Last year I was a recipient of a Qld Writers Fellowship. It was $15,000, less tax. As a result, I could take a month off to work on my next book The Stone Road (I’ll be taking more time off later in the year). It was a month where I could still pay my bills, eat, and get things done.
I’m a fan of working a little every day on a project, but there also comes a time where deeper work is required. And that deeper work comes at a cost. I’ve worked on books while working at Avid, and teaching, and all the little jobs that you do to make space for the words.
But the longer time is invaluable.
So what did I do?
I finished a draft of the Stone Road, and sent it to my editor at Text.
It wasn’t a first draft, but it was the most cohesive, the books structure was all wrong in previous drafts, and, just by having the time to think about it, I was able to sort out problems that were nearly two years old. For the first time, The Stone Road is not only the length of book, but it also feels like a book, albeit a book that needs lots of work; as early drafts do.
Without the Fellowship, I very much doubt that this would have happened this year, or, at the very least it would have been much, much later in the year. Now if Text take the book, there’s never any guarantees, it’ll probably be at least another year and a half before it sees print. So, this fellowship has already pushed me closer to that date. (I mean, it’s been nearly two years since Day Boy was published).
But, a Fellowship doesn’t just help one project.
In that month, I also finished a story about a Giant’s Servant that I’d been wanting to work on for a few years. Which then led me to working on a children’s picture book about a Giant. (I had a bit of giant theme this month – giants are the new vampire)
I moved a few other stories forward – including a vampire story set in the Day Boy world about a female vampire (yes, they exist, and they are just as wonderful/horrible as the men).
And I got about ten thousand words into the next novel – a novel idea that I have been sitting on for nearly six years.
A month isn’t a long time, I’m back at work on Monday, but it loosened writing muscles that had atrophied considerably, and it restored my faith in my ability to tell stories.
It gave me time to think and play with words. I wrote poetry, and silly things, and remembered that it is something that I like to do.
It gave me time to read.
It gave me time to start projects and say farewell to things that were not working.
It was a gift.
I haven’t had as productive a month in, maybe, seven years.
Sometimes I almost forget that I am a writer. This month, this year, has reminded me that I am.
And for that I am extremely grateful to the State Library and the Qld Writers Centre for administrating this Fellowship. It’s at once a huge and tiny amount of money, but it has made a massive difference; and there’s still the rest of the year ahead.