Some days it’s hard to take yourself seriously as a writer. Or even to just take yourself seriously. And perhaps it’s okay to need that permission from the universe. That’s how earning a place at the Glenfern Writers Studio as part of the Grace Marion Wilson Fellowship for emerging writers made me feel – I can call myself a Writer now (yes, even with a capital W).
As a writer interested in Gothic fiction, Glenfern is a suitably gothic house and I had a suitably be-cobwebbed room hidden in a back corner. The house has a long association with the arts and it was great to be a part of that continuation. For me, Glenfern was a place to mentally decompress, without the Internet and all the tasks that need to be completed by the average adult filling my head and squishing up the parts of my brain that I need for writing. Even though writing can happen anywhere, having the space and time to spread out and just work was a blessing. For example, near the start of the fellowship, I spent almost two weeks making a graph of the plot points of my manuscript. This work, which turned out to be crucial wouldn’t have happened without Glenfern; I would have just dismissed the idea. My manuscript became my priority. I had the space I needed to stop and think about what I really needed to do, rather than try to squeeze in another thousand words here and there.
An advantage of working in a room in a house full of writers is the sense of community. There’s something special about knowing someone was typing away in the next room; it makes you feel like you’re in this together. It’s easier to write what you think is terrible prose if you know everybody else around you is having the same headaches and thinks their writing is just as awful. It’s not, and there is the shelf of alumni’s published books to prove it.
Once a month the writers working at Glenfern have lunch together and discuss what they are working on. Being a part of Writers Victoria means we are part of a large community in Victoria, so it was special to experience that community on a regular basis.
It’s also encouraging to have people nod their heads sagely when you describe your weird ideas to them over lunch: "So there’s this girl, and she’s a ghost but then she steals a body so she can go to parties with the kissing and other fun teenage things."
Nod, nod. "Tell me more about your ghost girls!"
At the end of the fellowship I had completed a new draft of my manuscript and I am pretty sure it all makes sense now, even the bit about the ghosts. I’m much more confident that all that terrible writing I’ve done so far is going to come good in the end as long as I keep calling myself a writer and doing the actual writing.
My advice for other writers considering entering any sort of fellowship or other writing prize is to not be shy about asking questions. I wasn’t sure I was even eligible for the fellowship, but I emailed Writers Victoria to ask about the criteria. You are probably eligible for more grants and fellowships than you realise.
And, of course, give yourself permission to be a writer!
About Cassandra White
Cassandra White is a Melbourne-based writer and recipient of a 2016 Grace Marion Wilson Fellowship.
For more information about the Fellowships, visit: 2017 Grace Marion Wilson Glenfern Fellowships