ACT Writers Centre

My Week at a Writers’ Residence

Zoya Patel, last year’s Anne Edgeworth Fellowship recipient tells of her experience at a Writers’ Residence. Applications for the 2015 Anne Edgeworth fellowship close Friday 30th October. See here for more details.

varuna

Recently I had the enormous privilege of being a writer-in-residence at Varuna Writers’ House, in the Blue Mountains. The week-long residency was part of my activities as a recipient of the 2014 Anne Edgeworth Young Writers’ Fellowship.

My goal was an ambitious one—I wanted to complete the first draft of the manuscript I’ve been working on all year. I estimated that I had between 10,000–20,000 words left to get the bare bones down on paper, and then months of editing and refining ahead. My week at Varuna would hopefully see me get someway down this path, and I was ready to put in the work.

What I wasn’t ready for was how completely, utterly in love with the place I became after just a day of my residency. I’m generally a negative person—I sometimes fear my own reactions to new experiences, because so often I struggle to adjust and end up ruining what could be a wonderful thing with sheer pessimism.

But Varuna completely captured my heart. Not just because of the beauty and history of the house itself, or the friendliness and competence of the staff, or the excellent company from my fellow writers. But because of what the residency program says about writing.

Overwhelmingly, the key factor that defined my time at Varuna was the way in which everyone I met there treated writing as work. As valuable work, that is hard, that deserves time and energy, and that should be commended when completed.

When you write ‘part-time’, after work-hours and alongside a full-time job, you quickly adjust to people treating your writing as a hobby, or something that’s nice to have but not exactly essential. Worse, if you’re as-yet unpublished (in the book sense), it’s almost impossible to be taken seriously.

At Varuna, though, writing was treated not only as a valid occupation, but as a necessary one, and something that should be nurtured and supported.

In this amazing environment, I wrote a huge amount each day, completing my first draft of the manuscript, mapping out another project, and finishing several shorter pieces as well. It was the most productive, exciting week I’ve had in a long time, and strongly reinforced to me the need for dedicated writers’ spaces, and the chance for writers to meet kindred spirits to help remember the value in their work.

I would like to sincerely thank the ACT Writers’ Centre and the Anne Edgeworth Fellowship for supporting me to undertake the residency. I would also like to give a huge thanks to the team at Varuna, and my fellow writers-in-residence, for making my time there so wonderful.

Zoya PatelZoya Patel is the editor and founder of online feminist journal, Feminartsy, and is the recipient of the 2014 Anne Edgeworth Young Writer’s Fellowship. Her work has been published in numerous publications, and she was recently longlisted for the 2015 Scribe Non-fiction Prize for Young Writers.

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