely cheap as well. I took the opportunity to travel to nearby Fremantle frequently, something I rarely get to do from my hometown of York. I sat editing in Allen Park many times and it is certainly true that the peaceful ambience of the place is extremely beneficial for writers. Not only has my time at FAWWA provided a valuable workspace for me, it has also been an amazing life experience that I will cherish for a long time.